Comprehension | What Do I Need to Highlight?

Hello once again! In my previous post, I shared 5 things you can do to prepare for your English paper. In this one, I will focus on the PSLE Comprehension Open-ended segment of Paper 2.

By now, you should be aware that for this part of the paper, there are 10 questions of varying types. We have already compiled the 8 Types of PSLE Comprehension Questions in a different post and you can take a look at it for a quick revision. We have also shown you how to answer the true/false and cause/effect questions so you can refer to these posts for more information about these types of questions.

For today’s post, I will be showing you a little more in-depth on how to get to the answer. What do we need to highlight for the above PSLE comprehension questions? Why do we need to highlight these words? Let’s try and explain these questions today and focus on the following question types:

  1. Factual

  2. Inference

  3. Sequencing

  4. Vocabulary in Context

What do I need to highlight: Answers requiring complete sentences

For any question that requires you to write down answers in complete sentences (e.g. questions with two lines provided, True/ False questions), you will actually need to highlight two essential things in the question, the “tense” word and the keywords. I will usually advise my children the following:

– Circle tense word
This is a word that indicates whether the answer should be in present or past tense e.g. did, was, had, shot etc.

– Underline the keywords

Keywords allow you to know where to look for the answer and also what type of answer you are looking out for.

Are you ready? I shall illustrate the above by looking at the factual and inferential questions.

1. Factual

To get to the answer, use the following steps:

  1. Circle the tense word in the question.

  2. Highlight the keywords in the question.

  3. Highlight and number the answer in the passage.

Let me demonstrate using an example:

PSLE Comprehension

Q1: Why was the author’s father on the move in the author’s early life? [1m]

Step 1: Circle the tense word in the question.

This step ensures that you always use the correct tense when you write down the answer.

PSLE Comprehension

In this case, you need to use the past tense because of the word ‘was’.

Step 2: Highlight the keywords in the question.

Identifying the keywords helps you to locate where the answer is in the passage and ensures that you give the relevant answer.

PSLE Comprehension

The word ‘why’ tells you that you should be looking for a reason for the writer’s father being ‘on the move’. Look for the phrase ‘on the move’ in the passage. The answer should be located close to where this phrase is found.

Step 3: Highlight and number the answer in the passage.

Numbering the answer makes it easier for you to check it later on.

PSLE Comprehension

PSLE Comprehension

A: He was searching for a job.

For Factual questions, it is important to remember to only include relevant details and to omit any unnecessary information.

2. Inference

The steps are similar to the ones for Factual questions but instead of looking for the answer, you should be looking for clues. Let me show you by using an excerpt:

PSLE Comprehension

Q2: What was Zheng Nian’s occupation? [1m]

Step 1: Circle the tense word in the question.

PSLE Comprehension

Step 2: Highlight the keywords in the question. 
It is important that you understand the meaning of occupation. It means what someone works as or does for a living.


Step 3: Highlight and number the clues in the passage.

The passage does not explicitly state what Zheng Nian’s occupation was but there are clues to indicate what it was. You need to identify these and then infer what his job could be.


These clues indicate that Zheng Nian might be a construction worker since the paragraph draws a similarity between him and the other strangers.


A2: He was a construction worker.

For a more in-depth look into the Inference question, refer to our post on Answering Inferential Questions.

What do I need to highlight: Answers requiring numbers/ quote from the passage

For questions which require you to write in numbers or pick out an exact word/ phrase/ sentence from the passage, you will not need to highlight tenses. However, highlighting of keywords are still extremely important as all the answers need to have come from the passage! Let’s take a look at two such types of questions.

3. Sequencing

To answer this question type, you should:

  1. Locate the events in the passage and highlight them in a different colour from the one you used for other questions. This allows you to see the events clearly.

  2. Number the events in the correct order.

Remember to ascertain when the event happened and NOT when it appears in the passage. For instance, an event that appears in the last paragraph might actually be the first one that happened.

Let’s take a look at the example below:


Q3 Write 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the blanks below to indicate the order in which the events occurred in the story. [1m]

______ The author’s grandmother hugged the author.

______ The author’s grandmother sat in the kitchen.

______ The author’s grandmother had an argument with the author’s mother.

______ The author’s father left the house.

Step 1: Locate the events in the passage and highlight them in a different colour.

Step 2: Number the events in the correct order.



__2__ The author’s grandmother hugged the author.

__1__ The author’s grandmother sat in the kitchen.

__4__ The author’s grandmother had an argument with the author’s mother.

__3__ The author’s father left the house.

As you can see from the above example, even though the argument between the author’s grandmother and mother appears first in the last paragraph, the event of her father leaving the house actually happened first because of the word ‘earlier’.

Hence, you need to read carefully and look out for such words when trying to arrange the events in the correct sequence.

4. Vocabulary in Context

In order to answer this question, follow these steps:

1. Highlight the keywords in the question.

This is crucial because the keywords will tell you whether you should look for a word, phrase or sentence. They may also tell you where to look for the answer and whether it should be a synonym or an antonym of the one given in the question.

2 Locate the correct paragraph.

3. Highlight and number the answer.

Let’s work together on the example below:


Q4: Which 6-word phrase in paragraph 2 tells us that Val was dragged underwater? [1m]

Step 1: Highlight the keywords in the question.


Step 2: Locate the correct paragraph.

In this instance, you should be looking at paragraph 2.

Step 3: Highlight and number the answer.


‘Hauled’ means to be ‘pulled’, which has the same meaning as ‘dragged’ while the phrase ‘the darkness below’ is similar to ‘underwater’. Do count the number of words in the phrase to ensure that your answer will be precise. Here, the highlighted phrase is exactly 6 words. If your answer contains 5 words or 7 words, it will be marked wrong immediately. Be very aware to fulfil the conditions given!

For this type of question, you are usually given a box to write the answer in so you do not need to answer in a complete sentence.


Sometimes, the question might look like this:


If the question is phrased this way, you would need to answer in a complete sentence. You can start your answer with: ‘The sentence is…’ or ‘It is…’

The answer to the above question should look like this:

A: It is “Each time we moved, we had fewer boxes, not more.”

Take note of the punctuation in the answer as well.

After answering the questions, you should spend some time checking them carefully. Do read our Do You Use TAPS? post to find out more about the method you can use to check your answers.

I hope you will benefit from what I have shared in my post today. Remember that these techniques are meant to help you in answering the open-ended questions, so the more you put them into practice, the better you are at them. Till next we meet, good luck for your examinations!


Ms. Nora

Nora is an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. She is committed to providing students with a dynamic and nurturing environment in which they can grow and develop. One of her greatest strengths as an educator is instilling a love for the English Language in her students.

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