In the exam, this HESI A2 Reading Comprehension section will provide a passage that must be read and then understood as questions will be based on it.
This is to ensure the student can comprehend meaning, highlight the main idea, understand words in context, and draw logical inferences.
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Main points, details that support them, and overall context
Reading comprehension can be significantly increased when we choose to read as often as possible.
This isn’t about just reading subjects you like, but expanding your horizons too.
Reading a large variety of books, journals, newspapers, and fiction is what you are aiming for.
Through this, you not only encounter new concepts, but you expose yourself to more words, some of which you may never have seen before.
And ultimately, that will expand your vocabulary and increase your overall reading comprehension.
Understanding what you are reading
Identifying the main ideas and topics within a passage is a critical skill when it comes to reading comprehension.
While these two concepts may seem similar, there is a subtle difference between the two.
To start, the subject of the text is the topic and this can be identified by seeing what a portion of the text is all about.
The most critical point being made is the main idea.
Usually, it’s only a few words used to express the topic.
The main idea, however, is usually completely defined by using a full sentence.
For example, the topic might be soccer, and the main idea is based on why the World Cup is held only every four years.
When dealing with nonfiction writing, it’s not often that both the topic and main idea will appear in a sentence near the beginning of a passage and usually are stated directly.
From time to time, they may appear in a sentence at the end of a passage too.
Generally, you can skim-read in these situations to find the main idea and topic but from time to time, when it’s not easy to note either, reading the full passage is a must.
The main idea of a passage should not be confused with a thesis statement as this gives a specific perspective that the author supports by providing evidence on a certain issue.
Another critical aspect in helping with the overall comprehension of a passage is looking at supporting details.
These look to back the main point by providing evidence.
Authors add details to prove that their main idea is valid or correct.
While all text contains various details, it’s only text that serves to reinforce a large point that is seen as supporting details.
Usually, this is found in persuasive and informative text and can be clearly indicated by the author through the uses of terms such as for example, for instance, or other terms such as first, second, and third.
Not all text will have these indicators and that can make it trickier.
The literal meaning of a word is its denotative meaning while the emotional reaction a word may produce is said to be its connotative meaning.
Denotative meaning is taken to a new level in this way.
Highlighting how the author uses each type of meaning can help a reader differentiate between them.
With non-fiction, because it is factually based, it’s almost always going to use denotative meaning.
Connotative meaning is often used where fiction is concerned.
By implementing context clues, as readers, we are able to ascertain whether an author is using denotative or connotative meaning.
While reading through something, you will come across words that you recognize and from time to time, those that you don’t, or perhaps have only seen a few times before.
If you aren’t sure what a word means, one way to try to work it out is by scanning the words nearby that can provide some context to it.
Let’s look at an example.
“Peter came to the party in some strange attire. He was wearing a feather boa, a peak cap, overalls, and sandals.”
If you weren’t sure of what the word attire means, by looking at the other information in the sentence, you can easily work out that it meant what Peter was wearing.
Contrasts can also be used to help understand unfamiliar words in context.
For example, the author might describe the opposite of what an unfamiliar word is instead of describing it directly.
If the meaning of an unfamiliar word is difficult to work out, another option to try and work it out is by using substitution.
This means trying to come up with possible synonyms for the word based on the surrounding passage.
If the sentence makes sense when these synonyms are put in place of the word, then they’ve got a clearer idea of what it could mean.
This method rarely is able to pinpoint a precise definition, however.
Unfamiliar words can be defined by the descriptive words in the sentence as well.
They will give a good idea of what the unfamiliar word is about.
For words with multiple meanings, it’s critical to look at the sentence for further contextual clues as to what the meaning might be.
You can substitute words too to further evaluate the meaning of the original word.