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A Review on the Comprehension Component

I notice that my upper Secondary and GP students still trickle marks away in the Comprehension component, especially in relation to inferential and 'effects of language' questions.

Such questions are the staple in the IP and IB Language Arts papers; and the O Level students face the equivalent in Section B of Paper 2.

During the June holidays and going into the new term, it is important to remind students of the crucial 'nuts and bolts' to doing better in and even acing the comprehension exams.

The following aspects are key:

1. Be an expert in the various techniques to be applied to the different question types.

For example, the question What does the author mean by "soldiering on"? requires a different approach and answer than What does "soldiering on" suggest about the writer's attitude towards his task? While both require the student to explain the phrase "soldiering on", the second question requires a further inference that is the writer's attitude. 

Accordingly, the student must arm himself with the skill sets and tools taught in our lessons to better tackle each question, thereby maximising the marks.

2. Practice applying the techniques

While theoretical knowledge on how to answer each question type is important, each student needs to practice consistently and accurately applying the respective techniques. Only then will the student be able to answer the questions confidently, accurately and efficiently.

3. Actively learn vocabulary and read extensively

A sound vocabulary bank is crucial to the English Language and Language Arts exam papers. The Comprehension and Summary components require precise explanation and often, precise rewording of content points. There is no short cut to building a word bank--vocabulary has to be learnt and used. This is an active process of review, revision and application of words and phrases that are consistently introduced during the lessons.

Comprehension isn't about instinctive--or worse, blind--reaction to the questions. Comprehension answers must convey the student's understanding ('comprehension') of the text as well as the different questions asked.

Go into the exam armed with an arsenal of relevant and highly effective ammunition and artillery, and you will emerge triumphant!

Ms Geraldine Chew

Director: Creative Campus Learning with Latitude

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