Reading Comprehension for Police Officer Exam Study Guide (page 2)

Updated on Mar 16, 2011

Fact or Detail

Facts and details are the specific pieces of information that support the passage's main idea. 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). While you may need to decipher paraphrases of facts or details, you should be able to find the answer to a fact or detail question directly in the passage. This is usually the simplest kind of question; however, you must be able to separate important information from less important information. The main challenge in answering this type of question is that the answer choices can be confusing because they are often very similar to each other. You should read each answer choice carefully before selecting one.

Main Idea or Title

The main idea of a passage is the thought, opinion, or attitude that governs the whole passage. It may be clearly stated, or only implied. Think of the main idea as an umbrella that is general enough to cover all of the specific ideas and details in the passage. Sometimes, the questions found after a passage will ask you about the main idea, while others use the term title. Don't be misled; main idea and title questions are the same. They both require you to know what the passage is mostly about. Often, the incorrect answers to a main idea or title question are too detailed to be correct. Remember that the main idea of a passage or the best title for a passage is general, not specific.

If you are lucky, the main idea will be clearly stated in the first or last sentence of the passage. At other times, the main idea is not stated in a topic sentence but is implied in the overall passage, and you will need to determine the main idea by inference. Because there may be a lot of information in the passage, the trick is to understand what all that information adds up to—what it is that the author wants you to know. Often, some of the wrong answers to main idea questions are specific facts or details from the passage. A good way to test yourself is to ask, "Can this answer serve as a net to hold the whole passage together?" If not, chances are you have chosen a fact or detail, not a main idea.

Inference or Interpretation

Inference or interpretation questions ask you what the passage means or implies, not just what it actually says. They are often the most difficult reading comprehension question because they require you to draw meaning from the text that might not be directly stated. When you draw inference, you are like a detective looking for clues, because inferences are conclusions that you draw based on the clues the writer has given you. The clues might come from word choice or from specific details that suggest a conclusion or point of view. When you speak with someone, the person's tone of voice is a clue. So is a facial expression or body language such as a shrug or a nod. But when you read something, these important clues are not available to you—only the words and their arrangement can help you draw inferences. In a sense, you are reading between the lines to make a judgment about what the author is saying. In this way, inference or interpretation questions are really judgment questions.

A good way to test whether you have drawn a correct inference is to ask yourself: What evidence do I have for this inference? If the answer is none, you probably have reached an improper conclusion. You need to be sure that your inference is based on something that is suggested or implied in the passage itself, not on your own ideas about the subject matter. Like the good detective that you might someday become, you need to base your conclusions on evidence—the information you are given–not on random hunches or guesses.

Improving Your Ability to Make Inferences

What are the most important ways to improve your ability to make inferences? Two were already given to you; the first is to read more and quiz yourself on what you have read, and the second is to improve your vocabulary. The wider your knowledge of the English language, the better the chances that you will be familiar with all the words in a reading passage and won't have to guess at what the subject matter is about. A third tip is to read slowly and carefully, trying not to skip over words that you do not think are important. In today's multitasking world, where people are often doing so many things at one time, it is easy to forget that the more things we do at once, the more likely we are to make mistakes.

By reading carefully, you will learn to beware of absolutes. Questions that contain the words always, only, never, and similar words should be answered carefully against what the passage said. The passage might have said sometimes, frequently, or almost never, which means that an answer with absolutes will almost always be wrong. To get you in the mindset for these questions, try to treat the reading passage samples as seriously as you would an actual exam. Read the directions, read each passage carefully, and check your answers before going on to the next passage.

Tips for Improving Your Reading Comprehension Score

Before the test:

  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Working with a friend or family member, select paragraphs from an article in the newspaper and have your partner create questions to ask you about it.
  • Read short passages from articles or books and make up questions for yourself.

During the test:

  • Read the questions first, before you read the passage, so you will know what words and ideas to look out for.
  • Focus your attention; don't let your mind wander during the reading of the test passages.
  • If one part of a passage confuses you, just read on until you are finished. Then go back and look at the confusing part again.
  • Look at each one of the multiple-choice answers, then compare each with the paragraph to see which ones can be eliminated.
  • Focus on the main idea of the text. What is the passage mostly about?
  • Don't skip any sentences when reading the passage.
  • Don't let your own knowledge of the subject matter interfere with your answer selection. Stick with the information that is given in the passage.
  • Read the passage actively, asking yourself questions about the main idea and jotting down notes in the margin.

Reading Passage Sample Questions

Read each passage carefully and then answer the questions based on it. Read carefully the first time; if you are unsure of an answer, return to the passage to locate the material the question asks you about.

Practice Passage 1

In the last two decades, community policing has been frequently touted as the best way to reform urban law enforcement. The idea of putting more officers on foot patrol in high crime areas where relations between the police and residents have often been strained was initiated in Houston in 1983 under the leadership of then-Chief Lee Brown. He argued that officers should be accessible to the community at the street level and believed, as others in law enforcement began to see, that officers assigned to the same area over a period of time had a better chance to build a network of trust with neighborhood residents. The trust would translate into merchants and residents in the area letting police officers know about criminal activity in the neighborhood and would support police intervention. Once out of their police cars, Brown and others believed, the officers would also be more involved in community activities that could prevent crime. Since then, many large cities have initiated Community Oriented Policing COP), but the results have been mixed. Some cities found that the police and the residents were grateful for the opportunity to work together. Others have found that unrealistic expectations by citizens and resistance from officers who were not pleased with this style of policing worked to preventCOP from being effective. It seems possible, therefore, that even a good idea may need improvement before it can be truly called a reform—and that what may work in one city may not work as well in others.

  1. Community policing was introduced in Houston
    1. in the late 1970s.
    2. in the early 1980s.
    3. when Carter was president.
    4. when Lee Brown left to join another department.
  2. The phrase a network of trust in this passage suggests that
    1. police officers can rely only on each for support.
    2. community members rely on the police to protect them.
    3. police and community members rely on each other.
    4. community members trust only each other.
  3. Lee Brown was
    1. the only police chief who believed in community policing.
    2. the mayor at the time community policing was introduced.
    3. the last police chief to consider community policing in Houston.
    4. none of the above
  4. The best title for this passage would be
    1. Community Policing and Lee Brown's Career.
    2. Community Problem: The Solution to Drug Problems.
    3. Communities and Cops: Partners for Peace.
    4. Community Policing: An Uncertain Future.
  5. The word touted in the first sentence of the passage most nearly means
    1. praised.
    2. denied.
    3. exposed.
    4. criticized.
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