Can you unlock the door?
By Sarah Collins
15 Aug

English Comprehension tasks are a key part of the 11+ tests and can carry 50 per cent of the marks available. A variety of different types of text can be used, both fiction and non-fiction, with some fiction texts set in a different era or country.
Reading the text carefully before beginning is very important since questions are often asked that can only be answered by understanding the underlying themes and messages in a text. It is sensible to read a text at least twice and preferably three times, highlighting key ideas and summarising each paragraph in the margin to help you retrieve information quickly.
You may also find that the writing task is linked to the comprehension text and this can involve continuing a story. Since the text has already been started for you these can seem like simple questions. However, a key part of these tasks is to mimic the author’s style and grammar choices as well as maintaining a consistent thread to the themes already begun. Understanding both the genre and setting are important in maintaining this consistency. It is a good idea to practice this type of question to work out how authors construct different styles of text.

This English Comprehension text is an extract from a fiction text about Flynn, a 12 year-old boy and his first encounter with the mysterious Mrs Fondlove. Unlock the clues in the text to find out what lurks behind the door before facing next week’s final challenge…
Mrs Fondlove was a comfortable woman rather in the manner of a well-sprung sofa: once considered grand though now exhibiting a few stray lumps under the upholstery as a consequence of much indulgence and an active life. A collection of wiry hairs sprung impolitely from a beauty spot on her cheek and Flynn mused whether, without this adornment and the scarlet rivulets that meandered across her nose, she could have been considered ‘a catch’ by the young men of her day.
Unaware of the eyes that attempted to reconstruct her features to their former glory, Mrs Leonora Fondlove undulated her ample form against a wooden door at the back of the hall behind which a bulky object was offering some resistance. The subject of this effort evidently capitulated just as a shadow cast by the waiting child broke the light from a casement behind her.
Her frame swung menacingly towards the intruder.
‘Erm, pardon me, Mrs…’ faltered Flynn, ‘… but the door was open and…’ he shuffling timidly, his voice trailing away as the flint spark from her eyes struck his own.
‘Click’. With a deft movement, Mrs Fondlove crisply turned the key in the lock behind her back.
‘My dear!’ squeaked the lady, possibly in a higher pitch than was usual since she continued an octave lower. ‘I’m afraid you quite startled me! You must be… no, don’t tell me.’
Flynn opened his mouth to introduce himself, but halted at the advancing palm of his host.
‘Dear Jennifer Dresden’s young guest, am I correct?’ oozed the lady.  Flynn nodded slowly, his mouth still open. ‘Yes, yes! I recognise you from her description. “Doleful and somewhat slight for his age”’ she proclaimed, announcing the remembered description as she smeared one clammy hand across her glaucous skirt and the other through her similarly coloured hair.
‘Well, dear me,’ she continued without waiting for an answer. ‘We must really do what we can for you. Come in. Yes do, that’s right, yes, yes!’
Without knowing exactly what the great lady had in mind, Flynn reluctantly allowed himself to be herded through to the lounge as the albatross spread of Mrs Fondlove’s arms threatened to engulf him if he stood still a moment longer. 
The room was green; very green. Flynn’s eyes slowly scanned the walls to take in the curious decor. His parent’s house in Carshalton was cream, calm and simple – nothing at all like the assault on his senses from the geometric patterns that flooded this room. Two lime-covered sofas with spindly pine legs made him think of gigantic insects camouflaged in an electronic habitat.
As if keeping these creatures company, a scrawny grey parrot, of a similar hue to the tight curls that clung to the top of Mrs Fondloves’ head, stared pointedly at Flynn from its iron cage behind a colour television at the back of the room. The parrot squawked indignantly, watching the boy as he sidled towards a chair of the same lurid colour as the sofas, judging it to be the safest seat to avoid Mrs Fondlove’s attention.
‘I can pay now if you like.’ Flynn stammered and coughed in an attempt to sound more confident. The package he had been sent for was on the table almost within reach.  ‘Really, I don’t want to put you to any trouble – I’ve got the money right here.’ he continued, forcing a smile and searching anxiously for the shillings in his pocket. His hostess, following Flynn’s gaze and slid the parcel towards her as she made to sit down on the nearest sofa.
A kettle whistled on a stove in the kitchen beyond. Flynn started at the sound. 
 ‘There we are, yes! Well you must stay for tea? Just in time young man, so clever of you, yes, that’s right!’ the corpulent lady congratulated her guest with a yellowed smile before stowing the package in her skirts as she rose. ‘Now which will it be for you; tea or squash?’ she asked. Flynn expressed his preference realising a swift exit was impossible and his curiosity was now getting the better of him.
To Flynn’s relief, Mrs Fondlove pulled the kitchen door closed as she left the room and so wasting no time, he stole silently back into to the hall to investigate the locked room.  The key was still in the lock!
Each one of the following paragraphs could begin the next part of this story. However, four of the sentences have one or more inconsistencies that don’t link in to the text above. Choose the one correct paragraph to discover who or what is behind the door.
1. Flynn gingerly turned the key. The lock clicked loudly and he jumped back to listen for any movement from the kitchen. Mrs Fondlove was humming a curious tune so evidently hadn’t heard the sound. He went back to the door, gently turned the handle and pushed it open. A pair of green eyes shone menacingly from the darkness. Flynn shrieked as the beast flew out, hurling him to the ground on its way past into the street beyond. Mrs Fondlove continued to hum her tune, arms folded as she loomed over the prostrate child. 
2. Flynn put his head against the door to listen for any movement inside. Nothing stirred so he crept back to the lounge door to see whether the spinster had returned. Mrs Fondlove was evidently arranging the tray judging from the rattle of cups in the room beyond so Flynn turned his attention back to the door, gently turned the lock and looked inside. Was the room empty? The inky blackness almost hurt his eyes, then, a shadow slowly moved in the gloom as a timid old man raised his head and gazed up at the startled boy.  Flynn’s body shuddered as he felt the warm breath of his hostess hot on the nape of his neck.
3. Flynn’s hand hovered over the key. Did he really want to know what was behind the door? His curiosity had got the better of him in the past and it had generally not ended well! He convinced himself it was probably nothing and, hearing Mrs Fondlove busying herself in the kitchen, deliberately turned the key and held the door ajar to contain what lay inside. The darkness crept out of the chilled air and Flynn could feel himself being drawn inside.. As he tiptoed forward a grubby sack tied firmly at the top suddentlycrolled towards him and he fell headlong into the darkness.  Flynn panicked, staggering to his feet to race out of the door but his passage was blocked. Mrs Fondlove, her flared nostrils now scarlet to match her voluminous skirt, loomed large over the frightened boy.
4. Hearing his hostess shuffling about the kitchen, Flynn decided he had to move quickly. The key turned easily in the lock so he leant against the door to muffle the sound with his jumper as the mechanism released with a loud click. A dim bulb flickered as it swung to and fro from the ceiling, illuminating the curiously narrow room. Nothing stirred in the empty space and the single object to adorn it was a fragile wooden chair, its seat worn to a shine from constant use. As Flynn puzzled where the occupant could be he noticed a concealed opening in the back wall, only visible because it had been left slightly ajar. But it was too late to find out more: the creak of a floorboard behind him told Flynn all he needed to know. Mrs Fondlove had returned.
5. Flynn’s curiosity got the better of him and he turned the key quickly. He knew his attentive hostess would soon return and he was fairly sure it wouldn’t be long before the surly grey parrot gave him away. To Flynn’s surprise the door swung violently open knocking him back against the wall. He waited breathless just as the regular post coach hurtled past outside, the hooves clattering on the cobbles and startling the other horses in the street. Flynn’s heartbeat knocked so loudly in his ears that he was sure the occupier of the room must be able to hear it too. He had to get back to the lounge, he knew it was too risky to explore further. So, stealing himself, he gripped the handle firmly ready to charge, just as a calloused hand wound its fingers around the door. Flynn gasped as the sight of the three fingered being before him. ‘Fondlove’, it whispered, ‘the boy is here’.

We'll be revealing the answers next Wednesday. If you've got the answers, qhy not let us know on Twitter @galore_park, Instagram @galore_park or Facebook @galore1park.

In the meantime, if you need a little English Comprehension help, take a look at our English Revision guide for 11 plus and pre-tests. Covering all the key content for pre-tests and 11 plus independent school entrance exams, this vital revision guide will ensure confidnce in every topic with end-of-chapter tests and a comprehensive progress record. Buy now for only £12.99.

We also sell an 11+ English Revision Pack which will take your child step-by-step through their English revision - consolidating their knowledge, teaching them how to apply this knowledge in questions, and finally building confidence and exam technique.


Tags: 11+, comprehension, english

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