Back to Basics: How to approach comprehension questions!

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Comprehension questions can feel like the bain of your existence as a child. They are long, uncompromising, and testing in nature. A comprehension question takes more time than any other question as you have to read the text, understand the passage, read the questions and then find the answer in the passage. On average these passages are also incredibly random. Which makes it even harder to feel like you are revising for your test.

At the end of the day, when will you ever need to know that much about baby carrots? Or how a mill works?

Having said that, there are some really easy and simple ways to prepare for comprehension questions. Here at Smart 11+ Tuition, we go that extra mile to train our pupils to understand and be familiar with comprehension questions so that they don’t feel like it’s all ‘luck of the draw.’

So what are our top tips?

1. Forget everything you think you know about the subject.

One of the most common errors that children make is to apply their real-life knowledge to the question on the page. It is absolutely key that you base your answer on the passage and not your prior knowledge.

For example:

If the passage states, “Sharks can grow up to 60m long” and you saw a documentary the night before that said “Sharks can grow up to 90m long” use the answer from the passage. Even if you are an expert on sharks and know the passage is 100% inaccurate, you must use the information that the examining board have provided you.

After all, comprehension questions are not about testing your general knowledge. They are about testing your ability to process information, analyse details and find answers quickly and efficiently.


2. Think about ordering.

In most comprehension questions, the questions are ordered chronologically and relate to the passage in sequence.

For example:

The first question will relate to the first paragraph. As you get further down the questions it will relate to further down the text.

It is really rare that the questions are jumbled. So think about this when faced with a list of 20 questions.


3. Skim read!

This one is really really key. A lot of my pupils started by reading a comprehension question and then spending the next 10 minutes answering a question by re-reading the entire passage.

Timing is so important in this type of question. When you have thoroughly read the passage once, skim read the text to find the answer. By this, I refer to skimming the text for keywords that relate to the question.

For example: If the question was asking you to find what colour jumper Arya was wearing that day, you would scan the text for articles of clothing and colours.

This will allow your child to speed up and be as efficient as possible.


If your child needs some help with their comprehension questions, get in touch with us today by emailing us at learn@smart11plus.co.uk or call us on 0121 517 0339.