87% Of Students Got THIS English Question Wrong On A Grade 12 Exam

Even native English speakers struggle with this question.

In a grade 12 English exam, only 13%  Korean students got this question correct. Because of the severe difficulty of the question it was posted online and started trending when even native English speakers had difficulty answering the question correctly.

Reading comprehension questions test not only the ability of students to comprehend complex vocabulary, but to also infer the definition of terms through the context of passage. Similar questions can be found in Korea’s Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), which is the official English fluency test in South Korea.

Having a high TOEIC score can be incredibly advantageous on a resume, as Korean companies are expanding to the global market.

See if you can figure out the correct answer to this puzzling question:


In a study of complimenting behavior in American English, researchers discovered that one of the most striking features of compliments in American English is ____________________________________. An initial examination of a large corpus revealed surprising repetitiveness in both the object of the compliments and the lexical items used to describe them. On closer investigation, it was discovered that regularities exist on all levels and that compliments are in fact formulas. We may categorize 80% of all compliments in the data as adjectival in that they depend on an adjective for their positive semantic value. In all, some seventy-two adjectives occur in the data. What is striking, however, is that of these seventy-two adjectives only five (nice, good, beautiful, pretty, and great) are used with any frequency. While most adjectives occur only once or twice in the data, these five adjectives occur with such frequency that of all adjectival compliments in the corpus, two thirds made use of only five adjectives.

(1) the foreign sounding qualities

(2) frequently misused adjectives

(3) repetition of pitch patterns

(4) an inherent ambiguity in meaning

(5) the almost total lack of originality


Which do you think is the correct answer?


The correct answer is:

(5) the almost total lack of originality

The passage discusses how there are seventy-two adjectives in the date, but only five are used with any frequency. That suggests that there is almost a total lack of originality because so many adjectives are recycled and used. Wow, what a brain twister. No wonder so many students didn’t pass this question!