« on: October 26, 2006, 01:59:25 PM »
NOTE: I might eventually expand the question types into comprehensive subtypes. At present, this is a general outline. Suggestions welcome.
ANOTHER NOTE: If you disagree with anything in here, post about it. I'm not afraid to add other viewpoints.
Filet's Guide to Reading Comprehension.
I was bored.
This topic was bothering me.
Reading Comprehension performance, contrary to popular LSD opinion, can be improved. Improvement does NOT involve learning to read faster or getting smarter (although both might help...). Rather, it involves three things: (1) paying attention to the absolutely predictable nature of the RC section, (2) learning to read for the structure of the passage, and (3) managing time.
(1) The Absolutely Predictable Nature of the RC Section.
RC is predictable because it only has three broad types of questions:
1. Questions that address the passage as a whole (structure, main point, purpose)
These can usually be answered without much reference to the passage. If you paraphrase the function of each paragraph as you read (see below), these questions should be rather simple.
2. Questions that can be answered directly from the passage (According to the passage, according to the author, etc)
These are also rather simple because the answer can usually be found directly in the passage (or in the case of some EXCEPT questions, the answer is the only thing that can't be found in the passage). If you read for structure you should know where things are located for easy reference. It's FINE and APPROPRIATE to look back at the passage. It's right there, why wouldn't you?
3. Questions that ask you to extrapolate from the passage (Author would agree with, the function of, it can be inferred, etc.)
This type is the most difficult, of course, because the answer might require some thought (oh no!). I'll break it down into two subtypes to make discussion simpler:
3a. General -- question does NOT direct you to a particular place in the passage.
Without any concrete place for reference, you'll need to consider the passage as a whole. These questions typically deal with the author's mood or position (or the position of a non-author voice within the passage). Paraphrase that entity's mood (something you should be reading for; see below) or position in one sentence then look at the answers.
3b. Specific -- question directs you with line numbers, quotations, useful nouns, etc.
These are a bit more tolerable because you're anchored to a specific place in the passage, so go to that place. What is the context of what you were directed to read? You might have to read back a couple sentences. Does it serve as evidence or conclusion? Which viewpoint does it belong to? etc. Then look at the answers.
Right, that was a bit brief but it's a start. The most important thing is to become familiar with the question types and how to deal with them. RC doesn't have any surprises really (until next June, at least).
(2) Reading for the Structure of the Passage.
We've seen that RC questions ask for three types of information. Use that to your advantage. When you're finished reading the passage, you should be able to answer a few basic questions:
1. The overview -- what was the function of the passage? Advocate, explain, compare, etc.
2. What was the function of each paragraph? One sentence summary of each (mental or jotted) as you read.
3. What were all of the viewpoints? Critic's, Author's, Character's, etc. I like to circle sentences that clearly give an entity's viewpoint -- According to some critics, for example.
4. What evidence do the entities use to support their viewpoints? I like to number these in the margin.
5. Did the author agree with any of the viewpoints? Which one?
If you get that much from the reading the questions should be easy. Don't try to memorize every line or every piece of evidence; you don't need to because you can look at the passage again any time.
(3) Managing Time
I prefer to read the passages straight through in order and answer every question in order. I'm going to answer them all anyway, so why waste time skipping around, right? This is the ideal situation but it's not the case for everyone. If you have trouble completing the section you might consider this strategy:
1. Flip through the section and note the number of questions for each passage.
2. Start on the passage with the MOST questions.
3. End on the passage with the LEAST questions.
Why? Time investment.
It will take you around 3 minutes to read a passage no matter how many questions are on the passage. In other words, the reading time investment is roughly the same for every passage. You can get more potential points for the same time investment by starting on the passage with the most questions. Also, if you do run out of time, you've left the passage with the fewest questions -- that means fewer guesses.