5 Exam Tips For Reading (English as a Second Language 0510/0511)

There are four Reading exercises in the English as a Second Language 0510/0511 Reading and Writing papers - for both Paper 1 (Core) and Paper 2 (Extended). Here, we provide five exam tips to score well in Reading.


Write short answers

You do not have to write full sentences in the reading part. Writing two or three words, sometimes even one, is sufficient to answer these questions. Show the examiner that you understand the passage well and that you are able to provide the right answer.

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 require longer response time.

Remember the units

For questions that ask how much, how many, quantity, price, etc., remember to include the units.

This is a common mistake students make. Not providing units will result in losing 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 sure to spell them out right. All measurement units MUST be included, such as dollar ($), pound (£), euro (€), kilometre (km), hours, litre (ℓ) and so on. You can use either the full spelling or just the symbol.


Finding key words

When reading the questions, look for the key words to find the answers in the passage.

For example, if the question asks ‘Why do some “samba” schools play in their own districts?’, the key words would be ‘samba schools’ and ‘play in their own districts’.

You can quickly underline these key words in the questions and skim the passage for them.


Skimming and scanning

Skimming means quickly going through the passage to look for key words. It is best if you underline key words, or you can enclose them in brackets.

Sometimes the same key word is used in several parts of the passage. In this case, you will have to scan each ‘location’ to find the right answer. Scanning means to do a ‘deeper’ reading to understand the meaning of each use of the key word. In fact, the answers could be in all the ‘locations’ you found. This is especially common for questions that ask 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?’.

‘One in four’ means ¼ , so the answer is 25%.


14 Replies to “5 Exam Tips For Reading (English as a Second Language 0510/0511)”

  1. Hello IGCSE team , i was kindly asking for tips on how to write a summary including on how to find points and putting it in your own words

    • Hello Tiffany,

      The important point in writing a Summary is to not go beyond the word limit. You must always use your own words when writing Summary. The points must be taken from the passage, but change them to your own words. Not all the words could be changed, for example, a chair is a chair, a hand is a hand… etc. You can’t possibly change all the words, just justify them. Lastly, do not write beyond the lines given, to avoid your answers not able to fit into the scanned screen.

      Furthermore, upon checking the Examiner’s Report, it states that the examiners are looking to credit candidates who can convey the relevant content points with some style rather than in the form of a list. As such, it is best to write a cohesive piece of writing, with ideas presented in a logical sequence. You may write your answer in one or two paragraph for summary.

      Kindly read this article for more tips: http://www.igcsecentre.com/how-to-write-a-summary/

      You may want to subscribe to our newsletter where we send out valuable FREE email courses. Learn exam techniques & score A* in your exam!

      You may also 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:
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    • 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/

  2. 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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