WAEC English Comprehension Passages and Answers (Part 2)

Welcome to the second in our series of WASSCE/NECO/GCE/JAMB/WAEC English comprehension passages and answers. Study the sample answers to these WAEC English comprehension passages to help you get ready for D-day. Click here to go back to the first set of the comprehension past questions and answers.

Passage 16

Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions on it.

Need more? Go to the bottom of this page and click the link to Part 3 of your SHS/WASSCE comprehension past questions and answers.

In 1359, a young clerk, who was neither a soldier nor a nobleman, was a guest in the English army that was attacking a French town. He was only a scribbler of verses, upon whom military leaders lavished favours.

The young man was the great English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer. Whenever soldiers retreated from charging a dangerous breach in the city wall, Chaucer would write verses ridiculing their cowardice. By the next day, the whole camp was singing or reciting the verses. Their victims would then be laughed at into fresh courage. They would rather be shot at than laughed at.

Human nature is indeed queer. This phenomenon has cost people a great deal in history. Sometimes, the fear of being laughed at has closed doors to fame and fortune. At other times, those who subdue this fear achieve unusual successes.

Napoleon Bonaparte aimed at becoming Master of Europe and the whole world. He must, however, conquer Great Britain, which demanded that he must cross the English Channel. If only he had ships which could ignore wind and current and sail faster than the British man-of-war!

Luckily, there came to his court an American inventor, Robert Fulton, who had invented a way of propelling ships by steam instead of by sails. He had also studied practical details for building a submarine torpedo boat. He made successful tests of these inventions, which satisfied Napoleon’s naval experts.

King John of Portugal divined that the success of the voyage might make his country become very great in Europe. He agreed to send Columbus on the expedition but his counsellors warned that he would be laughed at throughout Europe if he should spend his money on such a foolish adventure, and so he dismissed Columbus.

Columbus went next to Spain, Portugal’s rival. There, too, the counsellors snubbed the idea. But Queen Isabella, unafraid of ridicule, declared she would sell her jewels, if necessary, to finance the expedition of discovery.

Queen Isabella’s attitude enabled Columbus to discover America. By reason of that discovery, Spain became one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe.


a. For each of the following words, find another word or phrase which means the same as the word and can replace it in the passage:
i) lavished ii) ridiculing iii) queer
iv) subdue v) yearned vi) divined
b. How did Chaucer help the British army that attacked a French city?
c. In what way does the fear of being laughed at affect people?
d. What could Fulton have done to help Napoleon achieve his life-long ambition?
e. What factor ultimately helped Spain to become rich and powerful in Europe?
f. ……. the great English poet…..
i) What is the grammatical name for this expression?
ii) What is its function in the sentence?
g. …. reach the east by sailing west.
What literary device is used in this expression?

Recommended Answers for Passage 16


a) i) lavished – showered
ii) ridiculing – mocking/deriding/laughing at
iii) queer –strange
iv) subdue –overpower/overcome
v) yearned –was eager/wanted
vi) divined – reasoned/noted/predicted
b) He motivated them by ridiculing their cowardice whenever they retreated
c) While this fear makes some dare to achieve greatness, it discourages others and makes them failures.
d) His invention could have made it possible for Napoleon to cross the English channel easily, conquer Britain and become master of Europe
e) Columbus’ discovery of America
i) Noun phrase
ii) It complements the verb “was”
g) Paradox

Passage 17

Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions on it.

When Miss Anna Bonsra entered the classroom, a deep silence descended on the class. Then her shrill voice pierced the silence, “Kwaku Ananse,” she called, “come forward and give your oral presentation”. At once my heart began pounding like our old school corn mill.

I realized at that moment how much she disliked me. She had more than forty students to choose from, but she selected me. I was partially hidden behind the burly Owo, who sat in front of me. I had looked everywhere except towards the front of the room. But my ploys were unsuccessful. I had been called upon at long last to give a presentation. “Don’t get nervous; be a man,” I said to myself, as I braced myself to face the class.

With sweating hands, I took my notes, which I had tucked away in my notebook. She watched me with that familiar mocking half-smile of hers which seemed to say she knew I wasn’t as though I hadn’t had enough time to prepare for the presentation. It was no surprise assignment.

For weeks we had gone over the fundamentals of writing a research paper and had been told to hand in a twenty-page paper which we would present orally to the class. I had typically waited until the last few days. Then I thumbed desperately through an encyclopedia for a suitable topic.

I finally settled on William Shakespeare because there were some recordings of some of his plays in the school library. I figured that playing some portions of these films would not only take up part of the required time but also make my presentation unique.

After three days and three long nights, my paper was ready, Never had I written a paper so quickly, or one with so little content. Once I was before the class, my main thought was getting done with.

With very little feeling, I told the class what I knew about the renowned playwright, my mouth was so dry that I wasn’t sure whether it would open again for another sentence. My hands shook uncontrollably as I turned the pages in front of me.

Finally, refering to my notes more often than was expected, I finished the oral part of my presentation. All that was left was to show the slides. The worst was over!


a) What did the writer do to avoid being called by Miss Bonsra?
b) Why was the writer nervous?
c) State two character traits of the writer, as revealed in the passage.
d) What two things made the writer’s paper different from those he had written earlier?
e) What advantage did he expect to gain from using the films?
f) With very little feeling
iii. What is the grammatical name given to this expression?
iv. What is its function in the sentence?
g) … pounding like our old school corn mill
What figure of speech is used in the expression above?
h) For each of the following words underlined in the passage, give another word or phrase which means the same and can replace it in the passage:
i. burly, ii. fundamentals iii. typically, iv. desperately
v. unique, vi. renowned

Recommended Answers for Passage 17

a) He hid behind another student to avoid catching Mrs. Bonsra’s eyes.
b) He was not adequately prepared for the presentation.
c) i) He procrastinates. ii) He gets nervous easily.
d) i) It was hurriedly prepared. ii) It had little content.
e) He hoped to buy time with the films and also have a unique presentation.
f) i) Adverbial Phrase/ Prepositional Phrase
ii) It is modifying the verb, “told”
g) simile
h) i) burly – fat
ii) desperately – hurriedly
iii) fundamentals – basics
iv) typically – characteristically/as usual
v) unique – special
vi) renowned – famous/reputable/ accomplished

Passage 18

Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions on it.

Many years ago, I would have dismissed the news of the practice of occultism in schools as frivolous rumour but the book, Occultism in Schools has made me change my mind. I was badly shaken by the havoc it can cause those who succumb to it. The stories sent shivers down my spine and made me deeply concerned about the innocent youth who have been trapped in its web. The occult practitioner, like a confidence trickster, lurks in secrete places to pounce on and dupe unsuspecting victims. The occultist dangles attractive pictures of wealth and success before his prey as a fisherman uses a variety of bait to catch fish. His ways are shrouded in absolute secrecy.

Jack Moro’s very bitter experience exemplifies the devastation that adherents ultimately suffer. Jack was highly regarded for his academic brilliance as he was often at the top of his class. When he got to the final year, everyone was sure that he would pass the WASSCE with flying colours. Then disaster struck.

At this crucial stage in his life when he was making preparations for his final examination his childhood friend, Ananias introduced him to the Sure Help Brotherhood. He was hoodwinked into believing that it was a friendly society which guided its members to attain wealth, enlightenment, happiness and prosperity. He failed to see that Ananias himself was a complete failure in life. On joining, Jack came to spend more time on other pursuits than his academic work.

Sooner than later, Jack realized to his shock, that his academic performance was going down drastically, but for his sterling performance earlier, he would not have been registered for the final examination. He gathered courage to voice his concerns to the leader, who assured him on several occasions that the Sure Help Brotherhood was capable of making him succeed.

At first, his fears were very strong but the leader sweet-talked him into submission. He also persuaded Jack to go through the exorbitant official rites. On the eve of the examination, Jack was given a sparkling white handkerchief which allegedly had the power of conjuring the right answers to the questions.

In addition, he was told that the cult could influence the examiners who would mark the scripts. The leader demonstrated the efficacy of the handkerchief and Jack saw with his own naked eyes that some neat writing and diagrams appeared on the papers.

On the first day, Jack entered the examination hall with confidence. Towards the end of the paper, he acted as instructed, but to his dismay, no answers appeared. He fainted and was rushed to the hospital.


a) Why was the writer worried about the practice of occultism in schools?
b) How does the occultist win his victims over?
c) Why was Jack Moro entered for the examination?
d) What does Jack Moro’s experience illustrate about occultism in schools?
e) What is the writer’s attitude to occultism?
f) … like a confidence trickster …
i. What is the grammatical name of the expression above?
ii. What is its function?
g) For each of the following words underlined in the passage, give another word or phrase which means the same and can replace it n the passage:
i. havoc, ii. prey, iii. shrouded
iv. crucial, v. exorbitant vi. demonstrated

Recommended Answers for Passage 18

a) He knew it could cause great harm.
b) He uses deceit to trick his victims into following him.
c) It was due to his brilliant academic performance earlier.
d) Occultism destroys the future of students who indulge in it.
e) He is against occultism in schools.
f) i)adverbial phrase ii) it modifies the verb, “lurks”
g) i)havoc – harm/ devastation
ii) prey – victim
iii) shrouded – kept/hidden/covered
iv) crucial – important/vital
v) exorbitant – expensive
vi) demonstrated – showed/displayed

Passage 19

Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions on it.

A wind of change is blowing across our country, traditions and cultures are changing in all parts, though more rapidly in some areas than others. In remote areas, changes are very slow because people there cling to old ways of doing things. But in the big towns, things are different. Globalization is driving change at a fantastic speed. One other influential agent of change is the youth.

Most children go to school and their social lives are influenced by the way of life outside their homes. Young people who leave home to work in distant places return with many new ideas. Old skills and beliefs and the traditional ways of doing things give way to new ones. For example, with the acceptance of foreign religions, many traditional beliefs and practices have lost their importance. Story-telling, an interesting mode of entertainment, has given way to new forms – video and computer games, movies and so on. The youth take immense pleasure in these electronic gadgets, especially those that play their type of music

As families earn money and become wealthy, they tend to be independent of the support of their kinsmen. Money and employment are bringing people into new kinds of relationships. Consequently, the traditional family has been replaced by a social grouping which is not determined by blood relationship.

Imperceptibly, language is also contributing to this change. The widespread use of English and some local languages has brought about a welcome sense of national unity and peace. People who speak the same language feel related to one another. Thus ethnic barriers are being removed, dealing a desired and deadly blow to tribalism. In fact, there are people who now claim that they do not belong to any ethnic group at all.

The rapid growth of other foreign languages, such as French and Hausa, has generally increased the ease with which people can communicate with one another and has promoted mutual understanding. As a result, people are becoming increasingly aware that they belong to a community that is national, not one that is composed of only their kinsmen.

The most powerful force of social change is the media. Many people can now read and write. News travels at the speed of light nowadays. Newspapers reach people in even the remotest regions bringing up-to-date information about world affairs to them. Since people imitate what they see and consider trendy, they copy what they see in the media. One area is the world of fashion. Today, one can hardly differentiate between the youth who live in the city from the one in the rural area by their way of dressing.


a) Give one reason why change in remote areas is slow.
b) What factor accounts for the rapid change in urban areas?
c) What role has foreign religion played in the changes?
d) How has money influenced the lives of people?
e) How does the media contribute to the changes?
f) News travels at the speed of light nowadays.
What figure of speech is contained in the expression above?
g) … who speak the same language…
i. What is the grammatical name of the expression above?
ii. What is its function?
h) For each of the following words underlined in the passage, give another word or phrase which means the same and can replace it in the passage:
i. remote, ii. cling, iii. Immense,
iv. gadgets, v. consequently, vi. trendy

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Recommended Answers for Passage 19

a) Because people there still hold on to old ways of doing things./ People in remote areas are very conservative.
b) Globalization.
c) Foreign religion has eroded the importance of traditional beliefs and practices.
d) Money has made people become more independent of their kinsmen.
e) The media has bridged the information gap between peoples of the world./the media has turned the world into a global village.
f) hyperbole
g) i) adjectival clause ii) It qualifies the noun, “ people”
h) i) remote – rural
ii) cling – stick/hold on
iii) Immense – great/considerable/profound
iv) gadgets – appliances
v) consequently – as a result
vi) trendy – fashionable

View Passage 20 and More

This is the end of the second set of comprehension past questions and answers for SHS/WASSCE./NECO/GCE/JAMB students and tutors. You can move on to view the next set in this series of WASSCE/WAEC English comprehension past questions and answers.


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