Reading Passage 5 – Short-term Memory ANSWERS

Keywords: Year 8+, 15 questions, 12 MCQs, 3 short-answer questions, science, non-fiction, National Geographic.

(“Limited Capacity Storage: Short-term memory”. Memory: What It Is, How It Works, and Ways You Can Improve It, National Geographic, Tula Karras.)

Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’ has short-term memory loss.

Limited capacity storage: Short-term memory

Our limited capacity storage systems aren’t meant to retain information for very long. Similar to a Snapchat message or an Instagram story, information that enters our brain through our senses fade rather quickly unless we have a reason to retain it or unless we practice it. While this sounds inefficient — why can’t we hold every bit of information for a long while? — it’s actually a good thing. Like a hoarder with objects they will never use, our brain would become so crowded remembering everything we experienced that we wouldn’t be able to find and retrieve the things we truly need and want to remember. Although experts generally divide our limited capacity storage systems into short-term memory and working memory, many experts consider short-term memory a component within working memory. Science is still trying to distinguish their many features.

Short-term memory

Short-term (or immediate) memory is the ability to remember a short list of things within a short span of time — usually no longer than 30 seconds and sometimes less. Short-term memories are not stored permanently, but rather stay on our radar briefly in the present moment. We often use short-term memory when we don’t have things in our environment to cue us — so we might engage short-term memory to hold a list of grocery items in our mind by repeating it over and over if we can’t write it down, or when remembering someone’s phone number, or when holding figures in our head while doing an arithmetic problem.


  1. What best summarises the primary aim of this passage?

a) To inform the reader on the attributes of short-term memory

b) To persuade the reader of short-term memory’s flaws

c) To illuminate upon the positive attributes of short-term memory

d) To detail short-term memory and its relationship to working memory

2. Which of these quotes is an example of a simile?

a) “Science is still trying to distinguish their many features.”

b) “…we might engage short-term memory to hold a list of grocery items in our mind…”

c) “…why can’t we hold every bit of information for a long while?”

d) “Like a hoarder with objects they will never use…”

3. Look for any parentheses in the passage. What is their purpose?

a) They include extra, irrelevant information

b) They give a synonym for a previously described term

c) They provide an example to illustrate a point further

d) There are no parentheses in this passage

4. According to the passage, why is short-term memory a positive thing?

a) If it didn’t exist, our memory would become too cluttered with too much information

b) It allows us to consciously forget things

c) If it didn’t exist, we would forget every memory we came across

d) It helps us to study and encode information, like phone numbers

5. “Similar to a Snapchat message or an Instagram story, information that enters our brain through our senses fade rather quickly…” This comparison most likely aims to:

a) Make the article more appealing to the younger generations

b) Illustrate the idea in a way that is understandable to the average reader

c) Make money for the author through Snapchat/Instagram sponsorship

d) Describe the longevity of memory

6. What is the purpose of using sub-sections in this passage?

a) To divide diametrical pieces of information into different areas

b) To make the passage seem less wordy and prolix

c) To categorise pieces of information that focus on different yet related ideas

d) To extend the amount of information that is contained in the passage

7. Look for the em-dashes. In this passage, what are they not used for?

a) To interject with an example that expands upon an idea

b) To clarify an otherwise ambiguous piece of information

c) To divide sentences, making them more efficient

d) To replace a punctuation mark

8. According to the passage, short-term memory is:

a) A well-known and clearly defined concept

b) A definite sub-section within working memory

c) A widely-accepted yet somewhat underdeveloped idea

d) A detailed concept that has remained unchanged from its conception

9. Which of these statements is false?

a) Short-term memory and working memory are two separate concepts

b) Short-term memory holds information for around 30 seconds

c) It’s impossible to remember information held in short-term memory

d) It’s possible that short-term memory is a part of working memory

10. Which of the following would be the best alternate title for this passage?

a) The Disadvantages of Short-term Memory

b) Defining and Explaining Short-term Memory

c) An Analysis of Limited Capacity Storage Systems

d) The Relationship Between Short-term Memory and Working Memory

11. What is this passage’s tone?

a) Direct and avuncular

b) Formal and apoplectic

c) Informative and partial

d) Objective and sagacious

12. Based on this passage, what is a limited-capacity storage system?

a) A kind of memory that only remembers lists for a short time

b) Unlimited storage that contains permanent memories

c) A mental network that creates short-term memories

d) A category of memories that hold information briefly

13. Write down a quote from the passage that uses inclusive language.

Any quote the includes ‘we’, ‘our’ or any other inclusive words would be an acceptable answer.

14. “While this sounds inefficient…“. What is the word ‘this’ referring to?

‘This’ refers to the concept that “information that enters our brain through our senses fade rather quickly unless we have a reason to retain it or unless we practice it.” You can use that quote if you want, but most of your answer should be in your own words.

15. List two things the passage has taught you about short-term memory.

Anything from the duration of short-term memory to its relationship with working memory is acceptable.

The original passage and questions are here!


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Note: this passage is from the November 2020 Memory issue of National Geographic Magazine. To my knowledge, utilising this passage as a free educational exercise falls under fair use. If not, please let me know. I want to make sure that everything on this website is fair and right. The questions are of my own creation.


A teaching student whose goal is to become a primary-school teacher! I'm currently working as an English tutor to almost 100 students (they're all wonderful!).

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