Ace O Level English Comprehension – 5 Practical Tips

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O level English comprehension passages are trickier these days. 

Not only are they focussing on vocabulary questions but the questions themselves are worded such that you have to be absolutely precise in your understanding. 

Otherwise, the whole answer for your O level English comprehension ‘goes sideways.’ And we do not want that.

I have 5 practical tips, some of which you may have heard of but there are some new angles that I would like to discuss:

#1 Round One – Speed Read

I refer to it as round one as that is the first step in your O level English comprehension paper.

Why do you need to speed read?

You will need to sift through the passage quickly, only noting the main ideas. 

If you do not generally speed read, try this. Try skimming through the passage while you read. Train your eye to look at the words that pop out. 

These would be mainly the nouns, adjectives etc. These words will ‘tell’ you the story. They are dead giveaways pointing you in the general direction of what you need to know.

Once you have skimmed through it, you will have a good idea about the theme and intention of the O level English comprehension passage. 

And most importantly, you would have done this in a fraction of the time needed. Use the time saved for checking through your paper.

o level english

#2 Underline The Author’s Intentions/ Comments

Read through the passage a second time and this time, underline the author’s intentions. These are actually the emotional responses to what is going on or statements that prejudice the reader. 

For example, the author may be referring to his uneasy childhood while growing up in a busy apartment building in the city. Register the uneasiness as these are the types of questions that will follow.

Emotional responses in an O level English narrative passage are tiny clues that reveal the main ideas. 

Most questions are based on these as examiners want to know if you have picked up on these.

Of course, these are with regard to narrative texts.

#3 Vocabulary Questions Asking For Your Own Words – Change Only Keywords

Have you noticed that most of the O level English questions ask you to answer in your own words? And they are 2-mark questions of course. What this means is that you are going to get a zero if you lift from the passage even though your answer is correct.

Yes. The whole idea is to test your vocabulary knowledge. Is the word vocabulary becoming irritating? I do not blame you. 

By the time you are preparing for your secondary paper, you need to be a vocabulary boss. Gear up to the vocabulary challenge and give it your best karate kick shot! They are mere words, are they not?

If you follow my little trick, you will do well. First of all, do Not change every word in the sentence. That is not necessary unless you really want to. Just focus on the keywords. Change only those.

Ok, what happens when you do not know a substitute word for the keywords?

Alright, then shift the sentence formation. Place the beginning part at the end and transform the sentence. You have done transformation and synthesis, have you not? Use those techniques.

By the time you answer with these changes, the entire O level English sentence will look different and it will not look ‘lifted.’

#4 Answer Inference Questions By Looking For Hints

All inference questions expect you to make an educated guess. For some of those questions, the answer may be hinted at broadly and for others, the answer may be only very slightly hinted at. 

For others, you simply have to pick up on the actions of the characters and make your own deductions. These are the ones you need to look out for.

Once again, (ahem!) your vocabulary strength will help you. 

Certain actions and gestures may reveal what the character is thinking. This may apply even in the information texts. Your best shot at managing these O level English comprehension questions is to practise them as much as possible. 

Just do the inference questions and check your answers. The other way is to expand your vocabulary bank.

#5 For 2-Mark Questions, Ensure You Have 2 Sentences Or Longer Answers

Most students simply ignore the mark weightage for the questions but these are clues to help you win!

A one-mark question may require a shorter answer but a two-mark question means you will need to mention your answer as well as explain if that is mentioned in the text. 

Never attempt to do this with a short sentence. It won’t work. Elaborate your answer by giving your view and always explain it properly. Do not skip this step.

Most students do badly as they skip this step and the 2-mark questions have a very skimpy answer.

The tips should give you a refreshing head start to your O level English comprehension paper. 

They are smart tricks and with enough practice, they will help you to Ace your paper!

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