ELA Reading for Comprehension -- General Strategies
1. Quickly skim the questions before reading the passage for a general idea of what to pay attention to.
2. Underline important phrases while reading and especially while answering questions. You should be able to point to the answer of almost every question in the passage.
3. Pay attention to tone / style / author’s objective
-Common types: personal memoir, historical narrative, scientific article
-Non-fiction passages more often associated with discovery, demonstration, and conveyance of information
-Fictional narratives more often associated with nostalgia, recollection, sentimentality
4. Use process of elimination. If you know an answer choice is wrong, cross it off.
5. Read all the answer choices!
-If a question has an “all of the above” choice:
-If you are SURE that at least 2 choices are definitely correct, select “all of the above”.
-If you are SURE that at least 1 is definitely incorrect, eliminate “all of the above”.
-If you are not certain, carefully reread all choices before deciding.
6. If you are stuck on a particular passage or question, skip it and go back to it later -- but don’t forget you’ve skipped it!
Tips for Particular Question Types
1. Vocabulary comprehension
-“In this selection, the word [____] means: … “
-Read 1-2 sentences before and after the quoted word. Do NOT answer the question based solely on prior knowledge of the word’s definition. Always use its context.
-Sequence: “The final part of [___] was: …”
-Find and underline the answer in the passage.
3. Cause / Effect
-“The reason [____] was because: …”
-Go back to the passage and read before/after the referenced incident. The passage usually tells you why something happened OR what its result was; usually, either one will answer the question.
4. Meaning / Significance
-“When the author says [_____], he means: … “
“The narrator says [_____] because: … “
-Go back to the passage and search for evidence supporting answer choices.
-Be careful: some answer choices may contain key words but in the wrong context.
5. Inference / Conclusion
-“The author implies that: …”
-Choose the answer choice that is most supported by the text.
-Refer to the passage. Sometimes, but not always, the answer is literally given in the text.
6. Main Idea / Author’s Intention
-“The purpose of this selection was..”
-“The main idea is that…”
-These questions are sometimes the hardest. Make sure you read and understand the whole passage.
-Pay particular attention to passage style.
-Make sure the choice isn’t too general (“The author wants to show that EVERYONE ___”), but also make sure it isn’t too narrow that it’s a mere detail
-Look for a choice that is broad enough that it encompasses an important idea but also specific enough (and factually accurate!) to the particular passage.