Reading Comprehension for Firefighter Exam Practice Problems
A good way to solidify what you've learned about reading comprehension questions is for you to write the questions. Here's a passage followed by space for you to write your own questions. Write one question of each of the four types: fact or detail, main idea, inference, and vocabulary.
The "broken window" theory was originally developed to explain how minor acts of vandalism or disrespect can quickly escalate to crimes and attitudes that break down the entire social fabric of an area. It is a theory that can easily be applied to any situation in society. The theory contends that if a broken window in an abandoned building is not replaced quickly, soon all the windows will be broken. In other words, a small violation, if condoned, leads others to commit similar or greater violations. Thus, after all the windows have been broken, the building is likely to be looted and perhaps even burned down.
According to this theory, violations increase exponentially. Thus, if disrespect to a superior is tolerated, others will be tempted to be disrespectful as well. A management crisis could erupt literally overnight. For example, if one firefighter begins to disregard proper house-watch procedure by neglecting to keep up the house-watch administrative journal, and this firefighter is not reprimanded, others will follow suit by committing similar violations of procedure, thinking, "If he can get away with it, why can't I?" So what starts out as a small thing, a violation that may not seem to warrant disciplinary action, may actually ruin the efficiency of the entire firehouse, putting the people the firehouse serves at risk.
- Detail question: _____
- Main idea question: _____
- Inference question: _____
- Vocabulary question: _____
Here is one sample question of each type based on the passage you just read. Your questions may be very different, but these will give you an idea of the kinds of questions that could be asked.
- Detail question: According to the passage, which of the following could happen "overnight"?
- The building may be burned down.
- The firehouse may become unmanageable.
- A management crisis might erupt.
- The windows may all be broken.
- Main idea question: Which of the following best expresses the main idea of the passage?
- Even minor acts of disrespect can lead to major problems.
- Broken windows must be repaired immediately.
- People shouldn't be disrespectful to their superiors.
- House-watch procedures must be taken seriously.
- Inference question: With which of the following statements would the author most likely agree?
- The broken window theory is inadequate.
- Managers need to know how to handle a crisis.
- Firefighters are lazy.
- People will get away with as much as they can.
- Vocabulary question: In the first paragraph, condoned most nearly means
If English Is Not Your First Language
When nonnative speakers of English have trouble with reading comprehension tests, it's often because they lack the cultural, linguistic, and historical frame of reference that native speakers have. People who have not lived in or been educated in the United States often don't have the background information that comes from reading American newspapers, magazines, and textbooks.
A second problem for nonnative English speakers is the difficulty in recognizing vocabulary and idioms (expressions like "chewing the fat") that assist comprehension. To read with good understanding, it is important to have an immediate grasp of as many words as possible in the text. Test takers need to be able to recognize vocabulary and idioms immediately so that the ideas those words express are clear.
The Long View
Read newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals that deal with current events and matters of local, state, and national importance. Pay special attention to articles related to the career you want to pursue.
Be alert to new or unfamiliar vocabulary or terms that occur frequently in the popular press. Use a highlighter to mark new or unfamiliar words as you read. Keep a list of those words and their definitions. Review them for 15 minutes each day. At first, you may find yourself looking up a lot of words, but don't be frustrated—you will look up fewer and fewer as your vocabulary expands.
During the Test
When you are taking the test, make a picture in your mind of the situation being described in the passage. Ask yourself, "What did the writer mainly want me to think about this subject?"
Locate and underline the topic sentence that contains the main idea of the passage. Remember that the topic sentence—if there is one—may not always be the first sentence. If there doesn't seem to be one, try to determine what idea summarizes the whole passage.
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