8 Types Of Comprehension Questions

Table of Contents

Comprehension questions can be tricky if you do not know the types of questions that will be asked. There are actually several types of questions which are asked in a comprehension exam though it may not appear to be so.

Identifying the question types and understanding the difference between each type of comprehension question as well as practising them makes a big difference between a pass and a fail grade.

1. How to answer Literal questions

Literal questions are basically ‘recall’ questions that require you to pick out facts stated in the comprehension passage. You can easily identify them by the use of question markers such as ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘why’. 

Students who are able to distinguish between the 5 Ws and the 1 How will be able to answer these comprehension questions easily. Below is an example of a literal question.


As a result, there are both state military actions and state terrorism actions. There can be both guerrilla military actions and guerrilla terrorism actions. Accordingly, if a country were to deploy its men to eradicate a water system or civilian stronghold then that would be a state act of terrorism as civilians would be harmed.

Alternately, if the country deploys its men to attack military areas or military strongholds, then that would be a state military action. The difference here lies mainly in whether there was the intention to attack civilians. 

Literal Question

 What is the main difference between state military actions and state terrorism actions?



In state terrorism actions civilian strongholds are attacked but in state military actions, military strongholds are attacked. 

Explanation of the answer

For the literal question, the answer is taken straight from the text BUT you still have to select your answers and connect them together according to the question. The answer may be scattered in the paragraph and may not run in a sequential manner so you will need to pick and choose which parts are needed. Simply copying and pasting will mean that you will get the wrong answer as it will be out of point.

2. How to answer Language-based questions 

Firstly, what are language-based questions? 

These are questions that focus on the narrative flow and ask you to explain what is going on. You will need a good understanding of the meaning of the words for all the questions but for language-based questions, you will need to understand the intention and effects of what is happening. 

The comprehension example below will illustrate what this means.


Shea pondered for a moment, weighing the pros and cons. The moral depravity of it did not bother him in the least, it was the economical despatching of his plan which bothered him the most. The faithful execution of it depended on two things. One was to gain her trust implicitly and he smirked when he thought of how easily he had managed that.

The second was to convince her boyfriend that he was harmless enough to be with her during the intervals. If the second did not work, the entire plan would have fallen to bits. Shea twisted his mouth in a snarl which rarely accompanied his surreal moments with the unsuspecting Adeline. 

Language-based Question

What is the one factor here which reveals Shea’s true feelings about Adeline? Explain how it reveals this.



The factor which reveals his true feelings is when his mouth twisted in a snarl. It reveals that he does not care about Adeline at all and only wanted something for his own needs which was selfish.

Explanation of the answer

The comprehension question is asking you to pick out the part of the language which shows the true feelings of Shea. In this case, there could be more than one answer. The important action is to select the best answer.

The earlier part when he ‘smirked’ at the thought of winning Adeline’s trust easily is also a good answer but the ‘snarl’ is more potent and shows how much he wants to achieve his own ends at the expense of Adeline.

Therefore, this is a better answer. After selecting the best possible answer, you will need to explain it. How does it reveal this? This is actually an elaboration of the main answer. 

3. How to answer an Analysis question

Analysis questions expect you to examine the data or information presented in comprehension and give your estimation of them. You are expected to produce your opinion of this in a sound and mature way.

For analysis questions, you will need to look at the progression of events/ actions and analyse what outcome they will have. An understanding of the intention, the way the events are presented and the possible consequences have to be studied. 


The death of Theodisus 11 in 450 AD led to serious repercussions for Attila. Theodisus’s successor, Marcian, refused to continue paying the tribute, which in turn aroused Attila’s fury. As always, his prudence always foreshadowed him even in his fury and he decided to vent his anger on the West instead of the East, as it was weaker.

Eventually Attila’s troops razed through some of the best cities of civilised Europe. They were erased to the ground in Attila’s usual custom and Attila would have done so even with Rome itself if not for the intervention of the Pope himself who, it was said, went personally to meet Attila in his tent and so prevented major devastation. 

Analysis Question

Examine the course of Attila’s actions and determine what effect his power had on Europe.



Attila could not attack the eastern countries even though he was enraged with Marcian’s disrespect towards him so he decided to vent his rage on the west instead. This would have caused destruction and terror in the west as the Pope must have been consternated enough to stop him from destroying Rome.

Explanation of the answer

The comprehension answer must show the course of actions and what effect they had. You will have to analyse this and show that it caused terror, fear, petrification, horror or doom. After describing it as one of these, you will have to show the greatest evidence of this which is in the Pope’s visit. That he tried to stop Attila is proof of the effect he had. 

4. How to answer Vocabulary questions

Vocabulary questions are frequently seen in comprehension passages and most of the scoring marks can be attributed to these types of questions.

Most vocabulary questions will ask you to answer in your own words. You will need to show your ability to paraphrase and highlight the actual meaning of that word or phrase. To do this, you will, of course, need a good range of vocabulary and a really good understanding of the text itself. 

This takes practice and cannot be achieved overnight. The best way is to practise vocabulary type comprehension passages and questions.

(I) Understanding the context

The most important point to remember is that the student has to give the meaning of the word in its context and not just its general meaning. Failure to do so will result in a loss of scoring marks in comprehension. 


Looking at his credit card bills, Mr Johnson sighed. He decided to place a cap on the household spending. 

Vocabulary question

Explain the word ‘cap’.



The word ‘cap’ refers to an upper limit on the amount of money that can be spent.

Explanation of the answer

In this case, the surrounding word ‘spending’ gives us a hint on the meaning of the word. Hence, any student who answers with the more common meaning of ‘cap’ as ‘something you wear on your head’ will not be awarded any scoring marks in comprehension at all.

(II) Multiple meanings of words


The impact of her parents’ death hit her hard. Holding back her tears, she cast him a sorrowful look.

Vocabulary question

What does the word ‘cast’ mean?



It means to give a certain look in a particular direction. 

Explanation of the answer

‘Cast’ has more than one meaning. One of them is ‘to throw’. Another could mean ‘to look’. In this case, we select the meaning by understanding the context. 

This is similar to the word ‘spent’ which also has more than one meaning. The most commonly-understood meaning by students would be ‘to pay’ for something, as in spending money. ‘Spent’ could also mean ‘to use up’. For instance, in the comprehension context, ‘he was spent and went to sleep immediately’.  This means that his energy was used up.


Each of the words in the following table has multiple meanings. For each of the words, fill in its respective meanings. Give at least two different meanings for each word. 

WordMeaning 1Meaning 2

5. How to answer Inference questions

Inference questions are regarded by students as the most difficult type of questions as the answers require the use of your own ideas and guesswork. This is called an educated guess. The answer is not actually found in the text but you will have to infer what is going to happen based on existing circumstances for example.

How can we answer inferential questions?

(I) The Educated Guess

To determine the inferential content or the author’s hidden intention, one has to have a clear understanding of the subject matter in the comprehension passage. Secondly, one should be able to make an educated guess.

An educated guess is a sound opinion made by the reader, confidently based on an allusion that he or she has picked up in the comprehension passage. It is often that a comprehension passage is rife with allusions – things that the author is trying to say without really saying it. This is when the student has to infer.

(II) Read the sentences before and after

In order to avoid wrong inferences, the reader has to read the sentences previous to and after the part where the meaning is ambiguous. 


Depression is a curse of the modern world. More people suffer from it than known statistics indicate as it is rarely detected from the outside. Even a sufferer of depression may not be aware of having it until he/she is diagnosed by a medical practitioner. According to statistics, it is not only adults who suffer from it but children as well.

Inference question

Why does the author say that depression is a ‘curse of the modern world’?



Depression is a ‘curse of the modern world’ as a great number of people suffer from it and many more do not even realise that they have it.

Explanation of the answer

The answer is not blatantly clear, but it is clear if one reads the sentence following it, “More people suffer from it than known statistics indicate as it is rarely detected from the outside.’ It can be inferred that a great number of people in the modern world suffer from it.

The sentence after, ‘Even a sufferer of depression may not be aware of having it until he/ she is diagnosed by a medical practitioner’, makes depression even more formidable as it is something which may not even be detected by the sufferer until a doctor examines him/ her. Therefore, the inference is that the ailment is dangerous as it can remain hidden until perhaps when it is at an advanced stage, similar to a curse which can creep up on oneself unknowingly. 

6. How to answer Point-of-view questions

First of all, what are point-of-view questions?

They are questions with speech bubbles where a character opines on a particular part of the comprehension passage and you are supposed to explain it. 

Extract from a comprehension passage on ‘Threats

But then scientific warnings of dire implications to our health is not new. We have hitherto been told that we were actually eating vast amounts of fatty food in the form of butter and coconut oil. Scientists produced research findings which indicated that both of these products caused high cholesterol content which of course was related to major diseases such as cardiac disease.

We know that coconut oil has been a traditional stronghold in the culinary preparations of many cultures. Such a finding was more or less like a curse as families had to force themselves to adapt to corn oil which was touted as being the best thing for cooking a healthy meal.

Today, we know that corn oil is high in fats and cooking consistently with this will mean gradual weight gain. Suddenly there are new findings which alert us to the beneficial properties of coconut oil and we are inundated with the healing and nutritional benefits of this traditional source. Butter has also recently gained the approval of medical counsel. The cholesterol reducing properties in margarine, which had long been cited as a better alternative, is no longer upheld by any doctor worthy of his salt.

Instead, it is supposed to have the opposite result as it only increases risk of higher cholesterol. The word cholesterol is supposed to indicate a sort of frenzied search for an alternative but what if we do not know exactly what is supposed to cause high cholesterol? What was bad news yesterday is acceptable today. So, butter is in and margarine has been side-lined.

Point-of-view questions

At least we now have more information about cholesterol and we can eat more wisely.

It looks like we cannot rely on the advice of doctors all the time as the information is conflicting.

(I) What is the irony suggested by Gerald’s opinion?

(II) How does Susan’s view contradict Gerald’s point of view?


(I) The irony in Gerald’s opinion indicates that doctors previously said that butter and coconut oil were bad for health but have now reversed that view. It is suggested that doctors’ views cannot be entirely trusted.

(II) Susan’s view contradicts Gerald’s point of view as she has a positive outlook. She thinks we have more knowledge on cholesterol now and that can help us with what we choose to eat in the future. This contradicts Gerald’s more negative view that the opinions of doctors cannot be relied on.

Explanation of the answer

The answer for Gerald also demands that you explain the literary device of irony. The answer should reflect his intention behind his words. Therefore, the student must elaborate and explain what he really means, which is that doctors’ views are always changing and cannot be trusted or relied on.

Unlike Gerald, Susan’s view was coming from a more optimistic standpoint. She feels that she has gained more information about Cholesterol which will help in creating better dietary habits.

7. Literary analysis questions

These types of questions are straight from literature analysis and students who study English literature should find it easier. However, for those who do not, these questions can easily be mastered with continuous practice of just a few literary devices. The most common literary devices used are:

(I) Irony

(II) Tone

(III) Simile

(IV) Metaphor

(I) How to answer a question on irony

“I had just finished washing all my laundry and set it out to dry outside in my garden when a storm suddenly broke out and I had to frantically get my clothes inside.”

Question on Irony

What is the irony in the situation faced by the author?


The irony is that she had just placed her washed laundry outside to dry when it started to rain so her objective was not met.

Explanation of the answer

You will have to quote to a certain extent from the text but just repeating does not mean that you have answered the question. You will have to mention how the intention was not met at all. This is the irony. The words, ‘…her objective was not met’ indicate this.

(II) How to answer a question on Tone

He raised his voice slightly and did not give Pedro a direct answer. Instead, he slanted his body sideways by placing more weight on his right leg which he had placed on the stool in his usual cavalier way. Then he droned on while his eyes glinted, “After all, you have stayed here for 10 years due to the goodwill of my mother.

Well, she’s gone now and I’m not that likely to grant you that same goodwill that she had shown you. You see,….” He paused and spread out his fingers placed on that same right leg. “You see…I am a man of different intentions.” And here Sebastian lifted up his head and looked directly at Pedro who stood there unflinchingly.

Question on Tone

What does Sebastian’s tone indicate about his character?


Sebastian’s tone is indifferent and calculative. It reveals his callous nature as he is not inclined to show any goodwill to Pedro unlike his mother. Furthermore, his callousness is seen in the way he refers to his mother’s passing on as ‘she’s gone now.’ This also reveals his indifference to his mother’s death and his interest in money.

Explanation of the answer

The comprehension answer has 2 parts. One part is to mention what the tone is and the other part is to say how this reveals his character or true nature.

His tone is indifferent and calculative. The tone must suggest the general air of the person which is revealed by the language. Then, the way his character is seen through this means a further elaboration should be written. ‘Callousness’ means cold, heartless and shallow so this reflects Sebastian’s entire character well.

(III) How to answer a question on simile

A comprehension question on similes is usually the easiest as it can be clearly spotted. There is a comprehension example below which reveals the simile.

Ron dashed inside the building just before the metal shutters were lowered into place. He knew that he would have to get his drone and exit by some other way before his image was picked up by the security team and he was found. His mind raced like quicksilver and his nimble fingers pried apart the curtains before the great sculpted statue of Octavius Caesar.

Question on Simile

What is the simile seen here?


The simile is ‘his mind raced like quicksilver’. 

Sometimes, simile questions in comprehension can be complicated.



What is the simile seen here and how does it reveal Rob’s intention?


The simile is ‘his mind raced like quicksilver’ and this reveals the way Rob thinks feverishly to achieve his objective of getting his drone. It shows that Rob is extremely focused.

Explanation of the answer

The simile in the first answer is straightforward.

The second answer has to show the intention of Rob. It should show his attitude towards getting the drone. Therefore, words such as ‘focused’, ‘alert’ and ‘in control’ should be suitable.

(IV) How to answer a question on Metaphor

Questions on metaphors are common and these can be seen in most narrative comprehension passages.

Extract from passage

The river meandered profoundly and whispered towards the tail end which descended into the Luvine valley.

Question on metaphor

Explain how the metaphor reveals the strength of the river.


The phrase ‘meandered profoundly and whispered towards the tail end…’ reveals that the river was flowing weakly. The water was probably trickling only as can be seen from the word ‘whispered’. 

Explanation of the answer

The answer on metaphors in comprehension should be well explained with quotes to support your opinion. In this case, the river is supposed to ‘whisper’. The meaning here is that the sound made by the river is like whispering which is a weak sound. This indicates that the river was flowing on softly or weakly.

8. Hybrid questions (Eg. Vocabulary and inference/ analytical and literary device)

Hybrid questions are combination questions that combine two types of comprehension questions mentioned before.

His feet tapped alarmingly close to the parapet which alarmed the guests as he knew he would and infuriated the security who could do nothing but glare. The diplomats held their breath as they witnessed a spectacular feat by Bonnie Pierre who was supposedly a guest of the Dominican governor..

Hybrid question (Vocabulary and Inference)

What does ‘tapped alarmingly’ indicate about the actions and in what way does this signal that Pierre had in mind?


His feet tapped alarmingly meant that he was dangerously close to the edge and could fall. This action signals that he had it planned as ‘he knew’. This meant that he would get to the edge but not fall while finding a way to get away as it is inferred he was imprisoned in the governor’s house from the word ‘supposedly’.

Explanation of the answer

The answer should explain the meaning of ‘tapped alarmingly’ in the comprehension context. It means that he went to the edge. The next answer is what his actions inferred. His intention to escape should be explained. 

Hybrid question (Analytical and Literary device)

The dome stretched endlessly into the ostrich blue sky as Pumila strained to get herself into the selfie. The photo stretched as far as the panoramic feature could allow. The top of the Notre Dame came faintly into view and Pumila pursed her lips slightly for that faint effect of a smile.

Just one step back and “Dwaaaggg!” She found herself falling into a cart of popcorn while her camera clicked furiously non-stop seeming to have a mind of its own in capturing her caricature of popcorn covered Notre Dame enthusiast.


What does Pumila try to do here and how does the metaphor used here describe what happens to her instead?

Pumila’s intention was to take a selfie with the Notre Dame’s dome. The metaphor “her camera clicked furiously non-stop seeming to have a mind of its own capturing her caricature of popcorn covered Notre Dame enthusiast” reveals that instead of taking the selfie of the Notre Dame, she ended up falling into a popcorn cart and was being continuously photographed without being in control of the camera.

Explanation of the answer

The first part is analytical and is straightforward. Pumila wanted to take a selfie with the Notre Dame’s dome.

The second part is to explain the use of a literary device, a metaphor which reveals what happened to her instead.

To do that, quoting from the comprehension extract is necessary. Thereafter, the meaning of the metaphor should be explained which is that she was covered in popcorn and the camera somehow kept clicking so her photos of being covered in popcorn were taken instead.

Answering comprehension questions on metaphors should be precise. What the quote is, what it reveals and what the point of it is should be explained clearly.

That sums up the 8 types of Comprehension questions and how to answer them.

I hope that the comprehension exercises and explanations will be of great help to you in answering your comprehension questions easily and help you on your path to managing your paper well.

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