Cambridge Advanced reading hack: part 6

In this post, I am sharing an activity which helps students deal better with the Reading and Use of English part 6 (cross-text multiple matching) tasks in the Cambridge Advanced exam.

Cross-text multiple matching reading activity (Part 6 of the Reading and Use of English paper) is commonly known to cause the most difficulties for students. Even those who aren’t new to Cambridge exams find it challenging as it is the only type of reading task that does not appear in Cambridge First. Below you will find a simple idea that helped me walk my students through this task and add some communication to the otherwise solitary exercise.

Before the lesson

Choose a task you want your students to do. Cut the text into separate strips of paper (text A, B, C, and D). Have as many strips as you have students.  Make copies of questions that go with the text for each student. The example task below comes from Advanced Trainer by CUP (second edition).

The task

Step 1

Tell your students the title of the test and tell them briefly what they are going to read about.

Give each student their set of questions that go with the text which doubles as an answer sheet. Students read the questions and underline key information.

37: visually attractive

38: reflecting on the title

39: glaciers as an attractive topic for artists

40: environmental contradiction

Draw their attention to words such as share /the same opinion / different opinion.

Step 2

Write each question number on the board and elicit from students what the possible answers are. They do not need to read the text in order to know these, all they need to do is look at the letters in the questions.

37: B, C, D (can’t be the one mentioned in the question)

38: A, B, C (can’t be the one mentioned in the question)

39: A, B, C (can’t be the one mentioned in the question)

40: A, B, C, D (any option is possible)

This step is often skipped by teachers but I feel it helps organise the answers later and prevents students from panicking when they feel overwhelmed with the information they need to cross-match.

Step 3

Give each student their text to read (A, B, C or D). Ask them to underline any information they think might be relevant to questions 37-40. They should write the number of each question next to the underlined part.

Allow 5-7 mins for students to do that.

Students should not try to answer the questions yet.

Step 4

Divide students into groups. Each group should consist of people who read texts A, B, C, and D. Students have to tell each other what relevant information they gathered from their individual texts, compare with what others found on the same topic, and together decide which text contains the answer to every question.

Warn the students that one letter might appear more than once as the correct answer. At the same time, some letters might not be used to answer any of the questions (they are going to love this news!)

Students write down their answers next to each number on the answer sheet. Allow up to 10 minutes for this part. Monitor the activity but let students lead it in their own way.

Step 5

Check the answers with the whole group asking for justification of each choice.

Step 6

Elicit from the students the steps they took that were necessary to do the task correctly: search for relevant information in each text, note down the question this info refers to, compare relevant information across all four texts, choose the answer which makes the most sense and may be proven in the text (they need to be able to point to a particular sentence/phrase, no reading between the lines is necessary for this exam!)

Summarise the strategy they came up with and ask them to use it when they deal with a new reading task at home alone 🙂

Personal Experience

I tried this activity with both teen and adult learners. Both groups managed to do the task correctly although the efficiency at which certain groups cooperated varied. The biggest value of this activity is the fact that it forces students to cooperate and communicate while at the same time they organically come up with the most effective strategy which they can later repeat when they deal with the same type of task on their own.

On top of that, it is an activity whose success relies on each group member to contribute and everybody’s input is valued. it gives a chance for quieter students to play a key role in a communication activity as it gives them a real reason to speak to their classmates. I would definitely recommend this activity if you teach an exam course and feel the reading portion of the lesson might use some tweaking.

For more exam hacks see here, here (Cambridge First), and here (Cambridge Advanced)

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