Reading Comprehension for Police Officer Exam Study Guide (page 2)
Reading comprehension is an important skill for understanding the material taught during the police academy. Information presented to you will include a large number of legal principles and court decisions; detailed reports, procedures, and forms; suspect descriptions; and many other documents that you will refer to regularly in the course of your work. To make sure that you are able to understand the material that will be presented to you in the academy and throughout your career, the reading comprehension portion of the written test is designed to measure how well you understand what you read.
These tests are most often multiple-choice; you will be given brief passages to read and then you will be asked a series of questions based on each. They are very similar to exams you have probably taken in high school and college. Along with sample questions, this chapter provides you with advice and strategies for maximizing your test score.
In addition to spending time with this chapter, consider adding more reading to your daily schedule of activities. Just as you can become a better baseball pitcher by practicing your pitches, you can become a better—and more thorough—reader by practicing reading. After you read something, think about what you read. Did you understand it? Were there words or phrases you should look up in the dictionary? Were issues presented that were unfamiliar to you? Ask yourself these and other questions to be sure that you not only read the words themselves, but that you understood what you read.
After studying the sample questions later on in the article, make up similar questions for yourself for passages you read on your own. Do not be intimidated; the passages you will be given on your written exam are no more difficult than a newspaper article or a high school or college textbook. Practicing, though, will raise your current level of reading comprehension and will benefit you not only on the exam, but in all aspects 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 two advantages for you as a test taker:
- Any information you need to know is right in front of you.
- You're being tested only on the information provided in the passage.
The disadvantage, however, is that you have to know where and how to find information quickly in an unfamiliar text. This makes it easy to fall for one of the incorrect answer choices, especially since they're designed to mislead you.
The best way to excel 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 fall into one of the following four categories:
- fact or detail
- main idea or title
- inference or interpretation
- vocabulary definition
In order to succeed on a reading comprehension test, you need to thoroughly understand each of these four types of questions.
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.
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