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READING COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES

The Six Questions The key to performing well on the passages is not the particular reading technique you use (so long as its not speed reading). Rather the key is to become completely familiar with the question typesthere are only sixso that you can anticipate the questions that might be asked as you read the passage and answer those that are asked more quickly and efficiently. As you become familiar with the six question types, you will gain an intuitive sense for the places from which questions are likely to be drawn. The six questions are 1 Main Idea 2 Description 3 Writing Technique 4 Extension 5 Application 6 Tone Main Idea 1. The main idea of a passage is usually stated in the last, sometimes the first, sentence of the first paragraph. If its not there, it will probably be the last sentence of the entire passage. If after the first reading, you dont have a feel for the main idea, review the first and last sentence of each paragraph. In most passages the authors primary purpose is to persuade the reader to accept hisher opinion. Occasionally, it is to describe something. Some common main idea questions are 1. Which one of the following best expresses the main idea of the passage? 2. The primary purpose of the passage is to . 3. In the passage, the authors primary concern is to discuss . 4. The author seems to suggest that. 5. The author seems to be in favour of 6. The authors purpose of writing the above passage seems to explain 7. The passage appears to have been written with the purpose of

2.

3.

Description Description questions refer to a point made by the author. However, description questions refer to a minor point or to incidental information, not to the authors main point. The answer to a description question must refer directly to a statement in the passage, not to something implied by it. However, the correct answer will paraphrase a statement in the passage, not give an exact quote. When answering a description question, you must find the point in the passage from which the question is drawn. Dont rely on memory. Not only must the correct answer refer directly to a statement in the passage, it must refer to the relevant statement. Once you spot the sentence to which the question refers, you still must read a few sentences before and after it, to put the question in context. Even if you have spotted the answer , you should still read a couple more lines to make certain you have the proper perspective. These questions take various forms: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. According to the passage The passage suggests that which one of the following would What according to the passage Which of the following according to the passage Which of the following statements is not true in the context of the passage? Which of the following statements is true in the context of the passage? SYNONYMS AND ANTONYMS

Often you will be asked to define a word or phrase based on its context. For this type of question, again you must look at a few lines before and after the word. Dont assume that because the word is familiar you know the definition requested. Words often have more than one meaning. For example, as a noun champion means the winner, but as a verb champion means to be an advocate for someone. You must consider the words context to get its correct meaning. One common way the GRE introduces a defining word or phrase is to place it in apposition to the word being defined. Words or phrases in apposition are placed next to each other, and the second word or phrase defines, clarifies, or gives evidence for the first word or phrase. The second word or phrase will be set off from the first by a comma, semicolon, hyphen, or parentheses. (Note: If a comma is not followed by a linking wordsuch as and, for, yetthen the following phrase is probably appositional.) Example: The discussions were acrimonious, frequently degenerating into name-calling Contests After the comma in this sentence, there is no linking word (such as and, but, because, although, etc.). Hence the phrase following the comma is in apposition to acrimoniousit defines or further clarifies the word. Now acrimonious means bitter, mean-spirited talk, which would aptly describe a name-calling contest.

Some common questions are: 1. Choose the word which is similar in meaning to the word supple as used in the passage. 2. Choose the word which is most opposite in meaning to the word supple as used in the passage. Writing Technique 1 All coherent writing has a superstructure or blueprint. When writing, we dont just randomly jot down our thoughts; we organize our ideas and present them in a logical manner. For instance, we may present evidence that builds up to a conclusion but intentionally leave the conclusion unstated, or we may present a position and then contrast it with an opposing position, or we may draw an extended similarity. However, some techniques are very common to the type of explanatory or opinionated writing found in passages. A. Compare and contrast two positions. This technique has a number of variations, but the most common and direct is to develop two ideas or systems (comparing) and then point out why one is better than the other (contrasting). ___Idea 1_________ Comparing contrasting ________________

Idea 2
Some common questions are: 1. The author has given the example of Angola, South Africa etc in order to Bring out the similarity, emphasize, support the argument. 2. According to the passage, a central distinction between a womans presence and a mans presence is 3. In which of the following way does the author imply that birds and reptiles are similar? 4 Writing-technique questions are similar to main idea questions; except that they ask about how the author presents his ideas, not about the ideas themselves. B. Show cause and effect. In this technique, the author typically shows how a particular cause leads to a certain result or set of results. It is not uncommon for this method to introduce a sequence of causes and effects. A causes B, which causes C, which causes D, and so on. Hence B is both the effect of A and the cause of C. C-------->E C----------<E C---C/E-----C/E-----E

C. State a position and then give supporting evidence. This technique is common with opinionated passages. Equally common is the reverse order. That is, the supporting evidence is presented and then the position or conclusion is stated. And sometimes the evidence will be structured to build up to a conclusion which is then left unstated. If this is done skillfully the reader will be more likely to arrive at the same conclusion as the author. E E-------------------POSITION E

E E------------UNSTATED POSITION E

Following are some typical questions for these types of passages: 1 2 According to the author, which of the following is required for one to become proficient with a computer? Which of the following does the author cite as evidence that the bald eagle is in danger of becoming extinct?

Extension Extension questions require you to go beyond what is stated in the passage, asking you to draw an inference from the passage, to make a conclusion based on the passage, or to identify one of the authors unstated assumptions. Since extension questions require you to go beyond the passage, the correct answer must say more than what is said in the passage. The correct answer will often both paraphrase and extend a statement in the passage, but it will not directly quote it. Some common questions are: 1. The first sentence of the passage implies 2. What can be inferred about the policy being followed about child labour in India? 3. It can be inferred from the passage that. Application

Application questions differ from extension questions only in degree. Extension questions ask you to apply what you have learned from the passage to derive new information about the same subject, whereas application questions go one step further, asking you to apply what you have learned from the passage to a different or hypothetical situation. To answer an application question, take the authors perspective. Ask yourself: what am I arguing for? what might make my argument stronger? what might make it weaker? Because these questions go well beyond the passage, they tend to be the most difficult. Furthermore, because application questions and extension questions require a

deeper understanding of the passage, skimming the passage is ineffective. Skimming may give you the main idea and structure of the passage, but it is unlikely to give you the subtleties of the authors attitude. Some common questions are: 1. Which one of the following is the most likely source of the passage? 2. Which of the following actions would be most likely to have the same effect as the authors action? You may be asked to complete the thought of the author. 1. The author would most likely agree with which one of the following statements? 2. Which one of the following sentences would the author be most likely to use to complete the last paragraph of the passage? Tone 1 Tone questions ask you to identify the writers attitude or perspective. Is the writers feeling toward the subject positive, negative, or neutral? Does the writer give his own opinion, or does he objectively present the opinions of others? Before you read the answer-choices, decide whether the writers tone is positive, negative, or neutral. However, if you did not get a feel for the writers attitude on the first reading, check the adjectives that he chooses. Adjectives and, to a lesser extent, adverbs express our feelings toward subjects. For instance, if we agree with a person who holds strong feelings about a subject, we may describe his opinions as impassioned. On the other hand, if we disagree with him, we may describe his opinions as excitable, which has the same meaning as impassioned but carries a negative connotation. Some common questions are: 1. Which of the following can be inferred about the position of the author in writing the passage? 2. From the contents of the passage it appears that the author is a vehement critic, a staunch follower. 3. The authors attitude towards the system can be best described as encourage, concerned, pleased, hopeful, doubtful. 4 Which one of the following best describes the authors attitude toward scientific techniques? Critical, hostile, idealistic, ironic, neutral.