Understanding Secondary English Exam – Visual Text Comprehension

When you look at your child’s English mid-year examination results, do you notice that the score for Paper 2 Section A, Visual Text Comprehension, was 3 out of 5.

        Or worse, did your child fail this section of the English exam?

         Visual Text Comprehension in the Secondary English exam is a section that befuddles many students and parents.

         The format and requirements look deceptively easy, yet students struggle to score above 3 marks (60%). That means this section will pull down the average score from a potential A1 (75% and above) to a B3 (65% to 69%).

         In this post, we will discuss three key elements that help students tackle Visual Text Comprehension questions.

         Unlike narrative and non-narrative texts, a visual text does not have many words for students to make inferences from. Therefore, students need to have strong visual interpretation skills.

         First, students must identify the Purpose of the visual stimulus.

         Since every visual text is designed with an intention, identifying the purpose should be straightforward. The key question students must ask is “What action does the reader need to take after seeing the poster?”

         Posters range from advertisements for products, to calling for donations, and also creating awareness for a social cause.

         Once students can identify the purpose (the intended action to be taken), interpreting the elements in the visual text will be much easier.

         Next, students must be able to catch the Message of the visual stimulus.

         Simply put, the message is the “why” behind the Purpose. Students must ask “Why should the reader take this course of action?”

         For example, if a poster aims to promote awareness of racial discrimination and invite participants to attend a conference on racial harmony, the message could include the severity of the problem, the quality of the conference speakers and any other benefits that will attract participation.

         Therefore, being able to identify the message helps students explain why certain elements or words are used in a visual text.

         Finally, students are required to state the Target Audience of the visual stimulus.

         The target audience should not be everybody in the world. That would be too broad.

         Students must be able to identify the Purpose first, then identify the group that can fulfil the purpose.

         For instance, a poster advertising pet food will have the purpose of persuading readers to buy pet food. Therefore, its target audience would need to be people who own pets and are in charge of buying food for their pets. A person who does not own a pet is excluded from the target audience.

         It should be clear by now that PurposeMessage and Target Audience are interconnected.

         Students who can see these key aspects of the visual text will be able to fulfil at least half of the requirements in the Visual Text Comprehension section of the English exam.

         The other half will depend on the context within the visual stimulus and the question types.

         We hope that this short post has helped you and your child who is in Secondary school.

         We understand that the requirements of the English exam in Secondary school can be demanding and have helped many students develop the competency and confidence in handling the different sections in the O Level English exams.

         To learn more about how we teach Secondary English, visit our website now. If you would like to arrange for a risk-free diagnostic consultation with our teachers, call us at 8321 8252 or send us your contact details here. We will get in touch soon.

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