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PSLE English Tips | 8 Types of Comprehension Questions

The open-ended Comprehension in the new PSLE format remains as one of pupils’ weakest areas that most parents and children are worried about. With the seemingly little time left, how can you help your child to optimise his or her learning and focus on strengthening the problem areas?

Based on the comprehension questions in examination papers from various schools,  I have broken down and identified the different types of questions that can be tested. The following question types are analysed according to examination papers set in the latest PSLE format and I believe this update will aid parents and children in their preparation for this section. Knowing what to expect will allow you to know what to prepare. Here goes!

8 Types of Comprehension Questions – Latest PSLE format

1. Factual

Such questions focus on obvious details from the passage. They usually require pupils to pick out these obvious details to answer but pupils are to take note not to lift and to cut out irrelevant parts in a sentence.

What did Jasmine have for lunch?
Why did Jasmine stay away from the puppy?

2. Inference

These questions require less obvious details than factual questions. Pupils need to understand a “hidden” meaning that is suggested rather than told directly. Hence, pupils must look out for clues from phrases which suggest these “hidden” meaning. e.g. tears rolled down her cheeks –> she cried.

Which phrase/sentence tells you that Mrs Tan was upset?
Why did Mrs Tan let the puppy go?
Explain in your own words why Mrs Tan let the puppy go.

3. Sequencing

This kind of questions requires pupils to state the order of events in the passage (which event happened first? Do not be confused with “which event APPEARED first”. An event that appeared in the first paragraph may not have happened first.)

__3__      The whale felt the cool beach water against its skin.

__2__      The villagers pushed the whale with all their might.

__1__      The snail went to call for help.

*4. True or False

For such questions, pupils need to identify whether a given statement is entirely true or if there is a false detail given. A true statement is usually paraphrased from an original sentence in the passage. Following that, pupils are to provide evidence to prove why the statement is true (by picking out the original sentence) and if there is a false detail, what will be true according to the passage. Find the correct sentence and write it in a way that contrasts with the statement. For more information, look at this post on true/false questions.

types of comprehension questions

*5. Cause and Effect

These questions require pupils to identify the cause (what made something happen) and effects (what happened as a result of the cause). For more information, look at this post on cause and effect questions.

types of comprehension questions

*6. Before/ After 

These questions require pupils to make comparisons and identify a given detail in the statement which changed over time.

types of comprehension questions

7. Vocabulary in context

Questions testing this will ask about the use of a word or phrase in the passage.

Which word/ phrase has the same meaning as…?
Find the words with opposite meanings to the following words…
Which two adjectives in paragraph 3 describe Mrs Tan?

8. Applied vocabulary

This type of question is different from vocabulary in context as it requires pupils to analyse and use their own words to describe a situation or characters.

How will you describe the personality of the lion in the passage? (e.g. timid, proud)


*These types of questions are usually presented in table form. The questions may be factual or inferential in nature.

With better understanding of the different kinds of questions, zoom in on the types of question that your children are weaker in to make the most of their time now! If you find this article helpful, please like, share and comment. If you have any particular topic that you would like to see me do a post on, do let me know too (: Happy learning!

Comprehension Open-ended Online Course


    1. loves simple techniques that work
    2. wants to know how to increase his/her understanding of the reading passage
    3. needs greater clarity in the types of questions that can be tested
    4. needs a structured approach to tackling the various comprehension open-ended and table form question types
    5. needs exposure to commonly tested and new PSLE question types
    6. likes concise notes with clear examples to aid understanding
    7. likes clear, annotated explanations for obtaining answers
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Mrs Chew

With her passion to create relevant and easy-to-understand materials for the lil’ ones, Mrs Lily Chew works alongside her team of teachers to design the Lil’ but Mighty curriculum. Constantly looking at best educational practices and thinking of ways to improve the curriculum, Mrs Chew finds pure joy in unlocking creative and different ways of helping each child achieve his or her personal best.

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