Scanning is the skill of the modern world. We all struggle with an overload of content from so many different sources, but at least we have access to Google. In school, and particularly in tests, children are now expected to read and process information faster than ever before.

The new Kent 11+ exam includes an English paper that is just 25 minutes long. The ten-year-olds taking this test have to read two pages of challenging text and then answer 12 comprehension questions, followed by two further spelling and grammar tests all within that short window of time. But of course it is not only children in Kent who need to be able to charge through comprehensions at break-neck speed. All children taking a comprehension test as part of an entrance examination, or even GCSE, will find scan-reading frees up their time and boosts their fragile confidence.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help your child achieve the best comprehension result possible:

Don’t

  • Teach your child to read the text thoroughly.
  • Teach your child to read the text 2 or 3 times. Really! People tell their children this stuff.

Do

  • Show your child how to run their eyes over the text and to look for useful sub-headings
  • Teach him or her to ‘scan-read’ for basic information. Just get the gist of it.
  • Make sure that when your child is answering the questions, they don’t attempt to do it from memory, but find the exact part of the text that the question relates to. The earlier ‘do’ points were to help with navigation, so that they can find the right part of the text as quickly as possible.

If the comprehension is a piece of non-fiction text about planets or mice then it is great news. Non-fiction with sub-headings is the easiest type of text to navigate.

Fiction text isn’t a problem though. You will find a confident child can scan read a comprehension in a couple of minutes and have a good understanding of it chronologically. This is likely to shave a good five minutes from their exam time, which can be spent on accurately answering the questions.

Children who can scan-read stand a little taller and feel so much more confident than those who cannot. Try it tonight over a reading book.