How to Effectively answer Comprehension Passages in any Exam

The Reading Comprehension section of any examination contains comprehension passages and questions about the passages. The questions are about information that is stated or implied in the passage and about some of the specific words in the passages.

Reading comprehension Passages is beginning to get more exposure with every passing day. Employers and other major examination bodies have continued to make it compulsory for students to answer questions under comprehension passages in their exams and aptitude tests.

Some examiners make candidates answer questions under more than two long comprehension passages. The painful thing is that they give candidates very limited time to attempt the questions.

Now, Answering questions under comprehension passages in examinations is the challenge of so many students. As a matter of fact, students and Job seekers concede a lot of marks under comprehension passages in their exams and aptitude tests.

Poor Performance in answering the Questions

This poor performance in answering questions under comprehension passages is not only because the questions are some times too difficult but because the candidates don’t get enough time to go through the passages carefully.

If you have ever been in a situation where you are to answer more than one comprehension passages within a limited time, you will understand that tackling questions under comprehension passages require certain tactics.

Do you know that you can answer questions under comprehension passages with the speed of light in the exam hall? In fact, you can answer every question under comprehension passages without reading every line in the passage. That is what you are about to learn right now.

I will try to make this tutorial as simple as possible. I will also be linking to some of my recent articles to make sure that you don’t miss out anything. Are you ready? Take a glass of water and let’s begin.

The Structure of Compression Passages

The compression passage is usually made up of a main sentence and supporting sentences.

The main sentence caries the central Idea. If you have ever gone through a Sunday school manual, you will see a central truth written immediately after the topic. The central truth summaries the whole idea in the topic.

That is to say, every other idea revolve around the central truth. The main sentence assumes the role of central truth in a comprehension passage. Most times, the main sentence is presented in the first paragraph.

The supporting sentences consists of examples or illustrations to support the idea presented in the main sentence. Examiners make the supporting sentences so interesting that you might be tempted to take them for the main idea in the passage.

Observe the sample comprehension passage I adapted from MASSBAY COLLEGE Publication below:

INSTRUCTION: Two underlined sentences are followed by a question or statement. Read the sentences, and then choose the best
answer to the question or the best completion of the statement.
Anxious to ensure that America would depart from European traditions regarding religion and royalty, the early U.S.
could be described as a place that focused more on work than on the entertainment offered by spectacle and ceremony
in the Old World.
However, national celebrations such as the lighting of the White House Christmas Tree and the ceremonies used to
swear in new federal officials give the American people some experiences that are based upon national tradition.

QUESTION: What does the second sentence do?
A) It cancels the meaning of the first.
B) It provides an example of the first sentence.
C) It adds more detail to the first sentence.
D) It offers an exception to the information given in the first sentence.

Whats your answer? Option C right right… It is wrong. The correct answer is (B) It provides an example of the first sentence. The line below in the  passage confirms the answer “…such as the lighting of the White House Christmas Tree and the ceremonies…”

What Makes Comprehension Passages Seem Confusing

  • Tension
  • Vocabulary in the comprehension.
  •  Difficulty in understanding the meaning of the questions.
  •  Time constraint
  • Use of figures of speech
  • Poor reading skill
  • Register used
  • Length of the Article

Suggested Solution:

  • Improve your Vocabulary
  • Relax and try to overcome exam tension
  • Read and solve comprehensions, as many as possible
  • Solve passages from different fields of knowledge, like Science, Arts, Literature, Politics, Economics etc.
  • Stay focused
  • Don’t be moved by the length of the comprehension passage, in fact, the longer the passage is, the simpler.

What To Do Before The Examination Or Aptitude Test

A. Improve Your Vocabulary

Why you need to improve your vocabulary? Vocabulary means knowledge of words (meaning of words). If you do not have a good vocabulary, you have to stop at every new word in the reading comprehension, and be puzzled what does it mean? So, when you don’t know the meaning of a word, it becomes very difficult to understand the gist in the Comprehension passage. Having a good vocabulary, makes you understand the reading  Comprehension  much easier.

How to improve your vocabulary?

A. Start reading in English, anything…….  Newspapers, stories, comics, text books….anything, that keeps you immersed in English. New words gradually sink into your subconscious mind and become familiar.

  • Keep a notebook, Note down the new words you learned today and revise them periodically.
  • Keep a target and a schedule to learn a certain number of new words every day. You are the better person to decide the number,… I am not. Do not deviate from the schedule at any cost.

B. Solve Past Questions

By solving the previous papers you can understand and identify what kind of questions are appearing in the examination, so that you will be mentally prepared for those kind of questions.

  • Few questions are Simple
  • Some Draw Inferences
  • Some of the RC questions will ask you about a specific word from a paragraph
  • While some are Parallel Reasoning Questions.

What To Do When You Are Given Comprehension Passages To Answer

The first thing you should do while reading a comprehension passage is to forget the length of the article and whatever you think you know concerning the subject or topic being discussed. If the passage says that Chelsea is the best football club in the world, don’t argue. Simply give them what they want and you are home and dry.

Like I said earlier, you can answer comprehension passages without actually reading everything in the passage. You may be asking how… Now let me explain.

Recall that the main sentence represents the complete Idea of the passage. If you are asked questions like “which of the following is true according to the passage”. The answer is always the main sentence.

Reading the passage to the end will make you confuse the examples and illustrations given for the main idea. Reading half of the first or last paragraph can provide the answer.

Another very important strategy in answering comprehension passages is to read each question and search for where the answer in the passage.

There is one trick that works for me. Anytime I come across a confusing question under comprehension passages, I analyze the option with the longest answer whether it makes sense. When it does, I quickly choose it.

See the Reading Comprehension passage below:

Read the passage below and then choose the best answer to the question from the list of lettered choices that follows.
Did you know that a half-gallon milk container holds about $50.00 in pennies? While all investment counselors realize
that we must accumulate money in order to save, most recommend different kinds of investments for people who are
in different stages of life. Older investors, those with limited funds to invest, or people with greater financial and
family commitments, should take fewer risks. Younger, wealthier, and unmarried investors can afford to venture into
the unknown.

Which of the following best describes the main idea of this passage?

A) A penny saved is a penny earned
B) Old people have the most money.
C) Our ages and stage of life are part of what determines the investments that are best for us.
D) Young people should concentrate on collecting pennies.

How To Answer Questions Under Comprehension Passages Effectively

A. Constant Practice

In my article on how to fall in love with mathematics, I emphasized on the effectiveness of constant practice. When you constantly solve problems under comprehension passages, it just becomes very easy for you in the exam hall. Charity begins at home and not in the house.

Get as many questions under comprehension passages and attempt them. You should be able to justify any answer you  pick from the passage before accepting that it is actually correct.

“Normally, students who believe themselves weak in Reading Comprehension, are unwilling to practice. Most of them try to avoid solving at home. They make a lot of excuses.

But remember excuses don’t bring you success. Success won’t be available unless you confront your fears and weaknesses. Remember, No one asks you “why didn’t you succeed in life?”  They only ask you “Did you succeed or not?”

B. Use a pen while Going through the Passage

Do not read the Reading Comprehension like a movie novel. While going through the passage, your  three body organs should act in collaboration.

  • Eyes
  • Hand
  • Brain

Make a habit of finding valuable keywords quickly and underline those keywords with a pen (If the rules permit, otherwise use a dark pencil). 

C. Find out words that are useless

If you carefully examine any Reading Comprehension passage, you can easily find out that there are so many words, phrases in the comprehension that are useless. That means even if we delete those words, phrases, the meaning of the Comprehension remains the same.

It is very tiresome and difficult, for me to make a list of those words and phrases and publish here. I just advise you to keep an eye on them and not to waste your precious time in analyzing them.

D. Comeback Later

When we don’t find an answer to a particular question, we usually  tell ourselves “Okay, I will come back to it later”. This may be a good strategy to save time While leaving the difficult questions and solving the easier ones.But before going to another question just do one thing. Take your pencil and make a circle on your choice, which you feel correct at the present moment.


Most of the instances when you come back to the question, you would have forgotten the Comprehension itself. So you have to read it again from the beginning. If the time permits, it’s won’t be a problem,…but if you don’t have enough time you can choose the earlier marked answer.

E. Don’t draw on outside knowledge.

Don’t make conclusions which are not in the comprehension. Though you are well aware of the topic mentioned in the Passage, You should not bring your own knowledge into the answers. Just stick to the Information given in the comprehension.

F. Overcome panic :

While focusing on the passage, if you stare at the letters for a long time, your eyes feel uncomfortable. So, often close your eyes for a while, take a deep breath and start again.

Don’t get panicked by the difficulty of the questions. Be prepared for them.

 G.  Never  lose confidence:

By looking at the Comprehension, don’t let any thought of discouragement enter into your mind. Don’t feel depressed.

Always follow some tactics to motivate yourself

H. Learn what works best for you:

Whatever strategies mentioned here are not hard and fast rules. They are flexible. If you feel they don’t work for you, then you can alter them to suit your needs. You are the judge.

Generally a standard reading comprehension has some unseen words( word that you have not seen so far) that may make you afraid of the passage and the questions. But do not worry because most of the questions are not directly related to those words. Those words are just for making things look difficult!

Hot Tips To Quickly Answer Comprehension Passages

1- First of all read the first and last sentences of each paragraph carefully.  Then try to answer the questionings! Most of the questions can be answered just by knowing about these sentences.

2-If the first and last sentences did not seem to help, try to find the key (important) words of each question and answers and then go to the passage again and try to find them. Most of the answers are in the sentence with that key word or the sentences before or after the it.

3-Remember that there are some questions that can be answered even without looking at the passage carefully! Here is an example:

-According to the passage we must take care of wild animals

  • Because they are increasing every day.
  • Because They have died since many years ago.
  • To be placed on the endangered species list
  • So that they do not finish in the future

Do you think you need to read the whole passage to answer this


Questioning Methods In Comprehension Passages

There are different types of questioning method employed by examiners in this delicate section.They are as follows:
1.Authorial questioning method
2.Periphrastic questioning method
3.Logical questioning method
4.Evaluation questioning method
5.Contextual questioning method

1.Authorial questioning method

Let’s begin with (Authorial questioning method):Questions under this questioning method require a candidate to provide answers based on the dictates of the passage…Examples:

a.According to the writer…

b.The passage suggests that…

For instance,if a passage talks about prostitution of under-age girls and how it has helped shape their lives for good,and a question is asked that

“Prostitution is_____(a)good(b)bad…The answer is ‘good’ in accordance to passage must not allow your personal opinion to influence your answer.

2.Periphrastic questioning method

This is a “round-about’ questioning method,Whereby a candidate is required to simplify the question before answering it. Examples are:
-Which of this is untrue?(i.e which of this is not true.)

-Which of this is unimportant?(i.e which of this is not important).

3.Logical questioning method

Here,the principle of logic is required to enable you pick a right answer from the available options. A candidate needs to consider and gather concrete facts that are paraphernalia of a certain context to enable him arrive at the right answer.

4.Evaluation questioning method

This requires a candidate to describe a person or object in the passage how the given subject does thing comes into the picture like,walks,talks and so on.

Example:In given passage Saka is described as a bully that beats girls like a two-headed goat and so on

..And You are asked:
“According to the passage,Saka is a______(a)Two-headed goat (b)skilled fighter(c)bull(d)bully…

The answer is ‘bully’…because from the facts emanating from the passage the best word that can be used to describe Saka present in the options given is ‘bully’

5. Contextual questioning method

In this section, you pick an answer based on how a particular word is being used in the passage. Some words have more than two meanings. These are called open ended words. The implied meaning of the word at a time depends on the usage.

If I should ask a question, “why are you banking at me?”. Here, you should understand that we are not talking about bank as a financial institution.

Sometimes you need to make a wild guess about a new word, taking into account of the context (situation). By this, you will be able to understand  the meaning of new words. If you feel necessary, you may check the  meaning after reading the Comprehension.