Question types & ways to answer them

Higher English

Reading for Understanding, Analysis and Evaluation

Question Types





Question Type What to Do Hints
Own Words questions

(1 mark per point put into own words)


‘Explain,’ ‘identify, ’summarise,’ ‘outline,’ ‘What is…’, ‘according to the writer,’

  • Find the piece of the passage which contains the correct answer
  • ‘Translate’ this section into your own words.  Use the number of marks on offer to help you decide how many points to include.
  • Be sensible – sometimes there is just no other way of saying something (e.g. names, places).
  • NEVER quote in this type of question.  Even quoting then putting text into your own words is not acceptable.
  • Use bullet points to help separate points.  ‘Note form’ answers are fine.  We want to see that you understand the writer’s ideas.
The Link question

(2 marks)


‘Show how the sentence acts as a link’

‘Show how the sentence performs a linking function’


‘Show how the paragraph acts as a link’

  • Quote the expression that links back to the idea that the writer has already been discussing.
  • Clearly explain / demonstrate how this expression relates to what has been said. (1 mark)
  • Quote the expression that introduces the idea the writer goes on to explore in the next section
  • Clearly explain / demonstrate the link between this expression and the next section. (1 mark)
  • You MUST quote when answering the Link question.
  • These quotes MUST come from the link sentence or paragraph.
  • Look for words like ‘but’, ‘however,’ ‘yet’, ‘despite’ and ‘although.’  These conjunctions (joining words) strongly indicate a turn in the writer’s argument.










Question Type What to Do Hints
Word Choice

(1 mark per word analysed)


‘Explain the effectiveness of the writer’s word choice…’


‘Show how the writer’s word choice makes his/her attitude clear…’


‘Show how the writer’s word choice creates a …. atmosphere’


‘Show how the writer uses word choice in lines 32-40 to convey his/her opinion / mood / strength of feeling…’

  • Look at the number of marks on offer and let this inform your answer.  2 marks = 2 examples; 3 marks = 3 examples.
  • Quote a suitable example of word choice.  Make sure the example you select is appropriate to the question, i.e. it clearly conveys the writer’s opinion or creates a particular atmosphere.
  • Stick to SINGLE WORDS or phrases made up of two words (e.g trap door / cop-out, long-term).  It is NOT ‘sentence choice’!
  • Go on to work out ALL of the word’s connotations – the ideas, images and associations it carries.
  • Include as many of these connotations as possible in your answer.
  • DO NOT give the word’s meaning.  That is not what you’re being asked to do.  It’s an ANALYSIS question, not an UNDERSTANDING one.
  • You MUST quote!
  • Focus on connotations! These are all the things a word suggests to us and how it appeals to our imagination.  The context in which a word appears will offer a clue to its connotations.



(2 marks for deconstructing an image accurately)


  • Look for similes, metaphors and personification.
  • If the writer describes something in a way that cannot literally be true, imagery is being used.
  • Always begin by quoting the image.
  • Step 1: Identify the two things that are being compared.
  • Step 2: Explore and discuss the literal root of the image.
  • Step 3: Go on to explain what the writer suggests or achieves by making the comparison.
  • Marks will be awarded based on the quality of your explanation.  A straightforward deconstruction of the image will get you one mark; a more detailed, insightful discussion will earn you two.
  • When thinking about what the writer is trying to achieve, consider whether the image is generally flattering (i.e. positive) or unflattering (i.e. negative).  This should help you see whether the writer is criticising, condemning or mocking something.
Sentence Structure

(2-4 marks; 1 mark per feature you analyse)


  • Look at punctuation, sentence lengths, sentence patterns, and sentence types.
  • Look at the amount of marks on offer.  Try to deal with one feature of sentence structure for every mark available – so, for a two mark question, try looking at repetition and inversion, or the use of a climactic list and parenthesis.
  • Step 1: Identify the feature of sentence structure.
  • Step 2: Quote an example if possible / realistic.
  • Step 3: Analyse the effect, impact or purpose of the technique.
  • You won’t get any marks for just identifying a technique.
  • Quote if it’s possible: but you’re not expected to quote lengthy sentences, or entire lists, for example.
  • Avoid meaningless explanations, eg ‘The writer uses a comma for extra information’ or ‘The writer uses a long sentence with lots of commas.’  These are inaccurate comments and won’t let you say anything sensible.

(2-4 marks; 1 mark for identifying tone; 1 mark for each way you show how tone is created)

  • Firstly, work out if the writer sounds generally positive or negative.
  • But don’t use these words to describe tone!  They are too vague and simplistic.
  • Choose an appropriate word to describe the tone (1 mark).  At Higher, words like upbeat, enthusiastic, pleading, ironic, light-hearted, sarcastic, mocking, patronising, dismissive, arrogant, urgent, conversational, disgusted, bitter, should be used.
  • Now, go on to explain how the tone is created (1/2 marks).  You should be able to work this out from the writer’s use of language: things like word choice,, imagery, sentence structure, hyperbole, punctuation.
  • QUOTE and outline how your chosen language feature creates the tone.
  • Try to imagine how the writer would sound if he/she were saying the words aloud.
  • Never use vague words like ‘positive,’ ‘negative,’ ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to describe tone.  Too general and simplistic for Higher!
  • Remember there can sometimes be several words used to describe a tone: four different pupils may write ‘humorous,’ ‘light-hearted’, ‘playful,’ and ‘informal’ for the same question.  These are similar terms, so it is likely they’d all get a mark.  The pupils who write ‘aggressive’ or ‘argumentative’ for the same question will not, however!



(2-4 marks)


  • Questions on ‘language’ allow you to write about any relevant or appropriate language feature: word choice, tone, imagery, sentence structure, sound effects, hyperbole, oxymoron, pun, anecdote and so on are all acceptable.
  • Look at the number of marks on offer and select an appropriate number of examples.  2 marks = 2 examples; 4 marks = 4 examples, etc.
  • If you are asked to write about two or more techniques, use subheadings and bullet points to lay your answer out clearly.
  • Always QUOTE from the passage.
  • Identify the technique(s) being used.
  • Go on to analyse the effect, impact or purpose of the language feature you’ve chosen.  Does it reflect the writer’s attitude?  Emphasise a point?  Criticise or flatter someone / something?
  • You MUST quote!
  • YOU MUST identify (i.e. name) the technique(s) you have chosen.
  • Bullet points and subheadings will allow you to structure your answers more clearly.  It will also make it easier for the examiner to follow your argument, and award marks.




Question Type What to Do Hints

(2-4 marks)


‘Evaluate the final paragraph / sentence’s effectiveness as a conclusion to the ideas of the passage as a whole’


  •  Check if the question is on ideas (content and arguments – what the writer says), language / style (techniques – how the writer expresses her ideas), or both.
  • If neither is specified, you can approach the question as you wish.
  • Look at the number of marks available.  For 2 marks, explore one link between the conclusion and the rest of the text.
  • For 3-4 marks, explore two links.
  • Show, by quoting and summarising, how the final paragraph revisits or recalls something the writer has already said.
  • For language / style, show by analysing how the writer revisits this idea in a powerful, thought-provoking way.


  • You are free to re-use material or ideas from other questions if it is relevant or appropriate.
  • Make sure you quote / reference both the final paragraph AND the related part of the passage!
The Comparison question.

(5 marks)


‘Both writers express their views on _______________. Identify key areas on which they agree / disagree.  In your answer, you should refer in detail to both passages.’


  • Read Passage 2 carefully.  Use ‘context’ strategies to work out words you are unfamiliar with (but don’t be overly intimidated – you don’t need to know every single word to have a sound overview of the passage).
  • As you read, note down key ideas or underline things that obviously agree / disagree with passage 1.
  • Read the question very carefully, so you know whether you need to look for key areas of agreement / disagreement / both.
  • To aim for five marks, identify THREE areas of agreement / disagreement.
  • Use subheadings and developed bullet points to lay your answer out clearly.
  • For four marks, quote from the passages in support of your ideas.
  • For five marks, ensure your answer is largely composed of your own words (summary to show you’ve understood main ideas) and short ‘drop quotes’ to support and prove what you say.
  • DO NOT attempt to pick out 5 areas of agreement / disagreement.  This is giving yourself far too much work.
  • Spend around 30 minutes on this question (this includes reading Passage 2 and getting your head around it!)


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