Hi there! ABC English Levels and Valentine welcome you to our new episode of the series on the FCE exam. Today we start talking about the FCE Reading Paper. It’s an introductory lesson from which you’ll learn about types of reading, some necessary techniques on them, which can be useful not only at any exam but just for any kind of reading, and some helpful vocabulary and tips.
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Well, let’s get started!
Types of reading
Many of us were taught reading at home even before going to school. So, if I asked you why we read, you’d probably say just for getting information. And you’d be absolutely right. But there are some specific purposes that we should take into consideration while preparing for an exam: to get the main idea, or the gist, to find particular bits of information, to understand every inch of a passage/article/story/paragraph and, finally, to read for pleasure. You could ask, Oh, is it possible to read for pleasure when preparing for exams like the FCE Reading Paper? And I’d reply, Oh, yes! It is possible! So, for each purpose, there’s a certain technique:
- Skimming, to get the gist and say what a text is about.
- Scanning, to find a particular piece of information like numbers, places, dates, characteristics, etc.
- Intensive Reading, to work with vocabulary and grammar.
- Extensive Reading, to read joyfully what you like.
Let’s put it clear and look closely at each type. I’d start from the last one. Extensive means covering a large area or being in large amounts. Extensive Reading (ER) is the most common thing we do on a daily basis. We choose from a wide range of genres to read something we like and immerse ourselves into the process. How can this be useful for the FCE Reading Paper? I’ll tell you. Reading for pleasure, we get a lot of vocabulary, collocations, or word partnerships, lexical and grammar patterns subconsciously, without searching for them on purpose. That is to say, we learn passively. And when you read something you’re really into, you remember it better. So, you make the ground for work with different texts.
Unlike the previous type, Intensive Reading (IR) isn’t a relaxed process at all. Vice versa, you try to find certain words, expressions or grammatical structures intensively, buzzing through sentences so as to get the linguistic food you need. (To buzz means be busy and full of energy.) For this, you must pay attention to every single word and word combination in a paragraph. Texts for IR are normally quite short.
Your eyes become a scanning machine honed to extract the very necessary parts of information looking carefully through the lines of a story. To hone means to make sth sharper or more effective.
To skim means to move quickly above a surface without touching it. This is exactly what we do when skimming a text: we read it quickly in order to understand the main points without considering any details. After this reading, we usually can convey what a text is about. Convey means to express your ideas in the way others understand you.
Now let’s do some exercises with one and the same text so as to see how different the answers would be depending on the task.
The following article by Martin Eberlen is published by the BBC learning web site that, by the way, I strongly recommend.
Walking off the weekday worries
The city worker swapping nine-to-five stress for mountain micro-adventures
Roland Williams is addicted to micro-adventures.
Almost every other weekend, he escapes the city by driving out to Wales, the Lake District or Scotland, to embark on a solo expedition in the mountains. He takes a one-man tent and enough supplies to last for three days.
It’s something he’s been doing for several years, and he sees it as a way to detox from the city, returning to London fresh and rejuvenated.
Last year, doctors in Shetland began prescribing hiking and mountain walks, among other outdoor activities, as a way of combating health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Since then, NHS England has said it will recruit more workers trained to prescribe exercise groups and art classes.
I wanted to test the idea of using nature to boost wellbeing by escaping to the mountains at the end of a working week. The benefits sounded encouraging.
The full story you can find here
Questions for Skimming Reading
In skimming reading, we should get the gist of a story. So, what is the main idea here, or what is the text about? So, can you answer yourself? My variant would be that the main point of the article is how mountain walks can help combat stress.
This can become clear just from looking at the title and subtitle. I recommend always doing so because it puts you immediately into the topic. You do not need to read the whole text! Looking through several lines at the beginning, middle and end of the text is just enough to understand the main idea even better and pick up some details along the way. Pick up means get to know, or learn sth in a natural way.
Questions for Scanning Reading
For scanning reading, the questions would be different. For instance:
- What equipment does Roland Williams take with him?
- What are the health problems mentioned in the article?
Here you should concentrate on keywords of the questions and try to find them or their synonyms through the text. In our questions, the keywords are equipment in the 1st and health problems mentioned in the 2nd.
So, what are your answers? Mine would be as following:
- Roland Williams takes a one-man tent. (I wouldn’t include ‘enough supplies’ in the answer because the word ‘supplies’ implies food and other necessary things for a living. Equipment is quite technical, like tools, instruments, etc.)
- The health problems mentioned are stress, anxiety and depression.
Do you have the same answers?
Questions for Intensive Reading
This is another story. You have to read a whole passage or paragraph attentively to complete a task concerning grammar or vocabulary patterns. Here’s a sample of a question.
In the sentence, Roland Williams is addicted to micro-adventures, is addicted to means
- has the habit of
- is predisposed to
- is hungry for
Choose the most suitable option according to the context.
And this is when you can’t be sure of the meaning without reading all the text.
While reading, pay special attention to any words and phrases related to Roland’s attitude to and the way he does the activity as the question refers exactly to his personal involvement in it. These could be Almost every other weekend …, It’s something he’s been doing for several years.
So, what’s your answer?
Mine is the 1st option, has the habit of.
Well, let’s stop here. You’ve learned the main types of reading, some tips on how to tackle questions related to them and some new words. Hope it was useful. If you like the lesson or have any questions or recommendations, I’ll be glad to hear from you in the comments below.
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Next time I’ll explain the structure of the FCE Reading Paper.
This was ABC English Levels and your Valentine. Good luck!