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Tackling SHSAT Reading Comprehension Questions

Phase I: Read the Passage

Phase II: Identifying the Question Types

Now that you’ve gained a good understanding of how to approach the passage itself, you can finally start to look at the most important part of the section: the questions themselves. Determining the type of question being asked is the first step; doing so will allow you to effectively read parts of the passage to answer appropriately.

 

1. Main Idea Questions

The main idea question focuses on summarizing the most important idea of the passage. It is helpful to understand that the main idea ties all of the paragraphs together and is the overall central theme. Common Traps in Main Idea Questions. The main idea should be neither too narrow nor too broad. Too narrow of an answer choice tends to cover some details in the passage, but not all that were discussed. Adversely, an answer choice may cover all of the ideas in the passage, but may include others that were not mentioned directly in the reading. Any answer covering unsupported or new information will be incorrect.

Examples of main idea questions can include:

  1. What is the main idea of this passage?
  2. What is the passage mainly about?
  3. A good title for this passage would be…?
  4. Which of the following most accurately describes the passage?
  5. What is the author’s primary purpose in this passage?

 

2. Detail Questions

Detail questions are the most common form of questions found in the Reading Comprehension section. Thankfully, they are very easy to master and answer correctly; just consider them to be a part of an open book test. Whatever the question is asking, the passage must provide the details. Depending on what you are asked, you just have to locate that information in the passage. It is always important to read the information outside of the reference provided in the question. The questions most likely require some amount of context clues to fully answer, so reading the sentence before and after the following sentence can help. Identifying detail questions is simple enough. In some instances, a phrase in the question may refer to back to the passage: “According to the passage…”.

Examples of detail questions can include:

  1. According to the passage, which of the following is true?
  2. John was best known for his ability to do what?
  3. During its final trip to the Atlantic Ocean, what did the ship come across?

 

3. Inference Questions

Inference questions mainly ask you to draw conclusions based on information provided directly in the passage. Note that the inference is never directly stated in the passage.


For example, a passage can discuss the travels of a character. It may describe in great detail surroundings of the area that the character is set in, but may not explicitly state the location. Take a look at the passage below.


Hundreds of cars honked on the road as Jim walked down the littered streets. The view of the sky was completely blocked by the dozens of skyscrapers. The air was thick with smoke and smog. Jim felt sickened and disgusted; this was not what he had imagined at all.

From this excerpt, a number of details can be inferred. While it is not directly stated, it can be concluded that Jim is most likely visiting a city. It is most likely his first time stepping into the city as well, according to his negative reaction to his experience. All of this can easily be interpreted without having any direct details on Jim’s whereabouts or past travels.

Common Traps in Inference Questions. Remember, the answer to inference questions are never directly stated in the passage – answers that discuss the exact details are to be avoided.

Examples of inference questions can include:

  1. The character in this passage is most likely…
  2. This passage can most likely be found in a…

 

4. Vocabulary Questions

Vocabulary questions ask you to find synonyms of specific words that are to be found in the reading passage. The word provided may or may not be a word that you recognize, but the key to answering such questions correctly lies in using context clues.


Answering vocabulary questions is very simple. Read the sentence that the word is located in, as well as the sentences that come both before and after for better reference. Once you have a general understanding of what the word is, replace the vocabulary word with each of the answer choices and select the word that best

fits the definition of the word.

Examples of vocabulary questions can include:

  1. The word _____ most nearly means…
  2. According to the passage, which word most closely represents _____?

Read about our frequently asked question.

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