Study Notes on How to approach RCs

By Gaurav Mohanty|Updated : December 21st, 2021

How to approach Reading Comprehensions

Check this article to find out how to deal with one of the most important topics of the English Language section- Reading Comprehensions. This article will help you in shaping up your comprehensions skills.  

How to approach Reading Comprehension

While those who read regularly find RCs not so difficult to tackle, others find it difficult to deal with. Therefore, they leave it. Your efforts should be guided towards solving the questions of reading comprehension and not leaving them because one thing that you should always keep in mind is that it is a scoring section that can help you clear cut off easily. This can be done with a little practice. This practice involves two things; One, “to know why you fear” and Second, “to know how to solve faster”.

Let’s analyze both of them.

An aspirant fears this section in the exam for various reasons. I found some of them. They are as follows:

1. Not studied through English medium
2. Lack of vocabulary
3. Lack of reading habit
4. Inability to analyze the given information

Now see, you cannot do anything about your past (i.e. through which medium you studied). So stop whining about that. Look forward to the future. You can easily take care of the rest three points mentioned above if you have grit. If you have a tendency to surrender very soon, this is not for you. However, you can clear it easily if you know how to convert your weakness into your strength. Start exposing yourself to different genres of reading. Delve into ideas pertaining to the economy (national and global), philosophy, administration, law, national and global issues (e.g. Sub-prime crisis, Al-Niño effect, Trump factor, Brexit, Demonetisation, etc.). Read the first in a language you feel comfortable with and then read them in English. This will help you a great deal.

You should also be able to analyze what has been written. Focus on keywords in a sentence. Try to make sense of the grammatical constructions used. You should clearly understand what the author has mentioned and what he has not mentioned. You should know where the author is trying to take you. What is it that he is trying to say and what is it that he is not saying? Ask questions and solve them yourself while reading the passage. Ask as many as possible. This way, you can dig out everything that the author has written. Reading comprehension is a test of your ability to dig out information.

Now let’s move towards the Approach that one should follow while performing an RC in the exam.

The most common suggestion and approach is first to read the entire passage and then answer the question that follows. Firstly let’s discuss this approach in detail.

Try to make notes while solving/ reading RCs. It is crucial for locating the appropriate information and also acts as a mental bookmark, thus helping in a better understanding of the topic.

While making notes, one must look towards and identify the following things:

i) The subject of the passage – which/what is the precise thing the author, is talking about.

ii) The main idea of the passage – what the author is saying about the subject.

iii) The tone of the author of the passage - which is the manner the author has adopted in the passage.

As soon as one figure out the above three things and central point of the passage, one will be familiar with the gist [GI – general Idea + S – Structure + T- Tone] of the passage. This will also help you to build a thematic composition and logical sequence of the passage. Thus it enables you to answer questions from particular parts of the passage.

But this sole approach is beneficial for the ones who generally read very fast. Then what approach should one follow in an RC, below are some of the approaches that one must try.

1. Instead of reading the entire passage, read critically the first and last paragraph of the RC. Generally what the author is saying can be identified in the first few lines of the passage, which in case of longer passages becomes roughly 1/3rd of the passage. For the rest of the passage, examine hastily, what the author has said about the subject.

Also for longer passages, try to put down in 10-15 words, for each paragraph, what you feel are the central points of the passage.

2. The next thing in this approach is to identify the structural words that tell you the important Ideas or Transitions in a passage. These structural words play a specific role in a sentence and paragraph. The most common structural words are given below:

Continuity Words 

Contrast Words

Conclusion Words

In the same wayAlthoughIn summary
LikewiseDespiteIn conclusion

These three kinds of words describe three roles that words can play in a paragraph.

For e.g.

Continuity words: The author would support his point of view further.

Contrast words: The author would introduce a contrarian point of view.

Conclusion words: The author would sum up his argument so far.

3. Further, try to recognize the words that represent positive and negative roles in the passage. These words will let you decide whether the author is for or against the subject. A few examples of such words are given below:

Positive Words

Negative Words


Thus these words help you establish the motive of the author.

4. Whenever a question is asked on a phrase given in the passage, just read the three lines above and below that phrase to have an idea of what is implicit from that phrase.

5. There are around 4-6 questions based on Synonyms and Antonyms, these questions can be answered if you have a good vocabulary and if your vocabulary is not good, then read the sentence in which the word is used to get a rough idea of the meaning of the word.

Now let’s discuss how one should attempt RC questions in the Exam. Generally, there are 2 ways in which an RC can be attempted which are given below:

1. PQ Approach (passage first, then the questions)

  • Read the entire passage thoroughly first and then read the questions
  • Skim & Scan through the passage and keep going back and forth with questions and passage
  • Read the first 2 paragraphs, scan all the questions and see what you can answer, then read Paragraphs 3 & 4, scan the questions and see what you can answer, then read Para 5& 6!!

2. QP approach (questions first, then the passage)

  • Read all the questions with their answer options first and then the passage
  • Read question 1 with all the options, then go through the entire passage to answer it. Then read question 2, go through the entire passage. Then question 3!
  • Just read all the question stems, without reading the answer options. Then read the passage and try answering the questions by reading them with the options.

After practicing all the above strategies and approaches, here is a list of tips you must follow while doing an RC.

1. Eliminate and not select: In most cases, elimination of choices works better than the selection of choices. Here is an approach to eliminate which is ‘BANE’. Eliminate choices that are too broad, too narrow, that are alien (Strange), and too extreme.

2Never apply your own knowledge/assumption to the given passage. Confine your understanding of the given passage only.
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