Loving to read isn’t a guaranteed ticket to being good at reading comprehension. Although you may enjoy reading for pleasure, getting good marks at the reading comprehension in English exams requires more. Amongst the skills you will need is a keen eye for detail, good answering technique, and time management.
If reading comprehension is your Achilles heel, fret not! We’ll be sharing some helpful tips for each step of the way, starting from reading the passage, to answering techniques, and other useful strategies!
If you like tips like this, why not also consider joining an English tuition class? We offer Primary School English Tuition as well as English tuition for IP students in conducive small group classes to help you brush up on your English language skills and exam answering techniques. You can know more about our classes by getting in touch with us!
Tips for reading
Skim through the passage first
Learn to scan! This very first step is meant to give you a rough idea of what the passage is about. Don’t worry too much about getting all the details at this stage, as you don’t want to waste too much time.
Annotate the text
If it helps you remember or make connections, don’t be afraid to make notes on the text. You can summarise key points in the margins, or underline keywords as you go along. This will save you time when you are referring back to the passage to look for answers.
Read the questions, then reread the passage
Read through all the questions first before you read the passage a second time. During the second reading, you should be focusing on looking for the answers. Continue to make notes or underline answers when you locate them.
Tips for locating the answer:
Look for keywords
The easiest way to look for answers is to look out for keywords from the question that also appear in the passage. Sometimes, the question will not use the exact words from the passage, but synonyms of them. That’s why having a strong vocabulary is useful!
The questions are usually in order
For most primary school and PSLE-type comprehensions, the questions are ordered in the order that the answers in the passage can be found. Use this to your advantage! For example, if you can’t figure out question 5, but you have located the answer for question 4 and 6, you can guess that the answer for question 5 is probably in between where you found the other two answers. (However, take note: some questions are more inference-based, which means the answer can’t be directly found in the passage!)
Tips for answering the questions:
Answer in complete sentences
Your primary school English teacher would have told you by now: Your answer needs to be in a complete sentence. One-word answers or incomplete sentences will be penalised even though the content of your answer is correct.
Know when to paraphrase
For most comprehension questions, it is acceptable to use the same words as given in the passage. But when you see questions asking you to give the answer ‘in your own words’, that’s a sure sign you need to paraphrase.
Know when to quote
When the question requires you to take a quote from the passage, make sure you indicate it properly with quotation marks. Take note! A phrase is usually 7 words or less – don’t quote a whole sentence unless the question says to do so! Finally, ensure that your answer answers the question – don’t just leave the quote hanging.
Use the marks to guess how detailed your answer needs to be
Here is one helpful exam tip! If you ever wonder how much you need to write for your answer, or whether you’re spending too much time on one question, take a look at the mark allocation. Generally, the marks correspond to the level of detail required in the question. If you see a 1-mark question, don’t write too much or get stuck too long on it. For 2 mark questions, your answer should have at least 2 parts or points to it.
We hope you liked our survival guide to tackling English comprehension! These tips are useful across the board for primary school up till even JC General Paper exams. However, you can definitely expect the difficulty of the passages and questions to increase as you go up the levels. As with all things, practice and feedback is a big part of getting better at English comprehension.
If you haven’t already, engaging a tutor can help you spot areas for improvement and common errors much faster. This way, you can be on the way to making corrections and progress with greater speed and efficiency!