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We can make out which compounds are intermediates since they are the ones that are produced in one step and then used up in another step; they are not present to begin with or left over after the reaction is over.
It depends on the question. For some questions we will be told which is fast and which is slow. For most of the questions we have done in class and in the book, we are told the intermediate because we are given all the steps of the reaction.
I believe he said in class that we would always be given the slow step and the course reader practice finals specify which step is slow as well. Another type of problem is identifying which step would be the slow step based on the rate law, in which case you naturally would not be given this information.
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