Comprehension Skills Package

General Skills:

  1. Understand the passage. Read it twice if needed. Don’t bother moving on to the questions if you can’t understand the passage.
  2. Understand what the question is asking for. Don’t assume. Read carefully: Is it a “how” question or a “why” question? Check your tenses and punctuations.
  3. This is a comprehension. The answer is definitely in the passage. Don’t try to come up with your own answer. Even if “suggest” questions, most of the time, the answer can be inferred/is hinted in the passage.
  4. If you find yourself guessing the answer, if you have failed either (1) or (2) or both.
  5. Does your written answer answers the question? Is it in line with what the author is trying to say in the passage?
  6. CHECK

 

Types of Comprehension Questions:

  1. Direct Questions

Examples

  • “What were the two main reasons..”
  • “ Why did the author..”
  • These are usually “Who”, ”‘Where” “when”, “Why”, ”How“ and “What“

Strategy

  • Locate the key word/event from the question in the passage.
  • Read the sentence before and the sentence after— the required answer is usually there.
  • If you still can’t locate a logical answer, read the entire paragraph. It shouldn’t take too long anyway.
  • Do not waste too much time here. These questions are the easiest.
  1. Inferential Questions

Strategy

  • Understand what the question is asking for first.
  • Inference questions do require you to make educated guesses, but the answers are usually evident in the passage. Locate the key word/event from the question in the passage. 
  • Read the sentence before and the sentence after— the required answer is usually there.
  • If you still can’t locate a logical answer, read the entire paragraph.
  • Does your written answer answers the question? Is it in line with what the author is trying to say in the passage?
  1. Vocabulary Questions

Strategy

  • The meaning you put down as an answer must be the contextual meaning, rather than the usual dictionary meaning. You must look for clues within the passage that point towards the meaning of a word.

Eg. “The hero died a beautiful death.”

“Beautiful” here means holy, pious, inspiring, and has nothing to do with the more common meaning of attractive, splendid.

  • “Help! This phrase is too complicated!”
    • Analyse the compound words (words with two or more words).
    • Break the words into their componnent parts and derive a single meaning from them.

Eg. Sunblock = Sun + Block (Barrier or Hindrance)

Meaning: barrier to the Sun

  • Take note of prefixes and suffixes

Eg. Furiously

If you give “Fierce” = 0m, If you give “Fiercely” = 1m

  • Take note of the intensity/magnitude of the word/phrase.

Eg. Minute

If you give “Small” = 0m, If you give “Extremely tiny” = 1m

  1. Use-Your-Own-Words Questions

Strategy

  • The rephrasing question requires you to express certain phrases or sentences in your own words, .i.e. you have to explain their meaning. In answering this type if question, you have to read the given phrase or sentence in its context
  • You have to read what comes before or after, in order to understand its meaning fully.
  • If you still can’t locate a logical answer, read the entire paragraph. I
  • Do not lift verbs, adverbs and adjectives in the given phrase/sentence of the passage. Subjects are fine.
  • Do not try to rephrase word by word. If you do so, there is a very high chance you’d distort the meaning of the sentence/phrase. Once again, understand the given phrase/sentence and rephrase IN YOUR OWN WORDS.
  • THINK: If I asked you to explain the phrase/sentence to me, how would you do so?
  1. Irony Questions

Strategy

  • Definition of Irony: “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite”. They could be used for a humorous effect, or simply to express sarcasm or annoyance.
  • 3 common type of irony questions:
    • Sarcasm
    • Superficial vs underlying/deeper meaning
    • Contrast between the actual meaning vs. the intended meaning of the author.
  • In all 3 instances, it is imperative you draw out the contrast.

E.g. “It is wonderfully ironic that after decades of struggle to achieve a shorter working week, those who now aspire to the top are obliged to do so by working themselves to the ground”.

Possible answer: The irony lies in the fact that, on one hand, people have fought so hard to enjoy more leisure time by working a shorter work week. However, in their climb up the corporate ladder, they end up working harder and longer than before to secure their high positions. The outcome is a direct contradiction to their initial aim of striving for a shorter work week.

  1. Metaphor/Simile

Strategy

  • Template : Just like [literal explanation of the metaphor], [corresponding idea from the context of the passage].
  • In the second-half of your answer (after the comma), you should draw the similarity between the metaphor used and the contextual meaning.

Eg. “leeching on the faith of the very believers he derides”

Just like leeches [idea in metaphor] are parasitic creatures that make use of others [literal explanation of the metaphor], the agnostics [corresponding idea from the context of the passage] are making use /taking advantage of the believers [contextual explanation of the idea, linked to the literal meaning above]

Eg. “piggy-backing on the scientific achievement of others”

Just like how piggy-backing [idea in metaphor] means to ride on someone [literal explanation of the metaphor], the agnostics [corresponding idea from the context of the passage] are free-riding / relying on the scientific progress of others [contextual explanation of the idea, linked to the literal meaning above]


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