Paper 1


Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes / Weighting: 30%

Paper 1 tests students’ ability to comprehend straightforward written language including the message and its cultural and contextual connotations. The aim of paper 1 is to assess, through a variety of exercises, students’ ability to read and understand a range of authentic texts. Students will demonstrate this by responding to up to 40 text-handling questions on four separate texts. The paper has two parts: the text booklet with the four texts, and the question and answer booklet where students write their answers.


The texts are generally drawn from contemporary, authentic sources originating from a variety of countries where the target language is spoken. They are often adapted to suit the ab initio level, with glossaries or explanations embedded in the text. Paper 1 consists of a variety of types of text in the target language at a range of levels. The penultimate text (text C) is the most difficult. All three themes (individual and society, leisure and work, urban and rural environment) are represented across the paper.

The types of text used can include articles from magazines or newspapers, adverts, leaflets, interviews, poems, songs, reports, speeches, surveys, recipes, or any text type addressing issues of contemporary concern that students may encounter in everyday life. They are relevant to the culture of the language studied.

Text-handling exercises

All the instructions and questions (an exhaustive list of which can be found in the language-specific syllabus) are in the target language and all the questions must be answered in the target language. The use of dictionaries and reference material is not permitted in the examination.

In order to complete the exercises, students will need to use a range of reading techniques such as skimming, scanning or reading for detail. They will be expected to respond to a variety of text-handling exercises, for example:

  • short-answer questions
  • table-filling exercises
  • gap-filling exercises
  • true or false exercises, with justification
  • multiple-choice questions
  • matching:


    • words from the text with synonyms, antonyms or definitions
    • summary sentences with different paragraphs of the text
    • two halves of one sentence
    • ideas or sequences with pictures
    • a person with a statement.

Students are also expected to:

  • deduce the meaning of words from their context
  • understand grammatical structures and functions in context
  • be aware of the cohesive devices/linking words that give coherence to a text.


Paper 1 is externally set and externally assessed. The text-handling responses are assessed according to a paper-specific markscheme. The maximum mark for paper 1 is 40. The student is assessed for his or her comprehension of the texts, not for language skills. However, if the language used by the student impairs the communication and makes the answer incomprehensible or ambiguous, no mark can be gained for that answer.

It is recommended that students:

  • practise answering a variety of question types (students should be aware, for example, that true or false questions requiring justification need a two-part answer to gain a point)
  • learn to manage their time effectively in the examination
  • read all the questions carefully and answer them concisely.                                                                                    Information source: