Reading Comprehension Questions for Firefighter Exam Study Guide
You have probably encountered reading comprehension questions before. These are the kind that supply a passage to read and then ask multiple-choice questions about it. These kinds of questions give you two advantages as a test taker:
- You don't have to know anything about the topic of the passage.
- You are being tested only on the information the passage provides. Remember, even if you believe the information is not right, use only the information given in the passage.
The disadvantage is that you have to know where and how to find that information quickly in an unfamiliar text. This makes it easy to fall for one of the wrong answer choices, especially since they are designed to mislead you.
The best way to do well on a passage/question format like this is to be very familiar with the kinds of questions that are typically asked on the test. Questions most frequently ask you to
- identify a specific fact or detail in the passage.
- note the main idea of the passage.
- make an inference based on the passage.
- define a vocabulary word from the passage.
For you to do well on a reading comprehension test, you need to know exactly what each of these question types is asking you to do. Facts and details are the specific pieces of information that support the passage's main idea. The main idea is the thought, opinion, or attitude that governs the whole passage. 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). Let's say, for example, you read a sentence that says "After the department's reorganization, workers were 50% more productive." A sentence like this, which gives you the fact that 50% of workers were more productive, might support a main idea that says, "Every department should be reorganized." Notice that this main idea is not something indisputable; it is an opinion. The writer thinks all departments should be reorganized, and because this is his or her opinion (and not everyone shares it), he or she needs to support this opinion with facts and details.
An inference, on the other hand, is a conclusion that can be drawn based on fact or evidence. For example, you can infer—based on the fact that workers became 50% more productive after the reorganization, which is a dramatic change—that the department had not been efficiently organized. The fact sentence, "After the department's reorganization, workers were 50% more productive," also implies that the reorganization of the department was the reason workers became more productive. There may, of course, have been other reasons, but we can infer only one from this sentence.
As you might expect, vocabulary questions ask you to determine the meaning of particular words. Often, if you have read carefully, you can determine the meaning of such words from their context; or how the word is used in the sentence or paragraph.
Practice Passage 1: Recognizing the Four Question Types
The following is a sample test passage, followed by four questions. Read the passage carefully and then choose the best answers based on your reading of the text. Refer to the list on this page of types of reading comprehension questions, and note under your answer which type of question has been asked. Correct answers appear immediately after the questions.
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a comprehensive national approach to the way our nation prepares for and responds to domestic emergency incidents. This system will enable responders at all jurisdictional levels and across all disciplines to work together more effectively and efficiently. One of the most important components of the system is the Incident Command System, which provides a standard, on-scene, all-hazards incident management system. Long accepted for use by firefighters, hazardous materials teams, rescue organizations, and emergency medical teams, ICS is a cornerstone of NIMS.
Although compliance with the new system is voluntary, federal funding is tied to compliance with NIMS. Those agencies and jurisdictions that receive federal funds must institutionalize the use of ICS. To accomplish this, a jurisdiction must ensure that all government officials, incident managers, and emergency response organizations adopt the Incident Command System and ensure that it is used at all incident response operations. To comply, the use must be at two levels—policy and organizational/ operational. At the policy level, the government officials of the jurisdiction must issue a directive that ICS is the jurisdiction's official incident response system, and direct that anyone who manages an incident and the response organization in the jurisdiction train, exercise, and apply ICS in their response operations. At the organizational/operational level, the jurisdiction must integrate ICS into functional and system-wide emergency operations policies, plans, and procedures; provide ICS training for responders, supervisors, and command level officers; and ensure that all responders are participating in and/or coordinating ICS-oriented exercises that involve responders from multiple disciplines and jurisdictions.
- The cornerstone of the National Incident Management System is
- the first responders.
- the Incident Command System.
- federal funding.
- the National Response Plan.
- The phrase institutionalize the use of ICS in this passage suggests that to be compliant
- only the fire department has to use ICS.
- all officials and organizations at all jurisdictional levels must be trained in, be exercised in, and use ICS at all responses.
- only the emergency responders of the jurisdiction must be trained in ICS.
- agencies may simply request federal funding.
- What would be the best title for this passage?
- The Key to NIMS Compliance—ICS
- Is NIMS Compliance Required for Your Jurisdiction?
- Is ICS Needed at All?
- What You Need to Know for FEMA Response
- The word comprehensive in the first sentence of the passage most nearly means
- compressed or abbreviated.
- small in content.
- large in scope.
Question type: _____
Question type: _____
Question type: _____
Question type: _____
Don't just look at the right answers and move on. The explanations are the most important part, so read them carefully. Use these explanations to help you understand how to tackle each kind of question the next time you come across it.
- b. Question type: fact or detail. The passage clearly states that the Incident Command System is the cornerstone of the National Incident Management System. Some of the other answers are mentioned and are part of the requirements of NIMS, but not the most important part. Do not allow additional information to confuse you.
- b. Question type: inference. The phrase institutionalize the use of ICS refers to what a jurisdiction has to do in order to be compliant with the requirements of the National Incident Management System. In this case, the other answers included two that are partially true (a and c).
- a. Question type: main idea. The title always expresses the main idea. The third sentence states that ICS is the cornerstone of NIMS. The remainder of the passage discusses the importance of ICS to NIMS compliance and goes on to describe the process needed to be compliant. So, since ICS is the cornerstone of NIMS, choice a is the best title for the passage.
- c. Question type: vocabulary. The word comprehensive is a modifier to national. The next sentence uses the phrase all jurisdictional levels and across all disciplines. Even if you did not know that comprehensive meant large in scope or content, extensive, you could deduce its meaning from these contextual clues.
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