i have noticed online and on examinations there is an extensive collection of articles with specific questions – what did this person buy? where was the train going? what color was her umbrella? these are perfectly fine for beginners but as the articles become more complex and the questions more technical and nuanced, there ceases to be a sensible “correct” answer and the exercise becomes meaningless (yes, i’m looking at you, ielts!) and, in many situations, simply incorrect as a premise.
as such, this is a better approach to reading comprehension for intermediate and advanced students. stop trying to find the technical details and explore the idea itself. remember, reading is not a particularly useful component of advanced language study. most of your progress will come from writing. so reading should be used in two ways – to provide material for writing and to serve as a guide.
in the first instance, read an article and write a response. this can take several forms.
- what would you say to the author if you wrote them a letter?
- are you outraged? shocked? confused? explain why.
- how would you communicate the same information?
- what more do you want to know? find the pieces you felt were missing and write about them.
- what’s wrong with the article? argue against the writer.
in the second, find an article that is both well-organized and uses good writing. model a new article about a different (perhaps completely different or simply related) topic and use the same structure and writing style as the original. for my classes, i often provide specific articles to read each week to help them but what i will list here isn’t articles as much as publications where you can find a variety of interesting articles. these are organized by general discipline rather than chronologically as the publications are ongoing.