Comprehension: Defending Your Answer

Last updated: April 26, 2018 at 18:42 pm

defend photoMany comprehension tests are so wack and haywire that it’s no wonder that students perform poorly at (and even detest) English Language as a subject. The exams go something like:

Read the following passage and then answer the questions that follow. (Remember to answer in complete sentences)


A woman was walking one morning with a basket of fruits on top of her head. The breeze was blowing cooly from the northeast. Suddenly, a monkey from on top of a tree screamed at the woman, startling her and causing her to loose balance. The basket slipped out of the woman’s hands and onto the road. All of the fruits rolled out of the basket. The monkey then disappeared into the branches and was not seen again. The woman, with a sigh, started to pick the fallen fruits and replace them into the basket.

Question: What was the woman thinking while she was picking up the fruits?

Correct Answer: Rolls eyes. Well, how am I supposed to know that??

Indeed, most comprehension questions I’ve seen in Language and Literature tests are so abstract and hazy that I’m thinking there can be no correct answer. When something is a matter of opinion or deduction based on reasoning, it must be remembered that two persons can look at the same thing and see two different things.

Therefore, examiners need to be careful when marking questions whose answers are supposed to be opinions or deductions based on reasoning. But are they?

So how was a student supposed to answer these questions? Here’s the key: whatever answer you choose to write, make sure you have evidence “from the passage” to defend your answer.

For the example above, you may write: The woman, while picking up the fruits, was probably thinking, “what nuisances are monkeys and what terrible animals they are!” I say this because the monkey for no apparent reason screamed at the woman causing her to drop her basket.

Of course, the woman could have been thinking a million other things, but how were you supposed to know?

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