What is the difference between explain and discuss?

Hi there, I am unsure on what the difference between the two key terms explain and discuss is and how I should answer this type of questions when they appear in the genetics exam paper.

Hi dd20392

In the past/previous years, explain was often used to help students understand that this specific question would have a Merit opportunity, while discuss would provide the Excellence opportunity.

However, this has changed slightly and there have been questions in recent years, where the terms discuss/explain could have a possible Excellence opportunity.
(Eg - 2021 paper, Q1 and Q3 did not have the term “discuss” at all in any of the questions.)

Regardless of either terms used, always scan the entire question first before planning your response as you can be sure every question (out of the 3 questions in the paper) will have at least one or two Excellence opportunities.

For Biology questions (NCEA Level 1 to 3)
It is usually best to read the resource material given first, then all parts of the question (and any sub-questions) before writing.
Be sure to watch out for “and” and plural and singular terms. This will help you to “unpack” what the question is asking for.

For example, if you look at the 2021 paper - Q3 (a):
Explain how sexual reproduction causes genetic variation.
In your answer you should include the processes of gamete formation (meiosis) and fertilisation.

Note the word processes (plural) implies that you have to explain more than 1 process (at least 2).
Note the word and means that you have to explain meiosis, and explain fertilisation.

To fully unpack this question, you have to:
a) Explain the process of meiosis
b) Explain the process of fertilisation
AND (if you go back to the “main” question:Explain how sexual reproduction causes genetic variation.)
c) You also have to explain how both of those two processes leads to genetic variation.
(Eg - explain how meiosis leads to genetic variation in the gametes AND explain how fertilisation leads to genetic variation in the offspring)

Hope that helps!


Thank you! This helped a lot.