7) Passage-based Reading: Types of Questions 2/3
2. Specific Questions
Next up are the specific questions. You’ll turn to these after you finish the vocab questions, and you’ll probably spend most of your time here: specific questions are the bulk of the questions on any particular passage. They ask you about something a little broader than one word, but they’re still pretty narrow in scope. They might focus on:
– A specific line or paragraph in the passage. For example, Susan’s behavior in Lines 12-14 primarily serves to characterize her as…
– A specific piece of information that isn’t identified by a line number. For example, the author mentions which of the following groups as opponents of the Jacobites?
The common thread is that all the specific questions ask you about one identifiable piece of information within the passage, not about the passage as a whole. You typically don’t need to understand the main point to answer these; you just need to find the answer in the passage. If you get a line number, it’s a little easier, but even if you don’t, you can typically skim through the passage to find where the answer is hiding.
Once you find the answer in the passage, handle specific questions just like vocabulary in context: first, think of the answer in your own words, and then pick the answer choice that best fits what you came up with.
Some of these questions ask you to simply find a piece of information in the passage: these are called literal comprehension questions.
But questions like this are rare. What you’ll mostly see are extended reasoning questions: questions that ask you to infer, make connections, or draw conclusions about specific information in the passage.
The trick with extended reasoning questions is to never stray far from the text. Remember: they might be asking you to draw conclusions, but they’re still specific questions, and all specific questions have an answer somewhere in the passage. Even if the question asks you to infer, you shouldn’t have to infer very far: don’t make any crazy leaps of logic. You should always be able to point to a specific line backing up your answer choice.