Preparing for a reading comprehension exam

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Preparing for a reading comprehension exam

Unread postby livinlavida » 17 Jan 2010, 10:32

Hi Lucy,
I'm a former EFL teacher living in the Netherlands. I have a Bosnian friend who is studying nursing at a Dutch university. As part of the program she must take an exam that consists of reading a medical research article in English and answering comprehension questions in Dutch. Her English is not much higher than beginner and the university offers no preparation for the exam. (Most Dutch students speak English fairly well by the time they reach university, but since my friend grew up in Bosnia she's had little exposure to English.) The exam is in June. She is allowed to have a dictionary with her, but since only 1 1/2 hours are allowed there wouldn't be time for her to look up every word.

My teaching experience was at one of the big Japanese chains that emphasize speaking and listening skills. I don't know how to best prepare a fairly low level student for technical reading in a fairly short period. What is the best strategy to prepare for this exam? Are there any resources available that can help?

Thanks for your advice.


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Re: Preparing for a reading comprehension exam

Unread postby Lucy » 17 Jan 2010, 17:39

Dear Greg,

This is a tough one!

I would say that you should help her to deduce meanings of words from context. It will be an asset to her in the exam if she can guess the meanings of some words so that she doesn’t have to look them all up in her dictionary.

One way to do this is to give her a text where you have blanked out a few individual words. Number each blank and under the text write 3 or 4 possible definitions for the blanked out word. The student reads the text and says which definition is correct. You can start off by making this easy by giving one definition that is obviously correct and the others are red herrings. As she gets used to the exercise, make it more difficult by giving 3 closely related definitions. I haven’t taught FCE for a long time but I seem to remember there being such exercises in the FCE preparation course books.

You should try to get hold of past exam papers and extract the type of vocabulary that occurs frequently. Work a lot on this language until she is fully familiar with it. Also, do practice exercises that are similar to what she will be doing in the exam.


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