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Old Wednesday, September 19, 2012
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Default (Prof Muzaffar Bokhari)HOW TO ATTEMPT COMPREHENSION QUESTION

HOW TO ATTEMPT COMPREHENSION QUESTION


Comprehension of a passage is generally difficult for most candidates because the topics are varied.

They may be about medicine, science and technology, religion or philosophy. Some of the subjects discussed may not be familiar to you. Here speed as well as understanding of the contents of the given passage is of the essence because in every competitive examination, several such passages are given. Comprehension tests ascertain your ability to understand the passage and remember its main points. Questions on the passage are mostly fact-based. In some cases, the candidates are asked to draw inferences from what is stated or implied in the passage. Such passages are difficult and need a lot of practice.

GUIDELINES
1. Read newspapers and magazines regularly.

2. Give yourself an environment of English; converse in English with your friends and peers.

3. Read the first few lines (or the paragraph) very carefully as this part generally contains the central idea of the passage.

4. Develop a sense of urgency while reading the passage.

5. Practise at least one typical passage under test conditions every day. Give yourself five to seven minutes to read a small passage and ten to fifteen minutes in case of a long passage.

6. Take random selection book test. This means take a good book and open it randomly at any page. Select one paragraph. Give yourself five minutes to read the passage. Take a blank sheet of paper and note down all the information you can recall from what you have just read. Then, go back to the page and check what you have missed out. Do this at least twice a day. Gradually try and reduce the time to three minutes per page.

7. Have a clear and logical thought process. Do not clutter your brain with unnecessary and irrelevant thoughts and details.

IN THE EXAMINATION HALL
1. Read the passage at least twice and understand its contents well. This should not take more than five minutes for a small and ten for a long passages.

2. Do not read the questions first. This may tempt you to look for only particular information in the passage and consequently, affect full comprehension. It is important to first understand the passage before you go to the questions because if the questions are not very specific, you may commit a lot of mistakes. Generally, the passages have a mix of implied ideas and specific detail type of questions.

3. Eliminate regression, i.e., going back to the lines you have just read. This is out of habit developed over years of wrong or half-hearted reading. This must be done away with as the maximum time you should take to answer all the questions after reading a passage is about seven minutes. Regression is the result of lack of concentration and assumptions.

4. Do not let your own knowledge (or lack of it) interfere with the contents of the passage. Do not make any attempt to agree or disagree with the author.
5. Your principal task in attempting a comprehension passage should comprise:

i. Finding the topic. The topic must be precise. Generally the topic is found either in the first or in the last line.

ii. Finding the main idea. This can be a definition, a classification, a purpose or an elaboration of the topic; often the topic and the main idea are the same.

iii. Finding major supporting details. The supporting details modify, explain or elaborate the main idea. You should learn to recognize these supporting details that explain, illustrate, compare and contrast, show cause-effect relationship or merely restate the main idea in other words.

6. Underline the words you don’t know the meaning of. Try to relate them to the given context.

7. Resort to sentence analysis and break a sentence into parts, looking for answers to who, what, whom, when, where, which, why and how.

8. Locate reference words and check what they refer to.

9. Underline signal words and look for what they indicate.

10. If the passage contains more than one paragraph, resort to paragraph analysis in the manner given above (5 to 10).

A SOLVED EXAMPLE
Long ago Emerson wrote.” A man’s task is his life preserver.” This seems to be remarkably correct in our modern life. The man without a task is like a ship without ballast and anchor; he is all too often merely a drifter. Very few men seem to have initiative enough to choose a task for themselves if they do not need to work. When the inevitable disappointments come, as they assuredly will, they are completely overwhelmed. But the man who has his task has no time for vain regrets; he escapes the disastrous fate which over takes his less fortunate brothers. Work is one of the greatest safety-valves which was ever invented, and the youths especially need it.

We sometimes pity the man who is a slave to his task, and perhaps we are right; but a man who has no task is a slave to his ennui, which is very much worse. Even a disagreeable task is better than none; the man who does work which is disagreeable to him will yet live more happily, than if he had had no task at all.
And the man with the task is easier to live with, and will prove a more contented citizen, and a more valuable one, than the one who lacks such a task. Even so-called invalids are often the better for some task which is suited to their powers, and they often live all the longer if they work hard. The man who starts life with a solid task which taxes his powers had better thank God, and do his best, for this is one of humanity’s greatest boons.

Questions:
1- What disadvantages will a man without a task suffer?
2- Why is even disagreeable task considered better than none?
3- In what ways is a man with some task the better for it?

Answers:
1- A man without a task, that is, purposeful work, will lack both will and direction. He will not be able to engage himself in any useful activity. Consequently he will neither work nor achieve anything. He will simply stagnate, suffer disappointments, and bring ruin upon himself.

2- A man without any work to do will inevitably lead a life of boredom and lethargic inactivity. Such a life will be one of unchanging monotony and misery. It is, therefore, better to be engaged in any task whatsoever, even if it be an unpleasant one, than to have nothing to do and suffer endless boredom and unhappiness.

3- A man who has some work, or who is usefully employed, will be a more contented person and also easier to live with than a man without any work. Work has a therapeutic value in the case of invalids, for if they are purposefully employed, according to their capabilities, they will add years to their life. Work is a life preserver; it helps a man to live longer and more happily than a man who has no task in life.


Prof Muzaffar Bokhari (Retd)
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  #2  
Old Friday, September 21, 2012
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Comprehension


Comprehension of an unseen prose passage forms quite an important part of CSS/PCS English. You may be asked to answer given questions on it or make a précis of it.


In either case you will have to comprehend it thoroughly and interpret it correctly. You will have to read the passage twice or thrice in order to grasp its meaning. The first reading of the passage will enable you to know its theme; its second reading will enable you to find out the author’s approach. The third reading will give you the salient points the passage contains.

While reading the passage for the first time, mark all the words and phrases of which the exact significance is not known to you. Consult a good dictionary to know their meaning. Take note of all the similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech and find out their significance in the context.

After having done all this, you will have thorough understanding of the passage. This is comprehension. You are now in a position to interpret it, i.e. to explain certain points in the passage by answering given questions.

You may be asked to explain what the author means by a certain sentence. You may be asked to show its significance in the context. You may be asked to comment on the passage as a whole. You may be asked to criticise the general argument of the passage, stating whether or not you agree with the author’s argument and your reasons for doing it. You may be asked to write a note on the style and character of the author as revealed in the passage. You may be asked to explain certain words and phrases and to use them in sentences of your own. You may be asked to explain certain points in the passage. If the passage is one of reasoned argument, you may be asked to point out flaws, if any, in the argument.

Generally speaking, you are asked to answer questions on the given passage. Your answers should be clear and concise. Write them in simple, idiomatic English. Never forget that the answers must be written in your own English. Let your answers be relevant and to the point. Say just what the question asks and say it in complete sentences.

Here is a solved example:



An unseen passage (comprehension)


A classless society does not mean a society without leaders. It means rather one in which every citizen becomes for the first time eligible for leadership, if he has the power to lead. It means a society in which everyone is given, as far as possible, the chance to develop this power by the widest diffusion of educational opportunities in the broadest sense, and by keeping the career wide open to talents of every useful kind. It is often said that a community of equals will not allow itself to be led. But, in fact, most men are, in most things, very willing to be led, and in danger of giving their leaders too rather than too little authority, especially if they are free to choose them, and assured that the leaders cannot exploit them for personal economic advantage; leadership so far from disappearing, will come into its own in a truly democratic society. But it is likely to be a more diffused leadership than we are used to; for a better nurtured people will have more citizens with strong wills and minds of their own wishful to lead, some in politics, some in industry, and some in the professions and arts of life.

This is the idea of the classless society. Some will reject it as contrary to their interests, some as Utopian and “against human nature”, for there are some who deny, indeed if not in word, that the aim of society should be to promote the greatest happiness and welfare of the greatest number, and others who hold, with pessimistic honesty, that most men must be driven and not led.

Read the above passage and answer the following questions in your own words:

Q.1. What is a “classless society” according to the writer of the above passage?
Q.2. Does the write believe that “a community of equals” will refuse to follow a leader?
Q.3. How will different types of people receive the idea of the classless society?

Solution:

Ans.1. A classless society, according to the writer, does not mean a leaderless society or a society that will reject a leader. It means a society in which everyone will find adequate opportunities of developing his qualities of leadership to be used for the benefit of society.

Ans.2. The writer does not believe that a community of equals will refuse to follow a leader. The writer believers, on the contrary, that most men are quite willing to follow their leaders if only they are assured that they will not become authoritarian and selfish. Indeed, when people are free to choose their leaders, and are confident of their social commitment, they are likely to give their leader too much rather than too little authority to lead them. Indeed, in a classless society, leadership will become truly democratic.

Ans.3. Different types of people will reject the idea of a classless society for different reasons. Some will reject it as it will go against their vested interests. Since their position is likely to be affected by it, they will oppose it. Others will think it to be Utopian, unrealistic impracticable, or unrealizable, because such an idea militates “against human nature” which supports inequality and difference. They, therefore, do not agree with the view that society should aim at promoting the greatest happiness and welfare of the greatest number. Finally, there are those who will reject the idea of a classless society because their experience has made them cynical in their view of human beings. With “pessimistic honesty”, that is with honesty and without any hope of improvement, they believe that most men are unfit for enlightened leadership and that they are fit only to be driven, or forced to do things.

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Old Sunday, October 21, 2012
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Default length of the answer

Is it right to give the answer of a question in such a long way that you almost write a paragraph like prof Bhokhari sahib did?
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Old Saturday, March 23, 2013
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it is a good guide.
plz seniors tel me which book is best for comprehension practice as wee as for paragraph writing?
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Old Friday, March 29, 2013
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sir is it necessary to give answer in such a long way or we should be precise?
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Old Friday, March 29, 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by androse View Post
sir is it necessary to give answer in such a long way or we should be precise?
Length of answers very question to question. However, as a general rule one's answer, in comprehension, revolves around 2-4 lines. The basic criteria should be to satisfy the question.
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Old Wednesday, January 10, 2018
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The answers are too lengthy sir..
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Old Wednesday, March 21, 2018
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Salam:
Dear Senior Members?
I am new user. I need your help. please explain. How equality and equity differ from each other. please explain it.
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Wonderful sir, thanks for giving knowledge ...
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Old Monday, October 19, 2020
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Hi Zohaib Ahmad,
Thanks for sharing the comprehensive knowledge on 'how to attempt comprehension in paper 2020?' These are amazing points.
Though some people consider it a difficult part of the paper but I am more interested in this part as it seems to be very interesting to read a variety of paragraphs and comprehend the hidden meaning. Once the meaning is grasped, the questions are perfectly answered, and summing up the paragraph to its one third also becomes easy.

Thanks
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