Number one for English language teachers

Teenagers: Preparing teenagers for the exam: Reading

Type: Reference material

This section contains useful suggestions for preparing teenagers for reading components in the exam.

In reading comprehensions students are faced with a lot of text and a time limit. Activities that encourage them to read effectively – to skim and scan and notice key words - can be fun as well as effective.


Reading games 

Scanning quickly:

  • Copy a page from an English telephone directory or a TV guide (any page that has a lot of information on it).
  • Hand out a copy to each student. 
  • Call out questions like: Where does Mr J.Z. Brown live? What is Mrs K.B. Brown’s telephone number? Whose phone number is 01567 325987? etc.
  • The first student to answer gets a prize or a round of applause.

Students will be really trying to move their eyes efficiently over the page to find the right information. It’s a game, so they won’t be stressed.


Finding key words and understanding gist:

  • Find 8-12 small newspaper articles.
  • Cut them out and separate the headlines from the articles.
  • Put the articles and headlines on the walls around the classroom. Each one should be numbered.
  • The students move around the class reading them and have to match the articles to the headlines by writing the correct numbers together on a paper.
  • The first student to come to you with the correct matched pairs is the winner.

Students often panic when they find words they do not understand in a reading passage. They should develop skills to deal with this and avoid getting upset in the exam.

Find a suitable passage for a reading comprehension and blank out every fifth word (or the right hand third of the paper – whichever you prefer). Start with an easy version and make them more difficult once students get used to this. Get students to do a usual comprehension exercise (multiple choice or questions) asking them to guess what the missing words might be.  Students could do this in pairs, as this way they will share their strategies and it will be more of a learning than a testing task.


Picking out key words and speed reading:

  • Download the Objects Quiz from the related articles section below.

For the Objects Quiz give a time limit of 3-5 minutes. This is good for helping students to read effectively and pick out key words. After they do the task, go through how they were successful – highlighting the skill of focussing on the key words that carry most meaning in a text.  

Also encourage extensive reading through class libraries or readers. The more students read in English, the easier it will be for them to approach an unknown text in an exam.

Other methodology tips for preparing learners for exams

Teenagers: Preparing teenagers for the exam: Grammar and writing

Teenagers: Preparing teenagers for the exam: Listening

Teenagers: Preparing teenagers for the exam: Speaking

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