7 simple tips to scoring well for Primary English Comprehension

To achieve a stellar grade for English Paper 2, mastering the Comprehension open-ended section is a must! However, comprehension writing remains one of the weakest areas that often leave parents fretting and students in cold sweat.

While taking up a whopping 20 out of the 95 marks total, scoring well for this section is not as hard as one might think. All it takes is a few handy tricks, and you're all set for bagging that low-hanging fruit.

Here are 7 simple tips to help your child write answers that knock the Comprehension open-ended section out of the park!

#1 Read the passage carefully

With only 1 hour and 50 minutes for Paper 2, it’s not uncommon for some students to skimp the passage and dive right into the questions. However, by doing so, they miss out on key points which can result in an incomplete understanding of the passage.

To help your child avoid the same mistake, encourage them to read the passage at least twice. After reading, get them to identify and write down the main idea of the passage. Doing so helps to make sense of the text and ensure that they have a complete understanding of the passage.

#2 Determine if it’s a Literal or Inference question

There are two kinds of questions can your child will encounter when taking PSLE English Comprehension Exam: “Inferential” and “Literal” questions.

As the name suggests, inferential questions require your child to search for clues within the passage itself and use them to answer the questions. As the answers are not found in the passage directly, your child has to tap on their logical thinking skills to analyse the passage and come up with the best possible answers.

On the other hand, literal questions are more straightforward as the answers can be found in the passage itself.

#3 Highlight the key points

When it comes to comprehension, understanding both the passage and questions are equally important. While many may think it’s only necessary to highlight the passage, keep in mind that you can’t give the right answer if you don’t first understand the question. Highlighting key points in both passage and questions will save your child from last-minute panics.

#4 Annotate the passage

Annotation is the act of writing a note or comment next to a text. Research has shown that by annotating a passage, students are forced to summarise the text, which deepens their understanding of the passage.

You can help by simply introducing annotation into your child’s study sessions. By fostering a habit of annotation, your child will be less likely to fall into the trap of glossing over the text during examinations.

#5 Use your own words

When answering a question, some students may lift an entire sentence from the passage - head to tail - with unnecessary bits of information in between. While using main points to construct answers is the right way to go, copying word for word is a huge no-no. Here are two simple tricks you can use:

Use synonyms

By simply replacing an adjective or verb with another word or phrase with a similar meaning, your child gets to demonstrate their vocabulary prowess and avoid the label of copycat.

eg. James was angry at her for eating the last cookie.

eg. James was mad at her for eating the last cookie.

This strategy works as long as the replacement word has a similar meaning and does not alter the overall meaning of the sentence.

Rearrange the sentence structure

The next trick is to rearrange the structure of the sentence. Here’s how it can be done:

eg. The hall shook with laughter as the comedian dropped the punch line to his final joke.

eg. As the comedian dropped the punch line to his final joke, the hall shook with laughter.

#6 Use right and clear Pronouns

Pronouns are often used to replace nouns. The noun often refers to the subject (doer) or object (receiver) in a sentence. However, too many pronouns in a single sentence with multiple subjects or objects may confuse the reader. Especially when a noun is not mentioned before the pronoun.

Therefore, be sure to always include a noun before using a pronoun. 

eg. James was angry at Elaine for eating the last cookie. The cookies were his birthday present from Aunt Susan.

#7 Watch the clock

Your child may have all the right answers in mind. But without keeping an eye on the clock, the right answers will not get your child the marks they deserve. Therefore, it’s important that your child gets familiar with the question format and the amount of time they take to complete this segment of the paper.

To help your child get into the habit of keeping time, we recommend timing every practice with a stopwatch. This will help them to have a better grasp of time and allow them to pace themselves.


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