It's no secret that reading is a crucial life skill. Indeed, the IGCSE English Language reading paper constitutes half of a student's overall grade in the subject. However, the sheer amount of content that students are required to know for the Literature side of the course means that the skill of reading can often fall by the wayside when it comes to revision. However, there are a few clear and simple strategies that students of all abilities can take to improve their reading in English Language.
What does the IGCSE English Language exam look like?
In the "new style" English Language reading paper, candidates answer three compulsory questions on three texts which usually share a similar topic. Text A and Text B are 700-750 words in length and Text C is closer to 500-650 words in length. Students are recommended approximately 15 minutes to read each text. The questions that follow assess students on their skills in comprehension, summarising and inference.
Recapping is a skill within itself and something students who are less confident in the subject should be encouraged to practise. When going over past papers during revision (or in revision lessons), it is useful to write short summaries of the various extracts that are given. It may sound obvious but having a clear, concise recap in front of you can make more challenging skills like inference and language analysis far easier. Highlighter pens are always useful for picking out the most important points, while visual learners might represent key ideas through pictures. There is no reason why you can't do this on the exam paper on the day.
Often students are confused as to how to revise reading skills. The fact of the matter is that it comes down to practice - which will inevitably involve going through past papers and getting a feel for the extracts and questions that are given. To add more variety to revision, students may focus on different skills when reading - perhaps focusing on how language techniques are used within a particular extract, or the significance of narrative viewpoints.
It's a statement heard by English teachers at countless parents' evenings around the world - "[my child] used to read loads in primary school, then they just stopped." The fact is there are an overwhelming multitude of distractions for today's students and often reading for pleasure comes in pretty low on the priority list. In any case, students should use revision time assigned for English to dip into different non-fiction texts. These could be opinion pieces from broadsheet newspapers or even personal writing such as autobiographical extracts from people the student admires. Students should be encouraged to be critical - what is the writer's purpose? What is the audience of the piece?
Ultimately, students should spend their English Language revision time going through past papers in a structured and focused manner, ensuring they are comfortable with recapping what they have read. Time should also be spent on wider reading so that the student is ready to tackle whatever extract appears on the exam. Good luck!