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6 comprehension challenges students face

In simple terms, comprehension is the thorough understanding of something, especially what has been read. In so many cases, students fail to understand what they read, and this can lead to things like;

  • Misinformation
  • Inadequate knowledge on subjects
  • Giving incorrect answers
  • Failing examinations

Usually, these comprehension problems are faced when students are trying to interpret novels, poetry and articles in English Literature. Below are problems that affect students in comprehension.

1. Low Vocabulary

Vocabulary is a key player for any student seeking to properly understand and communicate in the English language. This is because the language has so many words, and it’s easy to feel intimidated or discouraged by the vast range of words. Here are the causes of a low vocabulary.

  • Lack of necessary tools like the dictionary
  • Low reading frequency
  • Lack of interest

While some of these causes are impossible to treat from the outside, others can be solved by you as a teacher, for the sake of your students.

2. Low concentration

Concentration is one of the key players in almost everything. However, much of that is needed in reading and comprehension. This is because without it, your students just can’t analyze or understand what they read. Below are some of the usual causes of low concentration levels.

  • Bad ambience
  • Psychological problems like ADHD
  • Lack of interest
  • Poor mindset

Usually, some students can be helped easily on solving this problem, while others need clinical assistance. All in all, concentration is key – and without it, comprehension is almost impossible.

3. Low reading fluency

Reading fluency is the capacity to read fast, accurately and with ease, while you grasp everything you read. With this, a student can’t fail to comprehend what they read. However, students usually score low on fluency because;

  • Lack of enough reading materials
  • Poor academic background
  • Lack of motivation to read

The solution to this is constant exposure to more and more reading materials on a regular basis. Fluency always increases with time.

4. Failure to apply background knowledge

Background knowledge is a reader’s understanding of the specific concepts, situations and problems associated with the words encountered in the text. Now this is entirely dependent on many things like;

  • Innate intelligence
  • General and/ or preliminary knowledge on the subject matter in the text

In many cases, students fail to apply background knowledge to a text because they haven’t reead it well. That’s why students are usually encouraged to read the text twice in order to understand it even better.

5. Word decoding problems

Word-decoding is the ability of a student to apply their knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns to correctly pronounce written words.

First off, English is the most complicated language in the world, and that means every student has to be properly adept with decoding words as they should be. However, some students aren’t capable of this, because of things like;

  • Limited exposure to reading materials
  • Bad academic foundation and background
  • Inexperienced teachers
  • Negative attitude toward learning to read and decode

It’s never too late, though quite hard the more a student grows, for them to learn to decode words perfectly.

6. Biases

Biases as we know them are the nemesis of making informed and wise decisions. This is because they cloud your judgment and change the way you view things. Likewise, here are some examples of common biases;

  • Cultural and/or religious biases, especially while reading a piece of literature that seems not to align with their beliefs
  • Negative attitude towards a subject/ book/ author/ publisher that clouds their entire judgment throughout the rest of the stuff they’ll attempt to read

These biases, if not treated by the teacher, can affect the students’ entire academic performance besides just comprehension.

7. Poor academic background

Due to inevitable circumstances like poverty, some students come from humble academic backgrounds. This affects their ability to do certain things like read fluently and comprehend what they read.

If not taken care of, the effects can persist throughout their entire school life – because the foundation does a lot to determine how one’s education journey will end.


In most cases, students that face severe comprehension problems decide to give up on the subjects in which they’re weak, and focus on the ones they believe they can do. However, every teacher is capable of helping students achieve their set academic goals by eliminating their weaknesses in certain subjects.

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