Further Comprehension Questions

There are two main types of specific comprehension tasks that typically come after doing a gist activity relating to detail and specific information. Although the two concepts sound synonymous, they focus on two different sub-skills when it comes to reading and listening.

Readingreading for more detailed comprehension and scanning for specific information. 

Listening: listening for detailed comprehension and listening for specific info (note: you cannot scan while you listen; that is a reading skill).  

You want to design your activities to ensure that you are meeting the sub-skill that you aim to develop. For example. reading for more detailed comprehension will focus on comprehending the text with deeper comprehension while scanning for specific information will develop the ability to look quickly for specific information such as a particular word, number, date, time etc.

Two General Types of Tasks for Reading:

Task Type

Associated Sub-Skill

Detail Reading Task

To read for more detailed or deeper comprehension

Scanning Task

Scan for specific information


Two General Types of Tasks for Listening:

Task Type

Associated Sub-Skill

Detail Listening Task

To listen for more detailed or deeper comprehension

Listening for Specific Info Task

To listen for specific information

Important Notes with Further Comprehension Questions:

  • Ordering of Questions: Always ask receptive questions first before having the students read or listen.
  • Question Formation: The question’s answers should be derived from the text, not based on an outside opinion or reaction to the text i.e. what do you think about … ? (Though, you can ask these types of questions afterward to practice speaking and/or writing).
  • Question Wording: Generally, questions should have different wording than what’s found in the reading text so that the students can’t just copy and paste from the reading i.e. you should use synonyms and/or re-word the sentence (this will ensure that you are testing their comprehension and not their copying & pasting skills). 

Common Further Comprehension Activity Types:

  • Multiple-Choice: Questions with multiple choices based on details of the text i.e. a, b, c etc.
  • True or False: Questions on specific details of the text with two options (T or F).
  • Short Answer: Questions that require a short note answer (remember that we are focusing on reading NOT writing skills so no complete sentences).
  • Fill-in-the-blank: Questions that require filling in a blank; however, remember to ensure that the words surrounding the blank do not match what’s directly in the text.

The Difference Between Detail vs. Specific Info

Scanning or Listening for Specific Info Focuses on:

  • Schedules: Listening/reading for particular events on a schedule i.e. when does the flight from Los Angeles to Chicago leave on March 11th?
  • Timetables/Calendars: Listening/reading for specific times on a timetable i.e. on what days do they teach English?
  • Specific Words: Listening/reading for keywords that have something to do with the comprehension of the text i.e. What adjectives are used to describe the author’s opinion on …?
  • Specific Numbers: Listening/Scanning for specific numbers i.e. how many glasses of water should you drink in a day? In the morning? At night?

Reading or Listening for Detail Focuses on:

  • Ideas that are generally not verbatim from the text. For example: 
    • Text Example: Apples are great treats because they are sweet, just the right amount of juicy, and healthy, too. 
    • Reading for Detail Comprehension Question Example: Does the author think that apples taste good? T or F
    • Scanning for Specific Info Question Example: What are the three adjectives the author uses to describe apples? 


Comprehension Check:

  1. What are the two main types of reading tasks?
  2. What are the sub-skills related to each one?
  3. Should you give the comprehension questions before or after you have the students read?


Can you think of anymore detailed reading tasks or scanning for specific info ones? What’s your reaction to this blog? Do you think it’s missing any key information? 

Please leave your comments below. Thanks!