Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension (RC) passages are a very important question type on any test. Considering the timeline that the Test must be completed in, one must adopt an effective strategy to read the passage and answer the questions in a timely manner.

While approaching the RC questions one must read the passage twice. The first reading entails a quick run through of the passage to grasp the overall meaning and theme of the passage. The second reading is done while approaching the questions and looking at specific lines and paragraphs within the entire passage to find the right answer choice.

Below is a strategy that you can adopt for the first reading. It’s called the principle of active and efficient reading. As the name suggests one needs to read the passage actively so that the main points of the entire passage and each paragraph is well understood. The seven principles for active, efficient reading are:

Engage with the passage

The Test picks up passages from different subject areas. Some of these subjects maybe of your liking and others may not. But the attitude that you must adopt toward any kind of passage is that of interest. You need to tell yourself that the passage is so interesting and you are going to learn something new from it. This attitude will help you adopt a positive outlook toward the passage and hence you will be able to better engage with the passage. No passage requires you to have outside knowledge of the subject. For example, if you haven’t studied astrophysics and there is a passage on it, don’t worry, the passage has all the information you need to answer the questions.

Look for the simple story

When you are reading the passage for the first time, try to think of it in the form of a simple story. A good way to do this is to write the story in a few words, in a simple and brief manner. At the level of processing, this exercise helps you to grasp the main meaning of the passage and the important turns in the passage. For example, the first paragraph may introduce the topic, perhaps a new hypothesis, the second will have evidence in support of the hypothesis and the third paragraph will have information that weakens the hypothesis. You must be able to put this understanding down in short and simple words. But don’t forget the Test will not be giving passages in a simple manner. You need to look out for twists in the passage as there will surely be some. So, look for the simple story along with some twists in it.

Link to what you already know

We all have the immense amount of information stored in our memory and when you read new material a lot of this latent information is activated. You must make use of this natural process of memory activation and link the material that you read on the test passage with the information that you already have. For example, you come across a passage that tells you about seaweed. Maybe on your last vacation, you saw these seaweeds on the beach and you remember how they look, what the color was, you may have seen some creature eat it etc. You can link the information presented in the passage with the memory you have of seaweed in order to form a connection and bring about interest in the subject matter of the passage.

Unpack the beginning

The first paragraph of any passage is very important as it gives you an idea of what the passage is about. Spend time to understand the first paragraph. Go slow with reading the first paragraph and make sure you have understood it well before moving further. Once you understand the beginning of the passage, it becomes easier for you to understand the structure and tone of the passage and the role of each paragraph in the context of the entire passage.

Link to what you have just read

Reading comprehension tests you on your critical thinking skills which entail the readers understating the entire passage and the connection of each line and paragraph with other lines and paragraphs. That means you cannot just read the passage passively. You need to actively read the passage to understand the role of each sentence and how it relates to other sentences. And the role of each paragraph and how it relates to other paragraphs.

Pay attention to details

Even though the first reading will not require you to get too much into the details but you must at least know where the details of the passage are. This will help you later when you are attempting questions and are required to look up at details to answer the questions. The point is to know where the specific information lies in the passage.

Pick up the pace

After you have grasped the first paragraph you must pick up the pace and browse through the following paragraph with an aim to understand the main points of each paragraph and to know where the specific information lies. Do not get bogged down by the details of the passage, just go through it quickly to know what information is placed where in the passage. This will make sure that you are not spending too much time on reading the passage.


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