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  • Vanita Pal


Many secondary one students feel that the comprehension paper is almost similar to their primary 6 content as it is narrative. This would be a mistake as the passages may only appear to be simple.


First of all, these narrative passages in secondary 1 English are longer with more content.

There is more.

And secondly, that content has meanings which are not clear. This really means that there are hidden meanings in the words and you will have to read between the lines.

The last point really explains fictional questions.

Thirdly, the way the author thinks is the basis for many of the questions.

These are popular questions which means that you will always have to know what the author is intending to say, not so much as saying.

And this is something you would not have done before.

Quite a task isn’t it? I mean focussing on all these 3 perspectives in comprehension passages can take up quite a bit of time.

But that is not all.

Yes, really.

Fourthly, you will have to look into implication or suggestion questions.

You must be thinking that these are similar to inference questions which you may have done before. Probably but not quite.

These ‘suggestion’ questions ask you to compare different points of view and give your opinion on them. And these questions appear in all passages without fail.

Ok, you must be thinking by now that these ‘fictional comprehension’ passages are straight out of hell.

Er, I wouldn’t quite put it that way but there are ways of dealing with such ‘fictional passages’ so that you can manage the questions with relative ease.

First of all, let me tell you why most secondary 1 students find these passages a great challenge.

The simple reason is that they are usually extracts from novels. Yes, novels or story books.

That is how exam setters choose these passages.


These passages are chosen based on their content in terms of juxtaposition of the protagonist with a situation which is ripe for action or where there are several red flags signalling that all is not well.

Ok, so exactly what is so special about them?

Such extracts from novels allow for such questions where ‘suggestion’ questions, ‘what the author is thinking’ questions and vocabulary questions based on how these intentions or descriptions of the situation are relayed.

Fictional passages such as these pave the way for several questions meant to assess your:

i) honing your intuitive skills

ii) understanding more difficult words and phrases

iii) figuring out hidden meanings

All of these important tools needed in the appraisal of any narrative passage. It means that the successful completion of such questions will place the student in that realm of being really articulate in the English language. And that is what you will be preparing for from secondary 1 till you reach secondary 4, the O level year.

All O level papers focus on these skills and students need to start learning them from secondary 1.

But is the secondary 1 paper entirely different from secondary 4? After all, secondary 1 should be easier.

First of all, you will not be doing a paper which is entirely different. The basic structure of the paper is still there. Comprehension passages with several questions assessing the skills mentioned above will be there. It will not be that different from the skills needed for the O level paper.

And yes. It should be easier. The level of difficulty will not be the same as in the O level year of course.


This is the most important part of my blog. The ‘how’ question.

Other than practising as much as you can, there are certain steps which you can take on your own.

first Step

Try to understand as many phrases which imply a more diverse way of thinking. You can find these phrases in the newspapers, novels and even news channels such as CNN and CNA.

Second Step

Read as much as you can. Do not just scan the words but really read it. Toss the ideas in you mind and ask yourself what the author is trying to say. If you are not sure, ask your tutor or look up Google (though I am not sure that can be a help always).

Third Step

The last part is to really USE these words.

You will need to use those words and ideas in your daily writing or even in your verbal communications. You may choose to message in Facebook in one of your posts or in Instagram where you may reply to someone.

Social Media is a wonderful way to practice what you have learnt. Try posting something using these discovered words and impress your friends and acquaintances with your profound thoughts.

When you actually follow these steps, you will find that your next attempt of the Narrative Comprehension paper will be much easier. Try it today to see the result.


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