Top 7 Tips for Answering Reading Comprehension (Unseen) Tests

1. Pay Attention through the Headline


First look at the headline and the picture (if there is one) and try to guess what the text could be about.

2. Skim the Text

Skimming is useful when you want to survey a text to get a general idea of what it is about. In skimming you ignore the details and look for the main ideas. Main ideas are usually found in the first sentences of each paragraph and in the first and last paragraphs

3. Go Question – Paragraph


First read a question and then read the paragraph from the text which the question is directing you to. Proceed in a question – paragraph manner.

The question is sending you to the text to find something. Make sure you understand every word in the question, otherwise you won’t know exactly what you’re searching for. It is also helpful to highlight key words in the question.

Pay close attention to what the question is asking you to do: giving examples from the text is different than citing proof for a statement in the text; a reason is different than a cause, etc.

See: Types of Unseen Questions

4. Write a Title for Each Paragraph

Write a title for each paragraph you read on the page margins to mark the main idea of the paragraph. Write it in your own words and use only key words. As long as it quickly remind you what the paragraph is about, it’s a good title.

Most of the questions concern the main idea of the paragraph, or an example that supports the main idea. The title you write helps you recognize the main idea of the paragraph and therefore takes you halfway in understanding what the question wants you to look for.

5. Base your Answers ONLY on the Text 

Base your answers only on the information that is given in the text and not on general knowledge or any type of guessing. This is why it’s called READING COMPREHENSION.

Whereas you need understand the meaning of every word in the question, in the text itself you only need to understand key words that are essential for understanding the main ideas and answering the question.

6.What Type of Question Is It ?

Is the question asking you to look for information? reason/ cause? effect/ result? purpose? example? Some words in the question, may help you understand what type of question it is. For example, “to show that”, “to illustrate” indicate questions of example; “in order to” a question of purpose, “why” a question of reason or purpose, “what do we learn” is a question of information. etc.

It’s really helpful to pinpoint what type of question it is, since looking for a reason is different than looking for an example, and looking looking for a result is different than looking for a purpose.

7.Use Different Techniques According to the Question Type.

In order to answer questions of information- ask every sentence in answer choices like a question. If you have the answer to it from the paragraph, it means you have that piece of information in the paragraph. Remember that the question word is really important and “why” is different than “how” or “what”. Maybe we have information about the “why” (reason or purpose), but not about the “how” (method, way, process). So don’t confuse them. For example:

1. What do we learn about Justin from lines 1-5?

(i) Why his father wanted him to play chess. (Ask yourself: Why did his father want him to play chess?)

(ii) How long it took him to learn the game. (Ask yourself: How long did it take him to learn the game?)

(iii) How many players are on his team. (Ask yourself: How many players are there on his team?)

(iv) What he has achieved. (Ask yourself: What has he achieved?)

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