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Reading task type seven: matching causes and effects

Task description
You will be provided with two lists. In most cases, one list contains a small number of causes and the other list contains a larger number of effects. The task is to find the effect which arose from (matches) each cause. To complete this task well you will need to understand clearly what the words ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ mean.

What is being tested is your ability to:

  • understand cause and effect relationships
  • understand gist and paraphrase
  • skim for information

Sample task


The reading passage describes a number of cause and effect relationships. Match each cause (1-4) in List A with its effect (A-H) in List B Write your answers (A-H) in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet.

NBThere are more effects in List B than you will need, so you will not use all of them. You may use any effect more than once if you wish.

List B: Effects
A. Lack of lifeboat training and drills
B. More than two of the watertight compartments filled with water
C. Locations of icebergs received in ice warnings were not plotted
D. Half full lifeboats did not return to rescue people
E. Nearby ship did not come to Titanic’s rescue
F. Not enough lifeboats
G. Passengers panicked
H. Lifeboats were not fully loaded

List A: Causes

1) Outdated regulations designed for much smaller ships 

2) Captain Smith’s failure to communicate sufficient information to officers 

3) No requirements for 24 hour a day wireless operation 

4) Lack of procedures for dealing with wireless messages 

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How to approach questions to match causes and effects


Step 1: Read the instructions carefully.
Step 2: RLook at the table and decide which list you should work from. In most cases it would be most efficient to work from the shorter list (usually the causes).
Step 3: Read the first cause.
Step 4: Briefly familiarise yourself with the effects list. Which effects seem possible at this stage?
Step 5: Skim the reading text to find the section which discusses the first cause.
Step 6: Read that section of the reading text carefully to find the effect.
Step 7: When you have found the effect in the reading passage, refer back to the effects list and select the one which best paraphrases the information in the reading text. If none of the effects listed seem to match, then keep reading the text, as it is not unusual for causes to have more than one effect.

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