HomeCambridge English: C1 Advanced Exam TipsCambridge English: C1 Advanced Reading Tips

INTRODUCTION

Before we get started, let’s look at what is involved in the reading component of the Cambridge English: Advanced Reading and Use of English paper. The whole paper is 1 hour 30 minutes long, and it is important to be familiar with the format of the reading component so that we know what to expect.

As far as the texts are concerned, Parts 5 and 7 always contain one long continuous text, but Part 6 consists of four short extracts, and Part 8 could contain one long text or a number of short extracts. A variety of text types could be used (e.g. articles or reviews) and they could come from newspapers, magazines, books, websites or non-technical journals. They may be academic in nature but will not be technical or require specialist knowledge. So it is important to familiarise ourselves with texts:

  • of varying lengths
  • taken from a variety of sources

Task types are always the same for each part. So, for example, there will always be multiple-choice questions in Part 5. We will look at the task types in detail when we consider each part of the paper individually.

Also remember that we must write our answers on the separate answer sheet and that the marks are not the same for each question: Parts 5, 6 and 7 are allocated two marks per question, while Part 8 is allocated one mark per question. It is important to know these things because we need to process large quantities of text in a defined time-scale and therefore need practice in planning our time carefully.

EXAM FACTFILE

Part 5 consists of one long text. The text is followed by six multiple-choice questions, each with four options. The questions are presented in the same order as the information in the text.

Part 6 consists of four short texts followed by multiple matching questions. Candidates are required to read across texts to answer the questions.

Part 7 consists of one long gapped text from which paragraphs have been removed and placed in jumbled order, together with an extra paragraph which does not fit into any of the gaps. The task is to decide where the paragraphs go in the text.

Part 8 consists of a set of ten questions, followed by a text or several short texts. Candidates are required to match the questions to the relevant information from the text.

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL READER?

The Reading component of the Reading and Use of English paper assesses the various reading skills that are required to be an effective reader. We will look at these skills as we discuss each part of the Reading section of the paper.

Think about yourselves for a moment. What problems do you have with reading? Look at the comments on the problems with reading. Choose all the comments that apply to you. There are no right or wrong answers.

I often:

  • take a long time to read a text.
  • keep stopping to look up words in a dictionary.
  • find it really difficult to pick out the main ideas.
  • can’t pick out the key facts from a text.
  • don’t read carefully, so I get the wrong meaning.
  • just start reading without thinking about what I know about the topic.
  • can never tell what the writer thinks or feels about something.
  • can’t see the connections between ideas in the text.
  • always start reading a text straightaway instead of looking at the headings and pictures first to help me understand the text.
  • would find it difficult to deal with more than one text at once and contrast the ideas given.

In real life, the skills that we use when we are reading a text depend on the type of text and our purpose for reading it. So, for example, if we were reading a weather forecast to find out what the weather in our region was going to be like tomorrow, we certainly wouldn’t read every word; we would scan the text quickly to find the name of our region, and then look more carefully to see what the forecast was. How we read will depend on what we are reading and why.

In the Reading component of the Cambridge English: Advanced Reading and Use of English paper, a range of text types is used and the purpose for reading is determined by the questions. At C1 level, we are expected to be able to deal with fairly long texts and with a variety of text types. We are also expected to demonstrate a range of reading skills and to be able to choose the most appropriate one for the task.

Let’s look at some of the skills that are needed to be a successful reader. The first skill is predicting the content and structure. This involves looking at the heading and layout of a text and then using our knowledge of the topic and the type of text to guess what it’s going to be about.

Another skill is ‘skimming’. Skimming is reading a text quickly for a general idea of the overall topic. Skimming is an important skill because if we want to get a general idea about something we don’t need to read the text carefully – and we don’t have time in our lives to read everything slowly!

‘Scanning’ is another skill that involves reading a text quickly, but we use this reading skill when we want to locate a particular piece of information in a text. This skill allows us to focus quickly on the information that we need to get from a text.

In contrast to skimming and scanning, ‘intensive reading’ or ‘reading for detail’ is the careful study of a text or part of a text. We read intensively when we need to understand exactly what the writer is saying, or to find out more details.

When reading texts, we sometimes come across words we don’t know. A good reader will be able to ‘deduce the meaning’ of these words by using the context provided by the text and their knowledge of the world to try and guess what the word means.

It’s also important to understand the opinions and attitude of the writer, even when these are not directly stated. This is an important reading skill because writers will often not say directly what they are thinking or feeling.

Another skill is recognising text structure and cohesion. This is the ability to understand how texts are constructed and how ideas are linked together. It involves recognising the use of discourse markers and how they act as signposts to lead us through the texts.

The final skill is intertextual reading, or ‘reading across texts’. This is the ability to relate multiple texts to each other. Research indicates that this is a key skill in academic reading, as students are required to read multiple sources and compare, contrast and synthesise analyses and views in those different sources.

In order to focus your learning, it is useful to think about your weaknesses and identify which skills you need to work on to improve your reading. Match the problems (A-H) and the reading skills (1-8) the learners need to develop.

  1. I can’t see the connections between ideas in the text.
  2. I’m unable to pick out the key facts from a text.
  3. I can’t compare ideas and opinions from different texts.
  4. I don’t read very carefully.
  5. I don’t look at headings before reading.
  6. I stop to look up words in a dictionary.
  7. I can’t pick out main ideas quickly.
  8. I can’t tell what the writer thinks about something.
  1. reading across texts
  2. understanding opinion and attitude
  3. intensive reading
  4. skimming
  5. predicting
  6. recognising text structure and cohesion
  7. scanning
  8. deducing meanings of words

[spoiler title=’KEY’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]1C 2H 3D 4G 5E 6A 7F[/spoiler]

Now match the learners’ problems and the teacher’s advice.

  1. I spend too long reading each text and then run out of time.
  2. I panic when I come across unfamiliar vocabulary in the texts.
  3. I get confused by all the different types of texts and tasks.
  4. I don’t make guesses because I worry about losing marks for wrong answers.
  5. I don’t know whether I should be skimming, scanning or reading intensively.
  1. Make sure you are familiar with the format of the Reading paper.
  2. Think about which skills are being tested.
  3. Set time limits to increase your reading speed.
  4. Practise guessing unknown words.
  5. Make sure that you answer every question.

[spoiler title=’KEY’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]1C 2D 3A 4E 5B[/spoiler]

So, as well as developing a range of reading skills, it’s also important to prepare specifically for this test by:

  • familiarising ourselves with the format of the Reading paper
  • doing plenty of practice of working within time limits
  • dealing with the different text and task types we will encounter
  • ensuring we record our answers efficiently

As we go through the notes, we’ll look in more detail at ways in which we can deal with some of these issues.

References
Acknowledgements

All authors must admit to a dependence on the work of others. We are no exception. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the publications and reference sources that we have consulted and adapted for educational purposes. It would also have been quite impossible to have produced the material on this website without adapting a variety of authentic resources that we have regularly referred to. While every effort has been made, it has not always been possible to identify and cite the sources of all the material used or to trace all copyright holders. We will be happy to omit any contents or include any appropriate acknowledgements when they are brought to our notice.

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