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2.3 Reading Comprehension

You will deal with five passages in an average SAT test. These will be of varied lengths.

There will be one long passage of about 700-800 words about which you will answer 13 questions . The other four will be shorter, about 400-500 words in length, and generally followed by 6-7 questions each.

Out of these four, two will appear as a double passage sequence and will be related to each other generally in theme. There will be 6-9 questions on each passage, and 2-3 on both together.

The questions test your ability to comprehend the content as well as the organization, style and theme of the passage. They generally appear in a chronological relationship to the passage. If they are local questions, based on facts available in the passage then the first questions should be in the earlier paragraphs. If they are inferential, that is, where you have to make an assumption, then you might have to collate material from various paragraphs; this would require familiarity with the entire passage. Besides this, even questions where you may be asked, for instance, give a suitable title to the passage, it would again need you to know the entire passage well.

Some More Strategies You Might Find Useful

Read the brief introduction that appears before the text as it will give you an idea as to what the passage is about.

Use the line reference carefully and make sure that you have located the exact reference called for.

If you have time, then you might choose to read and answer questions for the passages with familliar subjects you are comfortable with before going into unfamilliar territory. This in fact may save you some time as you will be able to work faster with a familiar subject. This will also leave you with time to work on an unfamiliar subject.

Read the passage first as rapidly as you can but not without understanding it. An optimum reading speed for attempting these comprehension passages is 250-275 words per minute. You can test your speed with each of the following passages by dividing the time you take with the number of words in the passage.

After you have read the passage try to answer the questions. It might be better to finish all the questions on a particular passage before going on to the next one, as your trend of thought will change to concentrate on the next set of questions.

There are six major types of questions. They are listed below:

  1. Local or factual questions or those concerning specific details. They test your explicit understanding of the information given to you. For example, What are the characteristics of...? or All these factors support the writerís argument except...? One way of answering these questions is to scan the passage for the key words in the question or for its synonyms.

  2. Vocabulary-in-context questions. Here you have to decide what a particular word or phrase means as it is used in the passage. This is best answered by checking nearby contextual words when you have an unfamiliar word. Use your knowledge of word parts. Try each choice in the context; make a sensible guess, judging which word fits best.

  3. Questions regarding inference, assumption or conclusion that are not explicitly stated. They ask you for an opinion. For example, It can be inferred that... or It can be assumed that... or It is likely that..., etc. The trick to answering these is to ignore those choices which are a repetition of what the passage states explicitly and to concentrate on what it implies indirectly.

  4. Questions on the Key Idea. These questions test your understanding of the theme of the passage. They could also take the form of questions on the best suited title. To cite an example: Which of the following statements best express the main idea of the passage? These can be answered by some careful reading. You should be able to spot the key sentence in a paragraph and extend this to the theme of the passage. Make sure you read the first and last sentences of all the paragraphs if you are in a hurry. This information will guide you to the right choice.

  5. Technical detail questions. These would test your understanding of the organization of the passage, the recognition of theme and its logical connectors, the factors that lead to coherence, that is, the relationship between the first sentence and the rest of the passage, the relationship between paragraphs, the writerís techniques in developing his/her argument, debate, prediction, analysis etc. In order to answer these you would have to be familiar with the vocabulary that deals with the organization within a text. These elements include the traits of assertion, exposition, rhetoric, antithesis, generalization, specifics, etc.

  6. Tone or attitude questions. These test your understanding of the writerís style as well as the authorís personal opinions reflected in the passage, his emotion towards the subject. The authorís attitude can best be described as... or the writerís tone can be described as... - this is the way in which questions of this kind are phrased. To answer this look for words that convey feelings, express opinions, make value judgments, or paint pictures in terms of positive or negative connotations.

    Always tackle the double passages one at a time. Read Passage 1 and attempt the questions on it which should be in sequential order; then read Passage 2; attempt the questions on it. Finally attempt the questions common to both passages.

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Index

PART II

2.1 Sentence Completion
2.2 Analogy
2.3 Reading Comprehension
2.4 Some Tips

Part 3

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