Reading Strategies for CBEST Exam Study Guide (page 2)
The reading comprehension section is composed of 50 multiple-choice questions on a variety of passages. The passages are created to simulate high school and college-level materials, student textbooks, teacher's guides and enrichment materials, and books on student behavior or psychology. This section explores some general strategies for all kinds of passages and questions.
How do you approach reading comprehension questions? Here are some suggestions from former CBEST takers.
- The Concentrator: "I read the passage thoroughly before I look at the questions. After concentrating on the passage, I can find the answers to the questions if I don't already know the answer from my careful reading."
- The Skimmer: "I skim the passage before looking at the questions. I can always go back and find the answers once I know how the passage is arranged."
- The Cautious Reader: "I read the questions first with all their answer choices. I want to know what they will ask me before I read the passage so I can be on the lookout. Then I read the passage two or three times until I am sure I understand it completely."
- The Game Player: "I read the questions first and try to answer them from what I already know or can guess. Then I read the passage to see whether I am right. After guessing the answers, I am familiar with the questions enough to recognize the answers when I find them."
- The Educated Guesser: "I read the questions first, but not the answers. When I find the answer in the passage, I look for it among the answer choices."
- The Psychic: "I believe the test makers would put the questions for the first part of the passage first. So I read the first question and go back to the passage for the answer, and then I do the second."
- The Efficiency Expert: "First, I look at the questions and do the questions that have line numbers that indicate where the answer is to be found.
Then I skim the passage for the key words I read in the other questions. This way I sometimes do not even have to read the whole passage."
If you don't already have a preferred method, try some of these approaches as you work through the practice exercises in this book. See which method suits your strengths.
Hints for Reading the Passages
Practice will help you determine whether you need to read the questions first, the answers first, or some combination thereof. Try some of the shortcuts listed previously to find out which works for you.
Associate with the Passage
Every passage has something to do with real-life situations. Your mission is to discover the answers to questions such as:
- What is the author trying to express?
- Who might the author be?
- Does the author tell readers in the beginning what to expect later in the passage?
- How does the author structure the work to convey meaning?
- Does the author make any statements that might surprise or interest you?
- To what conclusions is the author leading readers? What conclusions are stated?
If the passage seems boring or discusses a topic that is foreign to you, try imagining that your best friend is talking to you on the same subject, and it really interests him or her. It might not be your thing, but it's your friend's, so listen to every detail and nuance of what your friend has to say and try to relate to it.
To Mark or Not to Mark
Some test takers find it helpful to underline text or make notes in the margins to designate the stated subject, supporting facts, conclusions, and so on. For others, marking a passage seems a waste of time. You are free to make as many marks as you want on the test booklet, so if marking helps, go for it. If you are not sure, now is the time to try out this method. If you decide to mark a passage, don't mark so much that the bulk of the passage is obscured. Marking a few key words and ideas is more helpful than underlining the majority of the passage.
Pay special attention to words that give you an insight into the author's purpose or that change the context of the passage, such as however, nevertheless, and so on. In at least one passage, these words will be left for you to fill in. This topic will be discussed in more detail in Reading Lesson 7.
Hints for Reading the Questions
Reading the questions carefully is just as important as reading the answers.
Read the Questions as Carefully as the Passage
It is crucial that you read the questions and answers as carefully as you read the passage. Should you read all the answer choices or stop when you have found one that seems right? Test takers differ on this. Some who read all the answers become confused or worry about wasting time. Others feel more secure when they can eliminate every answer but the right one. It's up to you to find your best method.
Know Question Types
Being familiar with the types of questions that appear on the CBEST, and the kinds of wrong answers that each type is likely to include, can help you find the right answers with confidence. The lessons after this one will show you how to recognize the different question types and how to quickly choose the best answer.
Answer Only from the Passage
Everything you need to know has to be somewhere in the passage. While it is helpful to have some knowledge of the subject in order to better understand the author, don't rely on your experience to answer the question. An answer can be true on its own and still not be the correct answer to the question being asked.
Not or Except
Look for words in the question such as NOT or EXCEPT, especially if you cannot find your answer or there seems to be more than one answer. For example, a question might read: "Which of the following facts is NOT stated in the passage?"
Eliminate all the answers that are obviously off the subject or otherwise wrong. Cross out the wrong answers in your test booklet so you won't waste time reading them again. Test takers say that they are often left with two close answers. There has to be one answer that is better than the other. Check the passage for clue words that might point to one choice over the other. If, after trying out all the strategies you learn in this book, you are still left with two answers, go ahead and guess, and get on with the test.
If you eliminate all of the answers, go back over the eliminated answers to determine whether there might be another meaning for any of them. Try to find a reason that would make each answer correct. If there is no possible way an answer could be right—for example, it is completely off the subject—then eliminate that answer. Choose the answer that seems the least wrong.
Marking the Unknown Question
Should you mark questions to come back to later? If you do, you will probably have to read the passage again, which can waste valuable time. If an answer jumps out at you after reading the passage once or twice, choose it. Many teachers and test takers recommend going with your first answer, your "gut" instinct. To save time and avoid reading passages more than once, answer all the questions about one passage before continuing on to the next passage.
Using the Steps
There is no need to memorize all the steps. They are tips that clue you into what the test makers expect. If you are able to find the answer by your own methods without looking at the steps, so much the better. The steps are not there to bog you down, but if any of them can help you, use them.
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