Reading Comprehension for Competitive Exams

Almost in every competitive exam, there is a section for Reading Comprehension. What is it? Why is it important? What are the common errors done by everyone? Just as the term says,  Reading Comprehension refers to our ability to read and understand the context of the given text. This test evaluates our grammatical knowledge, vocabulary, ability to draw inferences and contextual knowledge. 

Most of the questions in this section follow either of these types – simple comprehension or inferential comprehension.  The former involves reading the passage and finding answers explicitly. The second type is the one which students find challenging because it isn’t a skill to be improved overnight. This type involves interpreting the given text and drawing inferences from it. Constant reading and practice is necessary to improve vocabulary and interpretation skills. Firstly, the exam takers should find if the passage is objective or subjective. If subjective, they should try to know the purpose of the writer –  whether he wants to promote, criticize, defend and so on. 

Also, the prose passage can take one of these following forms – narration, description, exposition, and argumentation. If it is a narration, then it recalls an event or something that has happened. Description gives a word picture of what a person, a place or an object is. Exposition aims to inform, reason or clarify. Argumentation gives different opinions and opposition on the concerned matter. It tries to argue from a certain point of view, either for or against.

After reading the passage thoroughly, we ought to answer the questions. The questions can be asked in 

  • True or False format.
  • Multiple choice format.
  • Completion format and
  • Short answer format.

In true or false format, the exam takers are asked to decide whether the statement given in connection to the passage is true or false. Multiple choice question format is the most common type followed in most of the competitive exams. The exam takers are to choose the best option out of all the choices given. Only one option is correct and all others are used to trick the exam takers.  So, the exam takers should be careful in such cases. Completion format involves filling out the blank spaces or finding the missing letters of a word. The short answer format expects the exam taker to answer in one or two sentences. 

The common errors done by the exam takers involve misunderstanding the context of the passage and making wrong conclusions. When the exam takers interpret the passage from their point of view, they misinterpret the writer’s  intentions and opinions. Sometimes, they may not understand the figurative language used like metaphors, allusions, similes and so on. They may not comprehend the relation between various ideas of the passage. Also, they may not be able to identify the main idea of the passage at times. 

Reading comprehension requires the readers’ concentration and understanding skills. The exam takers need to work everyday on their language and comprehensive ability to be able to answer the questions quickly. A daily read of 30 minutes may help this purpose. The book referred to the purpose of the article is ‘English for Competitive Examinations’ by R P Bhatnagar.