Reading non fiction text

English Language > Reading > Reading non-fiction text

There are four types of question you might have to answer. These questions ask you to find information, explain your choice, discuss presentational techniques and compare texts.

The question on looking for information

The first type of question tests your understanding of a text.

To answer this well you need to do two things:

  1. Find the information the question asks for.
  2. Explain why the information you have chosen answers the question.

The key skill tested here is how to summarise an argument. For this you need to identify what the text is about and then decide if the writer thinks the topic is a good or a bad thing.

You can do this by looking at:

  • The heading or title - this should help you decide on the main subject of the text.
  • Vocabulary - the kinds of words (nouns) used to give information will also indicate a particular subject. For example, an article about global warming will include words such as "environmentalist, carbon footprint, greenhouse gasses and sustainability".
  • Attitude - adjectives and intensifiers should tell you what the writer thinks about their subject. Look for words like "totally brilliant, absolutely ridiculous, complete nonsense, straight forward common sense".
  • Argument - the author will use points to develop their argument. Look for discourse markers - phrases such as "on the contrary, what is more, and another thing, as a result, in conclusion".

Tips and traps

When reporting what a writer says in a text you should summarise what they say and how you know. Do this by quoting a line of text and saying where it is from.

The main points a writer makes tend to come at the end of each paragraph. A good way of checking the overall argument is to compare what the writer says at the end of the first paragraph with what is said at the end of the last one.

Be careful about quotations. Lines that are reported and spoken by other people will not always be the opinions of the writer. Look at the adjectives and intensifiers the author uses to work out if the writer agrees or disagrees with the people quoted.

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