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Comprehension Passage: Meaning, Useful Hints & Steps on How To Answer Comprehension Passage

Comprehension passage is the most commonly set question in English language in WAEC, NECO or JAMB. They form part of the sections that carries the highest marks. In WAEC and NECO, comprehension passages carry at least 50 marks. This goes a long way in determining your pass or fail status in both JSSCE and WASSCE.

I have here all you need to know on how to correctly answer questions on comprehension passages in any exam or test you are being examined.

First we need to define what comprehension is about before delving into the useful hints as well as the step-by-step approach on how to answer comprehension passages.

What is Comprehension

What is Comprehension? This is a process of reading, understanding and explaining what is written in a passage. For every comprehension exercise, there must be a passage to be read.

The purpose of comprehension exercise is to test students understanding of a given passage. In comprehension, the thoughts of the writer are presented to students for reading, understanding and explaining


Comprehension is to test students understanding of the passage. After reading the passage, you can interpret or explain the contents of the passage in your own words. It is when you do this that you can claim to have understood the passage. Although you are at liberty to make use of words from the passage. you must be careful not to be too reckless in copying down the portion of the passage which you feel answers the question.

Always restrict your answer to your understanding of the passage one is interested in your personal opinion on the topic discussed in the passage. In addition to this, you are not concerned with the correctness or the facts or information in the passage. You should not allow your beliefs or opinion to affect your reactions or answers to the passage.

How To Answer Comprehension Passages: Step-By-Step Approach

To gain full marks in comprehension passage in WAEC or NECO, the body demands a careful step-by step approach. Majority of the students who fail comprehension exercises fail because they are in a hurry to answer without taking time to understand the passage. The suggested steps are the following:

Step 1 – Read the passage very carefully and make sure that you understand the passage. This may take you more than one reading, depending on your skill and ability to read and understand the passage. The first reading will intimate you with the subject matter or theme of the passage. Read the passage for the second time and take note of the attitude of the author of the passage to his subject. After the second reading, you may read the questions in order to know the main points emphasized in the passage. Then go for the third
reading of the passage and note the significant points that answer the questions on the passage.

Please note that the reading of the passage must be done quickly with full attention in order to have a total understanding of the passage. It is after understanding the passage, you can now go back to the questions and start answering them.

Step 2 – In putting down your answers, they need not be written in sentences, unless otherwise stipulated, but make sure that you give only one answer to a question.

Step 3 – Though you are free to use the words from the passage in your answers, you must be able to use your own words or expression to show your understanding of the passage.

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Step 4 –Where your answers should show comparison between two or more things mentioned in the passage, your answer must indicate or show the comparison.

Step 5 – Where you are asked to substitute a word or phrase in place of some underlined words in the passage, the word must fit in perfectly in terms of meaning and collocation.

Step 6 – When you are substituting a word or phrase with another word or phrase, if the word or phrase is an adjective or noun or in a particular tense, your answer should be in a similar form.

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Step 7 – Your answer, if taken as a whole, must make sense before any part of it is accepted for scoring.

Step 8 –  You must take pains to spell your words correctly. Though you may be pardoned for wrong spelling of words in comprehension answers, except if it is woeful, it shows your diligence if you spell your words correctly.

Step 9 – Your answers must be error-free grammatically, too.

Causes of Loss of Marks in Comprehension Passage

The following are the reasons candidates lose marks in comprehension passage. Get your full score by avoiding the followings:

1. Writing Two Answers to a Question: You are expected to give one answer to a question. Where a student gives two answers to a question and one of them is wrong, the mark will be zero. You can only get full marks where you give two answers and both of them are correct.

2. Giving Wrong Synonyms to Replace Underlined Words and Phrases where words or expressions are expected to be given to replace words or expressions in the passage, the words or expressions used as replacement must fit in perfectly in terms of meaning and collocation (i.e, the words used in replacement must not disturb the arrangement of the word or words that follow the replaced word or words).

3. Grammatical and Expression Error(s) in Scoring Answers: A deduction of one-half mark from the stipulated marks for a scoring answer is the penalty for every grammatical and expression error.

4. Using Different Grammatical form and tense form from the form of the word or Phrase to be substituted or replaced: You are expected to use the same grammatical form as the given word or phrase when asked to explain the meaning of a word or phrase. Similarly, when you are asked to substitute a word or phrase in place of some underlined words, you are expected to use the same tense form. For example, if the word or phrase to be replaced is a noun, the replacement must also be a noun. Also, if the word to be replaced is in past tense, the word to replace it must be in past tense.


(i) puzzlement (noun) can be replaced with ‘amazement’, ‘wonderment’ or ‘bewilderment’ which are all nouns.

(ii) The word ‘realized’ which is in the past tense form can be replaced with words like ‘learnt’, ‘discovered, ‘found’ or ‘knew’ which are all in past tense form.

5. Giving Answers out of the Context of the Passage: You will not score any mark for writing answers which are not contained in the facts or information provided in the passage. Don’t impute facts or answers that are not in the passage.

There rules and principles or better put, guidelines guiding comprehension passages. If you can answer your questions by these rules and follow every detail of information available on this page, you are sure of getting your full score in comprehension passage in WAEC, NECO, JAMB or any examination.

I hope this was helpful? Do you have any question? Kindly reach out to us via the comment section and we shall respond accordingly.

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