How to Answer 4 Commons Types of Reading Comprehension Questions (With Reading Strategies)

If you think that studying for a reading comprehension test is similar to studying for a maths test – you’re wrong!

Reading skills are very different from mathematics skills so “How do you study for a reading comprehension test EXACTLY?”

You can’t really study in the form of “cramming” for a reading comprehension test because there is no memorization required, but rather, you can build your reading skills. (Exam Success does this through their online reading and writing classes)

Reading skills help you in your reading comprehension test and you build up these skills through continued reading and exposure to a variety of different reading pieces.

In addition, certain types of reading comprehension questions are common and having a strategy to answer these types of questions does help.

To help you with your reading comprehension test or reading test, here are five types of common questions I’ve compiled that:

  • Show you what these questions test,
  • Provide you with a sample of that particular question, and
  • Show you strategies so that you can answer that certain type of reading comprehension question.

Reading comprehension can’t be done without a text so the reading text we’ll refer to the below poem for all our sample reading comprehension questions:

The Eagle By Alfred Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands, Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Type of Question What it Tests Sample Reading Question Reading Comprehension Strategies
Main-idea, purpose or overall tone questions Your ability to find the main point in a passage or the overall ‘feeling’ in the piece. The eagle is seen as: (a) ruthless (b) thunderous (c) a loner (d) mighty Scan through the passage to find a specific phrase or keywords/phrases combined that would lean towards one of the options. In the sample reading question, the answer would be d – mighty. Phrases like “close to the sun”, “he stands”, “crawls” and “watches from his mountain walls” show that the eagle is mighty. None of the other options have a number of phrases or keywords combined that would merit them being selected.
Fact or event based questions You need to find when/how/why something happened as it was stated in the passage. What is the setting of this poem? (a) The wild (b) The beach (c) Captivity (d) The mountain ranges Identify key elements in the piece and then answer the question. We know from the poem that there are mountains and there is water. So option C is out. Option B has water, but there is no mention of sand, so we can exclude that and option D mentions mountains but we don’t know if there is water. So the only valid option here is ‘the wild’.
Inference questions Your ability to infer / deduce or conclude information from facts as they appear in the passage. This requires not just locating information but reasoning (thinking) to come up with the answer. What is the eagle mostly doing in this poem: (a) Diving towards the sea in order to catch food (b) Observing (c) Flying (d) Swooping Identify key facts in the piece and then reason to see what is most likely to be correct. The only reference to flying is “like a thunderbolt he falls” but that could be swooping too and also option A. They however only appear at the end. Throughout the poem though, the eagle is on a crag, watching from the mountain wall so we can safely infer that it is observing.
Words and phrases in context questions Your ability to understand words, not just as stand alone words, but in the backdrop of a wider piece of writing. Words can take on different meanings when part of a larger written piece. The words “crooked hands” in this poem mean that: (a) The eagle has crooked claws (b) The eagle is a person (c) The eagles’ claw resembles a crooked hand (d) The eagle has hands To answer these types of questions, you don’t only read the word but also read the sentence or paragraph that relates to the word in question. If you do that you’ll find that the answer is C. Option A mentions crooked claws but that’s nowhere to be seen. Option B and C is incorrect because the eagle is not a person and don’t really have hands. Instead they resemble hands with ‘resemble’ being a key word in the solution options.

Reading comprehension means ‘understanding what you read’. A lot of people think that it should come naturally but there are a few things that will help you better understand what you read.

They are:

  • Vocabulary – by understanding what words mean, you better understand what you read.
  • Punctuation – know what they are and what they’re used for.
  • Structure – understand where the main idea of a piece of writing is likely to be (e.g. if it’s a main event and you have a full story, you’d assume this would be somewhere in the middle).

Students who read a lot (and understand what they read) tend to also be good writers (just an observation).

Exam Success’ reading and writing classes are regular programs that apply practice to help your child improve their reading or writing – it has homework along with online face-to-face A+ tutor led sessions capped at only four students. They’ve helped many students improve their reading and writing skills.

You can find more information about our weekly reading and writing programs here.

Next: Why your child should NOT use “talking marks” or “speech” in scholarship and selective school written expression tests


Flora January 13, 2017

Thanks for all the help but could you please do one of how to understand factual texts because I really need to improve on understanding factual texts in reading comprehension: )

Flora January 15, 2017

Is the factual texts of reading comprehension is similar to poems and other things?

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