Tag Archives: capital letters

Hints and Tips

Here are a few articles to show how to tackle common problems in English, Maths, French, Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning and photography.

General

Hints and tips

 

 

 

 

 

How do I know if my child will get a place?
This is the question I get asked the most as a tutor. And even if parents don’t ask it directly, I know that it’s always lurking in the background somewhere…! more

English

 

 

 

 

 

Why I hate the Press!
I know why they do it (most of the time), but it’s still incredibly annoying and confusing. I’m talking about grammatical mistakes in the papers. more

 

 

 

 

 

Americanisms
In the words of Winston Churchill (or George Bernard Shaw or James Whistler or Oscar Wilde), Britain and America are “two nations divided by a single language”. Quite a few of my pupils live outside the United Kingdom and/or go to foreign schools but are applying to English schools at 11+ or 13+ level. One of the problems they face is the use of Americanisms. more

 

 

 

 

 

Colons and semicolons
Using colons and semicolons is often an easy way to get a tick in your homework, but it still involves taking a bit of a risk. If you get it right, you get the tick, but if you get it wrong, you’ll get a cross. This article will explain how to use both colons and semicolons so that you can be confident of getting far more ticks than crosses! more

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explaining humour
The ‘W’ words are useful if you’re trying to understand or summarise a story, but who, whom, who’s and whose tend to cause problems. Here’s a quick guide to what they all mean and how they can be used. more

Who-or-whom

Who or whom, who’s or whose?
The ‘W’ words are useful if you’re trying to understand or summarise a story, but whowhomwho’s and whose tend to cause problems. Here’s a quick guide to what they all mean and how they can be used. more

Could vs might

Could or might?
Could and might mean different things, but a lot of people use them both to mean the same thing. Here’s a quick guide to avoid any confusion. more

Homophones

Homophones
Homophones are words that sound the same even though they’re spelt differently and mean different things. Getting them right can be tricky, but it’s worth it in the end. more

Creating off-the-shelf characters
Common entrance exams have a time limit. If they didn’t, they’d be a lot easier! If you want to save time and improve your story, one thing you can do is to prepare three ‘off-the-shelf’ characters that you can choose from. more

Books
Children’s reading list
I’m often asked by parents what books their children should be reading. Here’s a list of my favourite books when I was a boy. Maybe a few of them might be worth ordering online…! more

John McEnroe
Describing feelings
In many 11+ and 13+ exams, you have to talk about feelings. Yes, I know that’s hard for most boys that age, but I thought it might help if I wrote down a list of adjectives that describe our emotions. Here we go… more

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How to write a letter
Writing a letter is not as easy as it might seem – especially if you have to do it during a Common Entrance exam! In this post, I’d like to explain the typical format of formal and casual letters and the decisions on wording that you’ll have to make… more

Grand Central
Descriptive writing
Exams at 11+ and 13+ level always let you tell a story in the writing section, but they sometimes provide a picture and simply ask you to describe it or to ‘write about it in any way you like’. Writing a description is obviously different from writing a story, so it’s worthwhile pointing out the differences and the similarities… more

SVO
What is a full sentence?
Teachers often tell pupils to use a ‘full sentence’ in their answers, but what is a full sentence? more

Apostrophe
It’s all about the apostrophe
The apostrophe is tricky. It means different things at different times. This article is meant to clear up any confusion and help you use apostrophes, which might mean you get straight As in your exams – or should that be A’s?! more

Keep calm and check your spelling
Spelling rules
The problem with the English is that we’ve invaded (and been invaded by) so many countries that our language has ended up with a mish-mash of spelling rules… more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parts of speech
English exams often ask questions about the ‘parts of speech’. This is just a fancy term for all the different kinds of words, but they’re worth knowing just in case. Just watch out for words such as ‘jump’, which can be more than one part of speech! more

Letter N
Capital!
The three main things to check after writing anything are spelling, punctuation and capital letters, so when do you use capitals? more

speech marks
Speech marks
Speech marks, inverted commas, quotation marks, quote marks, quotes, 66 and 99 – does any other punctuation mark have so many names or cause so much confusion…?! more

Essay writing
Essay writing
There comes a point in everyone’s life when you have to undergo the ritual that marks the first, fateful step on the road to becoming an adult. It’s called ‘writing an essay’… more

Commas
Commas
If you had the chance to take a contract out on one punctuation mark, most people would probably choose the comma. Unfortunately, that’s not possible, although modern journalists are doing their best to make it into an optional extra… more

Poetic devices
Poetic devices
It’s important to be able to recognise and analyse poetic devices when studying literature at any level. Dylan Thomas is my favourite poet, and he uses so many that I decided to take most of my examples from his writings… more

Story mountains
Story mountains
Everyone needs a route map, whether it’s Hillary and Tenzing climbing Mount Everest or an English candidate writing a story. One of the ways of planning a story is to create a story mountain, with each stage of the tale labelled on the diagram… more

Remember the iceberg!
Remember the iceberg!
To pass Common Entrance, you have to be a scuba diver. Only a small part of any iceberg is visible above the waves, and only a small part of any answer to a question is visible in the text. To discover the rest, you have to ‘dive in’ deeper and deeper… more

Maths

Working out values from a pie chart

Working out values from a pie chart
This is a typical question from a Dulwich College 11+ Maths paper that asks you to work out various quantities from a pie chart. To answer questions like this, you have to be comfortable working with fractions and know that there are 360 degrees in a circle. more

Reflecting shapes in a mirror line

Reflecting shapes in a mirror line
This is a typical question from a Dulwich College 11+ Maths paper, and it asks you to draw a reflection of the triangle in the mirror line shown on the chart. more

SOHCAHTOA
SOHCAHTOA
SOHCAHTOA (pronounced ‘soccer-toe-uh’) is a useful ‘mnemonic’ to remember the definitions of sines, cosines and tangents. Amazingly, I was never taught this at school, so I just had to look up all the funny numbers in a big book of tables without understanding what they meant! more

Screenshot-2020-05-26-at-20.13.54
Long multiplication
You can use short multiplication if you’re multiplying one number by another that’s in your times tables (up to 12). However, if you want to multiply by a higher number, you need to use long multiplication. more

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How to add, subtract, multiply and divide
The most important things you need to do in Maths are to add, subtract, divide and multiply. If you’re doing an entrance exam, and there’s more than one mark for a question, it generally means that you have to show your working. more

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Long division
Long division is on the syllabus for both 11+ and 13+ exams, so it’s important to know when and how to do it… more

maths trick
Maths trick
Here’s a Maths trick a friend of mine saw on QI. Who knows? It might make addition and subtraction just a little bit more fun! more

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Simultaneous equations
Why do we have simultaneous equations? Well, there are two ways of looking at it… more

Prime factors
Prime factors
Prime factors have nothing to do with Optimus Prime – sadly – but they often crop up in Maths tests and can be used to find the Lowest Common Multiple or Highest Common Factor of two numbers… more

negative-numbers
Negative numbers
Working with negative numbers can be confusing, but a few simple rules can help you add, subtract, multiply and divide successfully… more

maths
Useful terms in Maths
Maths is complicated, but a good first step on the road to understanding it is to get to know the most useful terms. There are lists in the front of the Bond books, but here’s my own contribution. I hope it helps! more

algebra
Algebra
Algebra is supposed to make life easier. By learning a formula or an equation, you can solve any similar type of problem whatever the numbers involved. However, an awful lot of students find it difficult, because letters just don’t seem to ‘mean’ as much as numbers. Here, we’ll try to make life a bit easier… more

Divisibility rules OK
Divisibility rules OK!
Times tables can be tricky, and there’s no substitute for learning them by heart. However, the divisibility rules can at least tell you whether an answer is definitely wrong. I’m a great believer in ‘sanity checking’ your work. Just ask yourself, “Is this crazy?” If it is, you’ll have to do the question again! more

Back-to-school-blackboard-chalk
Tips for the QTS numeracy test
The QTS numeracy and literacy tests are not very popular, but trainee teachers still have to pass them before they can start teaching in the state sector, so I thought I’d try and help out. There is always more than one way of doing a Maths question, but I hope I’ll demonstrate a few useful short cuts and describe when and how they should be used… more

Here be ratios
Ratios
Hundreds of years ago, it was traditional to put dragons on maps in places that were unknown, dangerous or poorly mapped. Ratios are one of those places… more

Fractions, decimals and percentages
Working with fractions
People don’t like fractions. I don’t know why. They’re difficult to begin with, I know, but a few simple rules will help you add, subtract, multiply and divide… more

Number sequences
Number sequences
Number sequences appear in Nature all over the place, from sunflowers to conch shells. They can also crop up either in Maths or Verbal Reasoning, and both are essential parts of 11+ and other school examinations… more

Fractions, decimals and percentages
Fractions, decimals and percentages
Pizzas are very useful, mathematically speaking. However much we hate fractions, we all know what half a pizza looks like, and that’s the point. Numbers don’t have any intrinsic meaning, and we can’t picture them unless they relate to something in the real world, so pizzas are just a useful way of illustrating fractions, decimals and percentages… more

Useful formulas
Useful formulas
What is a problem? A problem = a fact + a judgment. That is a simple formula that tells us something about the way the world works. Maths is full of formulas, and that can intimidate some people if they don’t understand them or can’t remember the right one to use… more

Short cuts
Short cuts
There is always more than one way of solving a Maths problem. That can be confusing, but it can also be an opportunity – if only you can find the right trade-off between speed and accuracy… more

French

French verbs
French regular verbs – present subjunctive tense
The subjunctive in French is generally used in the present tense after expressions such as ‘il faut que’ and certain verbs that also take the word ‘que’ after them. These are generally the ones that express feelings or doubts (eg craindre, vouloir), especially when two parts of a sentence have different subjects, eg ‘I want her to be happy’ becomes ‘Je veux qu’elle soit contente’. Verbs ending in -er or -re have one set of endings, but  -ir verbs have another… more

French verbs
Preceding Direct Objects in French
Forming the perfect (or pluperfect) tense in French is sometimes made harder than necessary by what’s called a Preceding Direct Object (or PDO). The object of a sentence is whatever ‘suffers the action of the verb’, eg the nail in ‘he hit the nail on the head’… more

French verbs
French regular verbs – conditional tense
The conditional tense in French is used to show that someone ‘would do’ or ‘would be doing’ something. All verbs end in -er, -re or -ir, and the endings are different (as shown here in red)… more

French verbs
French regular verbs – future tense
There is only one future tense in French, and it’s used to show that someone ‘will do’ or ‘will be doing’ something. Verbs end in -er, -re or -ir, but the endings are the same… more

French verbs
French regular verbs – past tense
Here are the basic forms of French regular verbs in the past tense, which include the perfect (or passé composé), pluperfect, imperfect and past historic (or passé simple). All verbs end in -er, -re or -ir, and there are different endings for each that are shown here in red… more

French verbs
Common French verbs – present tense
Language changes over time because people are lazy. They’d rather say something that’s easy than something that’s correct. That means the most common words change the most, and the verbs become ‘irregular’. In French, the ten most common verbs are ‘être’, ‘avoir’, ‘pouvoir’, ‘faire’, ‘mettre’, ‘dire’, ‘devoir’, ‘prendre’, ‘donner’ and ‘aller’, and they’re all irregular apart from ‘donner’… more

French verbs
French regular verbs – present tense
Nobody likes French verbs – not even the French! – but I thought I’d start by listing the most basic forms of the regular verbs in the present tense. All French verbs end in -er, -re or -ir, and there are different endings for each that are shown here in red… more

Learning the right words
Learning the right words
One of the frustrations about learning French is that you’re not given the words you really need to know. I studied French up to A-level, but I was sometimes at a complete loss when I went out with my French girlfriend and a few of her friends in Lyon. I was feeling suitably smug about following the whole conversation in French…until everyone started talking about chestnuts! more

Non-verbal Reasoning

Non-verbal Reasoning
Non-verbal reasoning tests are commonly found in Common Entrance exams at 11+ and 13+ level, and they’re designed to test pupils’ logical reasoning skills using series of shapes or patterns. It’s been said that they were intended to be ‘tutor-proof’, but, of course, every kind of test can be made easier through proper preparation and coaching. more

Photography

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African field guide
Find an alphabetical list of the most common animals seen on safari in Africa, including mammals, reptiles and birds. more

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Basics of photography
Learn all about the basic aspects of photography, including types of camera, types of lenses, the Exposure Triangle (shutter speed, aperture and ISO), focus and other settings. more

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Game drives
Read all about the best gear, equipment to take with you on safari, learn the rules of composition and find out the best workflow for editing your wildlife images. more

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How to stand out from the herd
Read this quick guide to improve your wildlife shots by setting up something a little bit different, from slow pans to sunny silhouettes. more

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Introduction to Lightroom
Learn how to import, edit and organise your images in Lightroom, including the main features available in the Library and Develop modules and a summary of keyboard shortcuts. more

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Making money from photography
Find out how to start making money from your photography with this quick and easy guide to entering competitions, putting on exhibitions, selling through stock (and microstock) agencies and more. more

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Rules of composition
Find out the rules of composition to help you get the most out of your photography, including the Rule of Thirds, framing, point of view, symmetry and a whole lot more. more

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Safari pub quiz
Challenge your friends and family on their wildlife knowledge with this fun quiz. more

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Wildlife photography
Learn how to take great wildlife shots by preparing properly, taking the right equipment and getting to know the rules of composition. more

Verbal Reasoning

VRTypeO

Verbal Reasoning
Verbal Reasoning (VR) tests were invented to test pupils’ logic and language skills – although they do sometimes includes questions about numbers. In order to do well in a VR test, the most important thing is to be systematic, to have a plan for what to do if the question is hard. Here is a guide to the different kinds of problems and the best ways to approach them. more

Capital!

I always sign Christmas and birthday cards with a capital ‘N’. It makes me feel like Napoleon…

Letter N

The three main things to check after writing anything are spelling, punctuation and capital letters, so when do you use capitals?

  1. For the important words in titles, either of individuals or pieces of writing, eg Chief Inspector of Schools or This Blog Post is Great!
  2. For proper nouns, eg Peter, Tuesday and Chelsea.
  3. For titles and ‘vocatives’, eg Sir or Mum (but ‘his mum’ not ‘his Mum’ as there are many possible mums)
  4. For abbreviations, eg BBC (although acronyms you can actually pronounce only need one at the start, eg Nato, not NATO).
  5. For the first word in a sentence, eg This is a sentence.
  6. For the first word in direct speech, eg he said, “Hello.”
  7. The word “I”.

Remember the Iceberg!

Remember the iceberg!

What, that tiny thing…?

To pass Common Entrance, you have to remember the iceberg.

Only a small part of any iceberg is visible above the waves, and only a small part of any answer to a question is visible in the text.

To discover the rest, you have to ‘dive in’ deeper like a scuba diver…

There are two main types of English question at 11+ and 13+: reading comprehension and composition.

Most 11+ papers last an hour or an hour and a quarter, and the marks are equally divided between the comprehension and the composition. That means half an hour or so for the comprehension.

The 13+ exam is a little different and may involve two papers, one covering a prose comprehension and the other a poetry comprehension and a story.

Whatever the format, it’s very important to read the instructions on the front cover. They will tell you exactly what you have to do and – crucially – how much time to spend on each section.

When it comes to doing a comprehension, I recommend a five-step process:

  1. Read the passage
  2. Read the questions
  3. Read the passage again
  4. Answer the questions
  5. Check your work.

Read the Passage
(5 mins)

The text is usually taken from a short story, a novel or a poem.

Whatever it is, the most important thing to do is to make sure you understand it and remember the main points.

Don’t just read it as fast as you can to get it over and done with, but take your time and read it as if you were reading aloud.

If you don’t understand something, re-read it and look at the context.

For example, it might say there are dozens of ‘delphiniums’ in the garden.

You might not know what delphiniums are, but it’s pretty obvious they must be plants or flowers!

To make sure you’ve got the main points of the story, it’s a good idea to ask yourself the W questions at the end:

  • Who are the characters?
  • What are they doing?
  • Where is the story set?
  • When is it set?
  • Why are they doing what they’re doing?
  • How are they doing it?

It might help to tell yourself the story – just to make sure everything makes sense.

Read the Questions
(1 min)

Once you’ve read the passage, it’s time to read the questions so that you know what to look out for when you read the passage a second time.

Again, understanding and remembering them are more important than sheer speed.

If it helps, you can ask yourself how many questions you can remember after you’ve read them.

Alternatively, you can underline key words and phrases in the questions to help you focus on what you have to do.

Read the Passage Again
(5 mins)

Reading the text twice is probably a good compromise between speed and memorability.

It also gives you the chance to underline or highlight the answers to any of the questions you happen to find.

Some people suggest only reading the passage once, but that means you wouldn’t know it well enough to answer any questions off the top of your head.

If you can’t do that, you’ll end up having to hunt through the text for the answers, so you’ll have to read most of the passage three or four times anyway!

Answer the Questions
(15-30 mins, depending on the length of the exam)

You’ll probably have around 15 minutes to answer the actual questions.

There are usually 25 marks available, which means around 30 seconds per mark.

The number of marks available for each individual question will tell you how much time you have to do each one, eg two minutes for a four-mark question.

Answering the questions is obviously the most important job, and there are a few things to remember…

Answer Each Question in the Same Way

Try to be consistent in the way you answer the questions, and make sure you do all the things you need to do:
a) Read the question carefully.
b) Read it again (and again!) if you don’t understand it.
c) Check the mark scheme to work out how many points and pieces of evidence you need.
d) Scan the text to find the answer, underlining any words you might need.
e) Write down the answer.
f) Read it through to make sure you’ve actually answered the question correctly and you haven’t made any silly mistakes.

Read the Question Carefully

You’re never going to get the right answer to the wrong question, so make sure you understand exactly what you need to do.

If that means reading the question two or three times, then that’s what you’ll have to do.

Make Sure You Answer the Question

I often see pupils writing down facts that are true but don’t actually answer the question.

For instance, if the question asks how Jack feels after losing his dog, it’s no use saying he cries – that’s not a feeling.

It’s a bit like writing “2 + 2 = 4”. Yes, that may be true, but it’s completely irrelevant!

Use the Mark Scheme as a Guide

Most exam papers will let you know the number of marks for each question, so you should bear that in mind when writing your answers.

There’s no point spending ten minutes on a question that’s only worth one mark, and it would be daft to write only one sentence for a question worth ten marks.

You should also try and work out how many ‘points’ and pieces of ‘evidence’ you’re being asked for:

  • A point is the basic answer to a question, and it might be a fact, a reason or an explanation.
  • A piece of evidence is usually a quotation that backs up whatever point you’re trying to make.

Working out the mark scheme can be a bit tricky as there are three possibilities for the breakdown of marks:

  1. Points only
  2. Evidence only
  3. Points and evidence

You just have to read the question and see what makes the most sense.

Here are a few tips:

  • If the question asks you to ‘refer to the text’ in your answer, that’s code for saying you need evidence.
  • If the question asks you to explain a quotation, that means you’ll just need points because they’ve already given you the evidence. Try making a point for every keyword in the quotation.
  • If there’s an odd number of marks, you probably won’t need to provide a mixture of points and evidence. In that case, you’d end up with a point without any evidence or evidence without any point!

Follow any Instructions to the Letter

All these hints and tips are useful, but they are only general rules.

Occasionally, examiners will let you off the hook and tell you that you don’t need to use full sentences, eg for the meanings of words.

Just be sure to follow what they say.
If you’re told to answer a question ‘in your own words’, that means you can’t use any of the words in the text.

The only exceptions are ‘filler’ words such as ‘the’ and ‘of’ or words that don’t have any obvious alternative, eg ‘football’ or the names of the characters.

You need to show that you understand the passage, and you’ll actually be marked down for using quotations – even though that’s what’s usually needed.

Look in the Text

Even if you read the text twice, you can’t possibly expect to remember the answers to all the questions and all the quotations to back them up!

The answer is always in the text, so don’t be afraid to spend a few seconds going back over it. That way, you can make sure you get the answer right and support it with the right evidence.

Use Full Sentences

Even if a question is as simple as ‘What is Jack’s dog’s name?’, the answer should be ‘His name is Rover’ rather than just ‘Rover’.

The only time you don’t need to use a full sentence is either if it’s the meaning of a word or if the question gives you special permission.

Make Sure any Word Meanings Work in Context

Words have different meanings, so you must check to see whether you have the right meaning and the right part of speech.

For example, ‘bark’ can be a verb meaning to make a sound like a dog or a noun meaning the outside of a tree!

Nouns also vary in number, and verbs vary in tense and person, so it’s easy to lose marks by putting down ‘destroy’ rather than ‘destroys’.

Don’t Use PEE (Point, Evidence, Explanation)

PEE is designed to help you write essays rather than do a comprehension.

At Common Entrance, it’s unlikely a question will ask you for a point, a piece of evidence and an explanation.

That would mean two points and only one piece of evidence, which is unbalanced.

It’s also confusing because it suggests that an ‘explanation’ is somehow different from a ‘point’.

This is not true: points can be explanations as well as facts.

Answer ‘How’ Questions by Talking About Language

Comprehensions often start with a simple one-mark question such as ‘In what country is this passage set?’ This is a ‘what?’ question, a question about content, about facts.

However, there is another kind of question, the ‘how?’ question, which is all about language.

Suppose you’re asked, ‘How does the writer explain how Jack feels after losing his dog?’ What do you have to do?

What you definitely shouldn’t do is just describe how he feels.

The question is not ‘What are Jack’s feelings?’

You’re not being asked for facts but for an analysis of the techniques the author uses.

If it helps, you can keep a mental checklist and look for each technique in the passage:
a) Poetic devices
How has the author used metaphors, similes, personification or sentence structure?
b) Parts of speech
What can you say about the kind of adjectives, verbs or adverbs used in the passage?
c) The Three Ds
Has the writer used Drama, Description or Dialogue to achieve a particular effect?

However difficult the question is, just remember to write about language rather than what happens in the story.

Use the Same Tense as the Question

Most of the time, people use the ‘eternal present’ to talk about works of fiction. Sometimes, though, passages are about historical events, so the past is more appropriate.

For example, if the text comes from The Diary of Anne Frank, it wouldn’t make sense to talk about the Second World War as if it were still going on!

So which tense should you use?

The simple answer is to write in the same tense as the question.

That way, you’ll never go wrong.

Don’t Repeat the Question in Your Answer

In primary school, teachers often tell their pupils to do this to make sure they’ve understood the question.

It’s not wrong and you won’t lose a mark for it, but it just takes too long.

I’ve seen children spend a whole minute carefully copying down most of the question before they’ve even thought about the answer!

If it helps, just start writing from the word after ‘because’, eg Jack was crying because…’His dog had just died.’

Just remember you need to use full sentences, so you can’t start with the word ‘because’ (or another conjunction like ‘so’).

The best way is usually to use a pronoun like ‘he’ or ‘she’ – whatever the question talks about, just turn it into a pronoun and start with that.

Answer All Parts of the Question

Examiners will sometimes try to catch you out by ‘hiding’ two questions in one.

You should be careful with these questions, eg ‘How do you think Jack feels about losing his dog, and how do you think you’d feel if you lost your favourite pet?’

It would be easy to answer the first part of the question and then forget about the rest!

Don’t Waste Time With Words You Don’t Need.

You never have enough time in exams, so it’s pointless trying to pad out your answers by including waffle such as ‘it says in the text that…’ or ‘the author writes that in his opinion…’

Far better to spend the time thinking a bit more about the question and coming up with another quotation or point to make.

Use Quotations

Using quotations is tricky, and there are a lot of things to remember.

  • Make sure you use quotation marks (“…”) or inverted commas (‘…’) for anything you copy from the text.
  • Copy the quotation out accurately.
  • Drop the keywords into a sentence of your own, eg Jack feels ‘devastated’ by the loss of his dog.
  • Quotations are not the same as speech, so the full-stop goes after the quotation marks, not before, eg he felt ‘devastated’. ‘Devastated’ is not a full sentence, so it doesn’t need a full-stop after it. The full-stop belongs to your sentence.
  • Don’t just tag a quotation on the end of an answer, eg Jack is really sad, ‘devastated’.
  • Don’t start with a quotation followed by ‘suggests’ because it won’t make sense, eg ‘Devastated’ suggests Jack is really sad. ‘Devastated’ is not a noun or a pronoun, so it can’t suggest anything!
  • If you really want to use ‘suggests’ or ‘shows’, it’s better to start with ‘The word…’ or ‘The fact…’, eg The word ‘devastated’ suggests Jack’s really sad or The fact Jack is ‘devastated’ suggests he’s really sad.
  • If the quotation is too long, you can always miss words out and use an ellipsis (…), eg Liz went to the supermarket and bought ‘apples…pears and bananas’.
  • If the quotation doesn’t use the right tense, you can always change the verb. Just put the new ending in square brackets, eg Jim ‘love[s] strawberries’ instead of Jim ‘loved strawberries’.

Remember the Iceberg!

As you can see from the picture, the vast majority of an iceberg remains hidden from view.

It’s the same with the answers to questions in a reading comprehension.

Don’t be satisfied by what you can see on the surface – that won’t get you full marks.

Like a scuba diver, you have to dive in deeper to find the rest…!

Check Your work
(5 mins)

If there’s one tip that beats all the rest, it’s ‘Check your work’.

However old you are and whatever the subject, you should never finish a piece of work before checking what you’ve done.

However boring or annoying it is, you’ll always find at least one mistake and therefore at least one way in which you can make things better.

In the case of 11+ or 13+ comprehensions, the most important thing is to test candidates’ understanding of the passage.

However, spelling and grammar is still important.

Schools have different marking policies:

  • Some don’t mark you down for bad grammar (although a lot of mistakes won’t leave a very good impression!)
  • Some use a separate pot of marks for spelling and grammar to add to the overall total
  • Some take marks off for each grammatical mistake – even if you got the answer ‘right’.

Either way, it pays to make sure you’ve done your best to avoid silly mistakes.

If you think you won’t have time to check, make sure you manage your time so that you have a few minutes left at the end.

You’ll probably gain more marks by correcting your work than trying to finish the last question, so it makes sense to keep that time for checking.

If you do that, there are a few simple things to look out for.

Check the Answers are Correct and Complete

This is the most important thing to check, and it takes the longest.

Make sure that each answer is correct (by referring back to the text if necessary) and that each part of the question has been covered.

Quite a few of my students have lost marks by forgetting to look at all the pages, so you should always check you haven’t missed any questions.

Check Spelling

This is the main problem that most Common Entrance candidates face, but there are ways in which you can improve your spelling.

  1. Look out for any obvious mistakes and correct them. It can help to go through each answer backwards a word at a time so that you don’t just see what you expect to see.
  2. Check if a word appears anywhere in the text or in the question. If it does, you can simply copy it out from there.
  3. Choose a simpler word if you’re not quite sure how to spell something. It’s sometimes better not to take the risk.

Check Capital Letters

This should be easy, but candidates often forget about checking capitals in the rush to finish.

Proper nouns, sentences, speech and abbreviations should all start with capital letters.

If you know you often miss out capital letters, you can at least check to make sure all your answers start with a capital.

Check Punctuation

Make sure you’ve put full-stops, commas, quotation marks, apostrophes and question marks in the right places.

Commas give almost everybody problems, but you can at least check there is a full-stop at the end of every sentence.

Check Other Grammar

It’s always useful to check for missing words and to make sure everything makes sense.

Grammar may not be the first thing on your mind when you’re answering the questions. However, you can usually spot most silly mistakes if you read through your answers carefully at the end.

Quiz

If you want to test your knowledge of this article, here are a few questions for you.
You can mark them yourselves!

  1. What are the five steps involved in doing a comprehension? (5 marks)
  2. Name three things you should do when reading the text for the first time. (3 marks)
  3. Why should you read the questions before re-reading the text? (1 mark)
  4. What should you be doing when you read the text for the second time? (1 mark)
  5. What are the six steps to take when answering a question? (6 marks)
  6. What are five hints and tips for answering questions? (5 marks)
  7. What are the two types of things that questions might ask for? (2 marks)
  8. What are the two occasions when you don’t need to answer in a full sentence? (2 marks)
  9. Name five poetic devices. (5 marks)
  10. What five things should you be checking for at the end? (5 marks)

Total: 35 marks