Reading Comprehension - Platinum Techniques

Reading comprehension is in one sense simple: read the material, comprehend it, and answer the questions. However, it can seem difficult, complicated, and subjective. The following techniques strengthened the performance of past test-takers and should prove helpful in improving your performance on reading comprehension questions.

Identify Question Types

It is essential that you quickly identify the type of question you are being asked. This enables you to enter the right mindset, attack the problem in the appropriate way, avoid common wrong answers, and pinpoint the correct answer. There are only a handful of approximately 5-10 question types that you should become familiar with.

Find Evidence in the Text

The text is your ally in attacking reading comprehension questions. For a majority of question types (except those that ask you to extrapolate from the passage or weaken an argument in the passage), the answer to the question is in the text. It is essential that you find evidence for the correct answer in the text (except for the aforementioned question types). You must be able to justify your answer by pointing to specific words or sentences. Common incorrect answers seem logical and appeal to common sense but are not rooted in the text.

Do Not Read Too Slowly

A common approach to reading comprehension questions is to read every sentence extremely closely, paying attention to every detail. Although this may sound like good advice, the difficulty is that it will take far too long (especially on more difficult passages that are longer). The bottom line is that you cannot absorb all the information you need to answer the questions on your first-time through. Instead, you should read rather quickly, gathering the main idea and learning where specific topics are discussed. Using this approach, you can quickly return to the appropriate part of the passage in order to answer a question.

Identify Parallel Answers

If you are absolutely unsure about what the correct answer is, look closely at the answer choices and try to find parallel answer choices--that is, answer choices that say very similar things in different ways. These parallel answers are almost certainly not correct so eliminate them and guess.