Paper 1 Reading

Teaching & Testing Reading

'Reading', in terms of English B assessment, means Paper 1 Texthandling, and this section of the site indeed includes tips and techniques to pass on to your students about how to deal with that paper as efficiently as possible. But exam technique will only really be of much use if the students are already trained in the general skills of reading intelligently and attentively.

In this page, I introduce a map of what we mean by 'reading skills', indicating a sequence by which these should be addressed. Given that in any English B class there is likely to be a mixture of abilities and performance, 'addressed' is intended to convey more 'checked' rather than 'taught' - one checks whether students can handle the various skills, both in terms of overall planning, and in relation to teaching each individual text.

The argument is that competence in reading intelligently and attentively can be envisaged as layers of sophistication: from Basic (generalised understanding of content), through Key (detailed understanding of content), to Literary (critical understanding of form). The truly competent reader can handle all of these layers - Basic + Key + Literary.

The overall pattern

The map provided in diagramatic form, below, suggests that we ensure that students can grasp the Basic elements of a text, move on to the Key aspects, and ultimately, if appropriate, to the Literary analysis.



Notes & comments

1. Broadly speaking, one progresses from top left to bottom right - understanding that for English B students there is no requirement to reach the 'Assembling / critical commentary' box. But on the other hand - if it helps to develop attentive reading and lucid explanation, why not?

2. The essential skills required for Paper 1 are covered by the boxes under Basic and Key skills. These may be related to the types of task described in the Subject Guide (SL p.30; HL p.39).

3. Note the range of texts suggested at the bottom: 'short simple' means very straightforward handouts ... progressing through handouts that are more complicated, both linguistically and conceptually ... to 'long complex' which is likely to mean works of literature such as novel.


The skills for each category are presented and explained in full on the following pages:-

Basic Reading Skills  -  concerned with overall grasp of what is expressed, with general meaning

Key Reading Skills  - concerned with detailed grasp of what is expressed, with precise meaning

Literary Reading Skills  - concerned with analysis of how meaning is expressed, with technique and style

Descriptions of the types of question used in Paper 1, with examples, can be found here :-

P1 question types

Dedicated practice for specific question types used in Paper 1 can be found by linking to:- 

Practising Paper 1



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