Strategic TIPS on the BEC Higher Reading Test

Part 1
This is a matching task involving either a single text or five related shorter texts. These could be a set of related product descriptions, a set of advertisements (for instance, for different types of services), notices, book reviews, short newspaper items on related topics or a single magazine article divided into five sections.

There are eight sentences and you have to match each one to one of the texts. The BEC Handbook states, “You should read the sentence and then read the texts quickly to try to find the one which matches.”

The last sentence is debatable.Another strategy is to read the first text carefully, focusing on the meaning, as if it were the most interesting thing you’ve read in years.Highlight anything that looks important – in yellow.Then scan the 8 sentences to see if anything relates to the text, noting any matches.

Then delete the first text in your short-term memory, then move on to the second text, and read it, as if it were the most interesting thing you’ve read in years.And so on.Don’t forget to highlight anything that seems important or interesting.

Part 2
This is a gapped text with six sentence-length gaps.You have to read the text and then identify the correct sentence to fill each gap from a set of eight sentences. The example below is part of an article about how companies’ decision-making can go wrong. Six sentences are missing (9–14) and you have to choose the best sentence from the eight sentences on the next page (A–H) to fill each of the numbered gaps.

The job here is to match certain “reference devices” (which are located in the sentences) with content (which is located in the text).Or vice versa: the reference devices may be in the text, and the content in the sentences, but in either case, the trick is to match reference devices to content.

Here is an example of a sentence containing reference devices:

“Such tools were used by these engineers to accomplish miracles.”

When you see this sort of sentence, ask yourself, “What tools?”“Which engineers?” the answers to these questions are always in the text preceding the gap.You might also expect to find an example of one or more miracles in the text following the gap in this case.

The text following the gap often holds the key to the matching sentence, so always read around the gap, not only the text preceding the gap.

Is it important to read the whole text?

Some very fast readers like to read the whole text first, before attempting to fill the gaps with the 8 sentences.In a perfect world, if we had all day to complete the task, this would make sense.The truth of the matter is that we just don’t have time for this.

Part Three

This task consists of a text followed by six questions or incomplete statements. For each
question or incomplete statement you have to choose from four possible answers.

One strategy for this part of the test is to read the first question – but not the answers, then find the answer in the first paragraph of the text.When you have an idea what the answer is, go to the 4 possible answers, A, B, C or D, and see which one matches your answer.

The questions are in chronological order

The answer to the first question is always in the first paragraph of the text, and the answers to the subsequent questions follow in chronological order.For this reason, you will always know where to find the answer to each question.

Is it important to read the whole text?

Some very fast readers like to read the whole text first, before attempting to answer the questions. Even in a perfect world, in which we had all day to complete the task, this would not make sense.

Part Four
In this task, you have a text with ten missing words. After the text, there are ten
questions, most of which test vocabulary. For each question, your task is to choose
correct option from the four available choices (A, B C or D) to fill each gap.

What makes one of the options “correct”?The four options are usually quite similar in meaning, and are all the same type of word – all verbs, adjectives, gerunds, etc. For example, in the following 4 words, only one holds the ­___ of happiness.


The answer is D, because only the word secret can be followed by the preposition of.We say the solution to a problem, the answer to a question, the key to success and the secret of happiness.

Part Five

In this task you have to find the right word to fill each gap in the text. There are ten gaps for you to fill. Items tested may include prepositions, auxiliary verbs, pronouns, conjunctions, etc. In the exam, you have to write this word in CAPITAL LETTERS on your Answer Sheet.