Short Answer (reading)

In this type of task, you are asked to answer a number of questions about a text and you must answer with a set number of words (e.g. "no more than two words")


  • Always read the instructions carefully - know how many words you can use!

  • The answers appear in the text in the same order as the questions.

  • Do the easier ones first.

  • If you can't find the correct answer quickly, MOVE ON. Don't get stuck.


  1. Read and check the instructions carefully. How many words can you use?

  2. Quickly read each question and identify keywords and write any synonyms you can think of next to the keywords.

  3. Find where the questions relate to in the text. You can do this by identifying the easiest keyword (e.g. a number, percentage, proper noun, abbreviation) in the question and locating it in the TEXT.

  4. Now, write that question number (e.g. 2) next to the place in the text. Now you know that the answers to Q1 will be before it in the text and the answer to Q3 will be after. This is very helpful for you.

  5. Read the question again. Think about the information you need to find. What is the question asking for (e.g. a place, a time, a reason, a thing – plural or singular)?

  6. Read the sentences in the part of the text you have identified carefully. Locate the sentence that includes the answer.

  7. Check how many words you can use in your answer. Do you need to disregard some adjectives or quantifiers (e.g. ‘the spotted African giraffe’ if the answer must be ONE WORD, then the answer is ‘giraffe’).

  8. Select your answer.

  9. As always, if you can’t find an answer quickly, move on. Make sure you have marked in the text where you think the answer might be and move on.

  10. Go to the next question and continue to try and answer within the world limit. Keep moving.

  11. Return to the questions you have not answered and try and find the answer.


  • The questions will use synonyms so you may not be able to match keywords directly. For example, the sentence may say ‘automobiles were developed’ – but the sentence in the reading says ‘cars had been constructed’.

  • Always be aware of how many words you are allowed to use. Often you will need to delete unnecessary words (e.g. adjectives, quantifiers, adverbs) from the text. For example: If you can use NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS OR A NUMBER from the text and the relevant part of the text is:

'the original influenza vaccine'

But you can only use two words, you need to know which two are the most important.

The correct answer is:

'the vaccine'


For reading texts with short answer exercises, click the link below:


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