Reading Comprehension questions are designed to test a wide range of abilities that are required in order to read and understand the kinds of prose commonly encountered in graduate school. Those abilities include:
- understanding the meaning of individual words and sentences
- understanding the meaning of paragraphs and larger bodies of text
- distinguishing between minor and major points
- summarizing a passage
- drawing conclusions from the information provided
- reasoning from incomplete data to infer missing information
- understanding the structure of a text in terms of how the parts relate to one another
- identifying the author's assumptions and perspective
- analyzing a text and reaching conclusions about it
- identifying strengths and weaknesses of a position
- developing and considering alternative explanations
As this list implies, reading and understanding a piece of text requires far more than a passive understanding of the words and sentences it contains; it requires active engagement with the text, asking questions, formulating and evaluating hypotheses and reflecting on the relationship of the particular text to other texts and information.
Each Reading Comprehension question is based on a passage that may range in length from one paragraph to several paragraphs. The test contains approximately 10 passages, the majority of which are one paragraph in length and only one or two of which are several paragraphs long. Passages are drawn from the physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, business, arts and humanities and everyday topics and are based on material found in books and periodicals, both academic and nonacademic.
Typically, about half of the questions on the test will be based on passages, and the number of questions based on a given passage can range from one to six. Questions can cover any of the topics listed above, from the meaning of a particular word to assessing evidence that might support or weaken points made in the passage. Many, but not all, of the questions are standard multiple-choice questions, in which you are required to select a single correct answer; others ask you to select multiple correct answers; and still others ask you to select a sentence from the passage.