Reading IV: Reading Comprehension for Standardize Testing

Many tutors who are participating in HW Help program are completely done with standardized exams and never have to take one again. And so, it can be difficult to retrieve the skills we learned throughout our own schooling for reading comprehension. This is why It is a good idea to review the following skills and conceptualize them in your own words so that you may then teach them to your patient.

Focus on The MAIN ARGUMENT/IDEA (ie, Thesis), not the DETAILS. Evidence is just there to bolster the author’s case

Critical Reasoning Questions to Ask:

  • What is the point or central theme of the article?
  • Why did the author take the time to sit down and write this?
  • What does the author means when she makes some statement?
  • How did she strengthen or weaken the argument?
  • Would the author agree with some statement based on her position in the passage?
  • Does the author takes a side in a debate, and if so, which one and why?
  • Is the author positive, negative, or neutral toward his/her subject?
  • How do the evidence/details pertain to his argument? Or relate to the central point?
  • What is the purpose of this paragraph or sentence? Is it background information? Is it an explanation of an opinion? Is it supporting examples?
  • Can you imagine a person disagreeing with the conclusions?

For Example, to figure out the author’s point of view, separate the fact and opinion. “What’s the main idea?” You need to look past the facts, which contribute to the summary, but are not the point of the passage:

  • “Sandra Day O’Connor was a paragon, an example to women everywhere, a perfect choice as the first female justice.” Main argument : O’Connor is awesome
  • “Condoleezza Rice is a classically trained pianist, a figure skater, and a football fan.” Main argument : it’s Rice’s hobbies.

Helpful Hints

  • Pretend to debate with the author and it will you focus on the arguments rather than on the details
  • Once you understand a POINT, and you can make sense of it in CONTEXT, forget it and move on
  • Ultimately, you should be looking for a thesis and for a structured support of that thesis. the author is not trying to make you remember a concatenation of facts–they want to convince you of the existence and dynamics of a process.
  • Anything with numbers is a detail. Don’t worry about memorizing or understanding them, just note where they are and what they’re about.
  • View all authors as attempting not to inform you, but to persuade you
  • MENTALLY MAP the passage (topic/sub-topic). Circle keywords. Your map should be an outline of the purpose of each paragraph, not the details (in other words, not just a paraphrase). Also, it is absolutely essential that you write very little
  • Predict your answers before you look at the answer choices
  • Practice your critical reading and answer prediction skills for a few minutes every day
  • Try to avoid going back to the passage and reading paragraphs over again because the time is so precious […]
  • If you have no clue to what the passages is getting at, move onto the next passage for now; you have no time to think on this section.
  • Look for the opinion keywords
  • Avoid picking extreme choices for the author’s viewpoint
  • You want to be sure that you find something that applies to every (or almost every) paragraph, rather than applying to only one paragraph. If the selection applies to only one example given, it is not the theme.
  • Pause after each paragraph, make sure that you’ve understood the gist, and quickly decide on a couple of key words to circle. This ensures that you haven’t read so quickly that nothing was absorbed.
  • Try to summarize the point (purpose) of the passage in one sentence/phrase in your head.
  • Remember wrong answer options are designed to look like right answers. Wrong answers are often relevant to the passage, but not to the particular question.
  • Make sure that you have a (1) good handle on the overall point of the passage, as well as (2) the purpose of each paragraph within that passage, (3) that you understand the specific question, and (4) your answer does not superficially “sound good”, but it is actually the right answer to the right question.


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