An Overview Of Comprehension Check Types 


 Checking learner comprehension is an important aspect of teaching listening.  It is important that the method of checking comprehension allows for meaningful feedback to the listener.  Ideally, the feedback should be provided as soon as possible after checking – followed by an opportunity to listen again to confirm, or to retry. 


  The following is a list of six primary types of comprehension checks which may be useful for you to have  in your teaching repertoire . 


1              Pronominal questions i.e. questions beginning with Who, What, Why, How many, How long, etc.


EXAMPLE:       Why is the polar bear endangered? How long did the journalist stay in Kerala?


2              Imperatives These are similar to the ‘answer in your own words’ pronominal questions above, in that they require the student to paraphrase, but they use commands instead of questions. 


EXAMPLES:              Describe exposure therapy.


Explain the three kinds of special effect used in the film. 


3              Yes/No questions Suitable for lower levels.


EXAMPLE:               Does he work better in the afternoon than in the morning? Do all students live with host families? 


4              True/False sentences or True/False/Not given Students can be asked to write T or F (or NG). They may also be asked to rewrite the false sentences to make them true.


EXAMPLE:              Sally is having dinner with Steve tonight. Jackson earned very little money working in the hotel. True/False sentences are reasonably easy to write, although the false sentences. must seem plausible. These exercises can be challenging too if the brief asks you ‘squeeze’ a large number of True/False questions out of a short text. In these cases, you will have more room for maneuver if you can include a few ‘NG sentences’ which can come from outside the text. 


5              Multiple-choice sentences Multiple-choice sentences are popular exam questions because they are easy to mark and because, unlike True/False questions, students are less likely to get them right just by guessing. For example, if you provide four possible options, students only have a 25% chance of getting the question right. Because of the ‘backwash effect’ (i.e. the effect of testing on teaching) they are also common in Coursebooks and supplementary material. Unfortunately, they are the hardest to write! This is because all the wrong choices must seem plausible.


EXAMPLE:              Why does Maria laugh? A She has just heard an amusing story. B She is feeling happy. C She has remembered a funny situation. D She finds Liam’s behavior ridiculous. 


6              Sentence completion Students complete sentences. They can be asked to complete them with a word from the text, or another specific number of words, e.g. Complete the gap, using three words from the text. The words can be the exact words in the reading passage or listening texts. Alternatively, the missing words don’t have to appear in the text and students have to use their knowledge of vocabulary to compete the sentence. Gaps can be completed either in individual sentences or in summary paragraphs.  


EXAMPLE:  People first started moving to the city because of … Some people think that visiting the local attractions isn’t as exciting as … 



Items should be of roughly the same level of difficulty. If you are writing an exercise that will be used as a test, it is usual to start with a slightly easier question to ease the students into it.


Reference:  Krantz, Caroline. How To Write Reading And Listening Activities (Training Course For ELT Writers) . ELT Teacher  




About The Author

, Comprehension Check Types , Lateral Communications
Michael Rost, principal author of Pearson English Interactive, has been active in the areas of language teaching, learning technology and language acquisition research for over 25 years. His interest in bilingualism and language education began in the Peace Corps in West Africa and was fuelled during his 10 years as an educator in Japan and extensive touring as a lecturer in East Asia and Latin America. Formerly on the faculty of the TESOL programs at Temple University and the University of California, Berkeley, Michael now works as an independent researcher, author, and speaker based in San Francisco.