Reading Comprehension Passage Types and Examples

The Main Idea or Theme Based Questions

In this type of questions the passage will be followed by a question with certain statements which may or may not be the central idea of the given passage, you have to choose the statement that will best qualify as the central idea discussed in the passage.

The question can also ask for the most suitable title for the passage. Which will also correspond to the central theme in the passage. Another form in which this type of question can by asked is ‘which of the following statement is best supported by the passage’. In this question you may be given statements more than one of which can be inferred from the passage but only one statement will be best supported by the passage, which will be the central theme of the passage.

Following are Some Example of Theme Based Questions:

Passage – I

But the realists have something to say too. They say that in the battle called life, what we need is not sportsmanship, but strength, not humility but self confidence, not altruism but resolute intelligence; that not justice or sportsmanship but power is that arbiter of all differences and destinies. This was expressed bluntly by Bismarck, who said, “There was no altruism among nations,” and that modern issues are not decided by votes and rhetoric but by blood and iron. If life is a struggle for existence in which the fittest survive then strength is the ultimate virtue and weakness, the only fault. ‘Good’ is that which survives, which wins and ‘bad’ is that which gives way and fails. There is no room to the sporting spirit in this world.

Question: The passage is mainly concerned with –

  • (a) Bismarck’s opinions about nations
  • (b) Definition of ‘Good’ and ‘bad’
  • (c) Musings on how life should be lived
  • (d) What the realists have to say.

Passage – II

There is this ambiguity about force. We are never sure that it can be used for purpose of justice. Voltair said quite rightly “War is the greatest of all crimes; yet there is no aggressor who does not perform his crime with the pretext of justice”. It is true that on occasions force may be employed by the oppressed against the aggressors who exploit them. Thus, history records the success of the grid against the Persian invaders or the Italians against the Austrians or the Afgans against the British. But the record of the triumph of Right over Night is meagre. We must not forget that might has won many more victories over right during untold centuries.

Question: Which is the most appropriate title for the passage based on its content?

  • (a) The Right or the Might
  • (b) War – the greatest of Crime
  • (c) Force and Justice – An ambiguous relations
  • (d) The battle of British and Afghans.

Passage – III

Too much power given to any organized body is harmful to the government. This is true in the case of press also. It is always desirable that the press of a country should be controlled by its government. It may happen that the press may be captured by any one party and the country planted into Civil War. A powerful press can create a revolution against the government at any time it likes. The press sometimes embattles international relations. An example of this can be seen in the Italian press. It was published in the Italian press some years ago that the Great Britain was supplying arms and ammunitions to Abyssinia. This rumour spread a great deal of hatred in Italians against Englishmen and a special guard had to be placed upon the British Embassad or at Rome.

Question: Which of the following statements is best supported by the given passage?

  • (a) Italians hate Englishmen
  • (b) If the press has too much power, it can become harmful
  • (c) Press is a powerful medium and has a capacity to influence masses to a large extent.
  • (d) Press can cause Civil War in a country

Passage – IV

It is very interesting to study the mind of the advertiser and the motives of the human mind upon which he wants to play. The most advertised goods are women’s toilet accessories or things that women use for preserving their youthful looks. Fat women are anxious to grow slim, so, advertisers play upon women’s fear of growing fat. “Her joints squeak like new shoes, Swollen with Rheumatism at thirty.” So, begins the advertisement of Krusheen salts. Here is the beginning of the advertisement of ‘Aldiflue’ “Obesity, it’s said, is the beginning of the end, an oversize embarrasses and endangers. For it puts blood, heart, liver and muscles out of battle. Starve oneself thin? No use, dissolve adepose tissue ? Yes, but the consequence?” The semi-medical form of this advertisement gives it great advantage over others. When we look underneath we find that Aldefluid is a French Preparation. Trust a Frenchman to know a woman’s mind. If we take up any newspaper we find scores of advertisements. “I detest a shiny nose that is why I use perfect nose Powder”. “Girl be sure of Beauty” soap Jean Harlow, “And use Vame Toilet, the beauty soap of film stars”. “Gone and forever, ugly and unwanted hair”. “Fascinating curves, that are height of fashion – the essence of feminine appear can be quickly yours through the safe, painters, tasted, Bustophese”.

Question: Which is the main objective of the passage–

  • (a) To study the mind of an Advertiser
  • (b) To list examples of advertisements common in newspapers
  • (c) To understand the consequence of dissolving adipose tissue
  • (d) To state that women worry too much about their Beauty.
Answer Key:I. (c)II. (c)III. (c)IV. (a)

How to Deal the Theme Based Questions?

As would be clear from the example the theme based questions, test your understanding of the most important idea or conception the passage. You can call it the essence of the passage.

To facilitate answering theme based questions follow the following steps:

1. When reading a passage always keep in mind the question – what is the passage trying to do? It is only making a statement? Is it making a criticism? Is it doing an analysis? Is it supporting a particular belief?

In this manner you will be able to find the MOTIVE of the passage. This step will help you answer questions like ‘what is the primary purpose of the passage ‘OR’ what is the main objective of the passage. Consider Passage IV as an example. The passage makes a statement in the beginning “It is interesting to study the mind of an advertiser” and throughout the passage tries to study the mind of advertiser by citing several examples of advertisements – what fears of human minds are they targeted at, what do advertisers do to make advantage of these fears. Thus, the objective of the passage remains to study the mind of an advertiser.

2. As you read the passage select the most important paragraph which generally contains the theme of the passage. You can then keep in mind the central idea of the passage. This will help you attempt equations of the form, ‘what is the main concern of the passage? In questions such as these, the options given in the question are sometimes true statements but not the central idea. You can compare the theme with the options and eliminate the wrong options. For example in Passage I.

On reading the passage, we can easily make out that the central idea is “Life and different way it can be lived in”

Now consider the different options:

  • (a) Bismarck’s opinion about nations — This is an idea in the passage but not our theme.
  • (b) definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ — This is also an idea in the passage but not the theme.
  • (c) Musings on how life should be lived — This corresponds to the theme idea and is therefore the answer.
  • (d) What the realists have to say — This is an idea in the passage but not the central idea.

Even for choosing a title as in Passage, one must compare all the given options with the theme and the option that corresponds best with the theme can be chosen as the title

Views of the Author type of questions

The second type of questions are the view of the Author type of questions regarding the main point discussed in the passage.

In this type of questions, the questions will test your understanding of the author’s view and opinion stated in passage about the central and even subordinate issue. The question may be about a specific point that author makes or a general stand that author takes. It can question you about writer’s attitude towards the central idea whether or not he agrees with it, the question can also be about more than one opinion of the author, The following are the examples of this type of questions.

Passage – I

The best utopia to me is Plato’s Republic’, a fascinating mixture of poetry, philosophy and myth.

Plato understands that before we study the states that men make, we must study men first. The human being is made of appetite, emotions and intellect, among which a constant conflict is going on. The best man is he in whom appetite, warmed by emotions, is guided by knowledge. Ruin comes when the trader becomes ruler, or the general establishes a military dictatorship. Only philosopher king is fit to guide a nation. “Until philosophers are kings and kings and princes of this world have the power of philosophy and wisdom and political leadership meet in the same man, cities will never cease from ill nor the human race.”

Question: According to the Author

  • (a) Human being is made of appetite, emotion and intellect
  • (b) Republic is a mixture of poetry, philosophy and myth
  • (c) Plato was the greatest poet of all times
  • (d) Philosophy is the best virtue.

Passage – II

Very few men have analytical spirit. They cannot reach the bottom of things. They run away with views supplied to them by newspapers not caring to enquire if they are right or wrong. For instance, a man living in Europe or America derives his information about a country like India only through newspapers. It is not possible for him to come here and see things for himself. Not only do people lack analytical spirit they have no time to probe deeply into the real state of affairs. We live in an age of hurry. We have not time to waste: people always have more important thing to do.

Question: Which of the following statements is the author least likely to agree with?

  • (a) Very few men have analytical spirit
  • (b) We live in a busy world
  • (c) The views supplied to men by newspaper are always wrong
  • (d) People hardly ever try to get to the bottom of any news.

Passage – III

There is no true sportsmanship without a new world order. We must reconstruct the world so as to eliminate competition from it. The individual cries out. I must be happy at all costs for there is no time to be lost. The nation cries out. I must be prosperous at all costs or I shall go under. So, civilization has entered into an era of callous competition. No peace treaty can end this. The world must be reorganised as a federal and essentially as one. Until that is done the nobel shall always be at the merry of the ignoble and there will be neither peace nor sportsmanship in the world.

Question: The author makes at least two of the following claims in the given passage which are these

  1. True sportsmanship cannot happen in the present world.
  2. There can be peace in the world only if it becomes one federal.
  3. Individuals and nations are happy and prosperous.
  • (a) 1 and 2
  • (b) 1 and 3
  • (c) 2 and 3
  • (d) none of these

Passage – IV

The law of the land needs a very important factor to be effective land. That’s why various wings of the Indian government have cut a sorry figure when they have tried to regulate the intangible world of the internet. The latest in the battle between the old world and the new world of the web unfolded when the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government to issue notice to Google in response to a PIL field against the company’s popular social networking site – orkut.com.

Question: According to the author, the government has not been able to regulate the internet world because:

  • (a) It is very popular among the people
  • (b) Google owns orkut.com
  • (c) There is no land in internet
  • (d) Internet is an abstract, intangible world with no explicit figureheads.
Answer Key:I. (b)II. (c)III. (a)IV. (d)

How to Answers Question about Author’s View?

To answer questions about Author’s opinions, one should follow the inference technique.

By inference one means understanding the passage and deriving a logical conclusion from it. The questions can be about opinions of author mentioned directly in the passage or views that are indirectly expressed in the passage.

For the views directly mentioned in the passage the reader should locate the relevant part of the passage and choose the right answer.

For example in passage are

  • (a) is a quote said by plato and not by the author.
  • (b) is said by the author in the very first sentence.
  • (c) is not meant by in the passage at all
  • (d) is not suggested by the passage directly or clearly.

Therefore, one can locate the sentence directly mentioned by the author and choose the right answer.

On the other hand in some questions the opinion of the author may not be directly displayed in the passage and will have to be inferred from some sentences in the passage. Consider passage III

The author says “There is no true sportsmanship without a new world order” which means in the present world order true sportsmanship cannot exist. Further he says “the world must be reorganised as a federal and essentially as one. Unless that is done….. there can be no peace or sportsmanship in the world.” By this we can understand that there can be peace only if the world is one federal.

Thus the right answer is (a) because 1 and 2 can be inferred as the opinion or claim of the author.

Choosing the Correct or Wrong Statement on the basis of the given passage

This type of question demands the students to derive conclusions and inferences from the given passage. This type of question will have four statements and of the four options you be asked to choose the correct or the incorrect statement in the context of the passage.

Following are the example of this type of questions.

Passage – I

The word arthritis means inflammation of joints, and Rheumatism means aches and pains in bones, muscles and joints. There are around 200 types of arthritis and Rheumatic diseases affecting young and old, each one having a different cause. Arthritis can be broadly divided into if inflammatory arthritis and that due to wear and tear – osteoarthritis, according to Dr. Kaushal Mathan. About 0.5 – 1 per cent of our population suffers from inflammatory arthritis and about three four times that number from osteoarthritis.

Question: Which of following statement is incorrect according to the passage

  • (a) There are around 200 types of arthritis
  • (b) Arthritis happens due to inflammation in joints
  • (c) Inflammatory arthritis is more common than Osteoarthritis
  • (d) All kinds of arthritis have different causes.

Discussion: These questions can mostly be answered by direct reading of the passage. All statements given in the options should be checked for accuracy in the passage and, there by, you can select the correct or the incorrect statement easily.

Sometimes, the given options are not directly mentioned in the passage but are to be derived or inferred from the given passage. In that case a student should select the relevant section of the passage and use the inference method and then check the accuracy of the given statement. For example, consider this passage.

Passage – II

The Highest point on the earth’s surface is Mt. Everest, 5 miles in height and the lowest near Philippine Island, seven miles in depth. The stress difference between these two points is equal to the weight of ten miles of normal rock. In other words, between these points the earth’s surface is burdened with such a great weight that the outer crust of the earth is unable to support all this terrible weight and adjustments occur which we call earthquakes.

As a result of the above theory, the earthquakes should have occurred only once in a recorded time and then everything should have been normal but we know this is not so and there must be a reason.

The reason is not far to seek. It is rainfall. A rainfall of thirty inches a year amounts to one mile in 2,000 yrs. During the whole of the age of the earth 1,000,000 miles of rain must have fallen. Rain falls and makes tips way again to the ocean. But it does not go alone. It carries vast quantity of earth along with it with the result some parts of earth are overloaded and some made light. The change in strain during geological time must have been enormous and every change of strain must produce an attempt at an equilibrium and an adjustment. The adjustments are earthquakes.

Question: Which of the following is correct in context of the passage

  • (a) The difference between the highest and the lowest point on earth is equal to 10 miles.
  • (b) Earthquakes occur only once in a recorded time and then everytime becomes normal.
  • (c) Rainfall is the reason why earthquakes keep occuring time again.
  • (d) There is strain on earth’s surface which has to be adjusted by rainfall.

Explanation:

(a) is incorrect because the difference b/w the highest and lowest point on earth is not 10 miles but it is equal to weight of 10 miles of normal rock. (b) The passage says that this is how it should have been but it is not so, thus, this is not the answer. (c) This is the right answer and can be inferred from the given passage. Earthquakes occur because there is strain b/w the highest and lowest points on earth, the adjustments made to support this are earthquakes, but according to this theory once the adjustment is made there need not be any more earthquakes but it is not so because rainfall keeps changing the geological realities and, hence, the strain is maintained. Which is why earthquakes keep occurring because of rainfall.

Supporting Idea Questions

These type of questions are aimed at measuring a student’s capacity to distinguish the main idea from the supporting idea. Also, this type of a question will test your ability to differentiate ideas. Those are implicity stated in a passage from the ideas that are implied by the author.

These type of questions usually focus on a specific paragraph and their meaning as a contribution to the whole passage.

The question may ask you about facts mentioned in the passage or ideas stated or implied in the passage. It may even demand you to draw conclusion from a specific passage.

Following are the examples of Supportive Idea question:

Passage – I

The New Mercantilism (as the Multinational corporate system of special alliances and privileges aid and tariff concessions is sometimes called) faces similar problems of external and internal division. The centre is troubled; excluded groups revolt and even some of the affluent are dissatisfied with the roles. Nationalistic rivalry between major capitalist countries remains an important divisive factor. Finally, there is the threat presented by the middle classes and the excluded groups of the underdeveloped countries. The national middle classes in the underdeveloped country came to power when the centre weakened but could not through their policy of import substitution manufacturing, establish a viable basis for sustained growth. They, now, face a foreign exchange crisis and an unemployment (or population) crises. The first indicating their inability to work in an international economy and second indicates their alienation from the people they are supposed to lead. In the immediate future, these national middle classes will gain a new lease of life as they take advantage of spaces created by rivalry between American and non-American oligopolist striving to establish global market positions.

Now Answer the following questions:

Question: 1. The underdeveloped countries are facing a foreign exchange crisis because:

  • (a) They rely on alliances with an inefficient class of landlords.
  • (b) Of the Nationalistic rivalry between major capitalist countries.
  • (c) Of their inability to function in an international economy.
  • (d) Problem of internal and external division.

Question: 2. Which section benefits most from the rivalry between American and non-American Oligoprolists.

  • (a) National middle classes
  • (b) group excluded by the centre
  • (c) Underdeveloped countries
  • (d) major capitalist countries
Answer Key:1. (c)2. (a)

How to deal with supporting Idea questions?

Since supporting Idea questions mostly focus on a particular paragraph or a specific section of the passage, the first step of the answering should be locating the relevant section in the passage following this the answer could either be supplied by the passage directly or will have to be picked up through inference.

Now consider passage I as example, Question I can be answered by pinning down the relevant sentence in the passage which is “Now they face a foreign exchange crisis and an Unemployment crisis the first indicating their inability to function in an international economy”. From this line, it can be inferred that a foreign exchange crisis is being faced by underdeveloped countries because they failed to function in an international economy.

So for Question II, the relevant line of the passage is the last line which states clearly that the national middle classes take advantage of the rivalry between American and non-American Oligopolists.

Lets take another example:

Passage – II

Many National surveys reveal that malnutrition is common in developed countries. This is not the calorie and/or micronutrient deficiency associated with developing nations (Type A Malnutrition); but the multiple micronutrient depletion, usually combined with calorific balance or excess (Type B Malnutrition). The incident and severity of type B malnutrition will be shown to be worst if newer micronutrient groups such as the essential fatty acids, xanthophylls and flavonoids are included in the surveys. Commonly invested levels of these micronutrients seem to be far too low in many developed country.

There is now considerable evidence that type B malnutrition is a major cause of chronic degeneration diseases. If this is the case, then it is logical to treat such diseases not with drugs but with multiple micronutrients repletion, or “pharmace-nutrition” This can take the form of pills and capsules-nutraceuticals, or food formats known as ‘functional foods’. This approach has been neglected hitherto because it is relatively unprofitable for drug companies the products are hard to patent and it is a strategy which does not fit easily with modern medical interventionism. Over the last 100 years,the drug industry has invested huge sums in developing a range of subtle and powerful drugs to treat many diseases we are subjected to. Medical training is couched in pharmaceutical terms and this approach has provided us with an exceptional range of therapeutic tools in the treatment of disease and in acute medical emergencies. However, the pharmaceutical model has also created an unhealthy dependency culture in which relatively few of us accept responsibility to health professionals who know very little about health maintenance or disease prevention.

Now answer the following questions:

Question: 1. Type-B malnutrition is a serious concern in developed countries because

  • (a) Developing countries mainly suffer from Type-A malnutrition.
  • (b) It is a major contributor to illness and death.
  • (c) Pharmaceutical companies are not producing drugs to treat this condition.
  • (d) National surveys on malnutrition do not include newer micronutrient groups.

Question: 2. The author recommends micronutrients – repletion for large – scale treatment of chronic deteriorative disease because

  • (a) It is relatively easy to manage
  • (b) Micronutrient deficiency is the cause of diseases
  • (c) It can overcome genetic risk factor
  • (d) It can compensate for other life-style factors.

Explanation:

1. Refer to line “The incidents and severity of … included in the surveys.” One can infer from these lines that the surveys do not include the micronutrients but if they did, the results will show that the problem increases two fold because of lack of knowledge about this type of malnutrition in the developed countries.

2. Refer to the first line of the second paragraph. The paragraph clearly states that because Type B malnutrition is the cause of degeneration diseases, that is why it is logical to treat these diseases with micronutrient repletion rather than drugs.

Answer Key:1. (d)2. (b)

Inference based question

By inference, it is meant reaching a logical conclusion after analysis. In questions such as these, the answer would not be available directly in the passage.

Style and Tone based Questions

These questions are about the language of the passage and mostly aimed at testing your language skills. The different type of style and Tone questions are

A. Synonym and Antonym questions: In these you may be given a word from the passage and asked for a synonym or antonym of the given world.

B. Meanings of words and phrases: In this type of question you can be given a word or phrase from the passage and asked to replace them with most suitable word.

C. Tone of the passage: This type of question asks about the tone of the passage, i.e. what is the style of writing of the passage. The following can be some examples of different tones and style of writing a passage.

Style:

  1. Descriptive – When the passage is only describing a situation or process.
  2. Illustrative – When the passage gives several examples to explain a particular idea it is describing.
  3. Argumentative – When the passage is in form of an argument giving more than one point of view which may differ.
  4. Analytical – When the passage, besides giving information or idea, also studies the effects and causes of the idea it is explaining.

Tone:

  1. Pleading – When the language of the passage is that of request.
  2. Prescribing – If the passage is trying to give an advice to the reader.
  3. Dogmatic – When the passage takes a strong stand and preaches to the reader that, it is the right stand.
  4. Consoling – When the passage tries to give explanations for, and pacify the result if an event or proceed or idea that has caused some harm or grief.

Consider the following example:

Passage – I

Independence itself came to us as what Gandhi famously called a ‘wooden leaf’ – a national freedom tainted by the blood of the thousands who died during partition. For more than half a century now, the hatred and mutual distrust have been exacerbated, tried with and never allowed to heal by politician, led from the front by Mrs Indira Gandhi. Every political party has tilled the marrow of one secular parliamentary democracy mining it for electoral advantage. Like termites excavating a mound, they’ve made tunnels and underground passages, undermining the meaning of ‘secular’, until it has just become an empty shell that’s about to implode. These telling has weakened the foundations of the structure that connects the constitution, parliament and the courts of law the configuration of checks and balances that forms the backbone of a parliamentary democracy. Under the circumstances, it’s futile to go on blaming the politicians and demanding from them a morality they are incapable of. There’s something pitiable about a people that constantly bemoans its leaders. If they’ve let us down, it’s only because we’ve allowed them to. It could be argued that civil society has failed its leaders as much as leaders have failed the civil society. We have to accept that there is a systematic flow in our parliamentary democracy and politicians well exploit it. We have to address this issue and come up with a systematic solution.

Now answer the following:

Question: 1. Which of the following words can be used to replaced the word excavating in the passage?

  • (a) Exploding
  • (b) Extracting
  • (d) Hollowing
  • (d) Preparing

Question: 2. What is the tone of the author in this passage?

  • (a) dogmatic
  • (b) prescribing
  • (d) critical
  • (d) analytical
Answer Key:1. (c)2. (b)

In question 1, excavating means to dig a hole, of the given options the nearest to the meaning of the word will be hollowing.

In question 2, the passage is critical about the current political states of the country and makes unmasks about political scenario and systemic failure.

Tip: To make finding answers easy and quick you can first read the question before reading the passage,

  • Retain true false, short, straight and date based questions in mind.
  • As you read the passage mark the answers for these questions
  • For the longer questions you can use inference.