A great way to improve your reading comprehension skills is to work strategically through the reading exercise. While many students condemn themselves to the brutal task of speed-reading, many others decide to just give the passage one thorough read and leave the rest to lady luck. Of course, there are also the super-intelligent ones who do neither and answer the questions anyway. Whatever your strategy, you dread Reading Comprehension to a massive degree, simply because of the level of unpredictability it brings to the table.
How does one train for Reading Comprehension when everyone reasons and comprehends differently?
Well, one of the reasons strategy #1 is always “Read a LOT”, is the fact that repeated exposure to reading improves both comprehension and speed. Not only do you start to build on your vocabulary, you also learn how to scourge the heap of information you are presented with, to get to the point! Invariably, you read faster, because now you have had “reading experience”; you know how the writer’s mind works.
What else you can do inside qs leap ?
Unfortunately, not everyone is always up for voracious reading, what with scores of “interesting” substitutes leaving their mark in people’s lives. Fortunately for them, there are ways to strategize reading and then practice the strategy. Instead of starting your prep for the RC section by reading excessively, it might be a healthier alternative to read actively and mindfully instead. Let’s go over how you can do that to get you started:
Step 1: Size up passage tone – This is something you should be able to understand the moment you start reading because it’s the attitude the writer started writing with. He/she will have had to have this even before the writing materialized on paper. The tone is the writer’s cause, and this is what will start to give away the writer’s purpose of writing. Once you form an understanding of why the passage was written, things like the topic and main idea should become easier to grasp as you move ahead with the reading.
Step 2: Assess passage structure – What is now your reading assignment was once the writer’s writing assignment, and when the writer wrote this piece, he/she will have had to consider what best structure gives it its essence. Ideally, a writer writes in a way that consecutive ideas add up to the overall purpose of the writing. Typically, each consecutive idea takes up an entire paragraph, and that is why you must start to construct an idea structure that builds upward with the passing of each paragraph. Once this structure is complete, you should find it easier to answer any questions about supporting ideas. The best way to absorb each idea as you proceed with the reading is to observe the significant shifts from one paragraph to the next. These shifts are fairly clear as they involve transitioning elements such as “Although” or “Also” to demonstrate contrasts or elaboration. In order to smoothly process the ideas, it is good practice to mentally summarize each paragraph, and add the dominant ideas to the existing idea structure you have been constructing so far.
Step 3: Skim the specifics – While there is supporting information that very largely affects the writer’s objective (as explained in the previous step), there are also certain specific details that delve much deeper into the supporting information to give it colour and hold up its relevance. This is clearly because writing is inherently an exercise that cannot be done without elaboration. You need the supporting information from the paragraphs to convey the main idea, and likewise you will need some minute specifics to support and convey the supporting information itself. Now, since these specifics are extremely discrete, they are not likely to come up in the questions that follow the passage. Their relevance is limited to giving form to the ideas presented in each paragraph, and because they do not explicitly provide the reader with any relevant ideas of their own, it is wise to skim over them at 5 times the speed used for the supporting ideas.
Step 4: Examine the scope of the passage – The scope is essentially where the author draws a line on information dissemination. For example, a lot can be said about, let’s say, a highly debated scientific theory, if a writer goes about explaining it. However, the writer’s purpose behind writing the passage was not mentioning EVERYTHING about the theory. He/she may have merely wanted to add to the debate surrounding the theory with a conclusion that was perhaps recently unearthed, and unknown to the scientific community. Lucky for you, the non-scientist, he/she will have mentioned this in the discourse, and when you have found it, you’ve found the scope of the passage.
While these steps give you pointers about how you need to approach reading in general, remember that individual minds work in individual ways, and thus, every student is likely to find their own reasoning capabilities as they practice over time. There are many advocates of the speed-reading exercise that employs rather unnatural a strategy to forcibly push the mind through more than it can absorb. While some seemed to have benefited from this strategy, some have actually hindered comprehension, and since the whole point of the RC section is assessing comprehension, speed-reading might just be a bane rather than a boon.
Dearly beloved, I urge you to be a competent reader; not a speed-reader.
Come join the discussion about reading for CAT 2016.