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Compare and Contrast Text Structure: Reading Comprehension Review Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 24, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Compare and Contrast Text Structure: Reading Comprehension Review Practice Exercises

The next text structure we'll investigate is compare and contrast. First of all, what is it? Simply put, to compare things, you look for ways they are alike; to contrast things, you look for how they are different.

A writer may have several reasons for using a compare-and-contrast text structure. Sometimes it gives readers a new perspective on things. So you can read a passage and think to yourself, "Wow, I never thought to compare those two things!" Writers love to use the wow factor, but it's not the only reason to use this text structure. Suppose a writer wants to tell readers which fruits and vegetables are the healthiest choices. The writer might compare and contrast the vitamin and mineral content of various fruits and vegetables. Then, for example, readers will know which food to choose that contains more vitamin A.

We all compare and contrast out of habit, all the time. We check out two pairs of pants in a clothing store to decide which to buy (both are brown, but one has more pockets). In the grocery store, we carefully compare apples (both are red, but one is firmer than another and one has a bruise). We compare and contrast people (He looks like Brad Pitt!) and objects (The clouds look like giant cotton balls). As we observe the world around us and make everyday decisions, we constantly compare and contrast. (How do you think this chapter compares with the last one so far?)

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

EVER HEARD THE expression It's like apples and oranges? It's used to refer to two things that are very different. The basis for the expression is the contrast between apples and oranges.

PACE YOURSELF

PICK TWO OBJECTS and make a list of their similarities and differences.

Just so that we're clear on which means which, comparing highlights similarities while contrasting highlights differences.

    compare = similarities
    contrast = differences

PACE YOURSELF

PICK TWO ITEMS that you can see from where you are sitting. Make a list of all the ways they are alike. Make another list of all the ways they are different.

The main idea of a passage will most likely tell if things are being compared or contrasted. Read the following passage to determine what is being compared or contrasted.

Some might say that, in a lot of ways, going to school is similar to having a job. Like a job, attending school requires that you show up at a certain time, and if you are late, there are consequences. Also, in the same way that at work you find yourself having to get along with other people, at school you may have to work on a homework assignment with students who aren't necessarily your friends. At a job, there are frequently projects to complete by certain deadlines. Similarly, at school, teachers assign homework that is due on a specific day. In these ways, going to school is very much like having a job.

You probably noticed that two things were being compared in the passage. The first sentence, which is also the topic sentence, tells you that going to school is similar to having a job. The rest of the passage gives some examples of how the two are similar.

Writers use words and phrases to signal that they are comparing or contrasting. You probably noticed some in the passage you just read. Here is a list of words and phrases writers use to signal that two things are being compared or contrasted.

Within the compare-and-contrast test structure, there are two different substructures. A writer could compare and contrast using the point-by-point method, or by using a block style.

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

A VENN DIAGRAM is a graphic organizer that uses overlapping circles to visually illustrate similarities and differences.

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