Reading non fiction text 3

English Language > Reading > Reading non-fiction text

The question on your understanding of a text

Like the first type of question, this question tests your understanding of the text, but while the first type asks for information given in the text (eg facts that you can quote), this kind of question asks you for ideas or feelings that are implied by the text (eg attitudes which are not necessarily clearly stated).

You therefore have to infer meaning, which means reading between the lines, so you need to decide what someone thinks from how they say things, not just from what they say.

Inferred meaning

We use this kind of indirect language everyday, to give our words a certain effect. An example is when we are sarcastic: "'Mmm, delicious,' she said looking at the solitary sandwich on the table."

Even without any context (like where this is happening or who the person is) we know the person does not think the sandwich is delicious. The clue is in the single adjective "solitary". It makes us see the sandwich on its own and suggests the person involved would much rather see several. We might infer the person is hungry or doesn't like sandwiches.

The key to understanding the attitude of a text is to consider how the writer feels about the subject.

  • Do they feel good or bad about this subject?
  • Is it funny or serious?
  • Are they happy or sad?

When inferring meaning, you might simply know what the writer feels. If it is not clear, then you need to look closely at detail and similes.


Writers often use indirect language. Rather than just describing a scene, they might engage readers by describing how you would see or feel the scene. Feelings will therefore come from the kind of things being described (eg colourful, interesting descriptions with positive associations or used, broken objects with negative associations).


Similes and metaphors are common techniques for suggesting feelings or attitudes. For example, "He looked like a lion fresh from the jungle". This statement suggests a positive feeling, because we think of lions as big and strong, the kings of the jungle. So the writer is impressed by the person being described.

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