Preparing teenagers for the exam: Reading

Are you going to conduct an exam to assess students’ reading skills improvement? Here are some tips to help your students getting ready for the Reading sections in the tests.

In reading comprehensions students are faced with a lot of text and a time limit. Activities that encourage them to read effectively – to skim and scan and notice keywords – can be fun as well as effective.

Reading games 


  • Copy a page from an English telephone directory or a TV guide (any page that has a lot of information on it).
  • Hand out a copy to each student. 
  • Call out questions like: Where does Mr J.Z. Brown live? What is Mrs K.B. Brown’s telephone number? Whose phone number is 01567 325987? etc.
  • The first student to answer gets a prize or a round of applause.

Students will be really trying to move their eyes efficiently over the page to find the right information. It’s a game, so they won’t be stressed.

Finding keywords and understanding gist:

  • Find 8-12 small newspaper articles.
  • Cut them out and separate the headlines from the articles.
  • Put the articles and headlines on the walls around the classroom. Each one should be numbered.
  • The students move around the class reading them and have to match the articles to the headlines by writing the correct numbers together on a paper.
  • The first student to come to you with the correct matched pairs is the winner.

Students often panic when they find words they do not understand in a reading passage. They should develop skills to deal with this and avoid getting upset during the exam.

Find a suitable passage for reading comprehension and blank out every fifth word (or the right-hand third of the paper – whichever you prefer). Start with an easy version and make them more difficult once students get used to this. Get students to do a usual comprehension exercise (multiple choice or questions) asking them to guess what the missing words might be.  Students could do this in pairs to share their strategies and it will be more of a learning than a testing task.

Picking out keywords and speed reading:

For the Objects Quiz give a time limit of 3-5 minutes. This is good for helping students to read effectively and pick out keywords. After they do the task, go through how they were successful – highlighting the skill of focussing on the keywords that carry the most meaning in a text.  

Also, encourage extensive reading through class libraries or readers. The more students read in English, the easier it will be for them to approach an unknown text in an exam.

Make sure you have enough time to do one of those activities, so students can get used to the procedure of tackling down the reading section in the test. Share your experience after you apply it in your class, Max-E mates!

Source: “Teenagers: Preparing teenagers for the exam: Reading” One Stop English, Macmillan Education Limited 2020,

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