The Layers of Comprehension: Going Deeper than Surface Answers
Comprehension isn’t just about understanding text; it’s about engaging with it on multiple levels. Students who are able to do this in their 11 Plus exams get the highest results – especially in Stage 2 grammar school tests and independent (private) school entrance exams.
Independent schools value answers that demonstrate not just the ability to recall or summarise information but the student’s ability to interpret it and to apply critical thinking.
The Different Types of Questions
11 Plus English comprehension questions can be broadly categorised into factual, inferential, and evaluative types.
Insight: Factual questions test basic comprehension, inferential questions probe your child’s understanding of what is implied, and evaluative questions ask for judgments based on evidence from the text.
The Inferential Leap: Reading Between the Lines
These questions require students to go beyond what is explicitly stated in the text.
Example: If a character says, “I’m fine,” but slams a door while leaving, what does that imply? An insightful answer would note the contrast between the words and the actions to infer the character is not actually fine but is, in fact, upset.
Contextual Understanding: Words in Their Natural Habitat
Understanding individual words is one thing, but knowing how they function within a sentence or paragraph is another.
Insight: Top schools often include questions that test your ability to understand a word or phrase within the context of the passage.
Example: The word “settle” could mean different things in different contexts. “They decided to settle in a small town” and “They finally managed to settle their debts” show the same word used in different contexts, requiring different interpretations.
Providing Evidence: The Backbone of Strong Responses
Any claim or inference should be backed up with evidence from the text.
Example: If the question asks why a character made a specific decision and your child believes it was due to peer pressure, they should point to a part of the text that supports this claim.
Checklist to Help Your Child Craft Insightful Comprehension Responses in Their 11 Plus English Papers:
- Identify Types of Questions: Know what each question is asking for—be it fact, inference, or evaluation.
- Go Beyond the Text: Make inferences based on textual clues.
- Context Matters: Always interpret words and phrases in their context.
- Evidence-Based Answers: Always back your statements with textual evidence.
- Practice Thoughtful Reading: Encourage your child to think critically about what they’re reading, even during leisure reading.