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How to Respond to NESA Key Words to Ace Your HSC

This article will show you the key to success! Learn how to approach all NESA key words to tackle all question types and achieve full marks.

So, you know about NESA’s list of “Key Words” but do you know why it is so important? The NESA Glossary of Key Words is an essential list of words that can crop up in your exams. The NESA Key Words are the imperative verbs that tell you how to respond to the given question or statement.

 

How to Respond to NESA Key Words to Ace Your HSC

The NESA key words are essential for all subjects. They are the instructional terms used by NESA to communicate what you are meant to do for a particular question. Knowing what each word is actually instructing you to do and how to respond to them is imperative if you want to perform well in the HSC.

In this article, we’ll discuss,

 

Why do I need to know the NESA key words?

You don’t want to go into your exam and waste 20 minutes answering an ‘identify’ question… That’s because identify questions aren’t expecting you to go into detail about the topic, they just want you to quickly list your answer!

Each NESA key word requires you to demonstrate different levels of thinking and writing.

They are often an indicator of how much you should write, and the detail and sophistication of your answers.

So, remembering them will ensure that you can achieve full marks and allocate your time appropriately.

 

How can I use the key words?

The ALARM (A Learning and Responding Matrix) is a framework that helps you properly answer different types questions based on the NESA key words.

It categorises the key words into different ‘bands’.

So, key words that require more critical thinking and are more difficult to answer are placed on the far right, whereas key words that require a simple answer are placed on the far left.

Let’s take a closer look at the ALARM to see how it works.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-A-Learning And-Responding-Matrix-ALARM-table-printable

ALARM: Use this matrix to help you answer your questions and achieve full marks.

You see, as we keep moving to the right, you are required to do more to fully answer the question.

Refer to the ALARM regularly and try to memorise each component. When you see the keyword in your question, recall the table and make sure you address each step to achieve full marks.

If you are struggling to recall a key word, take a look at the allocated marks. The number should give you an indication of whereabouts the keyword sits on the ALARM.

 

 

The NESA HSC key words and how to respond to them

NESA provides a glossary of key words and their definitions. We will go through these key words and show you how to answer them properly to achieve full marks.

Each subject will have slight variations on how you answer the same key word.

For example, ‘evaluate’ will be answered differently in Maths compared to English or Science. So, every time you come across these terms, remember to apply them to the subject.

Now that you know this, let’s get started and break down the key words! Remember, you should always recall the ALARM to help you figure out the components you need to satisfy.

 

Account

Account for: state reasons for, report on.

Give an account of: narrate a series of events or transactions.

 

What does this really mean?

NESA uses account in three senses:

  1. Give the reasons for something occurring
  2. Provide a report on the topic
  3. Narrate the order of events/transactions happening

This keyword is usually used for humanities and science questions.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Figure out which ‘account’ your question is asking you to answer

These elements will help you figure out which of the 3 purposes the question is asking you to do.

  • Is it ‘account for’ or ‘give an account of’?
  • What is the topic of the question?
  • Consider the subject of the question

 

2. Figure out where ‘account’ belongs on the ALARM:

‘Account’ can belong in the ‘explain’ or ‘analyse’ category. This means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics of the components
  • Provide examples
  • Provide reasons: effects and impacts (if the question requires you to ‘give reasons for something occurring’)

 

3. Answer the question based on which 1 of the 3 definitions you are being asked: 

  • Reasons: Provide an explanation (why) for something occurring
  • Report: Provide information (usually observations) about a topic
  • Narrate order: Describe the events in order of it occurring

 

 

Analyse

Identify components and the relationship between them; draw out and relate implications.

 

What does this really mean?

The markers want you to explain how and why something is occurring by figuring out the relationship between the components.

This keyword is used for humanities subjects and science questions.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Figure where ‘analyse’ stands on the ALARM

Analyse is part of the ‘analyse’ category. So you need to:

  • Identify the components
  • Describe its’ characteristics
  • Provide examples
  • Explain why: impact and effects

 

2. Break down the question and figure out the different components.

These are the different elements you need to figure out:

  • Process: How does something work or function?
  • Impact: How does it affect other components?
  • Purpose: What is its significance?

So, you need to identify the different components, relate them with one another and figure out their impact/effect and significance.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-analyse

 

 

Apply

Use, utilise, employ in a particular situation

 

What does this really mean?

Apply requires you to use the information/resources provided to you and show how it works in a different – but similar – situation.

You may be asked to ‘apply a formula’ to a Maths question or ‘apply a theory’ to a case study.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Figure where ‘apply’ stands in the ALARM 

Apply is an ‘analyse’ key word. This means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the features, attributes and characteristics
  • Figure out the function and purpose
  • Figure out the impact and effect
  • Provide examples

 

2. Now, use the information/resource provided and show how it works in a different scenario: 

  • Briefly explain how the original information/resource works (i.e. explain the theory, formula etc.)
    • This includes listing the components and describing the characteristics and function
  • Now, show how this information/resource also works in a different situation
    • Describe the new situation
    • Explain how the original information/resource functions in the new situation

 

 

Appreciate

Make a judgement about the value of

 

What does this really mean?

You need demonstrate that you fully understand the implications of the topic and provide reasons to recognise why something is valuable or good.

This is what differentiates ‘appreciate’ from ‘assess’ or ‘evaluate’ because there are implications that the ‘thing’ is already of good value.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Determine the components of ‘appreciate’ based on the ALARM

Appreciate is an evaluative term. This means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics
  • Explain the function and purpose
  • Provide examples
  • Figure the effects and impacts
  • Make a judgement of the value/effectiveness of the topic

 

Assess

Make a judgement of value, quality, outcomes, results or size

 

What does this really mean?

Assess requires you to make a judgement about something. There are a few things you can be asked to assess:

  • Value: Useful/useless
  • Quality: Good/bad, effective/ineffective
  • Results: Whether or not a desired outcome is/can be achieved
  • Size: The degree or magnitude of something

You don’t always need to make a clear cut decision about whether something effective or ineffective. You can place it on a relative scale. For example, something can be ‘somewhat useful’.

 

How do I respond to this?

Assess belongs to the ‘evaluate’ category. This means you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics
  • Explain the function and purpose
  • Figure the effects and impacts
  • Make a judgement of the value/effectiveness of the topic

 

Back to index

Calculate

Ascertain/determine from given facts, figures or information

 

What does this really mean?

Calculate requires you to use the facts, figures or information and do the maths to figure out the answer!

It is usually used in Maths and Science.

 

How do I respond to this?

Calculate is an ‘identify’ key word. So, all you need to do is do the Maths based on the facts, figures and information.

Remember to always show your working out to show the markers that you know how to get to the right answer.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-calculate

 

 

Clarify

Make clear or plain

 

What does this really mean?

Clarify requires you to describe something in a clearer and more comprehensible way.

However, this isn’t an excuse to simplify your explanations. Instead, you have to break down the concept and try to make it easier to understand.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Figure out where clarify sits on the ALARM

Clarify is a ‘describe’ term. So, you will have to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics, features and attributes

 

2. Break down the topic into components 

To answer a ‘clarify’ question, you need to break down the topic into different components. Then, describe their features in a more comprehensible way.

This means that you need to target challenging areas of the topic and explain its features/process.

 

 

Classify

Arrange or include in classes/categories

 

What does this really mean?

Classify requires you to categorise ‘things’ into different groups based on their unifying traits.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Figure out where classify sits on the ALARM

Classify is a ‘describe’ term. So, you need to know its:

  • Components
  • Features/characteristics/attributes

 

2. Determine it’s components, characteristics, features or attributes

Now, you need to identify and describe the different characteristics, features and attributes of the ‘thing’ you are being asked to classify.

 

3. Determine its category 

After you described the ‘thing’, you need to figure out which category it belongs to. To do this, you need to have a good understanding of the characteristics of the category.

If the ‘thing’ satisfies the criteria of a particular category, then it is reasonable to classify it into that category.

 

4. Explain why the thing belongs in the category 

It is important that you also describe the criteria of the category and compare it with the thing’s characteristics.

This is your explanation to support your classification.

Back to index

 

Compare

Show how things are similar or different

 

What does this really mean?

Compare means explaining how things are similar or different from one another.

It requires you to examine the different characteristics. Sometimes, you are required to dig deeper and examine the function and impacts of different things.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Figure out where compare sits on the ALARM

Compare can be an ‘explain’ or an ‘analyse’ term. This means you need to:

  • List the components
  • Identify the features, characteristics and attributes
  • Figure the purpose and function
  • Figure the effect and impact

 

2. Identify the similarities and differences between things 

You need to firstly identify the traits of the different things. To help, draw a table in your mind or in the margin.

 

3. Explain (or analyse) these similarities or differences 

Then, you should explain how these two things are similar and/or different from one another.

It is not enough to simply identify these differences, you have to go into more detail and discuss their functions too.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-compare

 

 

Construct

Make; build; put together items or arguments

 

What does this really mean?

Construct requires you organise your ideas to build a larger concept (i.e. an argument or story).

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Figure out where ‘construct’ sits on the ALARM

Construct can be an ‘explain’ or an ‘analyse’. This means that you have to:

  • List the components
  • Find the features, characteristics and attributes
  • Figure the function and purpose
  • Figure the impact and effects
  • Provide examples

 

2. Figure out your argument/story

Take a stance on the topic.

 

3. Identify your ideas and organise them

Think about the elements listed above and attempt to find a relationship between them.

Now, you have to explain how these ideas work together to support your argument/story.

Try to provide some examples if appropriate.

 

 

Contrast

Show how things are different or opposite

 

What does this really mean?

Contrast requires you to identify the different characteristics and traits between two or more things.

You should extend your contrast by also examining their different functions, purposes and impacts.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Identify where ‘contrast’ belongs in the ALARM

Contrast is similar to compare, so it belongs in the ‘analyse’ category:

  • List the components
  • Find the features, characteristics and attributes
  • Figure the function and purpose
  • Figure the impact and effects
  • Provide examples

 

2. Figure out the characteristics, functions and impacts of the things you are contrasting 

If it helps, list it out in a table on the margin before you begin writing your answer.

Remember, it is not enough to simply identify the different characteristics. You also need to explore the different functions and impacts.

Provide examples when possible.

 

Critically (analyse/evaluate)

Add a degree or level of accuracy depth, knowledge and understanding, logic, questioning, reflection and quality to (analyse/evaluate)

 

What does this really mean?

Critically analysing/evaluating requires you to do more than just analysing or evaluating.

You need to show your depth of understanding and knowledge. This is often done by providing strong examples to support your opinions and explaining every component very clearly.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Determine where ‘critically’ stands on the ALARM 

‘Critically’ technically doesn’t sit in its own spot on the ALARM. It is used to add a degree of complexity to your responses.

So, critically analyse will move analyse and evaluate higher.

These are the elements you need to answer a critically question:

  • List the components
  • Describe the features, characteristics and attributes
  • Figure the function and purpose
  • Analyse the effect and impacts
  • Make a judgement of the effectiveness of each component
  • Make a final overall judgement (provide an opinion)
  • Provide examples to support your opinion

 

Back to index

Deduce

Draw conclusions

 

What does this really mean?

Deduce means to come a final logical answer by reasoning or deducting from the facts and information provided.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Figure out where ‘deduce’ sits on the ALARM: 

Deduce is an evaluative term. This means you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the features, characteristics and attributes
  • Figure the function and purpose
  • Figure the effect and impact
  • Make a judgement of the effectiveness

 

2. Explain your reasonings and evaluate

To ‘deduce’, you need to explore the reasons (facts and information) that support and doesn’t support your final judgement.

After every reason, you need to explain its impact on your final judgement. Did you consider it, or deducted it?

 

3. Make a final overall judgement 

Make a final judgement based on the reasons you explored.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-deduce

 

 

Define

State meaning and identify essential qualities

 

What does this really mean?

To define is to identify the meaning of something.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong in the ALARM

Define is an ‘identify’ term that can cross into describe. This means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Identify the features, characteristics and attributes

 

2. List the meaning of the thing

Quickly describe what the ‘thing’ means. You can rely on their features, characteristics and attributes to help you answer the question, but don’t spend too much time on it.

 

 

Demonstrate

Show by example

 

What does this really mean?

Demonstrate requires you to use examples to prove your argument, or logically show how something works.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM

Demonstrate requires you to provide examples. So it belongs in the “explain” category or above. Depending on the question and amount of marks allocated, ‘demonstrate’ can also belong in the ‘analyse’ or ‘evaluate’ category.

Therefore, you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the features, characteristics and attributes
  • Figure the function and purpose
  • Provide examples
  • Figure the effect and impact

 

2. Explain your answer by 

Show the process of something and/or provide reasons to explain your argument.

Ensure you cover the components, characteristics, function and purpose, and effect and impact.

 

3. Use examples 

You need to use strong and relevant examples to answer a “demonstrate” question.

The examples that you should use depends on the subject you are studying. For example, in English, you will need to find textual evidence and techniques to demonstrate your answer, whereas, for Biology, you might use a case-study.

Using one example is sometimes not enough to get full marks. You might need to use a few examples to demonstrate your point, especially when you have more than one reasons or supporting idea.

 

 

Describe

Provide characteristics and features

 

What does this really mean?

You need to give information and insight about the characteristics of something.

This means that you need to go into details about its features instead of simply identifying it’s meaning.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM

Describe belongs in the ‘describe’ category. This means that you have to:

  • Identify the components
  • Provide information about  the characteristics and features

Often, a ‘describe’ questions requires you to be descriptive. Try to think about every possible feature that you can discuss.

 

 

Discuss

Identify issues and provide points for and/or against

 

What does this really mean?

Discuss requires you to go into detail about the different reasons that support or undermine an argument.

You need to use your logic and reasoning skills to determine which perspective is more convincing and use evidence to support both sides of the argument.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does ‘discuss’ sit on the ALARM 

Discuss can be a analyse or an evaluate term. This means you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the purpose and function
  • Provide examples
  • Determine the effects and impacts
  • Make a judgement

 

2. Provide reasons for and against 

Use your knowledge and research skills to find reasons that support and undermine the argument.

Attempt to have an equal amount of reasons for each side of the argument. Also, ensure that you provide enough detail and insight for every reason.

Remember, this is all about demonstrating your knowledge about the different perspectives on the topic.

 

3. Use examples

Find examples for every reason for and against the argument.

Depending on the subject, you will need to use different examples. For example, you might use statistics and case studies for Science, and scholarly quotes and literary techniques for English.

 

4. Provide a judgement 

You need to always state your final opinion based on the reasons you explored.

Attempt to reason and use logic to determine this answer. Don’t forget to provide an explanation as to why your opinion is valid after you discussed the for and against arguments.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-discuss

 

 

Distinguish

Recognise or note/indicate as being distinct or different from; to note differences between

 

What does this really mean?

Distinguish requires you to find the differences between two different things.

You don’t need to discuss the similarities.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM 

Distinguish is usually an ‘analyse’ term. However, it can also be an evaluate term in some cases. This means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the purpose and function
  • Provide examples
  • Determine the effects and impacts
  • Make a judgement

 

2. Explain the differences 

You need to recognise the different characteristics, features, impacts and/or purposes of the two things.

It is not enough to simply identify the difference, you have to be descriptive.

Also, remember, use connective words that show a contrast between the two things, like ‘however’, ‘although’, ‘unlike’ and ‘contrastingly’.

 

3. Provide examples 

You can’t simply explain the differences without showing an example of it! That is not strong enough to achieve full marks.

So, after every point or group of points, attempt to provide a relevant example to ground your explanation in reality.

 

4. Make a judgement

Sometimes, the question imply that you need to make a judgement about which thing is more effective, better, or most appropriate.

So, after you’ve distinguished the different characteristics between the two things, make a decision as to which thing is more effective, better or appropriate.

Back to index

 

Evaluate

Make a judgement based on criteria; determine the value of

 

What does this really mean?

Evaluate means that you need to determine the value or quality of the thing by examining its features and purposes.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Determine where it belongs on the ALARM 

Evaluate is an evaluative term. So this means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the purpose and function
  • Provide examples
  • Determine the effects and impacts
  • Make a judgement

 

2. Make a judgement 

Determine the value, effectiveness, quality or worth of the thing.

 

3. Analyse and provide examples 

Provide details about the thing. These include characteristics, features, impacts and effects.

You also need to go into quite a bit of detail and illustrate your skills and knowledge. So, attempt to draw connections between different ideas as well and determine why something may have more or less value.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-evaluate

 

 

Examine

Inquire into

 

What does this really mean?

Examine requires you to go into extreme detail about something. You need to use critical thinking skills and observations to investigate the facts.

Sometimes, you may be required to look into different perspective by different scholars and critics to break down the topic.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM? 

Examine is an ‘analyse’ term. This means that you have to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the purpose and function
  • Provide examples
  • Determine the effects and impacts

 

2. Break down the topic 

You need to break down the topic and investigate every feature, characteristic and purpose in detail.

Remember, examine questions don’t require you to explore a wide variety of characteristics or information like discuss questions. Instead, they want you to explore into a few main characteristics in great depth.

 

3. Use examples and evidence

When an HSC verb requires you to go into detail about a particular topic, you always need to use examples. This will show that you have a strong understanding of the topic and are able to ground it in real life.

 

 

Explain

Relate cause and effect; make the relationships between things evident; provide why and/or how

 

What does this really mean?

NESA defines explain in 3 ways:

  1. Find a cause and effect
  2. Determine how different things relate to each other
  3. Determine why or how something works

Simply describing the characteristics of something is not good enough. You need to go into detail and determine the relationships and cause and effect.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM

Explain sits in the ‘explain’ category. Therefore, this includes:

  • Components
  • Characteristics and features
  • Function and purpose

Explain questions require more detail than a ‘describe’ question. Therefore, you should attempt to use examples to support your answer.

 

2. Determine the cause and effect 

When you write an ‘explain’ question, continue to ask yourself ‘why’ or ‘how’ and continue to break down the topic until it is clear. Each succeeding sentence should clarify the consequences of the proceeding sentence.

Doing this will help you find a relationship between different points, figure the cause and effect and properly explain the topic.

You don’t want to leave any missing gaps of knowledge.

 

 

Extract

Choose relevant and/or appropriate details

 

What does this really mean?

Extract requires you to use your critical thinking skills to determine which pieces of information is the most important from a set of given information.

You may be asked to extract the main ideas in an essay for English, or the results in a Science practical report.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Determine which category ‘extract’ belongs on the ALARM:

Extract belongs in the describe category. This means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Go into detail about the characteristics and traits

 

2. Read the given information carefully and find key points

In your first reading of the given information, you should attempt to understand it as a whole.

In your second reading, you will look for specific information that your question is asking you to ‘extract’.

Highlight or underline these so it is obvious. You don’t want to begin writing and forget where all the pieces of information are situated.

 

3. Describe it

Now, it is time to identify these points and describe them. This means that you have to figure their characteristics and features, not only their meaning.

Remember, you need to go into more detail than what is given to you. If you are simply restating the points provided in the information, then you are identifying, not extracting!

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-extract

 

 

Extrapolate

Infer from what is known

 

What does this really mean?

Extrapolate is similar to extract, in that it requires you to find answers from the provided information. However, extrapolate is also ‘more challenging’ than extract because the answer is not so easily found.

You need to understand the information, understand it and read in between the lines to figure out the answer.

In Maths and Sciences, you may need to figure out future trends by looking at the patterns in the given information. In humanities subjects, you may need to find hidden meanings and conclusions in provided extracts.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does extrapolate belong on the ALARM: 

Extrapolate is an ‘analyse’ term. Therefore you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Figure the purpose and function
  • Figure the impacts and effects
  • Provide details

 

2. Read the information provided for you and infer the important details 

Like your extract questions, you should read your information twice. In the first reading, attempt to understand the content. In the second reading, you should find the relevant information.

Once you understand the information and find the relevant information, you need to use your critical thinking skills to determine what the information really means.

Back to index

 

Identify

Recognise and name

 

What does this really mean?

Identify requires you to use your knowledge to simply list the idea or information.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM

Identify belong in the ‘identify’ category. This means:

  • List the component of the main ideas

You don’t have to go into detail about their characteristics because then, you will be describing.

 

 

Interpret

Draw meaning from

 

What does this really mean?

Interpret requires you to understand information provided to you and determine it’s meaning.

You will need to clearly explain why and how you came to that conclusion.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Firstly, you need to determine where ‘interpret’ belongs on the ALARM 

Interpret is an ‘analyse’ term. This means that that you need to:

  • Identify the components
  • Describe the features and characteristics
  • Determine it’s function and purpose
  • Figure its effects and impacts
  • Use examples

 

2. Read the provided information and determine it’s meaning

You need to read the provided information twice. In the first reading, you are attempting to understand what

 

 

Investigate

Plan, inquire into and draw conclusions about

 

What does this really mean?

When you investigate, you are examining the facts and small details about something, and researching to figure out the value, accuracy, effectiveness or worth of something.

It is different from “examine” because investigate requires you to inquire and search for the facts yourself, as opposed to carefully observing.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM: 

Investigate is an evaluative term. Therefore, you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the function and purposes
  • Figure its effects and impacts
  • Use examples
  • Make a judgement

 

2. Research or inquire into the information

This means that you need to demonstrate that you completed your research about the topic and are well versed about it. Depending on the topic, subject and question, you may need to know its issues, different perspectives about the topic, and facts.

So, be descriptive, dig deep and be analytical. As you explain the facts and perspectives, you should also provide some judgement.

For example, “this is effectively done”, “the new machine doesn’t function as well as older versions” etc.

 

3. Use examples

Remember, investigate requires you to research a topic. So, you need to have examples to demonstrate that you have completed this step!

 

4. Make a judgement

At the beginning and the end of your response, you should state your perspective about the topic. Is it valuable, effective, high or low quality, accurate or worth?

Make your judgement based on the research you gathered.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-investigate

Back to index

 

Justify

Support an argument or conclusion

 

What does this really mean?

Justify means that you have to use evidence and examples to prove a something about the topic. This means that your writing has to be convincing and that you need strong arguments and facts to support your case.

Sometimes, you may be asked to provide your own opinion, other times, you are given a position. Either way, you need to demonstrate your persuasive and critical thinking skills.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM 

Justify is an evaluative term. Therefore, this includes:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the impacts and purposes
  • Figure its effects and impacts
  • Use examples
  • Make a judgement

 

2. Make a judgement

Determine the thing’s worth, value, quality or effectiveness. Write your judgement in the beginning and the end.

 

3. Figure your arguments 

You need to find reasons to support your judgement. These are your arguments.

Like an essay, you want these points to convince the readers while simultaneously demonstrating your wide knowledge.

You can also delve into opposing arguments and determine why it is not as ‘good’ as your stance.

 

4. Use relevant evidence and examples

You won’t write a convincing response if you don’t have evidence and examples to support your case. These ground your arguments in real life and really hammer down your point to the readers.

Ensure that your evidence are strong and relevant.

Back to index

 

Outline

Sketch in general terms; indicate the main features of

 

What does this really mean?

Outline requires to present the main points about something. You don’t need to go into detail about its features or characteristics.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does ‘outline’ sit on the ALARM 

Outline belong in the ‘identify’ category. Therefore you need to:

  • List the components.

To put it simply, just identify the main points. There is no need to write more.

Back to index

 

Predict

Suggest what may happen based on available information

 

What does this really mean?

Predict requires you to find a pattern or trend in a set of information and/or facts to determine what will happen in the future.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does it belong on the ALARM 

Predict is an ‘analyse’ term. This means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the impacts and purposes
  • Figure its effects and impacts
  • Use examples

 

2. Determine an outcome 

You can’t predict something if you don’t know anything about it.

So, gather your knowledge about its characteristics, functions, purposes, and its impacts and effects to determine a conclusion or trend.

 

3. Provide reasons 

You need to explain why you think a certain outcome is going to occur.

These may include identifying common trends between one thing and another, and/or figuring a logical process of events.

You need to discuss the characteristics, functions, purposes, and impacts and effects to determine this.

 

4. Use examples and evidence (information and facts) 

It is crucial that you use examples and evidence to support your reasons. You can’t prove something effectively, if you can’t show how something works in real life.

For example, let’s say you’re predicting that global sea levels will continue to rise if we don’t tackle carbon emission rates now. You will need statistics about current sea level trends, rates of carbon emission, scientific research and reports that support the correlation between carbon emission and sea-level trends, and maybe some case studies.

These examples support your reasons to make your readers better understand and believe your predictions.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-predict

 

 

Propose

Put forward (for example a point of view, idea, argument, suggestion) for consideration or action

 

What does this really mean?

Propose requires you to suggest a perspective, idea, argument or plan for other people to consider, accept and/or take action.

These type of questions require you to not only be convincing but come up with a strategic and logical action/plan that your readers can follow.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Determine where it belongs on the ALARM 

Propose is an evaluative term because it requires you to determine the best point of view, idea, argument or suggestion. So, you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the function and purposes
  • Figure its effects and impacts
  • Use examples
  • Make a judgement

 

2. Determine your thesis: Evaluate the thing

Depending on your question, you may be asked to put forward a perspective, idea, argument or suggestion (action plan).

You need to consider the features, characteristics, function, impacts, effect of the thing to evaluate the thing and determine your thesis.

 

3. Determine your call to action

Your ‘call to action’ is what you want your audience to do after they read your response. This element is what distinguishes propose questions with other question types.

So, do you want them to begin doing something or maybe you simply want them to consider your perspectives and ideas.

Your call to action should become a part of your thesis. Your reasons and arguments should all lead your readers to feel like they should follow your call to action.

 

3. Write your reasons and examples 

You need to convince your readers why they should consider your judgement and take action.

So, this means that you need to provide convincing points and examples to support them.

Like an essay, structure your points according to its strength.

 

Back to index

Recall

Present remembered ideas, facts or experiences

 

What does this really mean?

Recall requires you to remember ideas, facts or experiences that you learned.

They don’t require you to provide extreme detail about these recollections. So, you can just write down the main point.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does recall belong on the ALARM 

Recall is an ‘identify’ term. So, all you need to do is:

  • List the components of the main idea

 

 

Recommend

Provide reasons in favour

 

What does this really mean?

Recommend means that you have to suggest an idea and provide reasons that support it.

Aim to present your idea as being worthy of being considered.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Where does recommend belong on the ALARM 

Recommend is a ‘critically analyse’ and ‘evaluative’ term. Therefore, this means that you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Explain the function and purposes
  • Figure its effects and impacts
  • Use examples
  • Make a judgement

 

2. Make a judgement 

You need to determine which option is the best one to recommend to your readers.

This means that you have to consider it’s quality, value, worth, effectiveness, and/or

 

3. Provide reasons and examples

You need to convince your readers to consider your recommendation.

So, find strong arguments that support your recommendation and provide examples to further prove these arguments.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-recommend

 

 

Recount

Retell a series of events

 

What does this really mean?

Recount requires you to simply give the facts about what happened, in order.

You don’t need to go into extreme detail for this question type. Just tell it as it happened.

 

How do I respond to this?

Recount is an identify term. This means that you need to:

  • Identify the components of the main idea

Simply guide the reader step by step through the series of events.

Back to index

 

Summarise

Express, concisely, the relevant details

 

What does this really mean?

Summarise requires you to state the information in a brief and concise way; describe the main points.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Determine where ‘summarise’ belongs on the ALARM 

Summarise is a ‘describe’ term. Therefore, you need to:

  • List the components
  • Provide information about the characteristics and features

 

2. Describe each main point (components) 

You need to firstly identify the main points. Then, describe its characteristics and features to give the audience a brief understanding of it.

 

 

Synthesise

Putting together various elements to make a whole

 

What does this really mean?

Synthesise requires you to combine different ideas and pieces of information together to make it into an overall idea.

You may be required to show how your ideas or research fit in with everything else.

It’s similar to a ‘summarise’ question. However, it requires more critical thinking skill and you need to demonstrate a higher depth of knowledge.

 

How do I respond to this?

1. Determine where synthesise sits on the ALARM 

Synthesise is an ‘analyse’ term. Therefore, you need to:

  • List the components
  • Describe the characteristics and features
  • Determine its functions and purpose

 

2. Find a relationship between different pieces of information/ideas/points

You need to carefully examine different points and identify where they relate or diverge from each other.

When you are doing this, you will begin to realise that there is an overarching theme that relates to nearly all of the points.

 

3. Write your findings and use examples 

You should introduce the overall theme first and describe it, before you go into more detail about each individual idea that relates to the idea. Then, you can introduce the other ideas that don’t relate to the overall theme.

Don’t forget to explain how these different points relate or don’t relate to one another.

Your aim is to identify where the information converges and diverges from each other.

How-to-Respond-to-NESA-Key-Words-to-Ace-Your-HSC-synthesis

Back to index

 

NESA key word study tips

Here are some quick tips to help you achieve full marks:

 

1. Memorise your ALARM:

Print out and stick your ALARM table somewhere you can easily see it.

 

2. Memorise the definition of different HSC verbs:

It’s best if you can also remember the definitions of each of these verbs. However, if you do forget, you can always recall where they sit on the ALARM to help you answer the question!

 

3. Practise:

Practice makes perfect!

Each subject will require you to approach the questions a little differently. So, you keep practising to learn how to answer them properly and efficiently.

After a while, you don’t even need to think about ‘how’ to answer these HSC verbs, it will come naturally to you!

 

4. Read past paper solutions:

Make sure you always read past paper solutions and sample answers! This will give you a better understanding of how to answer different questions for different subjects.

You can always go through the sample answers and highlight the different component of the ALARM to see how they tackled it.

 

 

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Written by Matrix Education

Matrix is Sydney's No.1 High School Tuition provider. Come read our blog regularly for study hacks, subject breakdowns, and all the other academic insights you need.

 

© Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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