Studying for Reading Comprehension
The passages on the Reading Comprehension test are always related to science and are generally from published works. The author will usually maintain a somewhat neutral tone, but you should try to identify whether he/she is trying to persuade, speculate, or simply inform the reader.
One of the best ways to prepare for the Reading Comprehension test is to read one or two essays every day to become familiar with the vocabulary and format of such texts. Reading one or two articles will only take around 15 minutes every day but will go a long way towards preparing you for the test.
You can use a number of sources to practice reading such as the Journal of the American Dental Association and magazines like National Geographic and Scientific American. You can find many essays on different scientific subjects on the ScienceDaily website on www.sciencedaily.com. The passages on this website are rather short and cover a very wide range of scientific subjects. For more specific texts, you can read the biology, organic, and nonorganic sections and etc. on this website.
Reading Comprehension Content (Questions and Timing)
The Reading Comprehension test is designed to test your ability to read, understand, and analyze a scientific text.
There are three passages in this section, and each of them consists of 16-17 questions, the total number of questions in this section is 50. You will have 60 minutes to complete this section so you will have 20 minutes to finish each passage. Since the difficulty of each passage and question varies, you should not spend the same amount of time on each text or question. Remember to use these numbers as helpful time management guidelines rather than rigid rules.
Types of Reading Comprehension Question
There are different types of questions in reading comprehension exams. Here we will give you a general idea of what the theme of most of the questions in reading comprehension exams would be. We use this categorization for better understanding the themes of questions, you may find similar categorizations for reading comprehension tests in other places as well.
Detail: The most common questions on DAT reading comprehension usually ask about some details in the text. There are also question that make exceptions and ask about the things that are not true according to the text, for which you have to look for details as well.
Tone: These questions ask about the author’s bias or whether he/she makes his/her arguments based on scientific evidence, anecdotes, or if his/her argument is subjective or objective. But bias is hardly directly stated in the text, but rather it is implied.
Conclusion/inference: The kind of question that requires the reader to conclude something based on information provided in the passage, whether it is accepting or rejecting an idea, are conclusion or inference questions. What you read in the items of a question is not necessarily stated directly in the text, but you can conclude that a certain statement in the text has a certain meaning thus a certain item in a question is true or false.
Title of the text: There are questions that ask what the best title, thesis, or main idea of the passage or even a paragraph could be. You can answer these questions by getting an understanding of what the passage/paragraph is overall trying to say.
Strategies for Taking Reading Comprehension Tests
In the following section, you will be introduced to a number of Reading Comprehension strategies. You should practice these strategies to find out which ones suit you best.
Search and Destroy Methods
Most of the strategies for reading comprehension tests revolve around looking for specific parts of the text that can potentially contain the answers to the questions. In these methods, you read a part of the text and then you read the questions to see how many you can answer, or you just read the questions first and then look for answers in the text. Here are the strategies with more details:
– In one of the searches and destroy strategies, you read half of the text and then start answering the questions to see how many you can answer until you cannot answer questions anymore. At this point, go back to the passage and continue reading to find answers to the rest of the questions.
– In another method, you read half the text carefully and then read the other half quickly and try answering as many questions as possible. You can also assign numbers to each paragraph to help you find what you are looking for easier after reading questions. By using this method you will have a good understanding of what the passage is about and you can probably answer the first three questions easily. It is possible that the last questions are related to the first half of the text but you still have read all the text so you can recognize that, just search and destroy until you find the answers. When you find a question you can’t answer, read the rest of the passage quickly to find the answer.
– A popular search and destroy method is reading the questions first and then skimming the passage. You should keep the keywords in questions in mind in order to find them in the passage faster when reading it. Many of the questions in DAT are detail-based and in this method, we are looking to answer these questions first and leaving the application-based, tone-based, or inference-based questions for later. When you read such a question, you should skim the passage and look for the answer, when you find the part that is related to your question, you must read carefully and find the answer. After you are finished with the detail-based questions you should try to answer the rest.
There is a very typical strategy that involves reading the passage fully first and then answering the questions, you should pay attention to potential keywords and names in this method as well.
Recognizing Key Words
Here we have a list of words that are used for conveying the structure of the passage. You can more easily understand the structure of the passage by noticing these words and what they signify:
1- Proper nouns like names of people, places things, etc. could be used as keywords in questions.
2- Words like first or second and so on are used to make a list; try to focus on the list and the categorization rather than getting lost in the wall of text and details.
3- Many of the inference questions are derived from parts that start with transition words; words that are used to signify a change in tone like despite, however, but, yet, although... Words that are used to show a continuation of the argument the author is making are like: in addition to, plus, also… There are words that are used to make conclusions and the main idea of the text usually comes after these words: in conclusion, therefore, thus, clearly… In some parts of the text, the author is trying to convey critical points and hence these kinds of words are used: in particular, strangely, notably, key, especially….
All these strategies and methods are viable but you must practice to find out which one is the best for you. Remember, if you can’t find the answer to a question after spending too much time, just guess and move forward. You cannot waste too much time on a single question on the DAT.
For practicing reading comprehension, you can read science articles to get used to the tone, structure, and vocabulary of such texts. Reading one or two articles every day would take around 10-15 minutes and it will help you with the RC test. You can read any science articles you like but biology and chemistry would likely be more helpful. You can also do reading comprehension tests to practice time management and getting familiar with the format and find which method works best for you. Increasing comprehension speed is very important here.
Get a Better DAT Score
Upgrade your membership and get instant access to 60+ practice tests, review notes for Quantitative Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry, 10 full-length DAT-like tests, and a lot more for a 1-year subscription!