5 Exam Tips For Reading

There are 5 passages (or ‘exercises’ as stated in the exam paper) on the Reading and Writing paper. Here, we would like to provide 5 exam tips to score well in Reading.

Write short answers

You don’t have to write full sentences in the reading part. By writing 2 or 3 words, sometimes even 1, is sufficient to answer the questions. But you have to show the examinar that you understand the passage well, and you are able to provide the right answer straight to the point.

For example, if the question asks: “How often is the carnival held?”, you can answer “once a year” or “annually”.

There is no need to answer, “The carnival is held once a year” or “The carnival is held annually”.

In this way, you save time for questions that need longer time, and writing.

Remember the units

When you are providing short answers for questions that ask: how much, how many, quantity, price, etc., remember to include the units.

It is a common mistakes by students not providing units and loosing marks.

For example, if the question asks: “What is the percentage of drop-out in year 2002?”, you can answer “20 %” or “20 percent” or “twenty percent”.

If you are writing numbers, be careful to spell them right. All measurement units MUST be included, such as: dollar ($), pound (?), Euro (?), kilometer (km), hours, liter (?), and so on. You can use either the full spelling or just the symbol.

Finding key words

When looking at the questions, you can look for the key words in the questions that will lead you to finding answers in the passage.

For example, if the question asks: “Why do some “samba” schools play in their own districts?”. In this case, the key words are: “samba schools”, and “play in own districts”.

You can underline these key words quickly, and head back to the passage to skim on where are these key words located.

Skimming and scanning

After gotten the key words from the questions, you are now able to first skim the text again to find the ‘location’ of the answers. Skimming means just go quickly thru the text to look for the key words. It is best if you could briefly underline, or just make an open-and-close bracket, the key words at the ‘location’ that you have found.

Some time, the same key word is used in several part of the passage. In this case, you will have to scan each ‘location’ to get the right answer. Scanning means do a ‘deeper’ reading to understand the meaning of each ‘location’. In fact, the answers could be in all the ‘locations’ you have found. This is especially common for questions that asked for several facts or points.

Watch for rephrased

Notice that words from the article are often rephrased in the questions. For example, the article states, “… one in four young people has neither a computer nor a mobile phone…”. Whilst the question asks, “What percentage of young people have no computer or mobile phone?”.

The answer would be 25%. As ‘one in four’ means ?, and that is 25%.


12 Replies to “5 Exam Tips For Reading”

    • Hello Malik,

      Narrative composition tips:
      – Decide on a tense and then stick to it; do not jump between present and past. The normal narrative tense is past and those who try to write in the present usually forget to do so after a while, so it is safer to start off in the past.
      – Know what your last sentence is going to be before you write your first. A narrative has to build up to a climax and lead towards a conclusion which is planned before it starts or it will end lamely or incomprehensibly, or the pace will be too slow or too fast.
      – Don’t try to do too much; you can’t cover many events and many years in one short composition. Select key moments and skip over the rest, changing the pace according to the intensity of the moment.
      – If you do use dialogue, find synonyms for ‘he said/she said’
      – Use plenty of interesting details to engage your reader and make them want to read on.
      – End your narrative deliberately. Stories need a conclusion, where things are either resolved or purposely left unresolved as a cliff-hanger (though on the whole readers prefer to know how a story ended). You must not give the impression that you just stopped writing because you ran out of time, ink or ideas.

      You may be interested to purchase our exam model answers. Our model answers will show you what is an A* answer like for the writing questions/exercises:
      http://www.igcsecentre.com/igcse-exam-resources/

  1. Hey, I started my IGCSE Syllabus of Ict this year and I am a bit behind. It would be very lovely if you could assist me.

    • Hello Henyang,

      Practising lots of past papers is the key to success. You can revise the subjects from the beginning. Highlight the important facts that you think could be on the test (you should refer to the latest syllabus on what is expected during exams). You can then use the past exam papers as your revision. Start with the latest papers as they have the newest syllabus format and continue with the older ones date back from 5 to 10 years. Then, revise on the most common mistakes that you always seem to make. Pay attention to the most common mistakes you always seem to make. Make notes and revise them, so you can avoid making the same mistakes in your actual exam.

    • Hi Peter,

      Before you begin writing, decide if you’re going to write about the topic from two sides (for and against) or from just one (your opinion). If you write a two-sided (balanced) piece of writing, remember to include your opinion in the last paragraph. If you want to write only from your own point of view, include it in the first paragraph.

      Furthermore, try to think of your own ideas on the topic which match the task and include them in your writing. For each of the ideas included in your answer, support them with evidence or examples. Note, the examiner knows that the evidence or examples will be made up and doesn’t expect these to be correct.

      Lastly, remember to organise your writing: include an introduction, a middle section and a conclusion.

    • Hello Sadhana,

      Before you begin writing, decide if you?re going to write about the topic from two sides (for
      and against) or from just one (your opinion). If you write a two-sided (balanced) piece of writing, remember to include your opinion in the last paragraph. If you want to write only from your own point of view, include it in the first paragraph.

      Furthermore, try to think of your own ideas on the topic which match the task and include them in your writing. For each of the ideas included in your answer, support them with evidence or examples. Note, the examiner knows that the evidence or examples will be made up and doesn?t expect these to be correct.

      Lastly, remember to organise your writing: include an introduction, a middle section and a
      conclusion.

      You may also be interested in our exam model answers. Many students scored A* by copying the style of the answers. Please check them out here: http://www.igcsecentre.com/igcse-exam-resources/

      Or you may try our “Mark Your Paper” service in order to know how your papers would be marked. For more information, kindly read this post: http://www.igcsecentre.com/mark-your-papers/

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