• Notes & Activities
  • Vocabulary

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Notes & Activities:

When it comes to comprehensions, one of the major reasons why learners don’t do well is because they try to find the answers from the text in a word-for-word kind of way.  For example:

Q.  According to the text, what type of flower does the boy give the girl? 
A.  The boy gives the girl a red rose.

However, there are different types or levels of questions.  Yes, some questions do come straight out of the text, but many questions are more interpretive.  For example:

Q.  What is the significance of his choice of flower?
A.  His choice of flower is significant because a rose is commonly associated with love and the colour red symbolizes passion, so, through his choice of flower, he is telling her that he loves her.

You won’t find that answer in the text.  It’s something that you’d have to think about and come up with yourself.

What will be helpful is for you to look at the following list of question types.

We set our control tests and exams according to what we call the “Barrett’s Taxonomy of Reading Comprehension”. 

According to the taxonomy, the categories of questions are:

  • Literal type questions require you to recognise and recall ideas and information explicitly stated in the text
  • Reorganisation type questions require you to organize the ideas and information explicitly stated in the text
  • Inference type questions require you to use the ideas and information explicitly stated in the text as the basis for making intelligent guesses / hypotheses
  • Evaluation type questions require responses indicating that an evaluative judgment has been made
  • Appreciation type questions require you to be aesthetically (artistically) and emotionally sensitive to the ideas and information in the text

You must be prepared to answer all types of questions.

Just for fun ...


You know how teacher's always tell you that there's no such thing as a stupid question?  Well, there is ... and here are some of them:

Q. If someone sees you lying down with your eyes closed and asks: "Are you sleeping?"

A. "No, I'm training for when I die."

Q. When your friend calls your home phone and asks: "Where are you?"

A. "Uh, at the bus stop!"

Q. When someone sees you wet, coming out of the bathroom and asks: "Did you just have a bath?"

A. "No, I fell in the toilet."

Q. When you're standing right in front of the elevator on the ground floor and someone asks: "Going up?"

A. "No, no, I'm waiting for my apartment to come down and get me."

Q. When your boyfriend arrives with a bunch of flowers and you ask: "Are those flowers?"

A."No baby, they're carrots."

Q. When a friend sees you in the queue to buy movie tickets and asks: "What are you doing here?"

A. "I'm here to pay my school fees."


Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions

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Activity 1:



Read the following passage and then formulate questions according to the matrix below.  Don't forget to answer your own questions.

          Thomas Martin, who managed the Jack in the Box restaurant in Oroville, California, in 1996, called police and told them he had been robbed of $307 as he was closing the place.

Martin answered all their questions and then provided police sketch artist Jack Lee with a detailed description of the suspect.  Lee was impressed with the witness’s memory.  Within a matter of minutes, the artist felt confident he had drawn the face of the suspect.

When Lee put his pad down, he suddenly noticed that the drawing looked very much like the victim, Thomas Martin.  After further questioning by the police, Martin confessed that he had stolen the money from his own restaurant.

[Source: World’s Dumbest Crooks by Allan Zullo]

Question Matrix:

Barrett's Taxonomy:Type of Question:                                                       
Literal:Recognition of Main Ideas
Reorganization:              Outlining
Inference:Predicting Outcome
Evaluation:Judgment of Fact or Opinion
Appreciation:Identification with characters or incidents

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Activity 2:



Read the following passage and then formulate questions according to the matrix below.  Don't forget to answer your own questions.

          A shoplifter swiped $100 worth of film from a Baltimore drugstore, then fled out the door.  He sprinted down the street, turned the corner – and ran smack into bad luck.  The thief was right in front of two officers whose guns were drawn on a murder suspect lying spread-eagled on the pavement.

“Oh no!” the shoplifter muttered as he dropped the film and raised his hands, waiting to be arrested.  But the officers weren’t real.  He had crashed the set of the TV show Homicide: Life on the Street during rehearsal of an arrest scene!

The shoplifter had given himself up to actors Richard Belzer and Clark Johnson, who play Baltimore detectives John Munch and Meldrick Lewis on TV.  The actors gave each other a “Now what do we do?” look.  They weren’t prepared to arrest the man, who continued to stand there with his arms raised.

Luckily, real police officers working overtime as security guards for the production crew soon arrived and took the suspect away.  “If he’s convicted,” said Johnson of the 1996 incident, “the judge should drop the theft charge and send him away for being stupid.”

[Source: World’s Dumbest Crooks by Allan Zullo]

Question Matrix:

Barrett's Taxonomy:Type of Question:                                                       
Literal:Recall of Details
Reorganization:              Summarizing
Inference:Interpreting Figurative Language
Evaluation:Judgments of Appropriateness
Appreciation:Emotional Response to the Content

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Activity 3:



Read the following passage and then formulate questions according to the matrix below.  Don't forget to answer your own questions.

          After buying an Oregan State Lottery ticket, Alice Krumm looked at the winning numbers posted on a sign by the cash register of the store.

To her dismay, she was only one number away from winning $20.  Sneaking to the back of the store, she took out a ballpoint pen and changed the number on the lottery ticket.  Then she went to the counter to collect her prize.

The clerk spotted her forgery right away and called police, and Krumm was arrested and charged with fraud.  Then the arresting officer made a startling discovery.  Had Krumm looked more closely at the sign listing the winning numbers, she would have seen that her original ticket had also been a winner – for $5,000!

[Source: World’s Dumbest Crooks by Allan Zullo]

Question Matrix:

Barrett's Taxonomy:Type of Question:                                                       
Literal:Recognition of Cause and Effect Relationships
Reorganization:              Classifying
Inference:Inferring Character Traits
Evaluation:Judgments of Adequacy and Validity
Appreciation:Imagery

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Activity 4:



Read the following passage and then formulate questions according to the matrix below.  Don't forget to answer your own questions.

          Three men broke into a bank in West Covina, California, in 1991.  That was their first mistake.  The bank was empty because it was going to be torn down.

Before leaving, one of the men, John Meacham, walked over to the empty bank vault and suggested his partners step inside to hear the echo of their voices.  The two went in while Meacham closed the vault door so they could appreciate the full effect of the sound.

That’s when they heard the click.  The door had locked.  Meacham spent forty minutes trying to open the safe but failed.  In desperation, he called the fire department, who informed the police.

Seven hours later, after workers broke through the concrete wall, the locked-up robbers were freed – only to be locked up again, this time in jail.

[Source: World’s Dumbest Crooks by Allan Zullo]

Question Matrix:

Barrett's Taxonomy:Type of Question:                                                       
Literal:Recognition of Comparison
Reorganization:              Synthesizing
Inference:Inferring Sequence
Evaluation:Judgments of Reality or Fantasy
Appreciation:Reactions to the Author’s Use of Language

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Activity 5:



Read the following passage and then formulate questions according to the matrix below.  Don't forget to answer your own questions.

          A father and son in Rome, Italy, thought they had plotted the perfect crime.

The father worked as a teller at a bank.  The son would enter the bank, go to his father’s window, and demand money.  His father would quickly turn over the cash, the son would flee, and later the two would split the loot.  Best of all, no one would get hurt because no weapons would be used.

On the day of the robbery attempt, the young man walked into the bank and went to his father’s window.  He got the money and ran out of the bank – but he and his father were caught anyway.

It seems there was an unfortunate slip of the tongue by the robber.  When he was at the teller’s window, the crook shouted, “This is a holdup.  Hand over the money, Dad.”

[Source: World’s Dumbest Crooks by Allan Zullo]

Question Matrix:

Barrett's Taxonomy:Type of Question:                                                       
Literal:Recognition of Main Ideas
Reorganization:              Outlining
Inference:Predicting Outcomes
Evaluation:Judgments of Fact or Opinion
Appreciation:Identification with Characters or Incidents

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Vocabulary:



You will never be able to master a subject if you don't have the vocabulary to support it.  So, please learn the following words (contained in these notes).  You will be examined on them.

Analyze:Discuss the main ideas and their relative importance
Comment:Discuss, criticize and explain in detail
Compare:Show similarities and differences
Define:Distinguish precisely and accurately between what is and what is not
Describe:Give a detailed account of the topic.
Discuss:This calls for detailed arguments in favor of and against the statement.
Evaluate:Discuss the worth, truth and importance of the statement.
Explain:Interpret and clarify, with reasons.
Illustrate:Give concrete examples and comparisons.
Interpret:Use your own ideas and give examples.
Juxtapose:Place information next to each other.
Relate:Argue how two or more aspects are linked or related to each other.
Mention:Briefly name what is required.
Outline:Give a summary with the main points arranged in the correct order.
State:Give a precise description of the most important aspects of the topic.
Synthesize:   Integrate the information from various sources and draw conclusions.
Tabulate:Draw up a table and fill in the particulars needed.