Test Taking Strategies for Reading for Praxis I: Pre-Professional Skills Test Study Guide
Test Taking Tips
Now that you have reviewed the components that will help you understand and analyze what you read, you are ready to consider some specific test-taking strategies. The following techniques will help you read the PPST passages quickly and effectively and answer the multiple-choice questions strategically so that you can boost your score.
Reading passages for a standardized test is different than reading at home. For one thing, you have a time limit. You have one hour to complete 40 questions (the computer-based test gives 75 minutes for 46 questions). This means that you have about 90 seconds to answer each question! And the time you spend reading each passage detracts from the time you have to answer questions. Here are some basic guidelines for keeping you moving through the test in a time-efficient way:
- Spend no more than two minutes on a question. Circle difficult questions and return to them if you have time.
- Skim and answer short passages quickly. Short passages have only one or two questions, so you should move through them with speed. Give yourself a bit more time for long passages that are followed by four or more questions.
- Guess, if necessary. The PPST Reading test does not penalize for wrong answers. Make sure to answer each question, even if you think you might return to it later.
- Circle, underline, and make notes. You can write in your test booklet, so be sure to mark up the passage as you read. Scribble down quick notes that will help you answer the questions.
- Target the first part of the passage. The first third of many reading passages is packed with essential information. Often you can answer main-idea questions based on the information at the start of a passage. Likewise, for longer passages of 200 words, you will often find what each paragraph is about from its first two sentences.
- Locate details, but don't learn them. Detail-heavy portions of passages can be dense and difficult to read. Don't spend precious time rereading and absorbing details—just make sure you know where to find them in the passage. That way you can locate a detail if a question asks about it.
Eliminating Wrong Answers
Test makers use "distracters" in test questions that can confuse you into choosing an incorrect answer. Familiarizing yourself with some of the common distraction techniques that test makers use will increase your chances of eliminating wrong answers and selecting the right answer.
- The choice that does too little. This distracter type often follows main idea questions. The answer choice makes a true statement, but it is too narrow, too specific to be a main idea of the passage. It zeros in on select elements or supporting ideas of a passage instead of expressing a main idea.
- The choice that does too much. This distracter also relates to main idea questions. Unlike the type just discussed, this answer choice goes too far, or beyond the scope of the passage. It may be a true statement, but cannot be supported by what the author expresses in the text.
- The close, but not close enough, choice. This type of answer is very close to the correct answer, but is wrong in some detail.
- The off-topic choice. Test takers often find this answer choice the easiest to spot and eliminate. It may have nothing at all to do with the passage itself.
- The irrelevant choice. This option uses language found in the text—elements, ideas, phrases, words—but does not answer the question correctly. These distracters are tricky because test designers bait them with a good deal of information from the passage.
- The contradictory choice. This answer may in fact be opposite or nearly opposite to the correct answer. If two of the answer choices seem contrary to each other, there is a good chance that one of these choices will be correct.
- The choice that is too broad. This distracter relates to supporting detail questions. Although it may be a true statement, it is too general and does not address the specifics the question is looking for.
Look Out for Absolutes
Reading comprehension questions that use words that represent absolutes should alert you to the likely presence of clever distracters among the answer choices. Two or more answers may be close contenders—they may reflect language from the passage and be true in general principle, but not true in all circumstances. Beware of these commonly used absolutes in reading questions:
Types of Readers
How you approach a reading passage may show what kind of reader you are. Each of the approaches listed here has some merit. When you practice reading passages as part of your PPST study plan, experiment with some of these different styles to see what works best for you.
- The concentrator reads the passage thoroughly before looking at the questions. By concentrating on the passage, you can locate answers quickly if you don't already know the answer.
- The skimmer skims the passage before looking at the questions. Once you understand how the passage is arranged, you can go back and find the answers.
- The cautious reader reads the questions and answer choices first. Because you know what questions to expect, you can be on the lookout as you read the passage.
- The game player reads the questions first and answers them by guessing. By guessing the answers, you become familiar with the questions and can recognize the answers when you read the passage.
- The educated guesser reads the questions first, but not the answers. When you find the answer in the passage, you can quickly look among the answer choices for the right one.
- The efficiency expert reads the questions first, looking for key words that indicate where an answer is located. By doing this, you can skim the passage for answers instead of reading the whole passage.