4 Examination Components That Test You on Irregular Verbs

“Matthew spreaded the butter onto his bread.”

“Jasmine shooked with fear.”

“I’m going to go lay down for a while.”

What do these sentences have in common?

If you answered that these sentences are using irregular verbs wrongly, you are correct!

In fact, these are some of the sentences that I often read when marking my students’ work. Often, my students make similar mistakes like these because they are unfamiliar with their irregular verbs!


In today’s blog entry, let’s have a look at what irregular verbs are and where they can appear in examination questions.

But first…what is the difference between regular and irregular verbs? Let’s do a recap.


As you can see in the table above, regular verbs involve adding the same letters, either “d” or “ed” to the word to create the past tense and the past participle.

Irregular verbs, however, are a little more complicated.


In the table above, irregular verbs have different endings instead of simply adding -ed to form the past tense form and past participle.

How do we familiarise ourselves with them? Remembering the various verb forms requires you to make an effort to memorise them and of course, practice makes perfect. If you frequently read about or do questions that involve irregular verbs, you will find yourselves remembering them. Learn how to familiarise yourself with irregular verbs in our previous blog post.

Why is it important to learn what irregular verbs are for your assessment? Well, they appear in four sections of the test paper, namely, Grammar MCQ, Synthesis and Transformation, Comprehension Cloze, and Editing. Let me take you through these few examples to show you how important irregular verbs are.

First, let’s start by going through a more manageable section of the paper—the Grammar MCQ section!

Grammar MCQ



As you can see from the options, this question is testing the students as to whether they are familiar with the irregular verb, “lay”. “Lay” refers to the action of putting someone or something down in a flat position. Here, it is referring to putting “my bag” down. The past tense and past participle forms of this verb are both “laid”.


Since the doer is “I”and the tense is “every day” which indicates the present, the answer would be (2), “lay”.


Synthesis can be tricky because there are so many question types! However, you have to look out to see if participles are being tested. One way of testing participle is through the use of the perfect tense. Therefore, if you spot the words has/have/had/having in the answer stem or need to use them in the structure of the answer, you know that a past participle is likely to be required. Mark these words that require a past participle out on the worksheet immediately!



You should be able to spot the word “Having” in the answer stem. As mentioned, “having” will require the past participle form of a verb to be used with it and you highlight it immediately. We use “Having” to indicate an earlier event that is completed and for questions that require you to use “Having”, you have to label the event that occurred earlier, which is, “Lucas tore his worksheet accidentally.”


In this case, the setter is testing if you know the past participle form of the word, “tear” by giving you the past tense, “tore”.

So, your answer would be:


Comprehension Cloze

Irregular verbs can also be tested in Comprehension Cloze! Similar to grammar questions, you have to identify the tense in the sentence with the blank or surrounding sentences to determine the tense you need to use in the blank. Let’s take a look at Q57 in this example:



In the line with Q57 in it, I’ve highlighted the clue, “eggs”. I have also highlighted the past tense in the sentence because it gives us a clue as to what tense the blank is in. It’s clear that the past tense of “lay” (similar to the question tested in the Grammar MCQ earlier on) is needed.

Do not be confused with “lie”, which either means to tell an untruth or to refer to the action of lying on the bed. Hence, the past tense of “lay” is “laid”, which is written below:


Now that you’ve seen an irregular verb in action, let’s move on to editing.


Irregular verbs can also be tested in the Editing component. Like the Comprehension Cloze, you must remember to highlight the tense word in the sentence with the blank or one of the surrounding sentences to correctly identify the type of tense you have to put in the blank.

Let’s take this example below:


In this case, we have highlighted the tense word, “asked”, which is in past tense. Hence, the student is required to fill in the past tense of “shake”, which is “shook,” another irregular verb!


Whew! That was a lot, wasn’t it? To recap what you have learnt, you can try the short quiz below to test yourself!

Good luck!






Synthesis Skill-Wers

Synthesis Skill-wers


1. 30 over bite-sized video lessons! (On Golden Rules for synthesis and focused question types)

2. Unique strategies to tackle a wide range of synthesis question types e.g. Active/Passive voice, Direct/Indirect Speech, No sooner had… than…, Not only… but also etc.

3. Topical worksheets accompanying each video consisting of at least 5 questions + A bonus 20-question quiz upon completion of course! (over 150 practice questions in total)

Ms. Xie

Ms. Xie is an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. Her best subject has always been English and she’s been writing ever since she could hold a pen. Her first book, Dragonhearted, was shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award in 2014 and published in 2016. It was also shortlisted for the Singapore Book Awards in 2017. She also won the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award in 2018.

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