Reading Comprehension

Step 1: Preparations

  • With reading comprehension tasks, time management is vital. Give yourself time limits for reading the text and completing the exercise.
  • Sometimes, your teacher might give you further information on the text. Take notes!
  • Identify the type of exercise! (Multiple choice, True-False, answering questions?)
  • Look at the title of the text! Does it give you further information?
  • Read the instructions carefully! If you’ve got dictionaries at hand, make sure all the words in the instruction text are perfectly clear to you.
  • Check for additional vocabulary provided with the text!
  • Analyze the information referring to the source the text is taken from: Who wrote it? When did they publish it? What was their intention? Which medium was used?
  • If the text doesn’t offer any line numbers, it’s your job to add them. Otherwise you’ll find yourself unable to quote from the text!
  • Figure out whether the questions appear in the same order as the information given in the text – this is not always the case in reading comprehension!
  • After reading the headline, try to anticipate what the text will be about!
  • Collect vocabulary you might need for this topic!
  • If you are supposed to answer questions, prepare an extra sheet for collecting important information, ideally with suitable headings or categories!
  • Use a pen that will work under exam conditions – you need to be able to write fast. Get all the other materials ready as well.

Step 2: Skimming and marking

  • First, read the whole text first.
  • In step 2, look for the main ideas. It’s not essential to understand every single word. In reading exercises, you can usually draw information from the context.
  • Make sure you understand the overall structure of the text.
  • It might be helpful to read the first and the last sentence of each paragraph before you start reading the passages intensely.
  • If there are illustrations or information boxes, take a closer look at them. They usually relate to what’s said in the text.
  • Next, read the text with your questions in mind. Sort out useless information.
  • First, read the heading. Then read all the sub-headings.
  • Marking skills are important. Always take notes for every paragraph, giving each section your own heading.
  • When highlighting information, use different colors for different kinds of information.
  • you will be able to see how the text is divided up into different paragraphs.
  • Some authors or editors will guide you through the text using lists, bold print, or italics.
  • Highlight passages that seem confusing. Save them for re-reading them at a later stage. Mark them with a question mark (“?”).
  • Sometimes, the following text clarifies the meaning of this specific section. You may have to read ahead.
  • Sometimes, authors may emphasize certain aspects. Look for phrases which indicate something is important (“It is very important that...”, “A key aspect is...”).
  • In your first draft, leave some space between your notes to allow for additions! Another way to structure your information would be mind-mapping.

Step 3: Evaluation

  • To make sure you’ve understood the text, summarize it briefly.
  • Read the tasks again. Fill in or add the information that is still missing.
  • Mark all the gaps and the things you are not sure about!

Step 4: Scanning

  • In step 4, take down information that is still missing!
  • It is essential to distinguish between the author’s point of view, statements by other people and neutral facts. Watch out for quotes! Highlight phrases that reflect the author’s perspective!
  • Argumentative texts make use of claims, reasons and illustrative examples. Identify these three stages in argumentation!
  • It can be dangerous to use information from outside the text. If you are supposed to present the author’s view on the respective problem, the general context doesn’t matter.
  • Reading out the text aloud can also be helpful to understand difficult passages.
  • Look for connecting phrases – they may help you to work out the overall structure of the text!
  • Check the information you already have! Does it still seem valid and logical?

Step 5: Elaboration

  • Complete the text / exercise.
  • In closed test formats, don’t leave anything unanswered.
  • If it’s about answering question, elaborate on your notes.
  • If necessary, you need to restructure your findings or connect them to other contexts.