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Conquering Critical Reading!

Strategies to Help
The key to writing competent answers lies in your understanding of the
piece or pieces of text. The following strategies will help in your
Read the text through at least twice. The first time you read it should provide you with a
feel for the piece(s). The second time, focus on the techniques used by the writer(s),
and make appropriate notes.
Your reading background plays a significant role helping you understand unseen pieces
of the text. If you do not read and view a variety of written and visual texts with an
appropriate reading and viewing level, then you are not giving yourself the opportunity
of being familiar with the type of writing and visual texts you may be presented with in
the exam.
Writers use clues that both hook the reader and provide information that helps you
understand the writers main point(s). Identify the clues and you are well on your way
to understanding the meaning. The Title is not a bad place to start when looking for
Analyse the style of the writer/visual text and look at the techniques they use to
manipulate reader/viewer. Check the following sections Techniques Writers Employ
and Techniques of Visual Texts for more details on each of these.
Is the content of the piece(s) similar to anything else you may have read or seen this
year? If so, can this help you make meaning of the piece(s)?
From the title or when and where the piece was first published can you make an
informed guess as to the intended audience?
Do you recognize the writer? If you do, what do you know about them? Do they have a
particular focus that may have surfaced in this piece?
The more you practise reading these types of texts and answering these types of
questions, the more competent and confident you will become.

Techniques Writers Employ to Construct Their Text

Style is the way writers choose words to construct sentences and
paragraphs to make their writing more effective. You need to consider the
following point of style and the way they use language for a specific purpose
and effect.
This is the form that the writing is presented in, such as: Report, Story, Letter, Diary Entry,
Journal entry, Speech, Script etc.
Critical Reading Clues: May 14 LM


The beginning, the middle, the end, particularly in narratives, e.g. story telling
To build their argument
Use of examples
Use of anecdotes (stories used to illustrate or highlight a point)
Use of facts, figures and statistics to support the writers arguments


Narrative mode, e.g. use of narrator either as a character or as the writer, third person
Tense (time) past/present/future
Symbolism a sign or object representing something
Irony the use of polite language to ridicule someone or thing
Puns a play on words a humorous use of a word to suggest another with the same
sound but different spelling
Contrast to make comparisons, e.g. Good vs Evil
The use of repetition to reinforce a point
Key images, which are striking pieces of description
Characterisation how the characters are drawn and presented to the reader
Time period over which the narrative occurs
Humour often this can be related to the tone of the piece

Sentence Construction
Short: to make simple statements; add emphasis; build up tension; sum up
Long: to provide information and/or add detail, colour, etc.
Use of Questions

Are there questions being asked of the reader?

Are rhetorical questions (not requiring an actual answer there to make a strong
statement or make the reader think and therefore understand the writers point of
view), used to gauge the readers response?

Use of Statements
Are there many statements in the piece?
Does this make the writer opinionated?
Use of Punctuation
What sort is it?
Is it used to highlight thoughts, ideas, opinions, etc?

Use of adjectives, nouns, verbs

Colloquial (everyday language relaxed, informal, personal, conversational)
Formal speech (the use of formal words indicates a serious approach to the subject)
Technical Language (the use of subject specific language a good indicator of the
intended audience of the piece)
Plain/Simple/Common (used to create a sincere and truthful atmosphere)
Critical Reading Clues: May 14 LM

Poetic (the use of metaphors and similes to create mental pictures)

Clichs (the recycling of old, tired words for dull, unimaginative writing)
Word connotations (writers choose words because they have extra meaning[s]) beyond
the context of the dictionary definition

Is the attitude the writer takes towards the subject they are writing about.
sharing and caring
detached and objective

Techniques Used to Create Visual Texts

Composition of the page:

Where are the images placed on the page?

What sizes are the images?
Are the images familiar to you?
Is there print text?
What font type is being used? Is it normal, italic, bold, etc.?
What size font is being used? Does this have any effect on the reader?
Do the images reflect the print text? Does the print text reflect/enhance the images or
are they unconnected?
Are there icons being used? If so, what type are they and what are they representing?

Layout of the page

How are the images positioned on the page?

How is the print positioned on the page?
To which part or parts of the page are your eyes drawn? What attracts them to this
point? Are there dominant images? Dominant print, e.g. headlines?
Are there columns, paragraphs, text boxes being used?
Are there lists or dot points to give information?
Are headings, sub-headings used to organize information and
direct our attention?
Glossary of terms?
The positioning of the name(s) of the writer(s) of the article(s)

Critical Reading Clues: May 14 LM


Text language, colloquial, formal, etc.

Word commands in advertising, e.g. Buy now
Questions, e.g. Is there a better time to buy?
Slogans and catch phrases - these can include humour

N.B. In advertising, celebrities are often used to sell a product. Be alert to

how the public perceive the celebrity and what they add to the products
sales pitch.

Critical Reading Clues: May 14 LM