How to Effectively Tackle Reading Comprehension Summary Questions?

Friday, April 24th, 2020


Effectively Tackle Reading Comprehension Summary Questions

Since 2015, the CAT has increased the number of Reading Comprehension questions to 24 (out of a total of 34 questions in the Verbal Ability section). From this it can be easily inferred that this question type is of immense importance and failure to master RC questions would in all likelihood result in a test taker failing to clear the cut-offs for this section. Moreover, since these are regular MCQ questions with negative marks (for an incorrect answer) a determined test taker must chalk out a well planned and well practiced strategy on ways to attempt and ace this question type.

What are RC Summary Questions

Reading Comprehension questions that entail reading of the entire passage to be able to answer them are RC summary questions. Questions whose answers are located in a part of the passage are known as RC specific questions. In this article we will look at ways to solve RC summary questions only.

Typical RC Summary Questions

Typical RC questions include central idea of the passage/paragraph, the probable title of the passage, the style or tone of the passage, which of the following can (or cannot) be inferred/concluded from the passage etc. These questions will require the test taker to read the entire passage to be in a position to answer them.

Examples of RC Summary Questions

Based on his views mentioned in the passage, one could best characterise Dr. Watrall as being:

Of the following arguments, which one is LEAST likely to be used by the companies that digitally scan cultural sites?

Which of the following, if true, would most strongly invalidate Dr. Watrall’s objections?

The “dilemma” mentioned in the passage refers to:

According to the passage, colonial powers located their capitals:

According to the author, relocating government agencies has not always been a success for all of the following reasons EXCEPT:

From the passage it can be inferred that cities are good places to live in for all of the following reasons EXCEPT that they:

Which one of the following statements would undermine the author’s stand regarding the greenness of cities?

As one can see, phrases such as ‘according to the passage,’ ‘from the passage,’ ‘EXCEPT’ questions, ‘which one of the following statements’, ‘which of the following,’ ‘of the following arguments’ mentioned in the question stem are summary questions because the test taker would have to read the entire passage to be able to answer them.

Techniques Required for Solving Various RC Summary Questions

  • Theme / Central Idea of the Passage

(1) Central ideas are generally situated in the introductory and concluding sections of the passage.

(2) Pay attention to any repetition of an idea.

(3) The length devoted to explaining an idea in the passage also indicates the importance of the idea.

(4) Opinion-laden words – adjectives and adverbs – help you to analyse the author’s attitude towards an idea and this may be important when selecting the correct option, eg. ‘good’, ‘well’, ‘fortunate’, etc.

(5) The purpose of the passage may also be asked and it refers to the function that the passage performs in terms of introducing an idea, explaining or describing an idea, analysing an idea or arguing for a particular perspective. The purpose of the passage answers the question why the passage is written, i.e., it is the objective of the passage.

  • Tone of the Passage

The manner in which the ideas are presented and the author’s attitude towards the subject constitute the tone of the passage. For example – one may choose to say that one is angry, in a low tone, loudly, shout, normal tone, with fists clenched, laugh it out. Each of these tones conveys a specific meaning and adds layers to the idea stated. The tone of an RC passage is evident in the opinion-laden adjectives and adverbs within the passage, especially those around the main ideas of the passage.

Some of the major identifiable tones are Objective, Neutral, Dispassionate, Unbiased, Disinterested and Impartial. These tones are objective and will lack opinion laden adjectives in the passage.

Other tones such as Optimistic, Pessimistic, Cynical, Critical, Complex, Abstruse, Laudatory, Didactic, Satirical, Sarcastic or humorous are subjective tones and will have opinion-laden adjectives and / or adverbs that present the author’s point of view and attempt to persuade or bias the reader.

  • Inferences

Inferences require the test taker to read the entire passage or large portions of the passage to be able to attempt them. Inferences are generally unstated and are logical sequences to the thought or idea that comes after an idea or thought has been mentioned in the passage. In short, the test taker has to extrapolate from an idea or thought process mentioned in the passage and take it a step forward.

Example:  China is the world’s largest market for mobile phones. China has the highest number of companies manufacturing mobile phones in the world.

Correct Inference: China is a country with a very large population since it is the largest market for a particular product – in this case mobile phones.

Far-fetched Inference: China is a country with the largest population in the world since it is the largest market for mobile phones. Since the market for mobile phones is the largest in China we can safely assume that China is a large country but we cannot infer with certainty that it is the largest country in the world in terms of population. It is not necessary that the largest market for mobile phones will be the country with the highest population.

Alternative Method for solving RC Summary type Questions

There is another tried and tested method for solving RC summary questions more quickly. Instead of the traditional method of reading the passage first and then answering the questions related to it, try reading the questions first and then read the passage in its entirety. The advantages of this approach are obvious. If you have retained in your memory the type of summary questions that have been asked, then you can read the passage keeping in mind that you have to find answers to these questions only.  That way, one quick reading of the passage will be sufficient to be able to answer most or all the summary questions and you will be able to save a considerable amount of time. However, students are advised to try this approach on a trial-and-error basis while attempting the mock CATs. Only if you have practiced this method a number of times and are confident are you advised to use this method in the CAT exam hall.

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