Paragraph Comprehension for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Study Guide
Because reading is such a vital skill, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery includes a reading comprehension section that tests your ability to understand what you read. The tips and exercises in this article will help you improve your comprehension of written passages so that you can increase your score in this area.
Memos, policies, procedures, reports—these are all things you will be expected to understand if you enlist in the armed services. Understanding written materials is part of almost any job. That's why the ASVAB attempts to measure how well applicants understand what they read.
The Paragraph Comprehension subtest of the ASVAB is in multiple-choice format and asks questions based on brief passages, much like the standardized tests that are offered in schools. For that matter, almost all standardized test questions test your reading skills. After all, you can't answer the question if you can't read it. Similarly, you can't study your training materials or learn new procedures once you are on the job if you can't read well. So, reading comprehension is vital not only on the test but also for the rest of your career.
Types of Reading Comprehension Questions
You have probably encountered reading comprehension questions before, where you are given a passage to read and then have to answer multiple-choice questions about it. This kind of question has advantages for you as a test taker: You don't have to know anything about the topic of the passage because you are being tested only on the information the passage provides.
But the disadvantage is that you have to know where and how to find that information quickly in an unfamiliar text. This makes it easy to fall for one of the wrong answer choices, especially since they are designed to mislead you.
The best way to do your best on this passage/question format is to be very familiar with the kinds of questions that are typically asked on the test. Questions most frequently ask you to:
- identify a specific fact or detail in the passage
- note the main idea of the passage
- make an inference based on the passage
- define a vocabulary word from the passage
In order for you to do well on a reading comprehension test, you need to know exactly what each of these questions is asking. Facts and details are the specific pieces of information that support the passage's main idea. The main idea is the thought, opinion, or attitude that governs the whole passage. Generally speaking, facts and details are indisputable—things that don't need to be proven, like statistics (18 million people) or descriptions (a green overcoat). Let's say, for example, you read a sentence that says "After the department's reorganization, workers were 50% more productive." A sentence like this, which gives you the fact that workers were 50% more productive, might support a main idea that says, "Every department should be reorganized." Notice that this main idea is not something indisputable; it is an opinion. The writer thinks all departments should be reorganized, and because this is his opinion (and not everyone shares it), he needs to support his opinion with facts and details.
An inference, on the other hand, is a conclusion that can be drawn based on fact or evidence. For example, you can infer—based on the fact that workers became 50% more productive after the reorganization, which is a dramatic change—that the department had not been efficiently organized. The fact sentence, "After the department's reorganization, workers were 50% more productive," also implies that the reorganization of the department was the reason workers became more productive. There may, of course, have been other reasons, but we can infer only one from this sentence.
As you might expect, vocabulary questions ask you to determine the meaning of particular words. Often, if you've read carefully, you can determine the meaning of such words from their context, that is, how the word is used in the sentence or paragraph.
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