Understanding Stimulus Texts

Understanding Stimulus Texts of Understanding Short Answer Questions

Short Answer sections will require you to respond to a prescribed stimulus for understanding stimulus texts. In an exam, this gives you a limited amount of time to read, understand and become familiar with it. However, there are shortcuts and methods for understanding and organising responses.

Reading the Text

Reading the Text
Reading a text word for word takes time, especially if you aren’t a quick reader. There are some strategies to make this a bit easier.

  1. Read topic sentences of paragraphs and skim the rest.
  2. Look at the questions first.
  3. Look for keywords

Understanding the Text a part of Understanding Stimulus Texts

Understanding a text word- for-word is not important, and some sections may have some symbolic rather than literal ideas. Even a general idea of what a text is suggesting can often give you enough. Remember, English requires you to use discuss ideas, not simply repeat the text.

Using Knowledge

Using Knowledge
Comprehension, Inferring and Interpretation skills each require you to use knowledge of your stimulus text in informing your answer. Let’s look at this in the form of an example. “How is the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty symbolic of the fragility of human life?”

Inferring an Answer

Inferring an Answer
This requires you to very quickly interpret the text and identify what part of it could link to ‘fragile human life’.
If I say: ‘the failed efforts of the king’s men to resurrect the fallen egg, is symbolic of human inability to stop death’; I still need to link it to ‘fragility’.

Link to Question

So, ‘The fall from the wall, or power, to death, indicates the ease by which the human condition can fail. This failure represents fragility of human life.’ In short, this three line answer uses the stimulus, and provides an inference that relates to the question.

The Process

In short, this should be your process for answering short answer questions.

  • Use the text
  • Comprehend, interpret and infer where necessary
  • Link back to the question

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