FCE - The best way to revise for the Reading paper

The best way to revise for the Reading paper (paper 1) is to read. The more you read the better you become.

Read a variety of kinds of texts - especially different kinds of novels and articles. Don't just stick to Agatha Christie because you'll have a good knowledge of quite old fashioned English and detective vocabulary and maybe not a lot else. Try variety. Don't read classics unless you really like that sort of thing. Modern literature is better as far as exam preparation is concerned - try Hornby, De Bernieres, Haddon or Fforde for example.

As you read, don't study. Maybe just underline things you are not clear on. If the word really makes it impossible to understand what is going on then before you reach for a dictionary try to work it out for yourself. I once read Krzyzacy in Polish and understood the story without any problems. However I didn't get all the words, but I knew what the general idea of the word was e.g. a weapon and that was enough to understand the text. Do come back to it later, though, when you set aside half and hour for studying and not reading English.

If you find some new or more difficult words it's worth making a table like this, putting your new word in the right column and then getting a dictionary to help you fill in the rest of the word family:

This kind of table is really easy to do in Excel - when you finish a page print it off and revise in your free time, in the bus, wherever and whenever you can. This will increase your vocabulary and you are also practising for the word formation exercise in the Use of English paper (Paper 3).

It's also worth creating an extra column for any phrases, idioms or collocations you can learn. Collocations are kind of word partnerships and are tested in the Use of English paper - again you can find some nice examples in the book which I'm sure you have started reading.

But what about studying specifically for the Reading Paper? Well the first thing is to actually practice the tasks in the exam - try to do it with a stopwatch and not spend more than 12 minutes on each part. The reading paper is the 1 paper where many students complain of a lack of time. If you stick to 12 minutes per part then you'll have plenty of time left at the end to complete any parts you hadn't managed to do earlier and also to check your answers.

Practice reading for gist - reading the piece in just 60-90 seconds to get a general idea of what it's about - this will help save you time when you are answering the questions because you will know exactly where to look for your answers - so you don't need to read the whole piece in depth. This is especially necessary during the 1st and 3rd parts of the paper.

Part 1 of the Reading paper is multiple-choice and here are some things to think about when doing this exercise. Firstly read the question carefully and then read it again to make sure that you are actually answering the question and not just choosing an answer which seems to appear in the text. Another tip is to look out for synonyms of words and phrases in the text as well as make sure you know what the referencing words are actually referring to. Try the following exercise where you have to underline the synonyms for the words and phrases below the text:

A clown who fell off a 3 metre platform and broke a bone in his foot has been banned from wearing oversize shoes in his act by health and safety officers. He is apprehensive about the fact his costume won't be so impressive and won't have such an impact on the audience.

Reference words like he, she, the, them, that and others are really useful guides to help us in part 2. This is where we must put missing sentences into the gaps in the text. Try this exercise which illustrates one way to help us make the right choices - understanding how reference words work. In this text you have to draw a line from the underlined reference word to the word it is referring to.

Another interesting story is about an Irish student who fooled the world by making up quotes supposedly said by the recently deceased Maurice Jarre - The French composer of music for films like Dr Zhivago and Dead Poet's Society. He put his own made up quote on Wikipedia on the Maurice Jarre page - twice it was rejected, but the 3rd time it stayed. This was then used by many of the world's newspapers in their obituaries of the composer.

Other important words are linking words - for example 'and' suggests addition of an idea, 'however' suggests contrast. These words can really help us get the answers in part 2. Try to put the linking words in the correct spaces in the text.

_____ ___ the current economic crisis there have been a lot of jobs lost in the City - ie the business part of London. ___ __ ________Gordon Brown is trying to encourage them to change careers ______ become teachers by offering 6 month teacher training courses for the best candidates. ___________ teaching unions are going crazy about this short period of training. _________ it could be a cheeky plan to get these top managers into head teacher positions within 4 years of completing teacher training.

The final part of the Reading Paper is multiple matching where you get 15 questions and you have to match various parts of the text to each question. This is where skim reading comes in really handy - reading the text quickly will help you find where the answers are in no time at all. Because there are 15 questions people often spend too long on this part - don't! 12 minutes maximum.

The last bit of advice is that you must remember that when you are doing the exam you should always be able to justify your answer from the text - you shouldn't need to 'guess'.

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