Distil and Instil – How to Ace Your English Language Comprehension Paper
Previously, we covered the tips and tricks on how to ace the situational writing component (click to read) for your child’s PSLE English Language paper. In this article, we will explore another critical part of the PSLE English Language paper – the dreaded Comprehension open-ended questions! The component alone carries 20 marks (which is about 1/3 of the entire score for Paper 2, Booklet B!). It typically consists of a text (e.g. a news or research article) and a set of questions related to the text.
The Comprehension component is a fantastic opportunity for your child to practise their understanding of a specific text, extraction of key details and structuring of these details effectively. We see three main components in acing the Comprehension section – Understanding, Extracting, and Arranging. Each of these components requires a specific technique and exercises your child’s unique skills. By combining all these components effectively, your child can ace the dreaded Comprehension section!
To help you along in guiding your child to succeed, we have set out the 3 components below with an explanation on how to master each component!
#1: Identify the Type of Questions – Understand the Goal
The first step is crucial. Your child should avoid diving into the comprehension text and trying to make sense of it in an unstructured manner. Doing so may lead to confusion at the start and affect your child’s confidence even before he/she reads the questions!
“Fleeting eyes, catching glimpses of portions of the question and, without pause, diving straight into the passage for answers…only to be searching for the wrong details”
As the text type and content may vary, a structure or formula towards the comprehension text is preferred. This can be achieved by having a clear goal in mind when running through the text.
Beyond understanding the text, the reading process is also facilitated by identifying the question types first at the start. One good way to start this process is to run through the various question types in the comprehension task. Some of the key questions that you can highlight would include Personal Response questions, True/False questions or even Short-Answer questions as well. Each type of question would require a different answer type or format. By helping your child to understand these questions types, the reading process will definitely be more targeted.
#2: Read with Purpose – Extract the Key Details
As we highlighted earlier, it is important to run through the comprehension text with a clear awareness of the goal. In the same manner, your child needs to understand how to extract the key details from the text best. Some students may make the mistake of attempting to answer the questions as they run through the text. It is at least crucial to read the text in full first before extracting the answers to the questions. Doing so allows your child to understand and appreciate the main message of the text.
Encourage your child to read purposefully in three steps. First, your child can read the text in its entirety to understand the main points of the text. Highlighting or underlining the main points of paragraphs can be a fruitful exercise here. Second, after reading the questions, your child can do a second reading of the text, this time identifying the key sections relevant to the questions. For example, your child can indicate the question number beside the relevant paragraphs for an easy guide when answering. Third, your child can run through the text one more time, this time focussing on the specific lines that will apply to the questions. By having a consistent structure for the reading process, your child will be better-placed to extract the key details!
Structure is Key – Arrange Your Answers Effectively
Finally, having the answers alone will not be the key to your child’s success for Comprehension. It is equally important to craft the answers carefully and clearly. We believe that there are three aspects to a good answer – Direct, Detailed and Clear. First, the answers should be direct to the point – state the main answer at the outset so that your child fulfils the questions’ objectives. Second, your child needs to elaborate on the answer to give a detailed and well-explained response. Third, beyond directly answering the question, the answers should be phrased precisely. For example, using complicated words or jargon may result in a confusing answer.
Instead, structure the answer using the PEEL method. Start by expressing a direct and clear main Point at the outset. This will be accompanied by your child’s Explanation to set out the reasons for the answer. Ensure that your child remembers to support his/her answer with Evidence, if applicable (e.g. support your answer with information from the passage). For example, the evidence can come in the form of the exact line from the text that can be quoted in the answer. Finally, remember to create an effective Link at the end by emphasising the main point.
Ace that Comprehension Component!
The English Language Comprehension Component is a unique opportunity for your child to practise various techniques in unpacking a specific type of text. These are techniques that will remain relevant even after they complete their PSLE and join the workplace in the future. With the tips above, we hope that your child can gain the confidence to score well for their English Language paper!
Public Speaking Academy strives to help students with both types of communication:
For written communication:
English Tuition for Kids – Primary 5 & 6 (PSLE):
For verbal communication:
Public Speaking Course for Kids / Children: