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Comprehension Skills - Unusual Effective Questions

In this chapter, we will delve into Unusual and Effective questions, a question type commonly tested in the Narrative Text Comprehension component. 
 

Let’s go through the topics to be covered in this chapter:

 

Text 2 Skills: 

  • Unusual & Effective Questions
  • Narrative Text: Into Thin Air

 

Unusual And Effective Questions

Oxymoron - A figure of speech in which contradictory words appear together. It is a descriptive phrase containing two terms, which seem to be incongruent.

Example:

“Deafening silence”

  • Structure of answer: Unusual because….. Effective because
  • Approach the first part of the question (unusual) by asking yourself what is surprising/odd about the usage of the word(s) or phrase.
  • For the second part of the answer (effective), think about what is the intended purpose or impression (thoughts and feelings) that the writer wants to leave in you.

 

Let’s understand the above topics with the help of some examples:

 

Para 1:

From the daylight nightmare, I was awakened, as I had been many times before, by my sisters. They came scrambling and calling up the steep rough bank. Like shields between me and the sky, faces with grins and white teeth each to be called up with a loud cry, they brushed off terror with their broad scoldings of affection. They leaned over me - one, two, three - their mouths smeared with redcurrants and their hands dripping with juice.

 

Question 1:

The paragraph begins with “From this daylight nightmare, I was awakened…”. What is unusual and effective about the phrase “daylight nightmare”?

 

Answer:

It is unusual because nightmares happen when we are asleep, which is usually at night, when it is dark. It is effective because it emphasises how strange/ unreal the situation was. 


 

Question 2:

The text below describes a man's journey into the jungle to catch a glimpse of a particular bird.

Delicate leaves enveloped him menacingly. Trees as tall as skyscrapers towered over him, and a shimmering golden light cascaded down through the canopy of leaves. The sudden screech of a yellow macaw could be heard from every direction. The musky scent of soil and decaying wood was almost cloying. Using his old machete, he sliced his way through the jungle one step at a time, before readjusting his grip on the handle. His haversack weighed heavily on his back, and his feet were sore from the painful blisters he acquired along the forest trail. Yet, Adam thought to himself that this would all be worthwhile, for he could not miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse of the migratory calliope hummingbird at the peak of the mountain.

The phrase “delicate leaves enveloped him menacingly” is unusual because __________.

  1. The leaves are portrayed as menacing in spite of their fragile nature.
  2. The leaves are portrayed as menacing in spite of their feeble nature.
  3. One does not usually view delicate objects like leaves as threatening.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. III
  2. II
  3. I & III
  4. I, II & III

 

Answer:

(D) i.e. I, II and III.

Explanation:

The correct answer is Option (D) i.e. I, II and III. The phrase “delicate leaves enveloped him menacingly” is unusual because of all three above-mentioned options.


 

Question 3:

The text below describes a man's journey into the jungle to catch a glimpse of a particular bird.

Delicate leaves enveloped him menacingly. Trees as tall as skyscrapers towered over him, and a shimmering golden light cascaded down through the canopy of leaves. The sudden screech of a yellow macaw could be heard from every direction. The musky scent of soil and decaying wood was almost cloying. Using his old machete, he sliced his way through the jungle one step at a time, before readjusting his grip on the handle. His haversack weighed heavily on his back, and his feet were sore from the painful blisters he acquired along the forest trail. Yet, Adam thought to himself that this would all be worthwhile, for he could not miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse of the migratory calliope hummingbird at the peak of the mountain.

The phrase “delicate leaves enveloped him menacingly” is effective because __________.

  1. it emphasises just how thick the undergrowth was, so much so that it surrounded him in a threatening manner. 
  2. it emphasises how dangerous the delicate leaves were, so much so that they would injure him if he brushed against them.
  3. It emphasises how the trees and undergrowth looked frightening and intimidating to the writer.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. II & III
  2. I
  3. I & III
  4. II 

 

Answer:

(B) it emphasises how dangerous the delicate leaves were, so much so that they would injure him if he brushed against them.

Explanation:

The correct answer is Option (B) i.e. I. The phrase “delicate leaves enveloped him menacingly” is effective because it emphasises just how thick the undergrowth was, so much so that it surrounded him in a threatening manner. 


 

Narrative

Into Thin Air

The text below describes a person’s climbing experience on Mount Everest. Read the passage and answer the following questions.


 

Question 4:

Paragraph 1:

Standing at the top of the world, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask as my shoulders dropped against the wind and I stared absently at the vast sweep of the earth below.

Identify two consecutive words which show you that the writer was not focused/ paying attention.

 

  1. The words are “vast sweep”.
  2. The words are “cleared the”.
  3. The words are “the earth below”.
  4. The words are “stared absently”.

 

Answer:

(D) The words are “stared absently”

Explanation:

The correct answer is Option (D). “Stared absently” means looking at it without thinking about anything.


 

Question 5:

Paragraph 1:

I understood that it was a spectacular sight. I had been fantasizing about this moment and the release of emotion that would accompany it for many months. However, now that I was finally here standing on the breathtaking summit of Mount Everest, I just could not summon the energy to care.

What does the sentence in blue tell you about the writer’s physical state?

  1. It suggests that the writer was tired.
  2. It suggests that the writer was exhausted.
  3. It suggests that the writer was fatigued.
  4. It suggests that the writer was indifferent.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. II & III
  2. I & II
  3. I, II & III
  4. I, II, III & IV

 

Answer:

(C) I, II and III

Explanation:

The correct answer is Option (C) i.e. I, II and III. The sentence in blue tells us about the writer’s physical state. 

This is because the words tired, exhausted and fatigued used in Statement I, II and III  tells us about the physical state of the writer and the word indifferent in Statement IV tells us about the mental state of the writer, that is why “Statement IV” is not an answer.


 

Question 6:

Paragraph 1:

I understood that it was a spectacular sight. I had been fantasising about this moment and the release of emotion that would accompany it for many months. However, now that I was finally here standing on the breathtaking summit of Mount Everest, I just could not summon the energy to care.

Explain what is surprising about this statement.

  1. It is expected that the author would take notice of the beautiful view at the top of Mount Everest, however, he seems to be indifferent about the beautiful sight.
  2. It is expected that the author would admire the captivating sight at the top of Mount Everest, however, he seems to be nonchalant about the beautiful sight.
  3. It is expected that the author would appreciate the flamboyant view at the top of Mount Everest, however, he seems to be perturbed by the beautiful sight.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. II & III
  2. I & II
  3. I, II & III
  4. I & III

 

Answer:

(B) I & II


 

Question 7:

Paragraph 2:

I can assure you that nothing I saw earlier in the day suggested that a murderous storm was about to bear down on us. There was so little oxygen reaching my brain that my mental capacity was that of a slow child. To my oxygen-deprived mind, the clouds drifting up looked entirely harmless. Gleaming in the brilliant midday sun, they were racing each other to the top of the sky, ignoring the cries of the climbers below.

It was suggested that ‘a murderous storm was about to bear down on us’ and that the clouds ‘were racing each other to the top of the sky.’ Identify the literary device used in these two descriptions.

 

  1. Personification
  2. Oxymoron
  3. Simile
  4. Irony

 

Answer:

(A) Personification

Explanation:

The correct answer is Option (A) i.e. Personification. It is when human attributes are given to non-human objects. 

In this case, the storm is given the characteristics of murderous and the clouds are given the characteristics of racing which is why it is personification.


 

Question 8:

Paragraph 2

I can assure you that nothing I saw earlier in the day suggested that a murderous storm was about to bear down on us. There was so little oxygen reaching my brain that my mental capacity was that of a slow child. To my oxygen-deprived mind, the clouds drifting up looked entirely harmless. Gleaming in the brilliant midday sun, they were racing each other to the top of the sky, ignoring the cries of the climbers below.

Explain the traits each of these two descriptions intends to attribute about the weather.

  1.  ‘A murderous storm was about to bear down on us suggests that the storm is evil and coming toward the climbers in a bloodthirsty way. ‘The clouds were racing each other to the top of the sky suggests that the clouds were innocently ascending the summit.
  2. ‘A murderous storm was about to bear down on us suggests that the storm is brutal and coming towards the climbers in a menacing way. ‘The clouds were racing each other to the top of the sky suggests that the clouds were playful as they ascended to the summit.
  3. ‘A murderous storm was about to bear down on us suggests that the storm is violent and coming towards the climbers in a threatening way. ‘The clouds were racing each other to the top of the sky suggests that the clouds were fun-loving as they ascended to the summit.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. II & III
  2. I & II
  3. I, II & III
  4. I & III

 

Answer:

(A) II & III


 

Question 9:

Paragraph 3 & 4:

I had to descend. I was indeed anxious, but my concern had little to do with the weather. A check of the gauge on my oxygen tank revealed that it was almost empty.

I needed to get down, fast.

‘I needed to get down, fast’. What is effective about this sentence? 

  1. The emphasis on the word ‘fast’ conveys the urgency of the writer to descend.
  2. The emphasis on the word ‘needed’ conveys the anxiety of the writer to descend.
  3. The emphasis on the word ‘down’ conveys the direction of the writer’s descent.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. II 
  2. II & III
  3. I
  4. I & III

 

Answer:

(C) I

Explanation:

In Statement I, what exactly is the sentence trying to emphasise or highlight is the urgency that the writer is facing because the writer’s oxygen tank is almost empty, so what will happen is that writer will actually die which is why the emphasis on the word fast conveys the urgency of the writer to descend.

The writer also places the word “fast” at the end of the sentence, this is to create an impact on the reader so that we know he needs to go down very quickly.

Hence, the correct answer is Option (C) i.e. I.

 

Question 10:

Paragraph 5:

As I clipped onto a fixed rope and prepared to lower myself down, I was greeted by an alarming sight. Thirty feet below, some 20 people were queued up and three climbers were hauling themselves up the rope that I was attempting to descend. I had no choice but to unclip from the line and step aside.

Why do you think the author described what he saw as an ‘alarming sight’? 

  1. It would be alarming because he needed to descend gradually as he would be swarmed by the queue of people ascending the rope.
  2. It would be alarming because he needed to descend urgently but he would be hindered by the queue of people ascending the rope.
  3. It would be alarming because he needed to descend quickly but he would be obstructed by the queue of people ascending the rope.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. II & III
  2. I & II 
  3. I & III
  4. II

 

Answer:

(A) II & III

Explanation:

The correct answer is Option (A) i.e. II & III. It would be alarming because he needed to descend urgently but he would be hindered by the queue of people ascending the rope.

Also, he needed to descend quickly but would be obstructed by the queue of people ascending the rope.


 

Question 11:

Paragraph 6:

I removed my now useless mask, planted my ice axe into the mountain’s frozen skin and squatted down. As I exchanged meaningless congratulations with the climbers filing past, inwardly I was frantic. “Hurry it up!” I silently pleaded. “While you guys are messing around here, I’m losing brain cells by the millions!”

Why do you think the author considered the exchange of congratulations ‘meaningless’? 

  1. It is because he did not bother about their achievements when his own life was under threat.
  2. It is because he was in a frantic and in hurry as he is losing his brain cells by the millions.
  3. It is because he found their achievements to be of no significance when his priority was to get to safety.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. II & III
  2. I & II 
  3. I & III
  4. II

 

Answer:

(C) I & III

Explanation:

The correct answer is Option (C) i.e. I & III because in Statement I “he did not bother about their achievements” and in Statement III he found their achievements to be of no significance. 

And, Statement II is incorrect because it does not explain the meaning of meaningless, it just explains why he felt this way. 


 

Narrative

Into Thin Air (Para 7)

Eventually, I reached the lower slopes which proved to be the most difficult part of the descent. Climbing down them demanded unceasing concentration, an impossible feat in my current state. By early evening, however, I was finally within 60 vertical metres of our tents. Only one obstacle stood between me and safety: a steep bulge of rock- hard ice that I would have to descend without a rope. The weather had deteriorated into a full-scale blizzard. Snow pellets riding on strong winds stung my face and any exposed skin was instantly frozen. Worried about making a critical mistake, I sat down to store my energy.


 

Question 12: 

Paragraph 8:

Suddenly, my fellow climber, Harris, appeared out of the gloom and sat beside me. His cheeks were coated with an armour of ice, one eye was frozen shut and he mumbled gibberish. He was in a hurry to reach the tents. Without a word, he got on his belly and started crawling down. I yelled after him to warn him. He yelled something back, but the words were carried off by the screaming wind.

The writer suggests that Harris was in a bad condition. In your own words, what are the signs that suggest that he was in a bad shape?

  1. His cheeks were covered with frost.
  2. His eyes could not open due to the cold.
  3. He uttered intelligible speech to himself.

Which option(s) is/are correct?

 

  1. II & III
  2. I, II & III
  3. I & III
  4. II

 

Answer:

(B) I, II & III

Explanation:

The correct answer is Option (B) i.e. I, II & III.  The sentence “His cheeks were coated with an armour of ice, one eye was frozen shut and he mumbled gibberish” covers all three options as mentioned below:

  • His cheeks were covered with frost.
  • His eyes could not open due to the cold.
  • He uttered intelligible speech to himself.


 

Into Thin Air (Para 9)

A second later, he lost his balance and rocketed down the ice on his back. I lost sight of him in the blizzard, but one thing was clear to me: the blizzard would come for me next.

(Adapted from Into Thin Air by John Krakauer)

 

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Expository Writing Comprehension Skills (Narrative Text) Flowchart Questions
Comprehension Skills (Non-Narrative Text) IYOW Questions Editing And Visual Text
Situational Writing Narrative Writing - Question Analysis And Building Characters
Comprehension Skills: Direct Questions Comprehension Skills - Unusual Effective Questions
Comprehension Skills - Point Identification and Paraphrasing Comprehension Skills (Narrative Text) Direct Questions
Comprehension Skills - Language Arts Comprehension Skills - Inference, Authorial and Literary Technique
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