Close Reading understanding

Close Reading
What are understanding
The ‘U’ code just asks you to explain the
meaning of part of the text.
You are not being tested on your prior knowledge.
You will be able to work out the answers using the
text so always look closely and read the passage
carefully. The text will help you to understand.
Demonstrating your Understanding
You must demonstrate your understanding of the
text. In order to do this, you will generally have to
answer in your OWN WORDS.
Very infrequently you might be asked to ‘write
down an expression’ which shows something in
particular. By quoting the right expression you are
demonstrating you understand its meaning.
You will then have to explain something about the
expression to further show understanding.
In Your Own Words
Most understanding questions will ask you to
explain in your own words in order to
demonstrate your understanding. You may have
to explain a:
Point or argument (key
ideas/complex concepts)
To explain in your own words – pick out the main points
or words (nouns/verbs/adjectives) and translate them
into other words that convey the same meaning –
simplify meaning.
Exercise 1
E.g. taken from 2003 Paper. Passage described a writer’s ‘fascination with
boats’ and it began by describing a journey he had made down the
Mississippi River.
Explain clearly why the writer wandered down the Mississippi’
in his boat (2 marks U question)
In the text the answer was contained in this line:
‘It was the only possible way of encountering a great river at close
Some candidates simply copied out this sentence and gained no marks.
The following answers to the question above would gain 2, 1 and 0 marks.
Decide what mark you think each would get and why.
He wanted to see the river at close quarters.
He could get to know the river well by seeing it from up close.
The writer wandered down the Mississippi in his boat as it was the
only possible way to go.
Exercise 2
Read the following extract from a close reading paper in which the writer
described his experiences travelling in a taxi in New York. Then answer
the question
‘Under other circumstances, I would have taken the subway. Even
though everyone knows that the subway will be the first target of
terrorists, it’s still safer than taking a cab. But I’d been shopping at
Bulducci’s, my favourite New York Deli, and was loath to manoeuvre my
bags into the crowded, subterranean world where the sun never shone’.
‘Under other circumstances I would have taken the subway’
In your own words, explain the circumstances that
prompted the writer to take a cab on this occasion.
(2 marks)
Types of Understanding Questions
• Understanding from Context
• Understanding Complex Ideas
• Understanding Connected or Easily
Confused Words
• Understanding Main ideas and Supporting
• Understanding Main Points (Summary)
Understanding from Context
You will be asked to work out the meaning of a
word or phrase using the words around it to help
• Work out Meaning and explain in own words
• Identify clues in surrounding context and
explain how they help you to work out
Most adult homicide victims know their killers. It seems
that this most serious blight on our society is forced on
us by assailants who are close to us; it is surely a
sobering thought that those we think of as unlikely
perpetrators of violent attacks are often the very people
who are convicted of them.
Explain how the context of the word ‘homicide’ (line 1) helps you
arrive at its meaning (2)
‘homicide’ means the murder of a person. (1) The words know their
killers’ suggests that the adult ‘homicide victims’ have been
murdered by someone. (1)
More Examples
‘It is foolish to climb a tree because black bears are adroit climbers and
you will simply end up fighting the bear in a tree.’
Give the meaning of the word ‘adroit’ and explain how lines 45 –46 help
you to work it out.
‘Bears are unpredictable, and what works in one circumstance may not
work in another.’
Give the meaning of the word ‘unpredictable’ and explain how the rest of
the sentence helps you to work it out.
Suggested Answers
1. ‘Adroit’ means skilful or expert. The writer explains that
it would be ‘foolish’ to climb a tree to escape a bear
because we would ‘end up fighting the bear in the tree’
showing that they must be good climbers.
2. ‘Unpredictable’ means that we could not guess the
bear’s next actions. The statement ‘what works in one
circumstance may not in another’ suggests the bears do
not always behave in the same way.
Understanding Complex Ideas
You will be asked to translate a complex idea into
your own words
• Translate complex idea into your own
• Element of summary might be required
There is, of course, the possibility that as
soon as deep space is crossed all the major
powers will join in a race to claim as much
territory as their ships can reach. Some
American commentators have even
suggested that for its own protection the
USA must occupy the moon to prevent it
being used as a launch site for nuclear
What possibility is outlined in this paragraph?
Suggested Answer
That countries will soon be sending
astronauts to claim territory outside
Understanding Connected or
Easily Confused Words
You will be asked to look at two words which are similar
but which have different (often opposite) meanings.
Study the context and work out what each word means
(they will be related in some way) and explain their
meanings in your own words.
• Explain in your own words, the difference in
meaning between the two words.
The “new politics” of the Scottish Parliamentary
law-making machine aims to avoid the unilateral
order in favour of the multilateral decision. No
longer, we are told, will one party be allowed to
bully all other members of the Assembly into
supporting a policy in which they have no
Explain the difference in meaning between ‘unilateral’ and
Suggested Answer
‘Unilateral’ means one-sided, or single;
‘multilateral’ means many sides or
people take part.
If you were asked to explain how you worked out the meaning
from the context you would refer to the fact that they are moving
away from the unilateral approach which means that it will no
longer be possible for only ‘one party’ to ‘bully all other members
of the Assembly’ into going along with their decision.
Understanding Main Ideas and
Supporting Detail
You will be asked to look at a particular part of a passage,
decide what is absolutely essential information and
translate it and any supporting detail (additions or
illustrations) into your own words.
• Identify key/essential information from
section and translate it into your own words.
• Translate illustrations or additions which
support central idea into your own words.
It’s not just real violence which unreels itself in the imagination,
fast-forward, fast-backwards and pause. I have sat in a cinema
and watched with peeled-back sight and a whimpering heart,
peering aghast at the claustrophobic corners of the screen. I like
Bringing up Baby and Jane Austen adaptations. I get very
scared by images of violence. I get very worried by images of
violence towards women. I get weepy and terrified by images of
violence towards children.
1. What is the main idea of paragraph 1?
2. What details supporting the main idea of paragraph 1 are
Suggested Answers
1. Violence shown through the media can have the
same emotional and troubling effects on our minds as
real violence does.
2. The writer describes the varied emotional
responses she has when viewing images of different
kinds of violence in the cinema to show that even
though she knows it is not real, she still reacts
negatively to them. The image of ‘peeled-back sight’
and connotations of ‘whimpering’ suggest a strong
and physical reaction to these films.
Understanding Main Points
You will be asked to look at a fairly large section of the
passage, decide what the main points are and translate
these into your own words. You must show you have
understood unfamiliar words.
• Translate main points of correct section into
your own words.
• Marks available will give you a clue as to how
many points to make.
In devising strategies for dealing with screen violence the most important
priority is to encourage personal action to reduce media consumption. On this
basis we can each move swiftly and decisively to make a difference, taking
powerful, private steps to share our own are responsible media environments.
Sometime, later in the evening, one of them will appear downstairs, a
pyjamaed stocky ghost lurking on the fringes of our adult evening (scenes from
ER or from war-zones are hastily switched off the TV) and say they are
scared. Scared of monsters, scared of wars, scared of you going away,
scared of thunder, scared of a rustle outside the bedroom door, scared of don’t
know what, just scared. And if we say, but there’s nothing to be scared of,
you’re safe, there’s nothing there, then they reply that: it’s inside there heads
and they can’t make it go away. It’s as if the images that flicker against their
eyelids night after night are locked into their skulls when they sleep, and go on
burning there.
Summarise the main points made in the above paragraphs.
Suggested Answers
1. We need to take individual responsibility to try to limit
the amount of on-screen violence our children see in our
own homes
2. The imagination of a child can conjure up its own
terrifying images without the outside world adding to them
through media.
Explain how the context of the word ‘homicide’ (line 1) helps you
arrive at its meaning (2)
What possibility is outlined in paragraph…? (2)
Explain the difference in meaning between ‘unilateral’ and ‘multilateral’ (2)
What is the main idea of paragraph 1 and what details does the writer
include to support the main idea? (2)
Summarise the writer’s main points in paragraph...
(2,3,4 depending on how many points being summarised)