Comrehension Exercises

Comrehension Exercises #

When you are asked to read a short passage and comment on it you need to address some of the issues listed below under Language Techniques.  

In Paper 1 you will need to give short responses to questions based on reading sources.  Make sure you note the weightings of marks for each question and budget your time accordingly. Write about 2 lines per mark, or spend about 2 minutes per mark.   The question will contain a key cue word demanding a particular response.  In Short Responses you can maximise your marks by the following procedures:

1.  Note the specific direction and make sure you answer the Cue word in the question.

**Cue Words **

Comment — express an opinion (with supporting evidence) on a specified subject.

Compare     — point out the similarities.

**Contrast     **—  stress differences only.

Define         —  give a brief and precise meaning of a word or phrase.

Describe     — give a detailed list of observations — in ordered sequence.

**Differentiate or Distinguish **— give points of difference between the named objects.

Account      — give reasons.

Discuss       — give points for and against and draw a conclusion.

Evaluate      — given an opinion supported by evidence on value.

Explain       — make plain — examine reasons and causes.

Illustrate     — use a figure or diagram or examples to clarify meaning.

Interpret     — give meaning in clear or alternative terms.

Justify        — give reasons supporting statement.

List             — present a group of items in order — without comments.

Outline or Summarise — give main features omitting details.

**Show **         — give reasons and causes.

State           —present clearly and concisely.

Trace          — follow development from a starting point.

2.  Identify the techniques used in the passage.
3.  Provide examples and if relevant give short quotes.
4.  Indicate the effect of the techniques
5.  Use some evaluative language to indicate your approval or disapproval.  

This site offers a number of sample exercises with suggested answers to them.  They should be useful in preparing for Comprehension questions in Examinations. 


[Behold The Man][]
[Three Little Pigs]

Language Appreciation Guide #

We communicate with others in a variety of ways through our five senses. While language is only one of the ways in which we communicate, it is one of the most sophisticated tools we have and clever cunning people know how to use it effectively to get what they want. As recipients of the use and abuse of language it is important that we understand the good and the evil intent people can have when they attempt to capture our attention. We must be careful not to get sucked in, conned or exploited.

The reading process essentially involves several stages;

Literal — Understanding the meaning of what is being said, recalling detail, Recognising character, orientation, sequencing of events and outcomes.

Interpretative! Inferential - filling in the gaps or supplying meanings not directly stated; reading between the lines, anticipating, making generalisations, reasoning cause and effect.

Critical — evaluating and passing judgement on the quality, accuracy, value or truthfulness of what is read (identifying bias, ulterior agendas, propaganda).

Creative - responding on a personal level, solving the problems raised, expressing new ideas, insights, alternative solutions and emotional reactions.


The Analysis of Prose Passages #

Orientation: The first questions you should ask as you skim the passage for a general overview are; Who, What, Where and Why? Who is speaking, to whom, what is happening, where area they located and what is their purpose (why?).

Technique: Once you have established the orientation process you should be able to move on the the How, the techniques used to present the point of view. The how is generally connected to the aim or purpose of the article.   Good writers employ a variety of linguistic techniques to effectively present their case. You need to be aware of how they influence or manipulate thinking.

Evaluation: This is your personal opinion on the effectiveness of the passage. You may judge it for yourself, for the intended audience or as a general appraisal of the worth of the article. Be specific and provide evidence for any assertions you make.

Language Techniques #

[Red fonts have further information available in side menus]


Approach: Subjective — emotive or Objective — informative

Attitude or Tone: Warm, ambient/ cold, Condescending/ suppliant, sad/ happy…

Audience: Broad, general,/ superior/ subordinate/ peer/ niche interest group.


Word Choice — diction word play - puns.

• Connotative or denotative - clear or ambiguous

• Emotive, coloured, biased or demotive — technical terms, dispassionate

Clichés, proverbs, idiomatic, expressive or flat.

Jargon: commercialese, journalese, legalese, intellectualese, technolese (babble)  A perverse, cabalistic, technocratic language can be part of the general folly.


Euphemisms, pejoratives, ** tautology**,


*exhilerated terror, bitter sweet, *

Don Watson describes a platitude as*” a husk of a word with just the pretence of truth, little different from a fiction or a lie.”*


Vanessa Redgrave’s comment that  “In England you have had centuries when words are totally divorced from truth.

Gender biases – sex biased language.

Man for mankind,  Chairman for Chairperson,  he for they….

**archaic **belonging to an earlier period; archaism = an archaic word or expression.

e.g. thou, art

**currency **the quality of being in vogue, prevalent – in vogue –buzz words.

dialect (al) a variety of speech differing from the standard language; a provincial method of speech.

e.g. “swag” — Australian — bundle of personal belongings carried by a traveller in the bush, a tramp or miner” (O.E.D.)

obsolete that which is no longer used; out of date.

e.g. “sate” for “sat” (past simple tense)


Register:   Levels of language  - elevated language, street or gutter language.

Formal — stiff, regular, often abstruse – used by the elite – respectable or politically correct language

Colloquial — relaxed, conversational inclusive friendly - belonging to common speech or ordinary conversation.

e.g.    ‘‘I’ll’’ used for ‘‘I will’’


Slang — very relaxed, colourful, intimate a special vocabulary below the level of standard educated speech. Sometimes low and vulgar, often colourful and full of impact, depending or its context and pertinence

e.g. *technicolour yawn * for vomit

Vulgate — coarse, crude, blasphemous, profanities, obscenities.

Using the vulgate in formal expression is generally not accepted as it indicates a lack of articulation or a loss of control.  It is acceptable in narratives or dramatic situations to reveal character or create realistic situations as long it is not used gratuitously.

It is often used by people to “fit in”, assimilate or expressing solidarity with a sub-group.  Sometimes even leaders use it to show us they are “one of us”.  Bob Hawke, when Australia won the America’s Cup, “any boss who sacks a worker for taking a sickie today is a “bum”.


 — Indicates extreme distress or frustration. A 2009 NeuroReport found that “swearing helps to relieve pain”.

Context is everything:  if someone your equal swears at you it can be inclusive acceptance, however if a stranger or superior does it, it could be offensive and abusive.


Sentence Types:

  • simple. Compound,  complex
  • Balanced, loose, periodic


• Short or long

• Topic sentence placement and structure

Figurative or literal language

• Similes, metaphors, personification, analogy, fables,

• Allusions — religious, historical, mythological, literary, films

            - Images, symbols.
Sound effects:

• Alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, verbal harmony, rhythm, blending, harsh, discordant, plosives, slow/fast, melody, voice, sibilance, sotto, allegro (brisk)

• Rhapsodic, lyrical, elegiac, upbeat, blue, staccato, dirge, ode,

Rhetorical devices (See Text Types: Lang. of Speeches)

• Questions, exclamations, cumulation, crescendo, inversion, bathos, repetition, 3 cornered phrases….

Person: first, (I, me, mine) second,(you, your)  third (They them, their)


Active:   The boy kicked the ball.

Passive:  The ball was kicked by the boy

Punctuation: exclamation marks! colons :, semi-colons;, dashes -, ellipsis….

Structure, linear, circular, flash backs, episodic, climactic…

Titles and subtitles

How do you transmute a cliche into a tautology? Janet Albrechtsen and the Reverend Spooner can show you how! The first sentence in her article “[No place for ideological agendas in our classrooms]” reads as follows: “In the gentle, uplit sunlands of Kevindom, our public schools will be places of particular virtue.” Uplit sunlands? Sounds like Kevindom might be a bit bright.