Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Comprehension Passages and Questions

The following are articles from various newspapers and each has a set of comprehension questions to assist in student's understanding of the article.

These would be useful to do with yr 7-9 classes, especially in preparation for examinations where comprehension will form part of the assessment.

Passage One

Death on a hill: how three reporters fell

Tuesday 13 November 2001

{from The Age Newspaper, Melbourne, Victoria}

Commander Amer Bashir got his prize yesterday morning - he stood atop the Kalakata Hills, which he had been trying to wrest from Taliban control for 14 months.

It came after a bloody night. The Northern Alliance claimed it had killed about 100 Taliban fighters who "fought to the death", according to an alliance officer. The alliance lost 10 men, with 20 injured.

And for the press corps covering this front in the Afghan war there was a terrible cost too - three, possibly four, dead.

When Bashir tried to claim this vital ridge on Sunday night, reporters jumped on his armored personnel carrier to witness his reward.

We careered off into the darkness of the silenced hill. It seemed that, after a week of sustained US bombing, the tenacious Taliban unit that had taunted Bashir for more than a year had been routed in assaults by the alliance.
After a late afternoon of heavy tank fire and a radio exchange with the alliance leadership, in which Bashir undertook to redeem himself for winning and losing the ridge the previous night, several of his armored personnel carriers had driven to the top of the hill, pausing to flash their lights back at us in Bashir's command bunker.
That was at 5.45pm. About 45 minutes later we set out. We arrived at the first line of Taliban trenches. They were abandoned.
In the excitement of the evening, Volker Handloik, a reporter for the German magazine Stern, yelled to me over the roar of the engines: "Have a close look at that - your first Taliban trenches."
We pressed on, headlights blazing. One hundred metres up the hill it became dramatically and violently clear that the Taliban had not quit the ridge. There was an explosion of fire from three directions. It was a coordinated attack, which they had time to set it up while we were powering across 1500 metres of no-man's-land.
Later Bashir told me: "I saw a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher being pointed at us from a trench about 25 metres away."
That was when he doused the lights and ordered the driver to charge down a slope that took us south. Suddenly the carrier, with maybe 20 journalists and soldiers sitting on top of it, was being pelted with fire from PKA guns and Kalashnikov rifles.
The grenade ricocheted off the back of the machine, exploding harmlessly.
The carrier lurched violently, causing some on board to fall off while others chose to jump.
The last I saw of Volker Handloik was his body in full flight, going through what I took to be an expert soldier's roll so he would land properly when he hit the dirt.
Handloik had been sitting right beside me. But when we returned to the ridge yesterday morning, again on Bashir's carrier, it became clear what I had seen was his death roll. His body lay in grotesque pose exactly where the carrier track marks had stopped before that violent lurch. He was killed by a bullet to the head. As the carrier ploughed down incredible slopes on Sunday night, I had hung on for grim death. My decision-making was split second, but looking back, I feel as though time stopped, giving me hours to weigh up my options.
Would I stay on the carrier, which itself was a target? Or would I attempt to escape on foot, as Handloik's interpreter had managed to do. In the end, I decided that I would stick with Bashir. If he jumped, I would jump.
The carrier charged on, into darkened and unfamiliar territory, until the driver became disoriented. We paused in the hollows, with Taliban tracer fire arcing over our heads, to call out the names of those who no longer were with us.
They were Handloik, aged 35, and French radio journalists Pierre Billaud, 31, who worked for Radio RTL, and Johanne Sutton, 35, who reported for Radio France International.
Those who remained glued to the carrier with me were another French radio reporter, Veronique Rebeynotte of Radio France Culture, and a Canadian reporter whom I know only as Levon.
A few soldiers straggled out of the night. When it was clear that we were lost, they set out on foot to scout for a route back to Bashir's camp. But not before screeching arguments between the soldiers as to what was the right direction.
The scouts found a rocky river bed that thankfully cut through a deep gully. We made it back to the camp after a nightmare that had lasted 90 minutes. Bashir was confident that the three would be rescued. We had passed dozens of his men in the dark. But then the body of Sutton was brought in with multiple bullet wounds. The soldiers who had retrieved her body reported that there was another body near where she lay. But they had come under renewed enemy fire, forcing them to abandon their mission. We hit the satellite telephones, calling New York, Berlin and the alliance leadership to see if a US search and rescue mission could be mounted. But the only US visit to this air space on Sunday night was an 11pm bombing run along the length of the ridge. There has to be a measured response to the death of these colleagues.
We are here by choice and we all took the calculated risk of riding off into the night with Bashir. I didn't really know any of the three, but in this business you instinctively come to rely on some people.
I might have come to rely on Handloik. He was a man of statuesque build, with long golden curls, who strutted peacock-like through the press pack in his green and brown chapan - a coat resembling a dressing-gown worn by the men of Central Asia in winter - flowing behind him.
He was an enthusiastic journalist who was aloof until he had sussed you out. The thaw that followed promised a warm professional relationship.
He had been the first of the reporters to jump up on Bashir's armored personnel carrier on Sunday night. While he lay sprawled on the grass after we were attacked, Bashir's men completed the task of taking the ridge. Their job was done by about 3am yesterday. At first light, Bashir stood in silhouette at the top of the hill as one of his tank commanders chanted his reading from the Koran.
In sign language he told me that Handloik and Billaud were dead and that he was preparing a carrier to retrieve the bodies.
Four of us headed out with him, but this time hundreds of his men could be seen in what had been the Taliban trenches. Taliban dead lay in the trenches, though not as many to support the alliance claim of 100 enemy deaths.
We collected our dead, whose bodies had been looted of all valuables, and headed back.
Already Bashir's camp was being folded. The alliance was moving to its next battlefront.

Death on a Hill – Comprehension Questions

Write your responses to the following questions in your exercise books;

1. Define:

a) corps
b) doused
c) ploughed
d) grotesque
e) calculated

2. What is the main event discussed in the article?
3. Who were the main participants in the event?
4. Who is the author of the article?
5. Why was Commander Bashir happy about what had taken place?
6. How were the press reporters killed?
7. Who was Volker Handloik?
8. What suggested that ‘it was a coordinated attack’?
9. Why would his ‘decision-making (have been) split second’?
10. Why do you think McGeough decided to do what Bashir was going to do?
11. Why do you think ‘Bashir was confident that the three would be rescued’?
12. What relationship did MdGeough have with Handloik?
13. Do you think that McGeough gave an objective view about the events in the article? What gives you this impression?

Passage Two

GPs on the move to rich suburbs

By LARISSA DUBECKI Monday 12 November 2001

{from The Age Newspaper, Melbourne, Victoria}

Doctors are shunning outer-metropolitan areas, preferring to work in wealthier suburbs where the patients are richer, the workloads lighter and the lifestyle easier.
The trend has caused a chronic shortage of doctors on the outskirts of Australia's cities, according to peak industry groups.

Australian Medical Association Victorian president Mukesh Haikerwal said poorer fringe suburbs of Melbourne such as Frankston, Dandenong, Sunbury, Melton and Werribee had the worst doctor shortages.

Melton has a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1 to 1600, while Dandenong, Frankston and Sunbury each have a ratio of about 1 to 1400, according to the latest figures from the General Practice Divisions of Victoria, a general practitioners' organisation. More affluent suburbs such as Hawthorn and Camberwell have a ratio of one doctor to about 500 patients.

Dr Haikerwal said the scarcity of doctors in outer-suburban areas was partly caused by doctors not wanting to work long hours and an increased number of female doctors, with the number almost equal to that of male doctors. "The doctors that are around don't want to work stupid hours any more," he said.

"There are more female GPs now, who might go part-time when they have children; family commitments are more important now, and if they go to these areas where resources are stretched they'll end up having to work ridiculous hours." Financial incentives also attracted GPs to the more affluent middle and inner suburbs.

"One of the main reasons GPs won't go to outer suburbs is that the business side of the practice is not viable," Dr Haikerwal said.

He said bulk billing, where the patient is not directly charged and the doctor receives the Medicare rebate from the government, was not lucrative enough. "There is a chance people (in poorer suburbs) won't go to a GP who charges more than the rebate." Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Paul Hemming said the lack of doctors in many sprawling, lower socio-economic suburbs was alarming. "Those areas certainly have great problems attracting GPs and those who are working are incredibly stretched. The GPs are working flat out, and they're taking paperwork home at night because they're overburdened with patients," he said. For the past five months, Mark Kennedy, a general practitioner in the outer Geelong suburb of Corio, has been working 12-hour days to maintain the 9am to 9pm clinic hours. His Corio Medical Clinic has been chronically understaffed since the departure of four doctors.
"We've been in real crisis since we lost four doctors to more affluent areas. We can't find anyone willing to replace them," Dr Kennedy said. "Young doctors come and work hard for a few years and then they go off to an easier area - more lucrative, better hours, better lifestyle."
He has written to retiring federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge and his Victorian counterpart, John Thwaites, asking the governments to grant doctors in poor, outer-metropolitan regions access to schemes designed to attract GPs to rural areas.


1. Define;

- lucrative: ____________________________________________________________
- patient: ______________________________________________________________
- ratio : _______________________________________________________________
- fringe : ______________________________________________________________
shunning : ____________________________________________________________
2. What is the main issue this article is focussing on?
3. What is the doctor-to-patient ratio in Frankston?
4. Where does Mark Kennedy work?
5. Why are doctors moving out of the fringe areas?
6. What would be a benefit of living in Hawthorn or Camberwell based on the information in this article?
7. Who is Mukesh Haikerwal?
8. Why would women in particular want to work in well resourced clinics according to the article?
9. After reading the article, are you in support of the doctors wanting to work in the inner city areas? Why/Why not?
10. What would you suggest the government could do to improve this situation?

Passage Three

Jet crashes into New York

AP Tuesday 13 November 2001

{from The Age Newspaper, Melbourne, Victoria}

An American Airlines jetliner en route to the Dominican Republic with 255 people aboard broke apart and crashed moments after takeoff today from John F Kennedy Airport, setting homes ablaze. There were no known survivors.

Bush administration officials said the FBI believed an explosion occurred aboard the jet, and witnesses reported hearing one.

But investigators suggested the noise was caused by a catastrophic mechanical failure, and a senior administration official said: "It's looking like it's not a terrorist attack."

Pilot dumped fuel: report The pilot of a the plane appears to have dumped fuel before his aircraft crashed in the New York borough of Queens, a possible indication of mechanical failure, New York Governor George Pataki said today.

"The pilot did dump fuel over Jamaica Bay before the crash," Pataki told reporters, adding that such a move would be "consistent with the pilot having some belief that there was a significant mechanical failure on the plane".

Pataki and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also said it appeared the pilot had taken other measures to reduce the number of possible casualties on the ground.

New York tense

Still, the city on edge after the September 11 attack in which hijacked airliners brought down the World Trade Centre was put on high alert in the minutes and hours after the crash.

Fighter jets flew over the scene in the Rockaway Beach section of Queens. All metropolitan-area airports Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, New Jersey were closed, and international flights were diverted to other cities.

Bridges and tunnels were closed to incoming traffic. The United Nations, where an annual General Assembly debate was taking place, closed its headquarters to pedestrians and vehicles, and the Empire State Building was evacuated.

Flight 587, an Airbus A300 with 246 passengers and nine crew members aboard, went down at 9.17am (0117 AEDT Tuesday) in clear, sunny weather in the waterfront neighbourhood 25 kilometres from Manhattan. The densely populated section is home to many firefighters who were among the dead and the rescuers at the Trade Centre.

Witnesses report smoke

Witnesses reported hearing an explosion and seeing an engine and other debris falling off the flaming twinengine jet as it came down.

A plume of thick, black smoke could be seen miles away; flames billowed high above the treetops. "I don't believe there are any survivors at this point," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.

At least 15 people were reported injured on the ground.

As many as 12 houses were destroyed or seriously damaged, and as many as a dozen others sustained lesser damage, the mayor said.

White House points to accident

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said there were no "unusual communications" from the cockpit. And a senior administration official said that no threats against airplanes had been received. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was designated the lead agency in the investigation, signalling that authorities had no information other than that a mechanical malfunction brought down the plane.

A law enforcement source at the scene told The Associated Press that the likelihood of a mechanical problem stemmed from the fact that flames were seen shooting out of the left engine, and that witnesses reported the plane had difficulty climbing and was banking to the left.

Similar crashes

Jet engines have been known to break up catastrophically, throwing shrapnel through a plane. In 1989, United Airlines DC10 crashed in Sioux City, Iowa, killing 112 people, after the metal hub that holds the engine's fan blades shattered and ruptured the jet's hydraulic lines.

In 1996, an engine fan hub ruptured on a Delta flight as it rolled down the runway for takeoff, sending shrapnel into the passenger cabin that killed a woman and her 12-year-old son.

The NTSB said investigators recovered the Airbus flight data recorder, one of the jetliner's two "black boxes."

In Washington, President George W Bush met with advisers, seeking details of the crash. A US official said intelligence agencies, the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were reviewing all recent intelligence for any signs that terrorism was involved.

At the Pentagon, two defence officials said no additional jet fighters had been dispatched to the New York area and that the entire matter was being handled by the FAA as a domestic disaster with no apparent military implications.

Giuliani cancelled his morning events and headed to the scene, where he said: "People should remain calm. We're just being tested one more time and we're going pass this test, too."

Jet Crashes into New York – Comprehension Questions

Write your answers to the following comprehension questions in your exercise books;

1. Define;
a) apart
b) borough
c) consistent
d) casualties
e) densely
f) debris
g) catastrophic

2. What was the destination of the flight?
3. Who is Rudolph Giuliani?
4. What is the atmosphere in New York like at the present time? What previous event had triggered this emotional response from the citizens of New York?
5. ‘A plume of thick, black smoke could be seen from miles away’ – What does this indicate about the size of the crash?
6. Why do you think the Mayor expressed his opinion about the incident so soon after it happened?
7. Why do you think the ‘Empire State Building was evacuated’?
8. Why do you think the pilot of the plane may have begun to dump fuel under the circumstances?
9. Why do you think the White House spokesman stated that there were no ‘unusual communications’ from the cockpit?
10. What is the NTSB?
11. What evidence in the article suggests that the crash was due to mechanical failure?
12. Why do you think Rudolph Giualiani said, ‘we’re going to pass this test too’?

More to come...............