There are so many ways that you can prepare for your GCSE reading exam and there is plenty of material available to help you. In this section we’ll cover how to practice reading, how to revise, exam tips and how the exam is set out.

Reading is really beneficial to your language learning. It teaches you the skill to recognise unfamiliar words, guess the meaning of words from the surrounding text and learn where the accents and punctuation go.

Your vocab book 

Handy hint:

”Use look, cover, say, write, check to help remember the word.”

A personal vocab book is a great way to remember any good new words that you may come across whilst reading. This vocab book is your own personal dictionary, so you can set it out just the way you want it. Create different sections for different topics and add new words under the correct topic. Make sure you include the English meaning too. Use "look, cover, say, write, check" to help remember the word.

Ways to revise and improve your reading

  • Don't look up vocab whilst you’re reading - this will distract you and you’ll lose the gist of the text - try and use the context to work out what it’s about.
  • Concentrate on understanding what you read rather than reading as much as you can in one go.
  • Add new vocab to your vocab book.
  • Revise your vocab book and topic specific words so when they come up in the exam you can recognise them straight away.
  • Set aside a regular time to read.
  • Read for fun - choose something that will interest you.
  • Borrow reading material such as short stories from your teacher.
  • Use the internet to find all sorts of articles to read in your foreign language. Find out the titles of foreign newspapers as ou can read their articles online.
  • Read film reviews written in the language of films you have already seen - many online newspapers have "culture" sections where they publish these.
  • Try reading your favourite book translated into another language. You could have your English copy at the side to check that you understand it. The Harry Potter books have been translated into almost 70 different languages, so you could try finding a copy in the language you're learning. If you're a Meg Cabot fan, have a look for Journal d'une Princesse, or if The Hunger Games are more your thing then see if you can find a copy of Die Tribute von Panem.
  • Look for something to read with some exercises or tasks to do at the end - has some you can try. Having something to answer means you’re more likely to pay attention to what you’re reading.
  • Practice different verb forms and conjugations. It’s all too easy to panic over not knowing what a word means, when really it’s just been conjugated differently (for example in English: I go, you go, he/she/it goes, we go, they go are the different verb conjugations of the verb 'to go').
  • Go through past papers to see the question format.
  • Look out for recurring topics that always come up in the exams so that you can focus on this vocab.

Exam tips

Top tip:

”Use the internet to find all sorts of articles to read in your foreign language.”

  • The whole point of the reading exam is to test your grammar and vocab knowledge, so you really need to look over and revise vocab, tenses and endings.
  • Take your time reading through the texts to understand what's being said. Make sure you really understand what the question asks. The questions often have multiple choice answers, so just associating a work with the picture may be a trick.
  • Make sure you’ve answered the question and given all the information that is required.
  • Write in the correct language. If you’re not sure re-read the instructions on the front of the booklet.
  • Check your answers thoroughly at the end. This is when your brain is thinking the most in the foreign language so make the most of it, correct any mistakes, find any missing answers and get those marks!

Exam structure

The reading exam will last between 35-45 minutes. The format may vary between exam boards, so it's best to check with your teacher. Here are some general features of most reading exams:

  • You read information written in the foreign language.
  • You answer in both English and the foreign language.
  • Make sure you include all the details that the question asks for.
  • Types of answer may include: tick the correct answer, true or false, match the number and letters together, write a word or short phrase and complete a sentence.
  • The Higher Tier has slightly longer texts and you’ll be tested on a wider range of vocab than the Foundation tier.
  • The reading exam tests your ability to understand the foreign language - you may not lose marks the odd spelling mistake, but make sure the answer can still be understood.