Tips on the Comprehension Component

In the recent examination, our teachers found that students have problems sourcing for answers in the Comprehension Open-Ended component. Students tend to make the following mistakes:

* They cannot identify the correct source in the passage for an accurate answer;
* They give incomplete answers; or
* They do not answer the question required.

In the Comprehension Open-Ended component, practice is key. Students must show that they ‘comprehend’, and therefore, understand the passage and the expectation of each question.

The following aspects are suggestions to improving Comprehension:

  • Understanding the question-- This can only be achieved by reading and understanding the passage well -- at least twice -- before sourcing for the answer. 
  • Checking the mark allocation-- Marks are an indicator of the length of the expected answer. For instance, if it is only a one mark question, then the answer is short and that there is probably only one point to source for.
  • Realising the importance of clues/sourcing-- In the months leading up to the next exams, students should attempt more timed trials to practice time management. In addition, post-paper analysis, do go through specimen papers. By practising the right sourcing techniques, students can discern the patterns and fine tune their answers accordingly. The importance of proper sourcing techniques should not be underestimated. 

Tips on Composition Writing and the Oral Component

After poring through the examination papers, our teachers have noticed the following problems students face:

1. During Essay Writing and Oral Practices, many students have memorised certain key vocabulary words and phrases, and try to force-fit these words and phrases. Sometimes, this can come off awkwardly. (e.g. John was over the moon to be punctual for school).

2. During Essay Writing, students conclusions tend to be cliched (e.g. I learnt that honesty is the best policy.)

3. During Oral-picture practices, while the students would give short and direct responses, they were unable to elaborate or think wider than the teacher’s initial question or prompts.

The following are suggestions to improving essays and orals:

  • Brainstorming-- Prior to Essay Writing, going through key vocabulary words and phrases that the students think they will use or is important. This helps everyone to learn new vocabulary and how to use them effectively.
  • Planning-- Students can improve their conclusions by planning more natural or meaningful conclusions (e.g. “…and receiving the bicycle it was one of my best birthday present!” vs “…I learned the importance of cycling safely and considerately”). At Creative Campus, we construct essay conclusions as a class by experimenting and penning down various ideas prior to writing the essay.
  • Structured Responses-- For Orals, our teachers set aside a certain structure students should use to answer for every question. E.g. Direct answer (Yes / No / I’ve visited this before / I’m interested in this / etc) + Reason + Example + Lesson learnt or other thoughts (if any). Excelling in orals takes time, but students can take baby steps to learn and adapt.

The new PSLE syllabus has a stringent rubric. By applying the essential skills and techniques, students can break that 35-mark barrier in essay writing, thereby having the added advantage of clinching that AL1 in the English paper.

Here are more exam tips from our specialist teachers

Primary Elite - Cloze Passages

Primary Elite - Comprehension

A Review on the Cloze Passage Component

In the recent examination, our teachers found that the students fail to realise the importance of clues in the Comprehension Cloze component. They either did not source for clues, or when they did, failed to identify the accurate sources.

In the Comprehension Cloze component, the words tested are often those that students are expected to know; and can be traced in the content and context provided in the passage.

The following aspects are key:

Understanding the passage

Read the passage more than once. This will help the student to be more mindful of the context of the passage.

Filling in the blanks

Actively use sourcing techniques to nail down the most suitable word to use. For example, use the process of elimination for tricky questions. Do read the passage again after the blanks are filled in to check.

Read widely

Most Comprehension Cloze passages touch on general topics and so, students should be aware of the vocabulary specific to these topics. Since there is no shortcut to reading, do start early, and the mid or year end break is a good time to consolidate vocabulary.

In the months leading up to the next exams, have more time trials, and post-paper analysis. Revise the pointers on exam techniques and look out for patterns in the type of answers that are usually expected in the exams. Good luck!

Ms Germaine Lee

Senior Teacher: Creative Campus Learning with Latitude

Mrs Elizabeth Yeo

Director: Creative Campus Learning with Latitude

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