Reading comprehension tests and strategies

Zain Chaudhry from France writes:

I am a student of grade 9 and I'm doing my GCSEs. My English is not very bad, but I find a lot of difficulty in doing reading comprehension tests. I read the given text, kind of understand it well, but when I move to the questions, I can't give 'to- the-point' answers. Please help me to improve my reading comprehension problem.

Roger Woodham replies:
  There are a wide variety of strategies that you can use to improve your reading comprehension and arrive at to-the-point answers.

Before you read:

Ask yourself: what do I know about this topic?
What will it most likely be about?
How is it likely to develop?

NB: the title and any headings will help you to make informed
guesses about all of this.

If you find it helpful, read the questions before you read the passage

As you read:

  • Ask yourself: is it developing as I expected?

  • Re-read paragraphs you are not so sure about

  • Don't worry too much about unknown words; try to guess their meaning from the context.

After you have read:

  • Ask yourself: what were the main points?

GCSE/PET/FCE/CAE/CPE/IELTS reading comprehension tests

The purpose of any reading comprehension test is to see how well you have understood the passages and most of them test an in-depth or detailed understanding of the passages.

Read the passage carefully

If you have 15 minutes to read a passage and answer questions on it, it is probably worth spending 5 of those minutes reading the passage carefully early on to gain as full an understanding as possible.

Read the questions carefully

Then read the questions carefully and match the questions to the section(s) of the passage to which they refer. This, I think, is the best time for skimming the passage, scanning for information and re-reading as necessary.

Remember, you are being tested on:

  • Your general understanding of the passage

  • Your understanding of what is explicitly stated

  • Your understanding of points of detail in the text

  • The author's views and opinions or perspectives

  • What may be inferred from the passage, rather than explicitly stated.
    Here is a practice exercise in which you can read the first ten lines of a narrative text and then answer some questions on it which test all of the above:

Mr Merriweather was dozing by the fireside. His newspaper slipped from his grasp, his head fell forward and he started to wander by the banks of a fast-flowing river. Then a coal slipped, the fire crackled and he woke up with a start.

He reached down to retrieve his newspaper and then remembered something that he wanted to ask his wife. But Mrs Merriweather was not there.

He listened for a while. The cottage seemed very quiet. The he called out "Molly!" several times but received no reply. He shuffled out into the hall and saw that Molly's rainwear was missing from its accustomed hook. And her Wellingtons which always stood with the umbrellas in the umbrella stand had also gone. Whatever would have possessed her to go out on a night such as this?

1. Which statement tells you that Mr Merriweather was dreaming?

A: he was dozing by the fireside
B: his newspaper slipped from his grasp
C: his head fell forward
D: he started to wander by banks of a river
E: a coal slipped

2. Mr Merriweather felt sure that his wife had left the house because:

A: the cottage seemed very quiet when he woke up
B: the door to the hall was open
C: her raincoat was not on its peg
D: her umbrella had disappeared
E: she had taken all her possessions

3. The word accustomed in line 8 could most accurately be replaced by:

A: acquainted
B: usual
C: protruding
D: established
E: adapted

4. The two short sentences in line 6 are effective because they convey Mr Merriweather's sense of:

A: haste
B: alarm
C: concentration
D: sleepiness
E: loneliness

5. What sort of weather is suggested by the passage?

A: a wet, stormy and windy night
B: a cold frosty night
C: a mild and breezy night
D: a windy but dry night
E: a snowy night

Now scroll down to check your answers;

The answers are 1D, 2C, 3B, 4C, 5A


If you would like more practice more please visit our in the You, Me and Us part of our website.