Answering Questions In WASSCE English Comprehension? (2)

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?Once inside the examination room, the candidate should have a clear idea of what is expected of him. He has only a limited time to answer the questions, and not a minute is to be wasted. It is of absolute importance that he understands the passage thoroughly before he answers the questions on it,????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????I.K. Gyasi: ?A Textbook of English?.

The ?Content? questions seek to test the student?s understanding of the passage as a whole. The questions are based on the ?content? of the passage, and the student is expected to answer the questions based on this. For example, a passage may be given, and the following questions could be asked: (i) Replace the following with single words or phrases that mean the same, and can replace them in the passage: enmity, partnership, neglected, trivial, unique (ii )Why did the teacher cane the students? (iii) Select ONE word from the passage that describes the mental state of the teacher after the student had defied his instruction.

For answers, it must be borne in mind that ?enmity? and ?partnership? are nouns. The chosen words to replace them (i) must also be nouns or noun-phrases: lack of friendship (enmity); relationship (partnership). ?Neglected? is a verb and it is a past tense, hence the chosen word should also be a verb, and in the past tense, e.g. ?ignored?. ?Trivial? and ?unique? are adjectives; the words replacing them should also be adjectives, e.g. unimportant (trivial) unique (extraordinary).

In answer to Question (ii) above, the response could be (a) He was insubordinate (b) He was rude. (c)? He did not show respect. In answer to Question (iii) above, the response could be (a) annoyed; (b) infuriated (c) displeased- that is, if any of these words can be found in the passage.

The ?derivative questions?, sometimes also called ?deductive questions? require careful reasoning by the candidate to obtain the correct answers. Such answers can only be obtained when the student has studied the relevant portions of the passage carefully, e.g. Question (i) In two adjectives describe the teacher?s mood after the students had misbehaved. Question (ii) What word tells you that it was not usual for the teacher to have canned the student? Question (iii) What does the writer mean by ?the intemperate tendencies? of some teachers? Question (iv) What indicates that the students admired their teacher?

The ?appreciative questions?, also called ?literature questions?, test the student?s knowledge of literature; how the students ?appreciate? styles of writing. Here, the student is expected to display his knowledge of different figures of speech and literary devices. He is also expected to ?appreciate? the attitude of the people in a passage and the setting of the passage.

The student does not need to be able to distinguish between these categorisations: thus, he does not need to know whether a particular question asked falls under general grammar, vocabulary, optional/free, implication, content, derivative, appreciative, literary, deductive nor even yes/ no or quote questions. What is important is for him to be familiar with the nature of the questions and what answers are expected. For example: Throughout the ages, we humans were part of the dynamic balance of nature and had to accept our limitations. We no longer do so, because our scientific and technological genius has given us virtually overwhelming power over our fellow species. Question (I) What part of speech is ?overwhelming power?? Question (ii) what is its function in the sentence? Answer (i) Noun phrase. Answer (ii) Object of ?has given?.

The student must also be able to distinguish between a phrase and a clause. A phrase is a group of words expressing an idea but not containing a finite verb, e.g. the stronger; full of a cheerful look; in beautiful clothes. ?Full of a cheerful look?, he approached the headmaster for his prize. Question (1) What is the grammatical name given to the expression in quotes? Question (2) What is its function? Answer (1) Adjectival phrase. Answer (2) it qualifies the pronoun ?he?.

A clause is a group of words containing the finite verb. A clause has certain qualities which a phrase does not have. A clause has: a subject and a predicate; a finite verb; and has a complete meaning (where it is the main clause and not a subordinate clause.), e.g. You have to reply to the letter ?as soon as you receive it?.? What is the grammatical name given to the construction in quotes? Answer: An adverbial clause. Contrast this construction with the following: You have to reply to the letter ?as soon as possible?. What is the grammatical name given to the construction in quotes? Answer: An adverbial phrase

The student has to note that specific answers are required. Marks are deducted for unclear answers, e.g. ?The faulty tooth? was quickly removed. Question (1) What is the grammatical name given to the words in quotes? Question (2) What is the grammatical function? Answer (1) Noun phrase. Answer (2) Subject of the verb ?was removed?. For Answer (2), it will be wrong to write:? ?was quickly removed? because ?quickly? is an adverb, and not a verb. The addition of the word ?quickly? renders the answer wrong.

If the question asks students to replace a word, they should use the word that fits in the sentence, e.g. Question (1) There has been an incessant power cut this year. Answer (1) an endless. It will be wrong to write ?endless? because if this is transposed into the sentence it will read wrongly: ?There has been endless power cut this year?, instead of reading correctly: ?There has been an endless power cut this year?. The omission of ?an? renders the answer wrong.

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BY Africanus Owusu-Ansah

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