How to Re-order Paragraphs - Pearson Test of English

The Re-order Paragraphs question type is one of the hardest on the entire PTE. Not to worry because in this article you are going to learn strategies and tricks that will enable you to do very well on this type of question.

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How the Re-order Paragraph Question Type Works

You will be given around 5 sentences that are taken from one paragraph. You have to arrange the sentences into the correct order.

The Re-order Paragraphs question type on the Pearson Test of English Academic

You will see 2 or 3 questions like this, and it counts toward your Reading score.

How to Approach Re-order Paragraphs Question Type

Let's now look at how to approach these kinds of questions.

Read all of the options

The first step is to read all of the options. You want to gain an understanding of what the paragraph is about. In other words, what is the main topic? Without this "big picture" understanding of the passage, you won't be able to put the individual sentences in the correct order.

Reading all of the options also enables you to start forming some guesses. You will be able to see pairs of sentences that could fit together.

You should also identify which words and sentences you feel you understand well and the words and sentences you are not so confident about. This enables you to focus your time and energy while answering.

Identify the independent sentence

In general, the process you should follow for these types of questions is to put one sentence after another. This means that you should begin your answer by identifying the first sentence in the passage. The first sentence will always be independent – meaning, it can stand on its own. It does not need anything to come before it.

Sometimes the independent sentence will be obvious but often not. You will need to rely on a process of elimination to rule out the dependent sentences (which are sentences that need to come after another sentence). In the next sections, you are going to learn several ways to do this. Once you figure out which sentences can't be independent, then you can know which sentence has to be independent.

Identify sentence after sentence

Once you identify the independent sentence, then you can identify the next sentence and the sentence after that and so on until you have your full answer.

You can think of it like building a chain: You are putting one sentence after another to build a full chain, or paragraph, of sentences.

In this way, the Re-order Paragraphs question is quite simple. However, figuring out which sentence follows which sentence can be quite difficult. In the next section, we'll look at how to do this.

Re-read the whole passage

After you have put all the sentences in order, you should read through your re-assembled paragraph. Does it make sense? Do the individual sentences fit together? You will catch a lot of mistakes by doing this. It's not until you see the entire paragraph that you can really be sure of your answers.

How to Determine Sentence Order

There is often not a clear indicator that tells you which sentence goes after which sentence. Rather, you have to rely upon subtle clues. For this question type, you have to pick up on as many clues as you can and use them to determine the order. It's a bit like you are detective! 🕵️

via GIPHY

Let's now walk through the different kinds of clues that you can use.

Look at how the meanings of the sentences fit together

Perhaps the most useful clue will be that each sentence should flow logically from the one before it. That's why this question really tests your comprehension. You have to understand each sentence so well that you can decide which other sentence its connects the best with.

Sentences can flow logically in many different ways. One common pattern is chronological order. This means in the order of time. For example, the chronological order of meals in the day is: breakfast, lunch, then dinner. Or the chronological order of the months in the year is: January, February, March, April, etc.

When sentences need to be arranged in chronological order, this generally makes the answer easier to find. You just have to figure out what happens first, then second, then third, and so on.

Here is an example question:

  1. By early Sunday morning, they were found safe but exhausted, taking shelter in a small cave.
  2. Yesterday, a community rallied together to rescue a group of stranded hikers from a steep ridge at Redwood National Park.
  3. Over 20 volunteers, along with search and rescue teams, braved harsh weather conditions to locate them.
  4. The hikers, a family of four, had been reported missing late Saturday evening after they failed to return from a trail.
  5. The family credited their survival to the extensive preparation and safety tips they had learned from park rangers.

The correct order is: 2, 4, 3, 1, 5

Yesterday, a community rallied together to rescue a group of stranded hikers from a steep ridge at Redwood National Park. The hikers, a family of four, had been reported missing late Saturday evening after they failed to return from a trail. Over 20 volunteers, along with search and rescue teams, braved harsh weather conditions to locate them. By early Sunday morning, they were found safe but exhausted, taking shelter in a small cave. The family credited their survival to the extensive preparation and safety tips they had learned from park rangers.

In this case, the events occurred in this order: The family got lost. Then, 20 volunteers went looking for them. Then, they were found.

Unfortunately, not every Re-order Paragraphs question has a chronological structure. Let's look at the other clues you can use.

Identify connecting words

Connecting words link 2 ideas together. When you see a connecting word, especially at the beginning of a sentence, this is a strong clue that something needs to come before.

Moreover, connecting words also indicate the relationship between the two ideas. For example, the connecting word "therefore" indicates that one thing causes something else. This is kind of information is very helpful when trying to determine the order of sentences.

For example:

  1. However, some residents chose to stay, believing their homes were secure enough to withstand the storm.
  2. Consequently, local authorities have increased patrols in these areas to assist anyone in need during the storm.
  3. A severe weather warning was issued last night for the coastal region.
  4. Moreover, evacuation orders were sent out and emergency services were put on high alert, preparing for potential rescue operations.
  5. As a result, schools and businesses were closed preemptively to ensure safety.

In this paragraph, only 1 sentence did not start with a connecting word. This is a strong clue that this sentence is the independent sentence. All the other sentences likely need to follow another sentence because they all start with connecting words. Using the connecting words, you can guess what comes before each sentence.

For example, in sentence #1 the connecting word is "however": However, some residents chose to stay, believing their homes were secure enough to withstand the storm. The rest of the sentence talks about how some residents are choosing to stay because they believe that their homes can withstand the storm. This means that the sentence that comes before should talk about how the residents were advised not to stay.

And that's exactly what we have in sentence #4: Moreover, evacuation orders were sent out and emergency services were put on high alert, preparing for potential rescue operations. You can conclude that sentence #4 is immediately followed by sentence #1.

Let's now look at sentence #2 and the connecting word "consequently": Consequently, local authorities have increased patrols in these areas to assist anyone in need during the storm. This implies that local authorities have increased patrols to certain areas because of something else. What would cause the authorities to increase patrols? People in danger would be a good guess.

Can you figure out what sentence comes before?

It's sentence #1! However, some residents chose to stay, believing their homes were secure enough to withstand the storm. Some people decided to stay in their homes, putting themselves in danger, so local authorities have increased their patrolling there.

You can continue just like this for the other sentences with connecting words.

The answer would be 3, 5, 4, 1, 2:

A severe weather warning was issued last night for the coastal region. As a result, schools and businesses were closed preemptively to ensure safety. Moreover, evacuation orders were sent out and emergency services were put on high alert, preparing for potential rescue operations. However, some residents chose to stay, believing their homes were secure enough to withstand the storm. Consequently, local authorities have increased patrols in these areas to assist anyone in need during the storm.

Identify pronouns

Pronouns take the place of nouns in a sentence. Some common pronouns are he, she, him, her, it, they, them, this, and that. Pronouns are useful because they allow us to avoid repeating the same words over and over.

For example, take this paragraph that has no pronouns:

Sarah likes running. Every Saturday, Sarah meets up with Sarah's friends and Sarah and her friends go for a long run in the park. The park is large, and the park has many nice trails.

This is annoying to read because it repeats the same words several times. This is why we use pronouns:

Sarah likes running. Every Saturday, she meets up with her friends and they go for a long run in the park. The park is large, and it has many nice trails.

Most of the time, pronouns require an antecedent. This is a fancy word that just means "something that comes before." For example, let's say you see a group of your friends and you walk over to them. Someone says, "I love that place! Let's go there tonight!" Then, they turn to you ask, "Does that sound good to you?"

You won't know what they place they are talking about. Because you came to the conversation late, you missed the antecedent.

On the PTE, if a sentence has a pronoun, it likely needs to follow a sentence that has the antecedent.

Let's go through this example:

  1. They believe it will transform the downtown area, making it more pedestrian-friendly and environmentally sustainable.
  2. The city council approved the new urban development plan yesterday, after months of deliberation.  
  3. Residents have expressed mixed feelings about the changes; some are excited, while others worry about increased traffic during construction.
  4. Ultimately, this initiative aims to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the community.
  5. The council has promised to address these concerns by holding monthly forums where people can voice their opinions and seek updates.

Can you spot all the pronouns? They are:

  1. They believe it will transform the downtown area, making it more pedestrian-friendly and environmentally sustainable.
  2. The city council approved the new urban development plan yesterday, after months of deliberation.  
  3. Residents have expressed mixed feelings about the changes; some are excited, while others worry about increased traffic during construction.
  4. Ultimately, this initiative aims to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the community.
  5. The council has promised to address these concerns by holding monthly forums where people can voice their opinions and seek updates.

3 of the sentences contain a pronoun! This means that it is very likely that these sentences will need to follow another one.

When you spot pronouns you want to ask yourself, "What is the pronoun referring to?" This will allow you to figure out the antecedent.

For example, the first sentence is: They believe it will transform the downtown area, making it more pedestrian-friendly and environmentally sustainable.

What is the pronoun "it" referring to? Since we already read all the options (don't forget that step!), we can guess that "it" is referring to "the new urban development plan" mentioned in sentence #2. This is a strong clue that sentence #1 follows sentence #2.

Sentence #5 is another example: The council has promised to address these concerns by holding monthly forums where people can voice their opinions and seek updates.

What are "these concerns" referring to? The answer is in sentence #3: Residents have expressed mixed feelings about the changes; some are excited, while others worry about increased traffic during construction.

This is a strong clue that sentence #5 follows sentence #3.

Sure enough, the answer is 2, 1, 3, 5, 4:

The city council approved the new urban development plan yesterday, after months of deliberation. They believe it will transform the downtown area, making it more pedestrian-friendly and environmentally sustainable. Residents have expressed mixed feelings about the changes; some are excited, while others worry about increased traffic during construction. The council has promised to address these concerns by holding monthly forums where people can voice their opinions and seek updates. Ultimately, this initiative aims to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the community.

Identify antecedents for "the"

Like pronouns, the word "the" often has an antecedent as well. For example, if a friend tells you, "The match was good." You won't know which match they are referring to. But if they say, "Arsenal played against Manchester United yesterday. The match was good," you will understand because they provided an antecedent.

Here's an example question:

  1. In preparation for the construction, certain areas of the park will be closed intermittently over the next six months.
  2. Local officials announced today that the long-awaited renovation of Central Park will begin next month, promising enhancements to walking paths, lighting, and playground facilities.
  3. Residents are encouraged to attend the upcoming public meeting for more details on the project timeline and impact on regular park activities.
  4. The project, funded by both city allocations and private donations, aims to revitalize the park's appeal and safety.
  5. Community leaders have expressed their support, highlighting the potential for increased local tourism and recreation opportunities.

In sentence #1, there are 2 cases of "the" that may need an antecedent: the construction and the park. Which "construction" and which "park" are being referred to?

Sentence #4 is another example: The project, funded by both city allocations and private donations, aims to revitalize the park's appeal and safety. Which project?

Using these clues, I can conclude that it is likely that sentence #1 and sentence #4 will come after other sentences.

Here is the correct order 2, 4, 5, 1, 3:

Local officials announced today that the long-awaited renovation of Central Park will begin next month, promising enhancements to walking paths, lighting, and playground facilities. The project, funded by both city allocations and private donations, aims to revitalize the park's appeal and safety. Community leaders have expressed their support, highlighting the potential for increased local tourism and recreation opportunities. In preparation for the construction, certain areas of the park will be closed intermittently over the next six months. Residents are encouraged to attend the upcoming public meeting for more details on the project timeline and impact on regular park activities.

It's important to note that not all occurrences of "the" require an antecedent. In the example above, sentence #3 is: Residents are encouraged to attend the upcoming public meeting for more details on the project timeline and impact on regular park activities. "The upcoming public meeting" could have an antecedent but in this case, it doesn't.

In fact, Pearson will intentionally include questions that have instances of "the" that have an antecedent, but the antecedent won't be part of the paragraph that you are given! This means that you can't use this clue to help, making the question more difficult 😅 That's why Pearson does this.

Look for comparisons

Comparisons require 2 or more things. For example, "He is bigger." Bigger than what? You need more information to fully understand.

Here is an example question:

  1. Farmers' markets provide more fresh, locally-sourced produce, giving shoppers the chance to support local agriculture and enjoy seasonal goods.
  2. In contrast, supermarkets offer more convenience with a wide range of products available year-round, including international foods that are hard to find at local markets.
  3. Local farmers' markets and supermarket chains offer distinct shopping experiences.
  4. Ultimately, whether customers prefer the community feel and fresh options of farmers' markets or the variety and convenience of supermarkets depends on their lifestyle and needs.
  5. While farmers' markets are typically open only on specific days, supermarkets are accessible every day, making them a more reliable option for busy families.

The first sentence makes a comparison: Farmers' markets provide more fresh, locally-sourced produce. More than what, though? What are farmers' markets being compared to? This a strong clue that something needs to come before this sentence.

The correct order is 3, 1, 2, 5, 4:

Local farmers' markets and supermarket chains offer distinct shopping experiences. Farmers' markets provide more fresh, locally-sourced produce, giving shoppers the chance to support local agriculture and enjoy seasonal goods. In contrast, supermarkets offer more convenience with a wide range of products available year-round, including international foods that are hard to find at local markets. While farmers' markets are typically open only on specific days, supermarkets are accessible every day, making them a more reliable option for busy families. Ultimately, whether customers prefer the community feel and fresh options of farmers' markets or the variety and convenience of supermarkets depends on their lifestyle and needs.

Conclusion

Now you have some great strategies to help you do well on Re-order Paragraphs questions on the PTE.

To learn about the other questions types, check out out popular article: All Question Types with Answers - Pearson Test of English Academic.