English Language – Examination Hints: Paper Testing and Comprehension

Examination Hints:

  1. Paper Testing
  2. Comprehension

A. What is Paper Testing?

Essay writing is ‘a test of the candidates’ ability to communicate in English through the medium of writing.

Apart from AMPS (Audience, Medium, Purpose and Style), you will need to pay attention to the following:

1. Content: the ideas, the points, the details that you need to include in your essay

2. Expression: the words you use to express these points

3. Mechanical Accuracy: this refers to grammar, spelling and punctuation

4. Organisation: the way you organise your information in paragraphs

The common complaints by chief examiners include the following:

  • Some candidates write their answers in one long paragraph – there is no attempt to arrange the information in paragraphs at all
  • Some candidates attempt to include paragraphs but on a random basis, there is no understanding that each paragraph should be on a certain topic to which all sentences are related
  • Some candidates write every sentence as a paragraph: one-sentence paragraphs should almost always be avoided.

How to do the Examination

1. Go into the exam hall with a good eraser, a pencil, and a ball-point pen. You will need the pencil and eraser for rough work.

2. You have to choose one topic out of a choice of six. Make an informed choice, taking into account your own special interests. For example, if you like letter writing, look at the letter writing topic carefully. Make sure that you understand the situation and that you can relate to the audience.

3. Once you have chosen your topic, make a plan.

  • Brainstorm: read, understand and think ‘Mind maps’ or ‘spider diagrams’ may help you to ‘bounce a few ideas around’ inside your head, before you start  to plan in a more orderly fashion
  • Plan each paragraph
  • If you have time, write out your short version in pencil. If not, draft the the important paragraphs, especially the introduction and conclusion
  • Write out a neat fair copy, re-read it carefully, correcting any mistakes and cross out the rough draft.
  • Try to leave 5 minutes at the end for a careful check. Remember that you have only this one essay to show your writing ability.

B. Comprehension

Comprehension takes up the first of the two sections of Part B of Paper 1 and accounts for 15% of the total examination mark. Candidates are advised to spend about 45minutes on the section as a whole, or 20-25 minutes on each passage and its questions.

The syllabus states that the questions will test the candidate’s ability to:

  1. find equivalents for selected words and phrases
  2. show understanding of the factual content
  3. draw conclusions from the language used
  4. show understanding of the emotions or attitudes expressed (either those of the writer or of persons being reported by the writer)
  5. identify and name grammatical functions of words, phrases and clauses as used in the passage
  6. re-form sentences or parts of sentences so that they have the same meaning but a different grammatical structure
  7. identify and understand the figurative use of language

If you have followed this course from the beginning, you ought to by now have developed a high standard of comprehension skills relevant to your examination. The reading plan of comprehension and summary passages is as follows:

  1. Survey the passage
  2. Quickly read the passage
  3. Look at the questions and keep them in mind as you come to stage 4
  4. Slowly read the passage
  5. Answer the questions
  6. Re-read and if necessary correct your answers. (Re-reading anything you write nearly always helps you to improve it)

Here are a few hints about answering comprehension questions

  1. Answer the questions as briefly and as clearly as you can
  2. As far as possible, use your own words
  3. Write your answers in complete sentences unless the question clearly tells you to do otherwise
  4. Your understanding of the meaning of individual words and phrases is likely to be tested in two ways
    a. You may be required to replace the word or phrase with a word or phrase of the same meaning (otherwise known as synonym)
    b. Alternatively, you may be asked to explain the word or phrase as used in the passage.

Type a expects you to give a short simple answer while Type expects you to explain.

e.g. If you are asked to replace a word ‘strolling’, your answer would be ‘walking slowly’- Type a

but for type b, if you are asked to explain strolling, your answer would be ‘walk slowly or casually’ probably Yusuf was relaxing or wasn’t in a hurry.

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