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Reading Comprehension Question Types

by Professor Dave

Five-Choice Question Formats may (among other things) ask you to search for pertinent information in the passage, deduce the main idea; theme, or purpose of the piece; define a word in the context of your reading; or extend the meaning of the passage. This question format is the most direct, usually less complex (and probably most familiar) of the question types in this section.

“The sale of extraordinarily rich gourmet ice creams has increased drastically over the past few years. Even in an age when every indulgence seems to have a nonfat counterpart and personal gyms have become a way of life, there has been a dramatic rise in the sale of decadent ice creams. Not only are they higher in fat, but ounce for ounce they typically cost up to twice as much as traditional ice cream. Judging from their popularity, it seems many people are willing to pay—from both their waistlines and their pocketbooks—for a bit of decadence in this ‘age of denial.'”

Select only one answer choice. If everything stated in the above paragraph is true, which of the following comments must also be true?

  1. Because it is popular, these days, to diet and work out, sales of gourmet ice cream have plummeted in recent years.
  2. Ounce for ounce, ice cream is generally twice as expensive as other desserts.
  3. People today want gourmet ice cream regardless of its high price and high fat content.
  4. Ice cream puts a dent in many people’s pocketbooks these days.
  5. People today prefer rich ice creams to nonfat foods.

C. is the credited response. Isolate the one answer choice that addresses facts provided by the passage but does not contradict any of the provided information. C. is the best response because the passage establishes that sales of gourmet ice cream have increased, regardless of their price and fat content.

(Each answer choice is activated; select one choice; confirm your choice; next question appears.)

Three-Choice Question Formats may (among other things) ask you to draw conclusions from the passage or compare thoughts, ideas, or concepts in the passage. Each of the three statements presented must be analyzed separately to determine whether each statement independently (usually for different reasons) is correct.
Consider each of the choices separately and select all that apply.
Of the following statements, which one (if true) would provide the strongest challenge to the author’s conclusion above?

    1. Low-fat versions of many gourmet ice creams have proven more popular than their high-fat counterparts.
    2. An increase in the emphasis on physical fitness and a drop in the economy have caused individuals to limit their consumption of expensive and high-fat foods.
    3. Traditional ice creams continue to outsell more expensive ice creams.

(Each answer choice is activated; select one, two, or three choices; confirm; next question appears.)

A. and B. only are the credited responses. Isolate the premise on which the passage depends, then reverse that premise to discover it “strongest challenge”. The main point of the passage is that people have increased their purchase of gourmet ice creams regardless of price and fat content. Thus, the “opposite” would include evidence that A. people have been drawn to low-fat gourmet ice cream and B. people are generally limiting “their consumption of expensive and high-fat foods”.

Select-a-Sentence Question Format  may (among other things) ask you to locate within the passage the thesis or conclusion, supporting evidence, information that reinforces an argument or position, or examples to help explain an imbedded concept in the paragraph. Careful reading and analysis of the related elements in the passage is required here.

“Baseball Arbitration,” as it’s called, was developed in the 1970s by Major League baseball owners and the players union to resolve disputes, usually on salary issues. Today many companies have adopted this brand of arbitration in resolving labor disputes—which are often disruptive and virulent—over compensation packages and benefits. The mechanism allows both sides to submit proposed financial settlements, often widely disparate, to the arbitrator in confidence and instead of fashioning a compromise, the arbitrator is mandated to choose one or the other proposal. Most arbitral participants favor this form of dispute resolution because it encourages the parties, under some amount of pressure, to make their own decisions on financial issues. Generally, the arbitrator will take the matter “under submission” for a few days, allowing the parties to contemplate their respective positions regarding a solution. During this stated period of time the parties are free to negotiate.

3. Select a sentence in the passage that discloses the protocol for “Baseball Arbitration” and briefly discusses
the element of confidentially.

(Every sentence in the passage is activated; select one; confirm your choice; next question appears.)

Select a sentence in the passage that discloses the protocol for “Baseball Arbitration” and briefly discusses the element of confidentiality.

The sentence below is the credited response:
The mechanism allows both sides to submit proposed financial settlements, often widely disparate, to the arbitrator in confidence and instead of fashioning a compromise, the arbitrator is mandated to choose one or the other proposal.

The credited response sentence describes the process of this form of arbitration and mentions confidentiality. In doing so, it best responds to the question presented.

 

Reference to Highlighted-Sentence Question Formats may (among other things) ask you to compare (or contrast) all or part of a highlighted sentence in the passage with one of the answer choices; comment on the highlighted sentence as to logical structural, syntactical, or grammatical elements; or describe the connection between the highlighted sentence and other sentences or elements in the passage.

Although this question format often arises in a complex setting with a lengthy highlighted sentence and extended answer choices, it is susceptible to analysis.
“Baseball Arbitration,” as it’s called, was developed in the 1970s by Major League baseball owners and the players union to resolve disputes, usually on salary issues. Today many companies have adopted this brand of arbitration in resolving labor disputes—which are often disruptive and virulent—over compensation packages and benefits. The mechanism allows both sides to submit proposed financial settlements, often widely disparate, to the arbitrator in confidence and instead of fashioning a compromise, the arbitrator is mandated to choose one or the other proposal. Most arbitral participants favor this form of dispute resolution because it encourages the parties, under some amount of pressure, to make their own decisions on financial issues. Generally, the arbitrator will take the matter “under submission” for a few days, allowing the parties to contemplate their respective positions regarding a solution. During this stated period of time the parties are free to negotiate.

The author of the passage would probably consider which of the following statements the best explanation for the reason the parties are encouraged to “make their own decisions,” in the highlighted sentence?

  1. fear of legal retaliation by the winning participant against the losing party
  2. fear of potential litigation by both parties if the matter is not resolved in arbitration
  3. fear of monetary sanctions imposed by the arbitrator if the parties cannot resolve their issues
  4. fear that the arbitrator’s “submission” time may extend for an unwarranted period
  5. fear of an negative arbitral decision, encouraging the parties to mitigate potential losses by compromising

(Each answer choice is activated; select one choice; confirm your choice; next question appears.)

E. is the credited response.
If the arbitrator must choose one proposal over the other, the losing party could suffer extreme financial losses. But the “Submission” period encourages the parties to compromise, thereby reducing potentially larger losses.
A. and B. are incorrect.
Although in a real business these are likely fears, these choices are beyond the scope of the passage.

C. and D. are incorrect.
These fears are neither stated nor implied in the passage.

Two-Bolded Sentences Question Formats generally focus on the structure, not the content, of the passage. These questions may (among other things) ask you to determine the relationship between the bolded sentences or how one or the other may relate to other (non-bolded) sentences in the passage.
Typically, these are written as arguments with only one question that asks about the construct and elements of the passage.

Charles Darwin’s idea of natural selection is widely misunderstood. First off, it has nothing to do with conscious, intelligent, or purposeful behavior on the part of an organism; in that sense, nobody’s selecting anything. A species changes, not through choice or will, but through chance, through the “play” of heredity. Genetics is an important key. Inherit a useful characteristic—speed if you’re a cheetah, strength if you’re an oak tree, intelligence if you’re a human—and you’ll be better set up to eat, compete, and mate; in short, to pass that characteristic along. Thus, useful traits tend, more than useless ones, to be successfully passed on to the next generation, which profits from them in turn, until, in time, a whole species takes a slight turn to the right or left, adapting itself better to its environment, not through careful planning but through cumulative luck, fate, and good fortune that operate on behalf of the species.

In the argument given, the two sentences in boldface play which of the following roles?

  1. The first introduces a common misunderstanding; the second contradicts that misunderstanding.
  2. The first makes a general claim; the second examines specific examples of that claim.
  3. The first makes an assertion; the second provides evidence supporting that assertion.
  4. The first expresses the main idea of the argument; the second offers underlying assumptions for the argument.
  5. The first establishes a premise upon which the argument is based; the second deduces the consequences of that premise.

(Each answer choice is activated; select one choice; confirm your choice; next question appears.)

E. is the credited response.
To answer this question, we must follow the general progression of the argument:
1. traits are inherited by chance.
2. A trait that helps an individual to survive will make that individual more likely to pass on that trait.
3. Useful traits will accumulate in this manner, gradually changing an entire species.
The sentences in bold are steps 1 and 2, which are, respectively, the initial premise of the argument and an intermediate conclusion. The main idea (step 3) is not yet in play. Only Choice E. fits this pattern.

 

General comments:

  • These are the five question formats for the Reading Comprehension section. Within the five formats are a variety of question-types.
  • The directions and the question stems will reveal the question format. This information helps to guide your analysis in answering the question correctly.
  • Question formats may be weighted differently. For example, the Three-Choice Question Formats with its seven possible answer outcomes is probably worth more (point wise) than the Five-Choice Question Formats with but one answer outcome.
  • The average time for answering a reading comprehension question is about 1.5 minutes, but you might spend more time on the more difficult ones like the Two-Bolded Sentences Question Formats.

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One Response to Reading Comprehension Question Types

  1. ARIF July 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    Great Work Magoosh Team!!


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