How to Master Reading Module?

Why Vocabulary is Important to Master Reading Section?

The reading section is essentially a vocabulary test. If you know the word, you will probably be able to answer the question correctly. Thus, it is crucial that you improve your vocabulary. Obviously, you cannot attempt to memorize the dictionary, and you don’t need to. All you need to know are 1500 words in General Service List (GSL) and 1000 words in General Academic List (GAL). According to some linguistics, most words on the test are from these two imporant lists. Granted, memorizing a list of words is rather dry, but it is probably the most effective way of improving your performance on the reading and writing section. In fact, most students know words in GSL and you can master GAL in only ten hours by following a simple strategy that is described in 'Vocabulary Section'.

What Types of Passages?

The subject matter of a passage can be almost anything, but the most common themes are fiction, politics, history, culture, and science.

The goal of the fiction passage is to see if you can make sense of a piece of fiction. The objective of the other sections is to assess whether you can read a college textbook.

How to Approach Reading Module?

Some books recommend speed-reading the passages. This is a mistake. Speed reading is designed for ordinary, nontechnical material. Because this material is filled with “fluff,” you can skim over the nonessential parts and still get the gist — and often more — of the passage. However, actual reading passages on the test are dense. Some are actual quoted articles. Most often, however, they are based on articles that have been condensed to about one-third their original length. During this process no essential information is lost, just the “fluff” is cut. This is why speed reading will not work here — the passages contain too much information. You should, however, read somewhat faster than you normally do, but not to the point that your comprehension suffers. You will have to experiment to find your optimum pace.

Many books recommend reading the questions before the passage. But there are two big problems with this method. First, some of the questions are a paragraph long, and reading a question twice can use up precious time. Second, there are many questions per passage, and psychologists have shown that we can hold in our minds a maximum of about three thoughts at any one time (some of us have trouble simply remembering phone numbers). After reading all questions, the student will turn to the passage with his mind clouded by half-remembered thoughts. This will at best waste his time and distract him. More likely it will turn the passage into a disjointed mass of information.

So what you should do?

You can use two proven strategies below.

THIEVES Strategy:

If you are reading a long passage, one technique that you may find helpful to use THIEVES strategy to preview the passage by reading the first sentence of each paragraph. Generally, the topic of a paragraph is contained in the first sentence. Reading the first sentence of each paragraph will give an overview of the passage. The topic sentences act in essence as a summary of the paragraph. Furthermore, since each long passage is only three or four paragraphs long, previewing the topic sentences will not use up an inordinate amount of time.




Every first sentence in a paragraph

Visuals & vocabulary

End-of-chapter questions


Summary Strategy:

In a recent study titled "Improving Students' Learning with Effective Learning Techniques," John Dunlosky et al. test the utility of several common tactics used to absorb verbal information, primarily concerned with reading comprehension. Interestingly, the worst-performing techniques are those which most students gravitate towards when trying to retain a passage. Underlining, highlighting, and rereading were all given a grade of "low utility" by the researchers, meaning that no meaningful difference was shown between students using these techniques and those using no technique at all.

While the authors of the article do not explicitly suggest a strategy to replace these techniques, their data would suggest that summarization is the appropriate choice for standardized testing. Instead of interrupting the flow of reading by taking notes or stopping to underline, students would be better served to finish reading and then review what happened in their own words. Summarization forces students to engage their critical thinking skills to determine the main focus of the passage; if students can accurately identify the overall argument, they will be more likely to understand how supporting details strengthen the author's thesis and in turn remember those details.Dunlosky et al. are quick to point out that summarization only works when students accurately identify the most important elements or main idea of a passage, a skill which certainly takes practice. When mastered, however, summarization shows a strong correlation to increased retention of detail in the short term, which is key to optimal performance on standardized tests.

So what technique do these studies demonstrate is the best at improving students' scores? According to Dunlosky et al., the most effective technique is simple practice testing official exams. Summarization and self-explanation force students to think more critically about the questions they have been asked, and practice tests deliver the content and pressured scenario students need to feel more ready for the actual test.

Ultimately, it should come as little surprise that the best techniques are those which require students to think harder and develop a reliable approach to the test. These tactics might not be the most conventional, but what they lack in convention they make up for in wisdom.


Main Idea

As you quickly read the selection for the first time, you should be asking yourself the following questions. What is the author's main idea? What is the point the writer is trying to make?

Many high school students are taught the template of the five paragraph essay. When you write this type of essay, you reveal the main idea in the first paragraph and echo it in the concluding paragraph. Sometimes the reading passages follow this pattern.

Author's tone

Ask yourself, "What kind of words is the author using." The answer to this question will reveal the writer's tone. Also, look at what kind of metaphors he or she creates.

Specific Detail

The easiest question to answer. Usually the question hub contains the line numbers where the reader can find the answer. A word of advice--make sure you read two lines above and two lines below the listed line numbers

The (Dreaded) Inference Question

The most challenging question on a standardized test. The question stem may reveal the line numbers, but the answer will not be written in black and white. In this type of question, the reader needs to use a variety of clues to decode the meaning. Again, the best strategy is to read challenging texts before the test and to grapple with inferences that good writers will force the reader to make.

Now that you know the two core reading strategies and types of questions, in order to gain maximum benefits, you must practice all strategies on past official tests.

Preparing for the Reading module can be nerve-wracking for many students. Many people are under the incorrect assumption that in order to improve their Reading score they should read novels and newspapers. You will not find the key to unlocking the Reading Module section in The New York Times! Granted, reading the newspaper everyday can improve your critical reading comprehension over time, it won’t yield the quick gains you’re looking for. So unless you have years to prepare for the test, drop the newspaper... at least, when it comes to your Reading Module prep for your test! There is no better way to prepare for the Reading section than to use your perfect strategies on authentic test questions.

There are two major advantages to practicing with real  reading questions from the test. First, you will become familiar with the format of the questions. Because the structure of the reading section of the test does not change from year to year, you will already be oriented to the test format on exam day and will not waste time reading directions. Second, by practicing on authentic questions, you will know exactly the types of questions to expect on the test day. In fact, official practice tests are real exams from past administrations of the test, almost identical to what you will see on exam day!

Credit: np.net