The first tip we suggest in the Paragraph Comprehension section is to read the questions before the passage. In doing this, you are preparing your mind for what you need to search for. If you read the passage and then the questions, you will need to reread the question to answer the questions. This is a timed test. Every second counts!
There is no penalty for answering incorrectly when compared to leaving an answer blank. Make sure you do not leave any answer blank on the test. However, we remind people to make educated guesses.
Remember, this is a multiple-choice test. The good news is that the answer is on the page before you. There are 4 choices before you and you need to pick the correct one. Let’s examine guessing techniques.
There is a 25% chance of getting the right answer with a purely random guess.
If you can eliminate one choice, you are left with 3 choices, which raises your odd to 33.33% chance of answering correctly by guessing.
If you can eliminate 2 choices, you have a 50% chance of answering correctly.
The bottom line is to read carefully and eliminate obvious wrong answers.
In reading passage questions with 4 choices, there is usually one answer that sounds almost ridiculous. Eliminate that one. Usually 2 answers sound somewhat reasonable, but your goal is to pick the best one. In each case, one answer is the best one.
There are different types of questions that can be asked in the Paragraph Comprehension section of the ASVAB.
Below are listed the most common types of questions that could be asked along with some tips on how to find the answers for each of these types.
A main idea question is very common. It asks you what the story was mostly about.
It could be presented in different ways.
Some examples of main idea questions include:
What was the main idea of the story?
What was the story mostly about?
What would be a good title for the story?
In order to figure out the main idea of a story, focus on the first sentence of each paragraph and the last sentence of the story.
Detail questions are also common. These questions do not focus on the whole passage but instead on small pieces of information found within the story.
Examples of details questions focus on events or descriptions found in the passage.
Where was the missing ring found?
What was the occupation of the man with the raincoat?
Who was the one to solve the case?
In order to answer a detail question, skim through the passage looking for the detail for which the question is asking.
Vocabulary questions are found in this section. Answering a vocabulary question in this section provides an advantage that is not found in the Word Knowledge section.
This section provides strong context clues for the vocabulary questions. On the Word Knowledge section, some questions might say, “What does this word most nearly mean?” If you know it, you know it, but if not, no context clue is given to help you.
Examples of vocabulary questions include:
What does the word “frazzled” most nearly mean?
What did the driver mean when he said “he felt he was under his boss’s thumb”?
Make sure you read the words and sentences around the vocabulary word or the expression in question. The clues around the word will help to figure out the answer.
Sequence questions will refer to the order of events in the story.
Examples of sequence questions include:
What was the last ingredient that needed to be added to Grandma’s apple pie recipe?
What did the farmer do before he plowed the field?
To answer sequence questions, read with attention to order of events.
Inference questions call for the reader to read between the lines. The answer will not be directly stated in the passage, but enough information will be given to help the reader make an educated conclusion.
Examples of inference questions are:
Due to the new mayor’s strong focus on education, what will he most likely seek to achieve in his first term?
What would be a possible result of speeding up the assembly line at the car factory?
To answer inference questions, do not look for the answer to be directly stated in the text. Read the passage and think beyond what is written there. It is where you put the pieces of a puzzle together to come to a conclusion based on presented facts.
Cause and Effect
Cause and Effect questions seek to examine the cause and the result of certain actions and events.
Examples of cause and effect questions are:
What happened as a result of the firing of the beloved teacher?
What caused the protests to take place?
Certain words indicate cause and effect within a passage. These words include: because, since, therefore, as a result. These are key words to look for in answering cause and effect questions.
Author’s Tone is a question that asks you to read into how the author sounds when he wrote the passage. Is he being funny? Sarcastic? Angry? Factual?
Author’s Tone is not something directly stated in the passage. You must pick up on how the author sounds. It could also be called his attitude in the passage.
Examples of Author’s Tone questions are:
What is the author’s tone in the passage?
What is the author’s attitude toward the congressional candidate?
In answering an Author’s Tone question, think about whether the author comes across in a positive or negative way regarding the topic at hand. The topic could also be presented very factually in a scientific or historical way, neither negatively nor positively.
Author’s Purpose is different from Author’s Tone. Some people confuse the two.
The Author’s Purpose is why the passage why the passage was written.
I like to remember it as PIE.
Three type of author’s purpose are:
P – Persuade
I – Inform
If the author is trying to persuade you, he is trying to convince you to vote for a certain candidate, to buy a certain car, to influence your choice of movies.
If the author is trying to inform you, his passage is a factual one, possibly a scientific or historical piece.
If the author is trying to entertain you, his passage could be funny, sarcastic or ironic.
Examples of Author’s Purpose questions are:
Why did the author write this piece?
What message is the author trying to convey about the new clothing line?