How to help your child improve comprehension

Many children struggle with the comprehension section of the entrance exams, and poor comprehension skills can lead to not just a failed English paper, but can also lead to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem as ultimately every subject depends on a degree of digesting and comprehending texts. There are a number of things you can do to help your child improve their comprehension skills, which we have listed below. Be aware though, skills like comprehension takes time to improve and you should not expect miraculous results immediately: the key is consistency.


How can you improve comprehension skills?

1.Improving vocabulary 

‘A child’s vocabulary is a big predictor of their future success,’ says Alice Penfold, Project Manager of the Words for Work programme at the National Literacy Trust. ‘It not only affects their chances of performing well in exams, but also their life chances. ‘For example, children who have a poor vocabulary at the age of five are four times more likely to struggle with reading as adults, and three times more prone to mental health issues.’

Vocabulary is the body of words you know and comprehension is the ability to understand the vocabulary in a text. Thus without knowing a large bank of vocabulary, comprehension of a text is incredibly difficult. We have a separate post on how to improve your child’s vocabulary.


2. Talking and discussing

Imagine picking up a textbook titled ‘ Rocket Science for experts’ and reading the first chapter of this book. Would you be able to understand it all? For most of us, this is highly unlikely. The reason is not that we are incapable of pronouncing the words in the books, but it is because we lack the background knowledge to piece the ideas together. Comprehension requires background knowledge and sometimes the gap needed to fill this void is too large for children to overcome.

Discussing and talking about a text or a variety of topics is one way of helping bridging gaps in knowledge. The more we expose our children to different experiences, opinions and facts, the easier it is for them to draw from their knowledge and apply this to their reading and learning.


3. Reading appropriate books

Reading has often been linked to success: the more you read, the more vocabulary, ideas, sentences, emotions and facts you are exposed to. We can all agree the benefits of reading is endless and it is vital for a child’s success in an English comprehension exam. Reading and understanding is also a skill which takes practice, the more you read the more you will begin to be able to draw connections and patterns to differentiate the subtle differences – like sarcasm or hyperbole. You can find a list of our recommended reading books for all ages here.


4. Ask questions about the book you are reading.

A great way to increase children’s understanding of a text is to ask questions. Questions do not need to be complex and can be quite simple like: what do you think will happen next, what has happened already, why do you think the character feels sad/happy/angry. Asking questions allows for broader understanding, gives children experience in anaylsing texts, and can make children feel more invested in the text.


If you would like help with how your child can improve their comprehension or creative writing scores, feel free to contact us on 0203 488 1278 or email us on for free advice!