Have you ever wondered how much you actually understand from what you read? This is not a rhetorical question but a crucial introspection to recognize the importance of a vital yet often overlooked skill:

Reading comprehension.

Most of us read everyday.

In fact, in order to comprehend this post, you’re reading right now. As you’re doing that, your brain is piecing together every single one of the words together in order to create a cognitive mapping of words to meaning, meaning to significance, and significance into directives about how to act… Perhaps to continue reading, or perhaps to simply close the page entirely.

On the IGCSE, reading comprehension makes up a large part of the exam in itself; even though nominally, the exam is subdivided into a reading and a writing paper, the reality is that all aspects of the exam require students to demonstrate skills in reading comprehension.

Of almost all skills that students can be expected to develop during the course of their high school days, this is probably one of the most important yet though most poorly understood.

How, after all, is it possible for you to understand how much you understand? It requires not just the ability to criticize one’s own mental picture or images built from understanding, but also to refine it over the course of time through multiple practice opportunities.

Reading comprehension does not just mean being able to select the correct information that is necessary to perform whatever task you have been asked to do, whether it involves identification, explaining in your own words, or anything else.

Reading is also a matter of demonstrating the correct judgement in order to ensure that one obtains the correct interpretation of the questions that are being asked to you; if you don’t understand the prompts or the questions that are being asked of you on an exam, how are you going to answer these questions in the first place?

Here are some 6 helpful tips that you can implement in order to ensure that you have a higher chance of correctly interpreting a text – we will go into some of these steps in the course of this piece; let’s go!

Tip #1: Eliminate your personal standards and biases.

This first piece of advice may seem unconventional to those of you who have thought that English at the heart of it is a subjective area of knowledge – while it’s true that many aspects of the English language require personal interpretation and can be considered more as an art than a science, it nonetheless remains a reality that one’s personal standards are not required for reading comprehension.

To understand something means to know it as it is – not to change it, not to modify it, not to offer it in accordance with one’s personal standards, biases, and preconceptions.

It is to understand how while it’s true that there can be correct interpretations, there can also be interpretations that are ultimately dreadfully wrong. In many cases, it is true that the language that you use can be used to change the world in some way or another… But in the context of reading comprehension, this is inappropriate – you are not trying to change the meaning of a text; you are trying to understand it with the intent of comprehending the message sent by the person who created the text and ensuring that the message was reliably understood, sent, and acted upon!

That brings us immediately to the next point.

Tip #2: Base your judgements on evidence.

Whenever you read, focus on what is inside the text and be prepared to cite specific evidence from in the event that you are challenged about any judgement or assessments that you have made based on the text.

Whether you are reading a newspaper article or a document from the national Constitution of a country hundreds and thousands of miles away, this principle holds; in the event that you make a claim about something, you should always be prepared to back it up as if there are multiple enemies looking to open up holes in the ship of your ideas.

Every single statement that you make about a piece of writing can be challenged based on the words, ideas, and points that are contained within that writing – at the very least, in most cases, that is the truth. With that in mind, in order to ensure that you read well, you can…

Tip #3: Ask yourself questions.

No matter how thoroughly you read a text the first time, it’s almost inevitable that you may not understand all of it. Some aspects of the text may impact the proper context or interpretation of a word, phrase, or sentence. These are influenced by the interlinkages across parts of a sentence, much like the threads in a fabric, and can be affected by virtually everything within its structure.

This doesn’t mean reading is an insurmountable task. It does, however, mean you need to periodically check if your understanding is comprehensive and accurate. This is where self-questioning comes into play.

Questioning your understanding of the text can be incredibly useful to ensure your assessments are factually correct and supported by evidence within the text. This process also ensures you can defend your ideas against any challenges, as you have already challenged yourself.

Consider asking yourself questions like some of the following:

Who is the main speaker in the text? Who are the main characters? What is the purpose of this statement and what does it clarify? What lessons can be learned from this piece? What is the main argument? Is this argument supported by the premises and evidence provided in the piece?

During the process of questioning, you may find that your initial answers are inconsistent with those derived later from the text. Don’t be discouraged; this is part of the process of deepening your understanding. It underscores that gaining knowledge is rarely a linear or straightforward journey.

Once you have satisfactory answers, cross-reference them with the text to verify your understanding. Continue this until your interpretation aligns with the text’s meaning. From there, you can move onto the next step.

Tip #4: Seek out feedback. 

Consciousness extends far beyond our individual minds. Although each mind is unique, like a universe filled with various currents, idiosyncrasies, and challenges, understanding is often enriched through dialogue.

Receiving feedback from others can be beneficial, whether in an informal, unstructured context or a more formal setting, like higher education. Especially in Socratic dialogue and understanding, ideas evolve from being individually understood to being refined through discussion, impacting the collective consciousness.

While different people have unique ways of understanding the world, dialogue remains a valuable tool for developing knowledge by verifying our thoughts and how much they align with others. This affirms our ability to expand our understanding.

However, not everyone has access to such an environment, nor is everyone suited for it. Regardless, it’s highly recommended that everyone…

Tip #5: Read widely.

Mastering reading comprehension is part of the learning process and requires diverse reading. While this advice may seem straightforward and not a special technique, it’s important to remember that valuable skills require hard work, and the universe owes you nothing. Mastery in reading comprehension is no exception.

While it’s true that implementing the techniques you’ve learned in this post will enhance your understanding of individual texts, there is a significant gap between theory and practice. This gap can only be bridged by consciously practicing what you’ve learned on a wide range of writings, including books, articles, essays, and even social media captions. Reading a variety of texts – from novels to academic papers to opinion pieces – equips writers with a versatile style that can adapt to different genres, audiences, and purposes. It enables them to convey complex ideas, construct compelling narratives, and build persuasive arguments. Exposure to different authors, perspectives, and writing styles can also foster creativity, helping writers develop their unique voice.

Consider reading the classics alongside contemporary non-fiction. This will not only broaden your interests but may also benefit areas you hadn’t anticipated. Reading what we classify as classics provides a sense of timeless knowledge, giving a sense of infinity within the context of individual life. Meanwhile, diving into non-fiction offers targeted exploration into unfamiliar topics, expanding your mind beyond its natural boundaries.

Reading allows you to better understand the modern world, provided you engage in critical thinking and avoid falling into a knowledge silo, which is necessary to not be deceived by the world or yourself.

That said, not reading is not an excuse, which leads us to our final point.

Tip #6: Learn how to evaluate. 

This is the last point, as it relates not just to reading comprehension but also to the broader domain of critical thinking and rational judgement.

An unfortunate fact is that you cannot believe everything you read. Understanding something and believing it are entirely separate matters. It’s entirely possible for something to be understandable regarding its origin, the creator’s intent, and the message conveyed, yet be completely false. As an intelligent reader, it’s crucial to distinguish these cases, entering the domain of evaluation.

Learning to evaluate effectively is a hallmark of an educated person. It allows an individual to live a life not deceived by others, making sound judgments by understanding the world’s messages and reasoning at a higher order level. Evaluation serves not only as a vehicle for successful writing but also as a linchpin in the formation of an educated civil society.

Evaluation is an essential skill that extends far beyond the realm of reading comprehension. It plays a vital role in understanding complex information, problem-solving, decision-making, and ultimately, being a valuable member of civil society. It shapes our ability to differentiate between facts and opinions, verify sources, recognize bias, and challenge assumptions.

In the context of understanding, evaluation is fundamental. Our world is flooded with information, from scientific articles and historical accounts to news reports and social media posts. Evaluation allows us to sort through this wealth of information, identify what is credible, interpret its significance, and integrate it with our existing knowledge. It’s a mechanism to prevent misinformation from polluting our understanding and judgment.

As we evaluate information, we also enhance our critical thinking skills. We begin to recognize patterns, anticipate outcomes, and understand connections between events, ideas, or phenomena. This fosters a deeper understanding of the world around us, helping us become more aware, informed, and thoughtful individuals.

Moreover, evaluation is central to active participation in civil society. In a democratic system, citizens are required to make informed decisions about social, economic, and political issues. Without the ability to evaluate information, people can fall prey to false narratives, propaganda, or manipulation, undermining the democratic process. In interpersonal relationships, evaluation helps us understand different perspectives, build empathy, and engage in constructive dialogue. It enables us to challenge prejudices, dispel stereotypes, and promote understanding and respect among diverse groups. In professional environments, the ability to evaluate helps in making well-informed decisions, formulating effective strategies, and improving work processes. It enhances problem-solving abilities, facilitates innovation, and leads to better outcomes.

In summary, learning to evaluate effectively is not just about improving reading comprehension; it’s a multidimensional skill that enhances our understanding, informs our decision-making, and shapes our participation in society. By cultivating this skill, we become more informed, thoughtful, and responsible members of our communities.


Reading comprehension goes beyond simply recognizing words on a page. It involves interpreting, analyzing, and deriving meaning from complex pieces of writing. The ability to comprehend written information effectively allows individuals to engage more deeply with the world around them, understand different perspectives, make informed judgments, and contribute meaningfully to conversations and debates.

In the realm of writing, reading comprehension serves as an invaluable skill. Writing is not a one-way process, it is a dialogue between the writer and the reader. As a writer, understanding how readers might interpret your words allows you to express your ideas more clearly and effectively. Without strong reading comprehension skills, a writer might not fully grasp the complexities of language, tone, subtext, and thematic development that bring a piece of writing to life. Thus, reading comprehension fuels writing ability, fostering a more nuanced understanding of language and its potential.

Shifting the lens to a broader societal perspective, in the age of information overload, being able to discern reliable sources, identify biases, understand complex issues, and absorb crucial insights from an array of texts is paramount. Reading comprehension equips citizens with the skills to navigate this information landscape, ensuring that they are not simply passive consumers of information but active, critical, and engaged participants. Accordingly, reading comprehension holds a foundational role in the formation of an educated civil society. A well-informed society is one that can engage in substantive discussions, make rational decisions, and contribute to social, political, and cultural dialogues. Central to all these processes is the ability to understand, interpret, and critically analyze written information, a critical life skill that transcends the boundaries of the classroom. It nurtures our ability to engage, understand, and respond to the world around us – whether that’s crafting a piece of writing or contributing to our civil society.

So, the next time you find yourself reading a book, news article, or even a blog post, pause for a moment and consider not just what you’re reading, but how you’re understanding it. After all, it’s not just about reading the words, but grasping their meaning that truly makes the difference.

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