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Official English exams: reading section

Are you currently searching for or preparing to do any official reading exams in English to become certified? If that is the case, then you have to continue reading today’s article as it will most certainly help you on your journey. Teacher Robin recently did a live class on the subject of official reading exams in English and how to best prepare for them. Check out Teacher Robin’s class before reading on for a more in depth look.

How to prepare for the examination

Before doing any sort of examination, it is vital you do your homework, literally. There is not just one official exam in English for reading but a variety. It goes without saying that before any exam in any official testing centre, you will have to do the following:

  • Find out the format of the exam.
  • Practise with sample test questions.
  • Give yourself enough time to study.

It may seem like common sense but it’s paramount to ensuring that you pass the exam that you choose to do. Check out our podcast on study tips for some additional great ideas.

Depending on the style of English that you would like to be examined against will depends on which official exam you choose to sit. For example:

  • Academic English Language
    IELTS – TOEFL
  • Business English Language
    BULATS – TOEIC
  • General English Language
    FCE First Certificate

Academic English test format

If you would like to get your Academic English reading aptitudes tested, then you should be looking to study towards achieving a TOEFL or IELTS certificate. Let’s have a look first of all at the TOEFL examination breakdown:

  • 60-80 minutes.
  • 3 or 4 passages from academic texts to read.
  • Questions based on the passages.

As we can see, the breakdown of the exam is relatively straightforward with the student being presented with passages and having to answer questions based on them. Now, let’s go over the IELTS breakdown:

  • 60 minutes.
  • Short and long texts.
  • 40 questions – multiple choice, matching information, short-answers etc

Similarly like the TOEFL , with the IELTS, students are also presented with questions based on texts given to them in the exam. IELTS, unlike TOEFL offers a variety of question styles.

Business English test format

If you are not so interested in getting your academic level of English tested but would rather get your business level tested instead, perhaps for job purposes, then this can be done through BULATS and TOEIC. Let’s have a look over the BULATS business English exam breakdown:

  • 60 minutes – part of the listening section.
  • Adaptive test with no fixed number of questions. It includes multiple, gapped sentences and extended reading.
  • Questions based on the text which are approximately 250 words

Bearing that in mind, let’s have a look at the TOEIC Business English test format to see its breakdown and see if there are any differences:

  • 75 minutes.
  • Activities can include incomplete sentences, error recognition, and comprehension.
  • 100 questions based on a range of reading materials

First Certificate test format

If you are learning English for your own personal reasons and your main goal is just to test your general level, then we recommend the First Certificate to check your reading ability. Let’s have a look at how the reading exam is structured:

  • 75 minutes.
  • 7 parts.
  • Types of texts: fiction, newspapers and magazines.
  • Types of questions: multiple choice, open cloze, missing sentences etc.

As you can see from this information, there are a lot of sections from in the First Certificate exam as it is a general exam which means that there are a lot of areas that it tries to cover.

Study tips for all reading exams

Now that you know the breakdown of the reading parts of all the different exams, it’s time to make a choice as to which one you would like to get assessed. Once you have made that choice, it’s time to get as much studying done before exam day arrives to make sure you are prepared as you can be. Here’s a list of some great study tips to adopt in preparation:

  • Practise using sample tests.
  • Practise reading from a wide range of sources: news articles, fiction, biographies, blogs, reviews.
  • Write summaries as well as keeping a word list of vocabulary, phrasal verbs, and idioms.

Now that you’re clear about what kind of preparation you have to do before the exam, it’s also important to know what you should try and do during the exam. Let’s have a look:

  • Read and answer the questions carefully ensuring you don’t deviate.
  • Don’t panic if you don’t understand every word in the text.
  • Make sure you check your spelling and proofread your answers.

Making sure you follow these simple steps throughout your preparation and exam process will ensure you get the best grade you can.

Types of questions

Like we mentioned previously, familiarising yourself with your chosen exam and the questions that could appear are paramount to your success when it comes to exam time. Let’s have a look at an example of a multiple choice question:

  • According to the text, social networks _____________________________ .

    – are being used by businesses for marketing.
    – are about friendships.
    – can damage business reputations.
    – advertise on business websites.

Now, let’s have a look at what a gap filling question may look like:

  • Paul Brown resigned last Monday from his position as __________ executive of the company.

    (A) fine
    (B) chief
    (C) front
    (D) large

As you are able to see, it is as simple as choosing the correct word according to the text. Finally, let’s have a look over a true/false/not given type of question:

  • Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?

    1. The rise and fall of sea levels affect how sea creatures behave.
    2. Most animals are active during the daytime.
    3. A “night person” can still have a healthy circadian rhythm.
    4. Naturally-produced vegetables have more nutritional value.

With this last example question, it is simply a case of comparing the information with that of the text and seeing what matches and what doesn’t to come to a logical conclusion of what is correct and what isn’t.

Are you ready to keep up the exam preparation?

If you are looking to study an official reading exam to earn a certificate proving your level of English reading, remember that you do not have to do it alone. By signing up to the ABA English course for free, you will get access to 144 short films which will allows you to stay on top of your English grammar. Don’t wait any longer and start your journey towards an official exam today with the help of ABA English.

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