Reading Nonfiction Passage Help

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Updated on Aug 10, 2011

Fiction is a piece of writing that tells a story that didn't really happen in real life—it's fictional, made up by the author. Nonfiction, on the other hand, refers to a piece of writing about something that did happen. History books and biographies are nonfiction because they address actual events and real people. Finally, informational writing refers to passages whose purpose is to inform the reader about something. Informational passages contain facts and figures, and include newspaper articles, business memos, legal documents, and so on.

In this section, you will be dealing with nonfiction and information passages, such as the type you might find in a textbook. Mastering these types of passages and their questions is important, because they are increasingly being found in standardized tests. These passages are not necessarily more difficult than the ones you've already covered in the earlier chapters of this book. However, they do call more heavily for the special skill of making inferences, of identifying implicit, as opposed to explicit, ideas stated in the text.

Remember what you've learned so far. Look at structure. Look for the main idea of the passage. Consider the purpose for which the passage was written. What clues can you deduce from the writing style about the author's attitude toward the subject? Is the attitude positive? Negative? Objective? Try to pick out individual words that further each writer's intent and support each writer's opinion. If it helps, underline or make notes on important points. Active reading techniques like these will keep you focused on some very detailed reading comprehension passages.

Passage 1

The coconut is an unusual food for many reasons. It is technically a seed, produced by the coconut palm tree, and as such is one of the largest edible seeds produced by any plant. Its unusual contents also make it unique in the seed world—the interior consists of both "meat" and "water." The meat is the white pith with which we are all familiar, as it is used extensively for cooking and flavorings; the coconut water is a white liquid that is very sweet and thirst-quenching.

Portuguese explorers gave the nut its name in the 15th century, referring to it as coco, meaning "ghost" in their language. The three dimples and the hairy texture reminded them of a ghost's face, and the tree has retained that name ever since.

The coconut has many varied uses. It is used to make margarine, as well as various cooking oils, and these cooking oils are used by fast-food restaurants around the world to make such diet staples as French fries. The coconut fluid is a favorite drink in hot climates, providing a cool and refreshing beverage right off the tree. This water is also used by manufacturers of various sports drinks because of its isotonic electrolyte properties. Even the shell itself has many uses, including cattle food and fertilizer.

Yet the coconut is also useful in many ways that have nothing to do with food. Coconut oil is used for cosmetics, medicines, and can even be used in place of diesel fuel. Dried coconut shells are used in many countries as a tool, such as a buffer for shining wood floors. The shells are also used for shirt buttons, and are commonly found on Hawaiian clothing. They are even used for musical instruments and bird houses!

And all these are only some of the uses found for the coconut fruit. The coconut palm tree, which produces the nut, also produces countless useful items. It's no wonder that the coconut palm has been called "the tree of life."

  1. The underlined word pith, as used in the passage, most nearly means
    1. helmet.
    2. hairy material.
    3. black.
    4. meaty substance.
  2. The coconut earned the nick name "ghost" because
    1. of its pale color.
    2. it resembles a face.
    3. it is round.
    4. of its smell.
  3. What is the main focus of this passage?
    1. the history of coconuts
    2. coconut trees have many uses
    3. how cooking oil is made
    4. Portuguese discoveries
  4. The passage implies that
    1. coconut palms are a valuable plant.
    2. coconut oil is the best way to cook.
    3. Portuguese explorers loved coconuts.
    4. coconut palms are good shade trees.
  5. Which of the following is NOT a use for the coconut palm?
    1. margarine
    2. buttons
    3. helium balloons
    4. diesel fuel
  6. The underlined word staples, as used in the passage, most nearly means
    1. fasteners.
    2. plans.
    3. paperwork.
    4. foods.
  7. The coconut palm is sometimes called "the tree of life" because
    1. the Portuguese thought it cured disease.
    2. nearly every part of the tree is useful to mankind.
    3. it grows near the Equator.
    4. of its green color.
  8. Passage 2

    Saving energy means saving money. Homeowners and renters know this basic fact, but they often don't know what kinds of adjustments they can make in their homes and apartments that will result in savings.

    For those willing to spend some time and money to reap long-term energy savings, an energy audit is the way to go. An energy auditor will come into your home and assess its energy efficiency. The auditor will pinpoint areas of your home that use the most energy and offer solutions to lower your energy use and costs. Trained energy auditors know what to look for and can locate a variety of flaws that may be resulting in energy inefficiency, including inadequate insulation, construction flaws, and uneven heat distribution.

    There are quicker and less costly measures that can be taken as well. One way to save money is to replace incandescent lights with fluorescents. This can result in a savings of more than 50% on your monthly lighting costs.

    When it's time to replace old appliances, it's wise to spend a bit more for an energy-efficient model, and be sure that you are taking advantage of energy-saving settings already on your current refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer.

    Windows provide another opportunity to cut your energy costs. Caulk old windows that might be leaky to prevent drafts, and choose double-paned windows if you're building an addition or replacing old windows.

    Most areas of your home or apartment offer opportunities to save energy and money. The results are significant and are well worth the effort.

  9. Which two main organizational schemes can be identified in this passage?
    1. hierarchical order and order by topic
    2. order by topic and cause and effect
    3. hierarchical order and chronological order
    4. chronological order and compare and contrast
  10. Which of the following ideas is NOT included in this passage?
    1. You can reduce your $130 monthly lighting costs to $65 by using fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent.
    2. Double-paned windows can cut energy costs.
    3. Your local energy company will send an energy auditor at your request.
    4. Some appliances have energy-saving settings.
  11. Which of the following best expresses the main idea of this passage?
    1. There are many things a homeowner or renter can do to save energy and money.
    2. Hiring an energy auditor will save energy and money.
    3. Homeowners and renters don't know what they can do to save energy and money.
    4. Replacing windows and light bulbs are well worth the effort and cost.
  12. According to the passage, which of the following would an energy auditor NOT do?
    1. Check for construction flaws.
    2. Look for problems with heat distribution.
    3. Offer solutions to lower your energy costs.
    4. Locate a variety of flaws that may result in energy inefficiency and fix them.
  13. According the passage, double-paned windows
    1. are energy efficient.
    2. should only be used as replacement windows.
    3. should only be used in new additions to homes.
    4. will lower your heating costs by 50%.
  14. Passage 3

    Book clubs are a great way to meet new friends or keep in touch with old ones, while keeping up on your reading and participating in lively and intellectually stimulating discussions. If you're interested in starting a book club, you should consider the following options and recommendations.

    The first thing you'll need are members. Before recruiting, think carefully about how many people you want to participate and also what the club's focus will be. For example, some book clubs focus exclusively on fiction, others read nonfiction. Some are even more specific, focusing only on a particular genre such as mysteries, science fiction, or romance. Others have a more flexible and open focus. All of these possibilities can make for a great club, but it is important to decide on a focus at the outset so the guidelines will be clear to the group and prospective member.

    After setting the basic parameters, recruitment can begin. Notify friends and family, advertise in the local newspaper, and hang flyers on bulletin boards in local stores, colleges, libraries, and bookstores. When enough people express interest, schedule a kick-off meeting during which decisions will be made about specific guidelines that will ensure the club runs smoothly. This meeting will need to establish where the group will meet (rotating homes or a public venue such as a library or coffee shop); how often the group will meet, and on what day of the week and at what time; how long the meetings will be; how books will be chosen and by whom; who will lead the group (if anyone); and whether refreshments will be served and if so, who will supply them. By the end of this meeting, these guidelines should be set and a book selection and date for the first official meeting should be finalized.

    Planning and running a book club is not without challenges, but when a book club is run effectively, the experience can be extremely rewarding for everyone involved.

  15. Which of the following organizational patterns is the main one used in the passage?
    1. chronological
    2. hierarchical
    3. comparison-contrast
    4. cause and effect
  16. According to the passage, when starting a book club, the first thing a person should do is
    1. hang flyers in local establishments.
    2. put an ad in a local newspaper.
    3. decide on the focus and size of the club.
    4. decide when and where the group will meet.
  17. Which of the following would NOT be covered during the book club's kick-off meeting?
    1. deciding on whether refreshments will be served
    2. discussing and/or appointing a leader
    3. choosing the club's first selection
    4. identifying what kinds of books or genre will be the club's focus
  18. A good title for this passage would be
    1. Book Clubs: A Great Way to Make New Friends.
    2. Starting a Successful Book Club: A Guide.
    3. Five Easy Steps to Starting a Successful Book Club.
    4. Reading in Groups: Sharing Knowledge, Nurturing Friendships.
  19. Which of the following is NOT something that successful book clubs should do?
    1. focus exclusively on one genre
    2. have guidelines about where and when to meet
    3. have a focus
    4. decide how to choose and who will choose book selections
  20. Which of the following inferences can be drawn from the passage?
    1. Smaller groups are better for a variety of reasons.
    2. The social aspect of book clubs is more important than the intellectual.
    3. Starting your own book club is better than joining an existing one.
    4. When starting and running a book club, a casual approach is risky.
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