Critical and Inferential Comprehension
Literal comprehension is the foundation for critical and inferential comprehension; to go beyond the text, you must first understand the text. An effective reader thinks critically about text. Critical comprehension is more than evaluating the quality of the text or stating an opinion about it. Critical comprehension requires readers to make judgments about what they are reading based on an evaluation of several text-grounded factors, such as the quality of the writing, the determination that it is fact not opinion, the objectivity of the author, and whether the text is believable.
In some cases, information will not be explicitly stated but will be implied or inferred. Inference, or inferring, means that you must go beyond what the author has explicitly stated in a passage and look for those details that are implied or hinted (thinking beyond the text) and thinking what it means to you. Inference is another word for conclusion. When you infer something, you base your conclusion on information that is implied, but not explicitly stated. You make inferences from clues within a reading passage that lead you to draw certain conclusions.
The Reading test will test your ability to draw conclusions about what an author is implying. In such cases, look at the examples and ideas that the author has provided in the text. Connect the text to your own personal experiences. Examine the author’s attitude expressed in the text. Chances are that you will infer what the author is implying. Also, use your general sense about the topic to infer meaning.
To answer inference questions on the Reading exam, you need to look beyond what is explicitly presented in a reading passage. In other words, you need to read between the lines.
An author might have a certain attitude, such as enthusiasm, compassion, defensive, or critical, toward the subject. You can discern an author’s attitude toward a particular subject through the contents and words of a reading passage. Notice strong words and their effect on meaning. Watch for sentences that are short and precise.
When presented with an attitude question such as, “The author’s attitude toward the subject is best described as,” look for key words or phrases in the reading passage. Words such as successfully and fortunately indicate a positive attitude, whereas words such as inadequate and ineffective indicate a negative attitude.
Fact Versus Opinion
Be prepared to encounter test questions that require you to determine which statements from a passage are fact and which ones are opinion. You should consider the author’s qualifications to write on this particular topic as well as the date of the publication.
Factual statements are those that can be proven. Opinions, on the other hand, are those statements that describe how someone thinks or feels about a particular topic and therefore cannot be proven. You can look for various context clues to help determine whether a statement is a fact or an opinion. Statements that are opinions will often contain words such as think and feel, whereas factual statements will not include any ambiguous words that can be interpreted to mean different things by a reader.
Global warming does not exist. (George Bush, 1950)
This statement was written in 1950, so the recency of the information would be in question, and the author is not an expert in the field of climate change.
A portion of the multiple-choice questions on the Reading test assesses your ability to evaluate supporting evidence. You may be asked to identify which piece of evidence supports the argument presented in a reading passage. Conversely, you may be asked to identify which piece of evidence weakens an argument presented by an author.
To evaluate supporting evidence, you need a clear understanding of the argument developed by the author in the reading passage. When answering an evidence question, first ensure that you have a clear idea of the argument presented and then check each answer provided against the argument. This will help you determine which statement provides evidence that supports the claim made by the author.
Extending and Predicting
Be prepared to go beyond what is presented in a reading passage when answering extending or predicting type questions. These questions test your ability to extend information presented to make predictions about what may occur in the future or whether the author would agree or disagree with these prediction statements.
When presented with an extending or predicting question, look for those answers that are most consistent with the information in the reading passage. Questions are usually asked based on what you think the author would agree with or recommend as future action.
Example of extending and predicting:
On the way home from the show, Judy said to her daughter, “I did like the rock concert, but it was too loud. My ears will be ringing for days!”
From the preceding statement, you can predict that Judy will not attend another rock concert.
Conclusion type questions test your ability to identify the conclusion based on information presented in a reading passage. For example, you may be asked to identify what conclusion, from the list of possible answers, is best supported by the information in the passage.
When answering conclusion questions, look for those answers that are consistent with the information in the passage.