10 O Level Comprehension Question Types

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You may find it difficult to believe that there are actually 10 types of comprehension questions. Yes, there are. Why are there so many?

Well, you have 2 types of text in comprehension. One is narrative and the other is information based. Each of them will have a different purpose and the questions will be formulated accordingly. The narrative passages will focus more on inference and literary devices but the information text will probe you on how to analyse information and explain it.

Both comprehension passages will always expect you to “answer in your own words” so be prepared to be sharp in your vocabulary department. Look out for meanings of words and even when the answer is straightforward, you will be asked to re-phrase it. Vocabulary questions are KEY questions in comprehension papers so this is an alert signal for you to focus and practice.

I have placed the 10 types of Comprehension Questions in a clear, easy-to-read format so you will be able to identify each type easily.

Type 1 – Analytical Questions

The Answer is found in the paragraph but you have to explain it or elaborate.

“Shami had never seen that much food on a table before. It was piled high on each other. Just the sheer size of the lobsters staggered him. There they were, stained redder than his teacher’s marking pen, presumably correcting the rest of the dishes glowing in greens and oranges next to it. Only the white as snow cauliflower led a determined rebellion against the rest of the table choosing to remain demurely different.“


What was Shami looking at?

Answer: Shami was looking at food piled on the table.

Straightforward and easy.

You have to make sure that you avoid adding more details than are necessary which may cause you to lose marks for irrelevance.

Type 2 – Direct Questions

A Straightforward answer is required. 

Eg. What did Gerard do after he sat at the table?

The answer will be in the paragraph. 

Answer: Gerard looked around for his bottle of ketchup but found only mustard instead.

Direct questions are the easiest to do in comprehension. The only danger in this is that you may pick the wrong answer. Exercise caution in selecting your answer.

Type 3 – Language Questions

These are comprehension questions which ask you to explain the way the words are phrased in connection with an action or intention.

Eg. What is meant by “Gerard was looking around as though he was remembering something before he finally sat down?” 

Explain the words in bold which reflect Gerard’s way of thinking.


Type 4 – Language Questions which ask you to explain how effective and unusual the phrase is

The spider network of veins on her throat engrossed him as she stood there amongst the bevy of contestants for Ms Iconic Beauty pageant.

Explain how “spider network of veins on her throat” are effective and unusual.

I. effective (1 mark)

II. unusual ( 1 mark)

Type 5 – Literary Questions

There are a few divisions in literary questions.

“Shami had never seen that much food on a table before. It was piled high on each other. Just the sheer size of the lobsters staggered him. There they were, stained redder than his teacher’s marking pen, presumably correcting the rest of the dishes glowing in greens and oranges next to it. Only the white as snow cauliflower led a determined rebellion against the rest of the table, choosing to remain demurely different.“

I. Irony questions – They will ask you to identify the oddness or strangeness of the situation.

What is the irony in the way Shami viewed the food?

The answer is that the lobsters were the most appetizing but it reminded Shami of his teacher’s red marking pen.

II. Tone questions

How does the tone convey what Shami must have been feeling?

It conveys excitement at the sheer mixture of different types of dishes or anticipation.

III. Metaphor questions

“Choosing to remain demurely different” – what is meant by this ‘choosing?’ Explain the choice.

The answer is that the cauliflower is made to look human by choosing to look different from the rest of the food.

IV. Simile questions

What is the simile seen and explain it?

The phrase “white as snow cauliflower” reflects the simile as the cauliflower is compared to snow in its white shade.

Literary device questions need time for you to unravel it and properly identify it through detailed explanation.

Type 6 – Vocabulary questions which ask you to explain the meaning of word/s

Eg. “Her hair was considered dishwater blonde and she considered it to be a matter of no great importance as she worked double shifts 7 days a week anyway.”

How does “anyway” indicate how she felt about herself?

Answer: It shows that she does not really care about her appearance as she worked so hard doing double shifts as she did not have time for it.

These are not easy to do and you need to be very sharp and observant in answering such comprehension questions.

Type 7 – Vocabulary questions about phrases

“Mikhale was struck dumb by the profoundness of his statement. Never in all his life had his father spoken to him like that and he knew at last that he had crossed the threshold into manhood.”

Explain how the phrase “crossed the threshold into manhood” is of significance.

The answer should reflect how Mikhale’s father was speaking to him with profoundness for the first time which meant that he was treating him as an adult. 

This made him feel like a man and less like a child.

The answer should convey the meaning in the context. How did Mikhale feel now? 

This is not in the comprehension question but you should answer it anyway. Then the answer will be complete when the context meaning is explained.


Type 8 – Comprehension Questions which ask you to select 3 phrases and explain them

These are literary questions in comprehension but they are specifically related to the emotion/ thought which it identifies.

“Parul had never seen the Monsoon drought sweep across that way before. The volatile monsoon was a sheer mass of paper debris collected by the pure energy of the wind as it swirled and deposited itself on roofs and tops of open windows like straying pigeons during the migration. Some remnants fluttered across to Mrs Gopski’s laundry where it stood on her pegs flagrantly defying all odds.”

Select 3 phrases which best describe the unusual description of the wind and Parul’s amazement at it.

There are more than 3 phrases which describe the wind as being unusual so your task is to select the 3 best ones.

In this case it will be “sheer mass of paper debris”, “pure energy of the wind” and “swirled and deposited itself.”

The fourth one “flagrantly defying all odds” is an acceptable answer.

After selecting the three phrases, you will have to explain that the way the wind blew was amazing to Parul as he stood there watching it.

Type 9 – Inference Questions

Some inference questions are rather straightforward with clues given in the comprehension passage or the question in the talking heads’ “bubbles.”

Others are more tricky.

“The piano tuning was the most ghastly part of the entire afternoon. Surie would not have made the appointment if not for his mother. It was always the same affair. The tuner would descend on them with his tuning equipment and set the piano going with horrendous squeaks and echoes from Hitchcock’s movie on birds. And the result was no different from before. The piano ground itself away during the opening welcome of the student’s orientation ball.”

How does the piano tuning suggest different effects for both Surie and his mother? 

Elaborate your answer.

The answer should explain that Surie did not like the piano tuning but his mother did. 

You will need to elaborate by mentioning how the worst part of the tuning and the result being the same were the reasons for Surie to not want the piano tuning.

The answer about his mother has to be purely inferred. His mother wanted the piano tuning as she probably was not there when it happened and felt that it was a worthwhile effort.

The second half of the answer is pure deduction and the piano tuning consequence therefore has different impacts on each character.

Type 10 – Hybrid Questions

These are actually difficult comprehension questions for the students because most students will answer only one half of the question not realising that there is more.

Example of a Vocabulary and Inference Question

In the phrase “the tuner would descend on them”, what does ‘descend’ mean in this context and how does it reveal Surie’s thoughts?

Most students will answer the meaning of “descend” without mentioning how Surie felt.

Answer: The answer will be that Surie was not looking forward to the piano tuner’s visit and “descend” meant an invasion to him.

Answer: He was probably feeling irritated at the impending visit.

The student will lose the other mark or worse, get no marks at all depending on the mark weightage for this question.

As with all comprehension questions, read carefully and be observant.

We have come to the end of my eclectically presented 10 Comprehension Question types. Good luck in practising them and identifying them for all your comprehension work!

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