Paragraph Comprehension Study Guide for McGraw-Hill's ASVAB

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 16, 2011

The ASVAB subtest called Paragraph Comprehension is designed to find out how well you obtain information from written material. Basically, it measures your reading comprehension skills. Paragraph Comprehension is especially important because it is part of the AFQT, the primary score for entering the military. To get in and get good job and training opportunities, you need to score well on this test. Just think about it: During your basic and specialized training, you will need to understand written material provided to you by your instructors. You will need to read and understand manuals that relate to your job. The military, regardless of branch, needs you to have a good understanding of everything you read.

Each item on the Paragraph Comprehension test consists of a paragraph or paragraphs followed by multiple-choice questions. You will need to read the paragraphs in order to answer the questions. The paragraphs will cover a wide variety of topics. Note, however, that you won't need to know anything about each topic other than what is in the paragraph. The paragraph will contain everything you need to know to answer the questions.

If you do the math, you will see that on the paper-and-pencil ASVAB, you have only 52 seconds to answer each item, including reading the passage. That means that you will need a test-taking strategy that allows you to approach the test both quickly and accurately. This chapter gives you some practical advice on how to approach the test, what kinds of questions to expect, and how to prepare yourself to get your best score on the ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension test.

Build Your Reading Comprehension Skills

Start your preparation for the ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension test by learning what you can do to build your reading comprehension skills. Here are some suggestions.


The best way to improve your reading comprehension skills is to read, read, read. The more you read and practice your reading comprehension skills, the better off you will be on the test. The following list suggests a variety of materials that you should be reading.

What to Read

  • Books on subjects you like. Whatever topic interests you, there are books about it—and reading those books will help you. If you are a sports fan, read books about great teams and famous games. If you love science fiction, read this year's most popular science fiction stories. If you are a history buff, read about the famous people and events of the past that made our world what it is today. Read autobiographies, books on politics, health books, science books, books on bicycling, nutrition, ice skating, organizing your life, and more. The list is endless. You don't need to buy these books; use your local library. The library is also a great place to read because it is quiet and you won't get distracted.
  • School books. If you are in school, devour those textbooks. Focus on paragraph headings, see how the information is organized, and highlight critical statements and facts. Reading the textbook will not only expand your knowledge base for the other ASVAB tests, but also improve your vocabulary and your ability to understand what you are reading.
  • Newspapers. Daily newspapers, especially those from a large town or city, offer plenty of reading opportunity on a variety of subjects.
  • The Internet. Be selective about what you read on the Internet. Look for more lengthy passages, such as articles from a newspaper or extracts from a book. Avoid Internet sites where information is short, choppy, and abbreviated. That kind of reading will probably not help your reading comprehension skills. Reading Internet material can be helpful if you select the right stuff.

Learn New Words

The better your vocabulary, the easier it will be to understand what you are reading. The previous chapter of this book explained how to improve your vocabulary for the ASVAB Word Knowledge test. Following those suggestions will help you on the Paragraph Comprehension test as well. (You may wish to go back to the earlier chapter and review.)

How to Learn Words

  • Develop a word list. As you are reading, identify words that you don't know or don't know very well. Based on the sentence or paragraph that contains the word, try to guess its meaning. Look up the meaning in a dictionary to be sure that you are correct. The previous chapter of this book gave you a word list chart for recording these words and their definitions. Use it to help your vocabulary grow.
  • Use context clues. The context of a word is the other words and sentences that surround it. Often you can determine the meaning of a word from its context. One way to determine the meaning is to see how the word is used in the sentence.
  • Use prefixes, suffixes, and roots. These word parts can help you decode a word's meaning. The Word Knowledge chapter gives you a whole laundry list of common prefixes, suffixes, and roots.
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