How to Approach Reading Comprehension Questions

A wide variety of strategies exist for handling reading comprehension problems. If you have past experience with standardized tests (perhaps the ACT or SAT), you may have a strategy for attacking reading comprehension questions. Nonetheless, one possible method for approaching these problems is outlined below:

  1. Write down A B C D E in your erasable notebook in vertical order (i.e., after A, drop down a line and write B, drop down another line and write C, etc.). As you go through answer choices, you will cross out wrong choices. This saves mental energy and prevents careless mistakes (e.g., you store the answer in your mind, only to recall the wrong answer when you input it into the computer). It is important to write the answer grid down before you read the passage or the question because writing the letters A, B, C, D, and E weakens your memory of the passage you just read.
  2. Take a quick yet concentrated read of the passage. DO NOT try to understand everything. You simply cannot absorb all the information and it is a waste of precious time. When reading, look for the following:
    • Literary Type (e.g., persuasive argument, informative narrative)
    • Argument Structure
    • Main Ideas
    • Supporting Ideas
    • Mood (e.g., complementary, argumentative)
    • Important Dates and Characters
  3. Begin answering questions, re-reading specific sections as necessary.