Greetings everyone! I’m Ms Geraldine, a teacher and curriculum writer at Lil’ but Mighty, and today, we’re going to be taking a look at Narrative Comprehension Questions! Have you ever been curious about the different types of comprehension questions found in secondary school? Whether you are just starting out in secondary school or approaching your graduation from it, it’s always useful to understand some of the comprehension questions you can end up being asked.
As some of you may already know, secondary school English will feature two types of comprehension passages: Narrative (passages which are stories, often fictional and descriptive) and Non-Narrative (passages which give an overview of factual issues and events, thus mostly non-fictional). Today’s post, however, will focus specifically on Narrative Comprehension and its specific question types. Stay tuned for my next blog post which will take you through Non-Narrative Comprehension and its question types.
So, before we dive into the different types of Narrative Comprehension questions, it is important that we first understand just what a Narrative Comprehension passage is. Read through an excerpt from one such Narrative Comprehension below, about a juvenile delinquent’s boat ride to a juvenile prison:
As you can see from the above excerpt, Narrative Comprehension passages follow a story or narrative, and are thus fictional and often include vivid descriptions. Keeping the above excerpt in mind, let’s take a look at some of the common comprehension question types that you can end up being asked. Try to solve these questions on your own first, and check them against the answer key provided at the end!
Most of you should be familiar with these questions from primary school. Such questions require you to quote a word, phrase, or sentence that suggest something that has been identified by the question. We must thus answer them with the proper quotation conventions below:
- The word is “___________________”.
- The phrase is “______________________”.
- The sentence is “_______________________”.
Students need to have strong vocabulary to identify these words, phrases, or sentences. Importantly, when quoting these answers, we must make sure we have copied them down accurately. Any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors will lead to a loss of mark.
Here are some examples of quotation questions about the excerpt from earlier:
- Which word in Paragraph 1 suggests Jonathan’s hair was very unkempt?
- Which phrase in Paragraph 1 suggests that the ocean was frothing with bubbles?
Try to find the answers to these questions from the excerpt!
These questions often feature the 5W1H question words, namely what, why, when, where, who, and how. These questions require an answer taken directly from the passage, and are thus one of the more straightforward questions to answer. Such questions also require you to capture accurate and specific details from the passage, thus you should check your answers for accuracy and precision.
Here are some examples of literal questions about the excerpt you read earlier:
- According to Paragraph 1, where was Jonathan going?
- According to Paragraph 1, for how long was Jonathan going to spend in prison?
- According to Paragraph 1, what was Jonathan arrested for?
Are you able to find the answers to these questions from the excerpt? Remember to write your answers in complete sentences.
Inference questions are not as straightforward as literal questions because they require you to make a deduction using contextual clues from the passage. The answers to these questions will thus never be found directly in the passage.
While such questions feature 5W1H question words too, they are often phrased as such: – Where do you think……
- Why do you think……
- When do you think……
- What do you think happened……
- Who do you think……
- How do you think she felt……
As you can see from the above, an easy way to identify an inference question is by spotting the common phrase “do you think”. After all, you, the reader, are asked to make a deduction and guess about something in the passage. Alternative phrasings of the inference question include “Suggest a reason why…”, “Suggest a possible place…”
In order to approach inference questions, always refer back to the passage and identify any clues that you can use to deduce an answer. Sometimes, you also need to draw on your own prior knowledge to make a logical guess.
Here are some examples of inference questions about the excerpt you read earlier:
- Why do you think the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys was ‘surrounded by crashing waves’ (line 5)?
- What do you think caused Jonathan’s growing discomfort in Paragraph 2?
Often, inference questions are worth 2 marks because they may require you to explain your answer in detial or even include the clues which have led you to the answer.
The answers to the above questions are not stated explicitly in the above excerpt. Are you able to use contextual clues from the excerpt to deduce logical inferences as answers to the questions? Give it a shot, and leave behind your guesses in the comments!
4. Language Use for Impact
This is an extremely broad category of questions that basically requires students to analyse how the language used by the writer of the passage creates a certain impact. These questions therefore will require analysis of the following literary/language devices
that you may or may not have already encountered before in primary school:
- Simile (e.g. He was as busy as a bee)
- Metaphor (e.g. He was a busy bee)
- Personification (i.e. describing a non-human object as human)
- Repetition (i.e. a word/phrase being repeated more than once to create emphasis)
- Hyperbole (i.e. exaggerating a certain quality to create emphasis)
- Irony (i.e. when what we expect of a situation clashes with the reality of the situation)
- Oxymoron (i.e. a phrase made up of two contrasting ideas, like “icy hot”)
- Unusual and Effective Expressions (i.e. a phrase made up of words that have beenused in an unusual/unexpected manner to create a certain emphasis)
As you can see, the wide range of techniques one can be asked to analyse in Language Use for Impact questions probably means this category of questions deserves a separate blogpost. You can look forward to this in the future!
For now, just as an introductory precursor to such questions, take a look at some examples of Language Use for Impact questions about the earlier excerpt:
- In Paragraph 4, what is unusual and effective about the expression ‘spine-chilling grin’ (line 18)?
- In Paragraph 4, why is the comparison of Jonathan with a lamb effective?
- How does the language used in Paragraph 3 show that Jonathan was reluctant to talk to the boat captain? Support your answer with two details.
You may not know how to answer these questions, but give them a shot anyway while waiting for my blogpost dedicated specifically to Language Use for Impact questions! In the meantime, you can leave your suggested answers in the comments!
5. Global Evaluative Question (Flowchart)
This type of question is often the very last question in your Narrative Comprehension exercise. You will be given a flowchart (depicting the structure of the text) and a list of phrases to use in order to fill up this flowchart.
As what you read earlier was just an excerpt from a larger passage, you will not be able to complete the Global Evaluative Question. Nevertheless, take a look at how such a question looks below:
The structure of the text reflects the stages of Jonathan’s journey to the island. Complete the flowchart by choosing one phrase form the box to summarise the main event in each part of the text. There are some extra phrases in the box that you do not need to use.
Are you able to identify the phrases that describe Paragraph 1 and Paragraphs 2—4 respectively?
For this type of question, one tip is to pay close attention to the main idea in the paragraph(s). This is because the phrase that you choose is very much like a summary of what is happening in the paragraph(s). Think of it this way: if you were to choose a suitable title for the paragraph(s), which one of these phrases would be the most appropriate one?
And there you have it! An overview of the different types of Narrative Comprehension questions that you can be asked. Psst, also here it is! Fill up the form below to get the answer key!
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I hope this gives you a better understanding of Narrative Comprehension in secondary school, and do feel free to leave any questions in the comments if you wish to clarify anything about the Narrative Comprehension. Stay tuned for my upcoming blogposts on Non-Narrative Comprehension types and a more in-depth overview of the Language Use for Impact questions!
1. Paper 1 – Writing (Editing, Situational Writing, Continuous Writing)
2. Paper 2 – Comprehension
3. Paper 4 – Oral Communication (Reading Aloud & Spoken Interaction)