Reading Comprehension Tips

May 30, 2006

The reading comprehension passages on the college entrance examinations can be daunting. They are often long and may contain confusing language. Keep these tips in mind as you approach the reading comprehension sections on the tests:

  1. Get the vocabulary questions out of the way. Skim the questions before you read the passage for the sole purpose of finding the ones that ask you to define a word. Put a box around the word in the sentence and try to come up with your own synonym before you read the choices. Answer these questions first so that you can focus on those that deal with the content of the passage after you have finished reading.
  2. Read the introduction. The italicized introductory text often contains information that will help you determine such things as the author's perspective or the purpose of the passage. Refer back to it as needed.
  3. Put the excerpts into context. When a question refers to text on a certain line (or lines), be sure to read the text that comes before and after the excerpt. Sometimes the answer cannot be determined from simply reading the sentence (or sentences) in the excerpt.
  4. Choose a title, main point, or purpose that is not too broad or too specific. If you are asked to pick a title that best describes the passage, read each option carefully to determine not only whether it makes sense, but also whether it is too broad or too specific. You can be certain that one of the five choices will be much too general and that another will focus on a detail mentioned in the text rather than on the entire text. Similarly, if you are asked to choose the main point or purpose of the passage, be sure that your answer is not one that is too broad or too specific. Another helpful tactic is to reread the first paragraph and the first sentence of subsequent paragraphs to get a better sense of what the whole piece is about.
  5. Pay attention to negatives. If you are asked to choose an answer that does NOT support the author's argument or to respond to a question that contains "EXCEPT," read each answer and ask yourself, "Is this true?" If it is, cross it off.
  6. Think about inferences. An author may imply something without actually saying it. You will be asked to infer the meaning of the text. The answer will not be directly stated in the passage. Think about who the author is and from what kind of work the passage has been excerpted (you may know this from the introduction). This information may help you extract meaning from the text.
  7. Turn the Roman numeral items into true/false questions. When you are presented with a question that asks which of three items (numbered with Roman numerals) are correct, treat each item as a true/false question. Read each item and decide whether it is true or false. Then look at the five answers to see which combination of "true" items is correct.
  8. Trust your instincts! If you are quite sure that an answer is correct but you think it must be wrong because it seems too easy, don't change your answer. You are smart and some questions are easy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: