Prompt words: Compare, Identify, Define, Outline

Distinguish, contrast, compare

Both ‘distinguish’ and ‘contrast’ mean that you have to find the differences between two concepts. “Compare” means ‘mention the similarities *and* differences’.


Tell the examiner, in one sentence or less, what the question is referencing. Here’s an example. In the 2011 exam, students were asked to “Identify one method of changing constitutional power…”

To get the mark for identifying the methods, students had to reference either the referendum process, High Court interpretation of the Constitution, or referral of powers. Try to incorporate the question in your answer when you’re identifying. For example, “High Court interpretation of the Constitution is one method of changing constitutional power”. You don’t need any more than that.


You need to write one sentence that states the meaning of a concept. For your SACs and exams, you’ll need to try your best to memorise your definitions for as many concepts as you can. For example I define responsible government as “a political principle, which states that governments and members of parliament must be accountable for their actions.”

Describe, explain, outline, and provide

When you’re asked a question with these words, you need to tell the examiner what you know about a certain principle or process. Let’s imagine you’re asked to “define and explain the principle of responsible government”. After giving your one sentence definition, you need to go into more detail about this principle. I would explain responsible government by saying that “Government is accountable and answerable to parliament, and therefore to the people. In Australia, governments and members of parliament are kept accountable through parliamentary debate and through the public accessibility of the legal system. Not only are parliamentary sittings open to the public, they are televised and streamed live, and the media is able to pass commentary on the government.” Think of your definition as a snappy, one sentence statement and your description, explanation, outline or provision as an elaboration on your definition.