Reading Literature: GED Test Prep
On the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam, you will find many different kinds of literature from many different time periods. This article shows you how to read actively and describes the three time periods included on this exam.
Reading literature is a search for meaning. Even in the most functional texts, your job as a reader is to discover what the writer wants to say. In most functional texts, writers make a point of making their goals and main ideas very clear to their readers. Literary texts, however, are much more subtle in expressing their themes. For both types of texts, and especially for literary texts, you will understand more if you read actively.
Though reading often seems like a rather passive activity, there are many things you can (and should) do as you read. These active reading strategies will help you better comprehend and more fully enjoy what you read.
Before You Read
To help you better understand what you read, take a few steps before you begin to read.
- Read the title carefully. This will give you a clue to the subject and theme of the text. For example, if the excerpt is from a novel called Crime and Punishment, you can get a pretty good idea of one of the central issues of the novel.
- Note the name of the author and date of publication, if provided. If it's an author you have read before, you may already know something about the passage or the kinds of themes the writer deals with. Even if you have never read the author before, you may still have some knowledge about the writer. (You probably know, for example, that Stephen King writes horror novels, even if you have never read one of his books.) The date of publication can help you prepare for the historical context of the piece and set up your reading expectations. Consider what you know about the time period in which the text was written—the historical, political, social, and religious contexts.
- Read the questions about the passage. By reading the questions before you read the passage, you help "train" your mind to look for those answers as you read. But be sure not to read just for those answers. Often, the answer comes only from understanding the whole, especially with literary texts (and with poetry in particular).
Note: On the GED Language Arts, Reading Exam, each passage will typically be preceded by a question. This is not the title of the text, though it may look that way. You will need to look at the end of the passage for the author's name, title of the text, and date of publication. The question still serves the same purpose as a title, though: It gives you a strong clue about the main theme of the passage and what information you should get from reading the text.
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