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English, French, and Math Support: Vocabulary: Verbs often used on tests

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Vocabulary: Verbs often used on tests

This page defines and explains some verbs commonly used on tests and exams. These verbs are not specific to any particular discipline; for precise meanings of vocabulary in specific disciplines (for example, physics, math, geography, and so on), check with your teachers. It is always important to read the instructions and all the questions in a test or exam. The sentence structure and sequence of words may affect the meaning. Always review samples of old exams if these are available.





To critically examine a text or topic and bring out the key elements.

Find or identify the main ideas and explain how they are related and why they are important.

Comment on

To criticize or interpret a subject.

Discuss, criticize or explain the meaning of the item.


To identify similarities between two or more ideas, people or things.

Examine the qualities or characteristics of two or more items in order to show how they are alike.


To identify differences between two or more ideas, people or things.

Examine the qualities or characteristics of two or more items in order to show how they differ.

Critique / Criticize

To evaluate a piece of work using judgement and informed opinion.

Discuss the positive and/or negative aspects of something based on information you have learned.


To clearly state the meaning of a word, sentence, phrase, concept or thing.

Provide concise and clear meanings. If relevant, include limitations. In general, define based on the particulars of the class content or subject matter.


To use words to depict the relevant characteristics of someone or something.

Recount or characterize in a narrative style.


To base a concept on a logical extension or modification of another concept. 

Show where something comes from. Use one or more physical principles in a given situation to obtain a general result or formula.

Do not confuse with the calculus concept of differentiation, or “taking the derivative.”


To establish as a result of something, usually, of a calculation.

Use concepts and problem-solving to come up with a result, often a numerical answer.


To use a chart, drawing, plan or visual representation to explain or outline something.

Present a drawing, chart, plan or graphic representation of your answer. Some labeling is expected and, in some cases, an explanation.


To talk about a topic, often to find a solution to a problem.

Argue or debate a topic from different angles or perspectives, usually to find common ground.


To carefully inspect and come to a conclusion.

Look at different elements of a text or topic and formulate a judgment based on reasoning.


To make clear and intelligible.

Give the meaning and clarify a topic, often by providing details.

This verb could also mean to interpret the meaning or relevance of something.

This verb is not limited to using words. A clear explanation may involve a combination of words, equations, graphs, or diagrams.


To explain or make something clear using examples or pictures.

Give examples or analogies to clarify a topic, point, or definition. Use charts or drawings to show something.


To give meaning or understand in a particular way.

Elaborate beyond the basic topic or words of a text and find a deeper meaning, usually by providing reference to facts or examples.


To show that an action or statement was correct.

Provide reasons why an argument or position is correct.


A general report stating the main features.

Present the main features or the most important points of a topic or text, often separating them into categories.
Paraphrase To reword an idea. Restate the same idea by using different words and sentence structure.
Prove To validate or authenticate a claim. State or argue with evidence, either from the text, theory or facts.
Review To look over the content again, either to provide a recap or to find errors. Go over the topic, lessons, assignments, or text, usually to find main points for discussion or to identify any mistakes.
Summarize A comprehensive but short restatement of the topics. Briefly state the main points of a topic or text without repeating everything word for word and without changing the meaning.
Support To advocate for a certain position with evidence. Provide arguments or evidence in favour of a statement.


Vocabulary: Verbs often used on tests -- Printable format

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