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  1. Newbie
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      • Italy
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    #1

    How can I improve my reading skills?

    Hello everyone,

    My name is Vanda and I am an Italian student. I took the CPE exam and failed it for a few points, once again, my weakest point was the reading task. Surprisingly, I enjoy reading in my leisure time! I always do it in English, but for some reason, the reading task ALWAYS seems to be incredibly difficult and made me fail not only the CPE exam, but the CAE exam as well, which I retook last year and eventually passed.

    The funny thing about that is that my speaking and writing skills are always exceptional. I have also realised through the years that I have got a very good "audible memory" and that I learn and memorise by listening. What I would like to know is: is there any possibility to improve my reading skills just for the exam? I am planning to retake it in June but too afraid of failing again for the reason that I have explained. I have asked so many teachers, everybody said that I need to carry on reading in order to improve my skills but it actually does not work with me because reading in my leisure time is completely different from reading the ones form the CPE task. For this reason, even though I read, my reading skills do not improve.

    Is there anything I can do to improve? I am also willing to LEARN how to read in a specific and effective way, if there is any, I just want to stop feeling like an idiot...

    I thank you all for your understanding and kindness, looking forward to reading all your opinions and suggestions,

    Ciao da Vanda.
    Last edited by Vandina; 04-Feb-2014 at 12:12. Reason: grammar mistake

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    If it's any consolation to you, back in the days when I taught CPE classes, I used to check the answers to tests in the teacher's book before I went through them with classes, to make sure that I didn't pick the wrong answer. I was not alone. I have sat at a table with experienced native-speaking colleagues trying, not always successfully, to see why the test-setter has decided that one particular option is the only, or best, one.

    I don't know about today's exams but, ten years ago, the reading and listening comprehensions seemed to be almost as much about testing a rather convoluted form of analytical intelligence as much as testing understanding of English. If they haven't changed, then my only suggestion would be to get hold of as many past tests as you can and try to see how the test setters' minds work.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 04-Feb-2014 at 13:20.

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    #3

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    Do as many practice papers as you can and go through the answers with people who are experienced in the exam to see what they're looking for and how they're trying to test you. CPE is a tricky exam and exam skills can have a lot to do with it- especially if you're just a few points short.

  3. Newbie
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    #4

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    Thank you very much for your answer. I have realised that questions are open to interpretations and I do not like that. It is more about reading the test setters' minds than a proper understanding of the English language. What surprises me even more is the fact that I have met students from all over the world who have exceptional reading skills but struggle to communicate well, I actually have the opposite problem... Does that mean that they have got natural abilities for different ways of reading that they use when they approach texts? I am feeling just like an idiot! I will try to develop an analytical intelligence then and work on the tests from a book that I bought on amazon. Anyway today's exams are still extremely difficult and hope that I will find a way to solve this problem and personal weakness.
    Last edited by Vandina; 05-Feb-2014 at 20:18.

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    #5

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    In my experience, what actually makes pleasure reading different from CPE is the level of comprehension and timing. Although the latter seems particularly gruelling during the exam, it can be fairly easily mastered. The required degree of uderstanding is something very different and, ironically, has very little to do with the general command of the language. Consider the following: generally, people enjoy reading not only because they can pace it on their own but, probably more importantly, because they are free to like (and accept, think over) or dislike (reject, miss) certain passages, which will obviously be penalised at the exam. And, there's always a cutural thing - pretty often we have another view on the topic. So, apart from purely linguistic matters, there's some psychological stuff to be aware of.

    If I were to re-take the exam, I could not think of better advice than Tdol has posted above - practice makes perfect and having someone else to discuss the answers will provide the right insight into how to tackle exam reading as such. And, try to relax and enjoy the texts - 99% of them are very informative indeed.

  4. Newbie
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    #6

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    Thank you very much for your post. What you wrote is correct: without even realising it, I tend to reject certain parts of the reading task that I found unnecessary for a student who is trying to prove his knowledge of the English language. I have never known that the CPE was more about analytical intelligence (as the teacher who previously replied to me said) and psycological attitude. I will start all over again and change method. It is amazing how our minds work differently under exam conditions, even thinking of enjoying a reading text was unthinkable before. I just sat and tried to find an acceptable answer for each question, no relax, no pleasure from those texts. I will keep you informed... Grazie mille davvero. Vanda.

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    #7

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    To coin Genghis Khan a bit, if you don't love it - don't do it, if you are doing it - love it. Buona fortuna!

  5. Newbie
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    #8

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    Hello teachers,

    This is Vanda, the Italian student. I previously wrote to you all regarding the CPE exam, which I failed for a few points. I would like your suggestions concerning an excellent CPE book, (the latest version if possible) with CDroms included that I could buy on amazon.com...

    I would like to smash the exam, but I need your help guys!

    Grazie... Vanda.

  6. Newbie
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    #9

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    Hey Vandina,

    I don't know about CPE exam, but I can give you one general tip.

    I took IELTS academic and my requirement to get registered with the medical council was 7.5 bands out of 9. I got 8 in reading out of 9. I was impressed by myself ;)

    There are 3 tasks in the reading module of IELTS with increasing difficulty and you need to divide them cleverly so that you could complete the whole test in one hour time. This is what makes IELTS reading difficult. Each passage is probably more than 2000 words, sometimes 5000!

    In general, while practising, I never used to read the whole passage but only titles and the headings to have an idea about the topic <--- This is important! I would directly jump to the questions which were in order of paragraphs arrangement. i.e., question one would be either from para 1 or 2 but not from say para 10. Later, I would scan through the paragraph to look for the answer but with full understanding of what is going on in the topic <--- Point #2. With practise scanning had become skimming for me in turn no wastage of time. Very small tip, but very effective and can be put to in use probably in any reading test after fine tuning.

    I know I am not of help with respect to your original query, sorry for that, but I just wanted to give you a tip from the 'technical' side of a standard exam. I found that most of the times we manage to overcome the theoretical side of exams but bypass the technical aspect which causes huge disappointment.

  7. Newbie
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    #10

    Re: How can I improve my reading skills?

    Dear Emid,

    Thank you very much for your reply. I will take into account all your techniques and make them mine! The problem with the CPE is the understanding of the texts and timing. Most of the time, as you might have read above, the answers are not always related to the questions in a logical way. So, what an excellent CPE student would do, is trying to get the answers right by "analysing the writers' minds". That is gonna be exceptionally difficult for me... Not only because I had never considered the CPE reading tasks from a psychological point of view, but because I had never tried to like the texts. So I will start all over again, trying to enjoy the texts for the very first time!

    Any suggestions regarding a good and recent version of a CPE book with a CDrom included?

    Thanks AGAIN,

    Vanda.

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