How to read texts better in AQE Test English comprehension

Would you like to learn how to read poetry and prose texts better for your AQE Test English comprehension?

What is AQE Test English comprehension?

Of course you learned how to read ages ago!

But reading texts in order to answer questions about them is quite different from reading for fun from a book. You need to pay attention to the words much more closely.

The more you read, the easier the mechanics of reading become. That means your brain can focus on the meaning of the text, rather than putting most of the effort into reading the words.

It might seem strange, but it’s a great idea to re-read your favourite books over and over again. This will definitely improve your reading fluency, as the words become easier and your brain can find deeper meaning each time.

(*Contains affiliate links)

General tips for AQE Test English comprehension

A few general tips to try –

  • Read the English comprehension text once, then read the questions, then read the text again.
  • Be aware that you shouldn’t read everything at the same pace – you might need to adjust the speed your read at, depending on how difficult the text is.
  • Look for clues in the title or heading that tell you what the text is about.
  • As you read, try to sense what mood the writer creates. That means is it funny, lighthearted or serious and gloomy?
  • Be aware of any bits in the text that you don’t understand. You could put a question mark on the page beside them.
  • It is totally fine to ‘mark up’ the text – use your pencil and circle the words you don’t understand and so on.
  • When starting to practise comprehensions, it’s really good to do them with a helper. Take turns reading the text, and summarising the story to them.
  • When you’re answering a question, check the text and don’t just rely on your memory to find the right answer.
  • Remember that the answer will always be in the text.

What do you need to improve: accuracy or speed?

Here are two strategies for you to try to improve the accuracy or speed of your reading for English comprehension. Maybe only one of the strategies will suit you – that’s ok. Try both – then you can use the strategy that suits the text best.

With both techniques, you need to make a movie in your head as you read. Make the story come alive by picturing what you’re reading.

Always think in pictures! The more awake your senses are, the easier it will be for you to understand what’s going on. You need to create a little movie in your mind about what’s going on. Try to see the story like watching a film.

Read closely

If you have trouble taking in what the poem or prose is all about, you might need to try reading more closely. That usually means slowing down a little. Use a tracker like your finger or a pencil. Run it under the words as you read them to help you focus. This can help stop your eyes from skipping back, and keep them concentrated on the job.

If you find it hard to concentrate on more than one word at a time, try a reading ruler like this one –

Reading ruler, Amazon

Use another sense as you read – say the words inside your head. This will also slow you down a bit. You can do this at home by reading aloud – often this helps make things clearer, but you’ll have to learn to read it inside your head for the tests!

Speed up your AQE Test English comprehension!

Can you read more than one word at a time?

This will definitely speed you up, if running out of time is a problem for you in the test. This is a skill you can practise. Some people can do it and don’t know how or when they started. However, very many children at AQE age are reading a word at a time.

Mostly, speeding up is a trick of the eyes.

When you learn to read, you’re taught to read and recognise one word at a time. Some readers never get away from that, even as adults. What you need to do is practise allowing your eyes to see more words at once.

You can learn to read groups of words at once. Just think – even if you read two words together instead of one, your reading speed has doubled!

You will need to practise this technique though.

How to try basic speed reading

Pick a poem and choose just one verse first of all. It’s easiest  with a poem, as the lines are shorter and the words are organised in a way that’s easier to take in with one look.

If you want to progress to reading prose like this, start with a paragraph that has quite short sentences, so maybe try a book that feels a bit ‘young’ for you.

However we’ll start here with the verse of a poem. Look at the whole verse and let your eyes move quite quickly from left to right over it a few times. You can also try going from top to bottom. Just see the words, don’t try to read them one by one. See what words jump out at you.

Next let your eyes slow down a bit and focus on a complete sentence (remember, in poetry the sentence can go over one line, so in that case you’re reading a clause at a time, eg read until you see a comma or a full stop).

You could imagine that you’ve got a camera and are trying to take a picture of the whole sentence – that’s the image you want to see. Take in the words as a group first.

Then start reading at the beginning of the sentence and see if you can let your eyes skip ahead a little as your brain takes in the word you’re reading. You could start by trying to see two words at once, then  move on from there as you get better.

The more you read, the better you’ll get at this. You could eventually become what is known as a speed-reader. Basically a reading ninja! Speed-readers can read huge books in a short time, because they’ve trained their eyes and brain to take in a lot of words at once. It’s entirely possible for almost anyone to learn to be a speed-reader, it just takes practice.

You’ll find here that the words that your brain absorbs are not the joining words (if, and, with, but…). Your brain will firstly catch on the tricky words, especially if they’re longer or you’ve never seen them before. And that’s good!

Identifying the tricky words in English comprehension is half the battle. Often they’ll be the words or phrases that you need for those questions about meanings. Re-read the tricky bits again, and try to summarise them in your own words in your head.

Like anything worthwhile, this all takes practice.  Learning to speed-read is pretty good fun, and you can see great results really quickly, so stick with it.


Need more practice with English comprehension?

For many AQE students, getting to grips with English comprehension is the trickiest skill to master for the test. If you’d like some fun practice, we recommend Reading Eggspress. Some skills, like improving your vocabulary, can only come with practice like this.

(Some of our posts contain affiliate links and this is one. That means we earn a small commission if you click through and buy something from a website we recommend. You don’t pay any more, and we only recommend things we really love.)

We also love these comprehension cards – the passages are pretty short and snappy, and you can always answer the questions verbally rather than writing anything down –

reading comprehension cards transfer test tips
Learning Resources Reading Comprehension cards, Amazon £20.11


Tell your parents this advice – if reading is a chore, start by reading things that are slightly below your age/skill level. This takes the pressure off, and helps you learn how to understand the meanings in the story. Once you feel it get easier, then move on to more challenging reading material.

Another useful strategy to improve your vocabulary is occasionally to read something that is way above your reading level. Keep it brief though. What about a short newspaper article? Use a dictionary, or ask your parents about words you don’t understand. If you come away with one or two new words every time you do this, it’s a great result.


To find out more about AQE English, click here.

Previous Article
Next Article