PSLE English 2016 | Comprehension: 4 Simple Strategies to Avoid Lifting

I hope everyone had a good Labour Day break even though we are in the thick of examinations! One of the biggest taboos in comprehension that warrants an immediate zero mark is lifting. Although we often tell children to avoid lifting, what exactly can they do to prevent themselves from making committing this costly error?

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Firstly, what does it mean by lifting? All answers MUST come from the comprehension passage just that you are not allowed to copy from the beginning of a sentence to the end (the capital letter of the sentence all the way to the full stop.) This is strongly discouraged as it seems to suggest a lack of the child's understanding of the question since the answer is copied from head to tail, including irrelevant bits of information sometimes, for the question. 

In this post, we will outline 4 things that a child can and should do to avoid copying an answer from the beginning to the end. We will use a question based on the paragraph below to demonstrate how the 4 steps can be applied to the sentence where the answer is found.

Q: Why did everyone freeze in dismay?

Before we go on to the steps to avoid lifting, let us recapitulate on how to look for the answer. The important words in the questions are "why" (telling us reason is needed) and "freeze in dismay". Locating these key phrases in the paragraph will enable us to find the answer and most children should be able to pick out this sentence as the answer: 

If a child is to write that exact sentence,
Q: Why did everyone freeze in dismay?

A: Everyone froze in dismay as the whole family knew all along that Uncle Tommy was not a person to be trifled with.

it will be considered lifting and a zero mark will be awarded. 

Do bear in mind that it is essential for the original meaning of the sentence to not be lost! If the original meaning is changed, the answer will not longer be accurate.

With that being said, here are 4 ways to avoid lifting:

1. Remove unnecessary details

Although repeating the question (Why did everyone freeze in dismay? --> Everyone froze in dismay as...) helps to answer the question very clearly, there are times when it is fine to not repeat the question. This is one such situation. Hence, children can answer directly without having to repeat "Everyone froze in dismay". However, do take note that to answer the question directly, the Subject in the answer (Doer/described) should be the same as that in the question. In this question, "Everyone" is the subject. Hence, omitting "Everyone froze in dismay as", the answer can be

A: Everyone (omitted - froze in dismay as) knew all along that Uncle Tommy was not a person to be trifled with.

Another piece of information that is unnecessary will be the phrase "all along". This phrase tells us "when" the family knew about Uncle Tommy's temperament but is not crucial in answering the "why" in the question. Hence, it is possible to omit this piece of information. The kind of unnecessary details that can be omitted is different for each question but some common details include phrases that describe the degree, time or manner (e.g. very, extremely, as usual, In the blink of an eye etc.). The key thing is to answer straight to the point. In this example, it will be acceptable to write:

A: Everyone froze in dismay as the whole family knew (omitted - all along) that Uncle Tommy was not a person to be trifled with.

2. Replace the nouns with a pronoun (he, she, it etc.)

The replacing of a noun with a pronoun is one of the easiest way to avoid lifting. The noun can refer to the subject or the object (receiver) in the answer. 

A: Everyone froze in dismay as they(the whole family) knew all along that Uncle Tommy was not a person to be trifled with.

However, do take note that the answer should not become unclear (who is doing this? who are you referring to?) after you replaced the noun.

Q: Why was Emily angry with Mary?

Emily was angry with Mary for not keeping her promise. 

She was angry with Mary for not keeping her promise.

She was angry with her for not keeping her promise. 

By replacing all the nouns with pronouns, the answer can become vague and confusing. Hence, it is vital for children to remember to mention the names of the subject and object clearly first before replacing any nouns that come later in the sentence with any pronouns.


The next two strategies are slightly more advanced as it will require children to have a relatively rich vocabulary and the ability to manipulate a sentence. Hence, I would advise all children to always try the previous two strategies first before considering the two below.


3. Replace a word with another that is similar in meaning

Another possible strategy is to replace a word e.g. adjective or verb with another word or phrase that has a similar meaning. The rules when replacing a word are:

1. The tenses must be the same. (smiled --> gave a smile)

2. The word must be similar in meaning and used appropriately in the sentence. 

e.g. Rebecca was relieved once she saw the dolphins.

Rebecca was overjoyed once she saw the dolphins. 

The meanings of overjoyed and relieved are not exactly the same. In this case, it may be a better idea to replace “Rebecca” with “she” than to replace the adjective, "relieved".

This strategy works well for certain answers but not all the time. For instance, applying this to our example above may not be a best fit too as it can alter the meaning of the answer. 

A: Everyone froze in dismay as the whole family knew all along that Uncle Tommy was not a person to be disrespected (trifled with).

4. Rearrange the sentence structure

For this last strategy, children are required to rearrange the structure of the original sentence. These can be done in various ways. Assuming that a child is keen on copying the entire sentence for our original question, what he or she can do will be: 

Q: Why did everyone freeze in dismay?

Original sentence: Everyone froze in dismay as the whole family knew all along that Uncle Tommy was not a person to be trifled with.

A: Everyone knew all along that Uncle Tommy was not a person to be trifled with and hence, they froze in dismay. 

However, as mentioned in our very first tip, it is not necessary to repeat the question. Therefore, the above answer does not need "and hence, they froze in dismay." 

Another way that a sentence can be rearranged will be when the sentence has a subordinate clause (a clause, typically introduced by a conjunction like "when", "although" etc. that forms part of a sentence and cannot stand by itself.) 

For example:

When Emily found out that Mary had not kept her secret (subordinate clause), she confronted Mary.

Emily confronted Mary when she found out that Mary had not kept her secret. (subordinate clause)


I hope that the above are useful in helping your children to prevent making the mistake of lifting as they try to keep every hard-earned mark in the comprehension section.

Remember, the original meaning of the answer must still be preserved and check TAPS after writing the answers. All the best for the SA1!

Lily Chew

An English tutor on a mission to educate children; a blogger with a passion to share and grow the love of English with the world.