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Are you working towards an important exam? We're here to help with a series of videos that pick out some top tips for studying and taking exams.

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Exam skills: 6 tips to help you with reading exams

Time isn't always on your side!

Reading English is often OK if you’ve got plenty of time to do it, but in a reading exam, it can seem as if time isn’t on your side! Watch this video to see our six top tips to help you with your reading exam - then afterwards test your understanding in our quiz. [Images: Getty Images]

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Reading English is often OK if you’ve got plenty of time to do it, but in a reading exam, it can seem as if time isn’t on your side! Here's examiner Mark Shea…

Mark Shea, Examiner
The way most reading exams work is that you have a lot of reading to do and very little time to do it. Time is more important perhaps in reading than in any other paper.

So there's no time to waste in a reading exam but hopefully our top tips will not make your next exam feel like a sprint!  

The first thing to do is to familiarise yourself with the structure of the exam. Remember to do plenty of reading practice tests – preferably in timed conditions. And get feedback either from your teacher or by checking your answers with answer keys where possible.

When you do the real exam, begin by reading the instructions carefully so you know exactly what you're required to do. One suggestion is to start with the reading section that you found easiest in the practice test - then you'll have time to focus on the sections you find most difficult. Other people suggest the opposite. You choose which way works for you. Just don't spend too much time on any one section – the clock is ticking! This is how one student approaches a reading exam…

When the paper come, I read first the questions. I try to read the whole thing and try to construct how I answer those questions.

So it’s a good idea to read the questions before you read the texts, so you know what to look for. You could skim to find the main idea of a section of text or scan to find specific details such as key words, details, phrases or synonyms from the questions. Attempt to answer all the questions as long as there is no penalty for an incorrect answer. And make sure you leave some time at the end to check your answers.

Good luck!


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Here's a summary of our tips to help you with your reading exams:

1: Try out practice exams

2: Get feedback and act on it

3: Read the instructions carefully

4: Read the questions before the text

5: Answer all the questions

6: Leave time to check your work

To do

So what did you discover? Find out by taking our test…

How can you be prepared for your reading exams?

4 Questions

Answer these 4 questions

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There's more information about skimming and scanning text on the this Skillswise BBC website.

This Bitesize BBC website has some more tips on reading exams.

Have you got any tips about learning strategies and exam preparation that you can share with us? Please email them to us at with 'Exam Skills' in the subject line. We will post our favourites here and on our Facebook page. Please note that we can’t reply to individual emails, but we do read all of them.

End of Session 1

Join us in Session 2 for News Review. Neil and Dan look at an entertainment related story from Hollywood and show you how to use its key words and phrases in your everyday English.

Session Vocabulary

  • key
    a list of answers to the questions in a test or in a book

    get to know well

    (here) read something quickly and not in detail

    (here) read something quickly, in order to get a general idea of its meaning or to find particular information