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Do you read a text and understand it, but get the questions wrong? To improve your technique, follow these steps:
Click on the links throughout to get more information and practice exercises.
1. Manage your time
How much time can you spend on each section and question? If you plan, you will not run out of time and can avoid missing an easy question. There are many different ways to do this. Which technique works best for you? Try them all.
Note: some questions may be worth more marks. Using style C, you would spend more time on a question worth 2 marks than on a question worth 1 mark.
2. Read the instructions carefully
Instructions can be written and spoken. In class, you may get instructions from your book, the text or your teacher. Remember to listen carefully to your teacher’s instructions too. For tests, make sure you read the instructions carefully. If you are unsure, check with your teacher at the beginning of the exam.
3. Read the questions and analyse the type/purpose
Understanding question types will help you answer the questions.
For more examples go to Reading strategy examples.
4. Start with the easy questions
When reading you can choose the order of what to read and which question to answer first. It is better to start with a topic that you are more familiar with, as you will know more vocabulary. You can choose to start with an easy question first.
Short answer questions are usually presented in the same order as the text. Mark where you find the answers clearly, so you can skip difficult questions and return to them at the end.
5. Read the question and look for key words
Choose 1 question and identify the key words in it. Highlight them. What are the synonyms (words with similar meanings) for these words? In addition, key words can be specific people, places, things or events. Does the question have marker words such as Mr Tom Jones, New York city, in paragraph 4, MacDonald’s, in 1995?
6. Read the text and highlight the key words in the text that match the key words in the question
Now scan the text for the key word or its synonyms. Scanning is reading a text quickly in order to find specific information. It is different to skimming, which is reading quickly to get a general idea of meaning.
Use the text’s structure to help. Find the introduction, body and conclusion paragraphs. Read paragraph topic sentences or concluding sentences as they will summarise the idea in that paragraph. For more help, look at signal language, discourse markers and conjunctions.
Highlight the key words in the text as well. Write the question number nearby (e.g try putting it in the margin.) This way, if you skip a question, it will be easy to return and look for that answer at the end. This will also make re-reading and checking your answer easier too.
7. Find the answer by reading the 2-3 lines before and after the word/phrase
8. Remove unnecessary words from the answer
If the answer is short and simple, you can write the exact words as your answer. However, for difficult questions you often need to show that you can identify the most important part of the answer. This may mean removing ‘extra’ information. So, highlight the important words and then write those as your answer.
If you need to make a grammatical change, do it. This could mean changing a verb to a noun, a noun to an adjective, etc. However, do not use synonyms. Often, students use synonyms that they are not familiar with. This may mean the meaning is not exactly the same. Start practising synonyms with a thesaurus.
9. Check the logic of your answer
Now it’s time to practice. Try:
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