English Comprehension

English comprehension is a crucial part of developing your child’s understanding and application of the language. However, did you know that the primary English comprehension syllabus is vastly different from the secondary syllabus?

Here are some which you should take note of in order to best benefit your child’s learning.

At A Glance: Key Differences in English Comprehension Content

At the primary level, English comprehension tends to be more digestible. In most English enrichment classes for primary school children, comprehension passages veer into the more whimsical, wacky and sometimes unrealistic world of storytelling.

In secondary school, students are already expected to have a firm grasp of the basics of the English language. As a result, secondary English comprehension exercises tend to test students on questions which require the use of active reading skills, annotations and close reading to unpack literary devices, exploring linguistics and inference skills. Some might say that English and Literature in secondary school are very closely linked together.

Despite having to analyse the technicalities of the English language, lower secondary English comprehension exercises still expose students to light-hearted and sometimes humorous issues which are relatable and easily understandable. Such passages create a sense of familiarity for lower secondary students who are just beginning their journey in secondary English. This is a way of easing the educational transition from Primary Six to Secondary school, which can be daunting for some students.

Types of Primary English Comprehension Exercises

Primary English Comprehension tuition is crafted such that students are able to apply their understanding of both visual and written passages through a series of long-form and short-form questions.

Here are some examples at a quick glance:

  • Comprehension Cloze

Comprehension Cloze tests students on their ability to apply grammar rules such as preposition, connectors, adverbs, tenses, gerund and subject-verb agreement. In addition to that, students are also expected to apply vocabulary rules such as collocation, phrasal verbs and idioms.

  • Visual Text Comprehension

Visual Text Comprehension tests students on their logic and understanding of content written in a visual sense. This section usually shows information via a picture or an advertisement of an event or festivity which is relatable to the students. They are then required to answer a few multiple-choice questions consisting of several types such as True/False, scenario-based questions and information extraction questions.

  • Comprehension Open-Ended

Comprehension Open-Ended tests students on their ability to extract specific information from large chunks of text. Comprehension questions may also require students to give a statement and support it with relevant evidence from the passage. It is important to note that open-ended comprehension is a test of understanding and not a test of memory.

Skills Needed for Primary English Comprehension Exercises

Despite differences in the marking scheme and question types in each comprehension activity, students should follow these skills which are crucial in acing each comprehension section:

  • Reading Carefully

By tapping into prior knowledge and identifying the 5W1H of the passage or content, students are only then able to fully immerse themselves in the story and make stronger links when piecing their answers together.

Students should also take note of difficult phrases and words, as well as jargon which may be specific to the topic of the comprehension passage.

  • Summarising Key Points

Drawing a quick plot plan and highlighting the key events of each paragraph helps students to identify the main events of the story. For Visual Text comprehension exercises, it is common for students to use the 5W1H to summarise their key points before finding the areas for elaboration.

  • Do Not Lift Chunks of Text

If a question refers to “it” or a word or phrase which can be found in a section of the passage, students should refer to what happened in the passage before “it” or the word or phrase the question is referring to. When answering the question, students should avoid copying a whole chunk of text from the passage. The challenge for such questions is condensing the information into a sentence without changing its meaning.

Types of Secondary English Comprehension Exercises

There are various question-types in the Secondary English Comprehension section. Here the most common question types (and the respective skills needed to answer such questions) which are very likely to be asked in the English examination:

  • Content Question

Usually known as one of the simplest question types, content questions typically use words like “what”, “identify”, “why” and “explain”. It usually requires students to extract the information from the passage and reword the language into their own words.

  • Syntax Question

Syntax questions typically use phrases like “what does XXX refer to” and require students to identify the relevant evidence based on an interpretation of the referent stated in the question. The best way to approach such questions is through interpretation and identification of grammatical birds and phrases which best represent the referent or demonstrate the conjunctive link in the question.

  • Figurative Extract & Explanation Question

The question pattern for such questions looks like this: “Explain how the language…Support your ideas with two/three details”. This is where your understanding of the main events of a story comes in handy!

Approaching such questions requires an understanding and application of the overall scenario explanation. Students should extract only relevant information, rephrase it and explain the evidence using descriptive phrases which present a specific atmosphere or feeling they are trying to convey.

Why Comprehension Is Important

Comprehension exercises enable students to transcend beyond the boundaries of compulsory English education by honing in on their real-world skills like analytical reasoning and appreciation for characters from all walks of life.