Reading Comprehensions Basics

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A manager in his course of work will be required to take decisions depending on his understanding of facts from a wide range of areas. The Reading Comprehension questions test the ability of an aspiring manager to comprehend and decipher facts from vast areas like science, politics, philosophy, psychology, history etc. To score high marks in this section, the candidate should be able to read a given passage fast and comprehend it well enough to answer the questions that follow. This calls for improving one’s reading habits to become an efficient reader.

A good reader:
- Has a minimum reading speed of 400 words per minute (WPM).
- Changes reading speed according to the subject matter being read.
- Steadily moves forward without regressing.
- Has a strong vocabulary.
- Does not read aloud or move his lips.
- Has a few fixations per line.
- Has a wide span of recognition.

The reading process
The reading process is a discontinuous one, made up of eye movements, focusing on few words at a time and pausing after each of these blocks of words. Our eyes can absorb information only when they stop at each of these blocks of words. Hence one should cultivate the habit of reading in blocks of words rather than separate words.

Speed Reading
Speed reading is the act of quickly absorbing written information. The goal is to read quickly but still retain comprehension of the material. The rate at which people read material is not a constant and varies greatly depending on several factors. Some material, such as school work or manuals, may require more contemplation and fewer distractions in order to process and still understand what is being conveyed.

Speed Reading can help you to read and understand written information much more quickly. This makes it an essential skill in any environment where you have to master large volumes of information quickly, as is the norm in fast-moving professional environments.

Speed reading aims to improve reading skills by:
- Increasing the number of words read in each block.
- Reducing the length of time spent reading each block.
- And reducing the number of times your eyes skip back to a previous sentence.

These are explained below:

Increasing the number of words in each block:
This needs a conscious effort. Try to expand the number of words that you read at a time. With practice, you’ll find you read faster. You may also find that you can increase the number of words in each block by holding the text a little further from your eyes. The more words you can read in each block, the faster you will read!

Reducing fixation time:
The minimum length of time needed to read each block is probably only a quarter of a second. By pushing yourself to reduce the time you  take, you will get better at picking up information quickly. Again, this is a matter of  practice and confidence.

Reducing skip-back:
To reduce the number of times that your eyes skip back to a previous sentence, run a pointer along the line as you read. This could be a finger,  or a pen or pencil. Your eyes will follow the tip of your pointer, smoothing the flow of your reading. The speed at which you read using this method will largely depend on the speed at which you move the pointer.

Avoiding subvocalisation (saying words in your head while reading):
This involves increasing the rate at which your eyes move across the page to the point  where it is impossible to subvocalise.

This can be seen in the following example:

An inefficient reader reads like this:

An efficient reader reads like this:

Techniques to improve level of comprehension

To facilitate regular practices, use a fresh foolscap size exercise notebook. After reading a passage once, write down the time you took to complete the passage at
the top of the page. Count the no. of words in the passage. Number of words divided by the number of minutes taken to read the passage gives your reading speed in “words per minute”. Enter the same in the table. Maintaining a record of your reading speeds will give you a clear picture of how you are progressing in your reading practice over a period of time.

After you read each passage and enter your speed in the table, write down a few points summarizing the passage. Use a separate page for each passage. Write the following details on that page:
- Title of the passage.
- Main idea of the passage.
- Important points from the passage.
- Words given in the passage, whose meanings you didn’t know.

After the important points are written down, check the passage and see whether all the significant points have been covered. Doing this exercise diligently over a period of time will result in an appreciable increase in your comprehending ability.