Comprehension Question A Tips

This question is generally split into three separate questions that add up to 50 marks. (Covid changes brought this to 40)

Question (i)

The first question in the comprehension is generally a 15 mark question on the material you have just read. Example: Outline, in your own words, three of the challenges Bono issued to students at the University of Pennsylvania when he spoke at their graduation ceremony. Support your answer with reference to the text.

This 2015 comprehension is asking you to go back over the speech and list three challenges that have been issues by Bono. You must give these challenges in your own words with a small quote to back up your answer. Do not fall into the trap of ‘over-quoting,’ the examiner wants to hear your voice not a re-hash of the speech. The purpose of this question is to test how well you understand what you have read and your answer will show your level of understanding.

Whether you are reading a speech, a novel extract, a short story or an article, the first question will always be about the content of what you have just read.

Question (ii)

Question (ii) generally asks you to give a personal response to something either in the text you have just read or a personal response to the material covered on the English course. Over the last few years, this has been unpredictable with Shakespeare coming up in 2019 in this question. Here you are given the opportunity to give your opinion on a particular topic and it is important that you express your opinion in a coherent way. It is important to plan your response here as students often begin their answer with no proper plan, which leads to a page of rambling consciousness. Think about what you are being asked to do and make sure you give your opinion.

in 2021, students were asked to give their personal response to a quote in each of the texts. For example in text 3, students were asked for their personal response to the statement by Chadwick Boseman that “purpose is an essential element of you.” Students were expected to give a personal response to this observation.

Question (iii)

Question (iii) is almost always about style. Here you must be familiar with the five genres of language and be able to explain how the writer uses the elements of language to effectively get their point across. You need to be aware of the stylistic features of a range of writing. (Speeches, memoirs, novel extracts etc..)

For example in a speech, you may be asked to highlight elements of the language of argument or the language of persuasion. You may be just asked if you find the speech engaging, but you still need to be able to highlight the features of speech writing and the how the writer employed these devices in an effective way. Click here for the elements of speech writing that you need to be aware of.

In a novel extract, you need to be aware of the features of the language of narration and the language of aesthetics. You will be expected to highlight key terms like setting, characterisation, conflict, foreshadowing, pathetic fallacy etc… when you answer your question. You need to explain how the writer brought the story to life through the use of these devices.

Generally speaking, students should make sure they are aware of all five genres of language and the stylistic features of all types of writing. This question is worth 20 marks and it is expected that you will be able to give the examiner 4 points, which are supported by reference to the text. In these four points, it is expected that you will highlight stylistic features that the writer employs. It is really important that you learn the five genres of language and are able to talk about them in a coherent way.

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