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How to Improve Reading Comprehension

September 1st, 2019 how to improve reading comprehension

Why study “reading comprehension”?

Reading comprehension is often misunderstood; a skill to be taken for granted. After all, who can’t read passages of text and understand what’s going on? The reality is very different. Here, we teach you how to improve reading comprehension skills and why this skill is important

Reading comprehension is, of course, just one part of the police written test in the United States. Nonetheless, it’s an important part.

After all, you are in direct competition with every other candidate vying to make it through to the police academy. You need to stand out, and that’s why you need to excel in this part of the exam. For many, though, it seems illogical to study for this element of the exam.

That’s to make a grave mistake though.

Reading comprehension forms a core part of the career of a law enforcement officer. No matter what level of law enforcement you find yourself, you are faced – almost daily – with documents and reports and the need to file accurate documentation that details what happened, succinctly, and why it happened.

The more you understand the relevance of the exam, the better and more motivated your study will become. Rather than seeing the exam as irrelevant and belonging to high school, consider it an opportunity to improve your potential to become a qualified police officer in the United States.

And that’s where we begin.

Now, we’re going to delve deep into how to improve reading comprehension skills – equipping you with the knowledge needed to ace this part of the police test.

Context, Tone and Language Choice

One of the first skills you need to comprehend is the need to layer context and meaning.

What does this mean?

It means understanding text on multiple levels. For example, you can read a paragraph of text in a literal or contextual manner. Text may not be read in the “literal” sense. It may be written to exaggerate a point or to draw attention to some points of consideration.

Words convey meaning and, rather than taking the literal interpretation, you must consider what the wider meaning may be. Here is a sample sentence:

It’s universally accepted that women belong in the home tending to the needs of her husband, ironing clothing at least thrice daily, per week”.

Clearly, we can read this passage in two perspectives:

  • A literal perspective, in which the writer is forming his/her opinion.
  • A sarcastic perspective, in which the writer is attempting humor.

How is it possible to determine what meaning is intended?

It’s a good question. To effectively answer the question, we must turn to the words used in the sentence. How to improve reading comprehension skills depends upon your ability to read a sentence word-by-word, not sentence-by-sentence.

Once you start actively seeking out the meaning of sentences from the level of the word, you begin to unearth the true and accurate meaning of the sentence. As sentences are part of paragraphs, you now begin to understand the wider paragraph meaning too.

In this case, let’s review what primary words to consider:

  • Universally” – clearly, his/her statement is not “universally accepted”. At some point, and in some place, someone will disagree with the statement. The fact that “universally” is casually thrown in should raise alarm bells as to the intention of the writer. They are going against the grain and have a clear intention; in this case, humor.
  • Tending” – again, a casual phrase that oozes the impression that women must always cater to the needs of her husband; an old-fashioned way of talking about women clearly intended to provoke. There is no attempt at literal meaning here.
  • At least thrice daily” – the idea that women spend most of their day handling clothes is clearly an exaggeration. Just the thought of that activity is enough to arouse suspicion of what the writer has intended.

So, what is the take-home message of this one sentence?

The take-home message is clear – sentences must not be “glossed over”. You should not rapidly read sentences and passages without thought.

You must consider the wider message, context, tone, and word choice. You should think about why the writer has chosen one word over another. You should ask yourself how you would have phrased the sentence if you were being literal or sarcastic. By taking these steps, you improve reading comprehension skills.

But the skills you need don’t stop there.

How to improve reading comprehension skills also involves more than that. First, we need to talk about why you should never assume a full understanding of a text. This is as true for the police written exam as it is for reading everyday text in the local newspaper.

If you believe you have understood everything from a reading comprehension passage, you probably haven’t read it enough times.

Let’s find out why.

Never Assume Full Understanding

You should never assume that you fully understand a page of text.

Too often, we read passages of text and convince ourselves that we really, truly have a solid and thorough understanding of the text. However, this is rarely ever the case.

Take the following experiment, where 10 people are asked to read a short book of just 90 pages long:

  • After reading the book the first time, they demonstrate a good understanding of the text. However, in their submitted review, they claim their knowledge of the book is 9/10.
  • They are asked to re-read the same book. Clearly, they read it much faster. However, they now demonstrate a far higher degree of nuance in the book that they read. Again, in their submitted review, they claim their knowledge of the book is 9/10.
  • Finally, without expecting it, they are asked to re-read the book for the third time. The degree of nuance has, again, enormously increased compared to the first reading. Yet they still claim their knowledge of the book is 9/10.

So, what is going on here?

What’s happening is that readers are always assuming they’ve harvested all the details and nuance and knowledge of the book they need. The first reading is always enough. No further reading is required. But, based on their second and third readings of the book, we can clearly see that they fooled themselves.

The reality is, though, that they didn’t know as much as they thought they did.

And that’s the take-home message.

Never assume a full understanding of a text. When, during the police written exam, you are faced with a half-page of text, always read and re-read and re-re-read, before answering any questions.

Chances are you have fallen for the following common mistakes:

  • You have understood the “general” understanding of the text, but not the specific points that will be examined.
  • You have inadvertently, without thinking about it, forgotten about part of just one sentence; the part questioned in the exam.
  • You misunderstand the meaning of words, or verbs or phrases.

Not only this, but you quickly try to “match” the words in the question with the words in the passage of text.

That leads us to the next point.

Never Match Question Text with Passage Text

Police test examiners, when formulating the reading comprehension exam, always ask questions that match words in the passage, but where the answer is not found at that point.

The purpose is clear. Candidates who are poor at reading comprehension will not make the effort to find the correct answer. Instead, they will try and find “shortcuts”.

One of those shortcuts involves searching for words in the question then quickly “skimming” the passages and searching for those words; trying to find a “match”. There, they find some words/phrases that are like one of the answers listed in the question and, bang, they select that answer – only to learn it’s the wrong answer.

Don’t fall for this trap.

Often, the most obvious answer is the wrong answer; an answer designed to trick you into assuming nobody else could possibly know the answer as quickly as you.

The reality is that the smartest candidates see right through this trap.

To answer the question correctly you must:

  • Understand the meaning of the paragraphs
  • Understand the meaning of the question

That leads us to our next top tip on how to improve reading comprehension – namely, learn to read and improve your police vocabulary.

Improve Police Vocabulary and Knowledge

One of the best ways to achieve this is to read.

Nobody is asking you to read complex books from the 18th century. Instead, you should read what is relevant to the exam. Perhaps this is a website or three about policing, maybe even a police test blog like ours. Alternatively, it could be a law enforcement magazine, or, if you like novels, novels related to law and order.

The more vocabulary you hoover up, the better and more solid your understanding of the passages presented in front of you.

Remember – passages on health or home cooking or fashion are not going to be examinable material. Police-related matters are, on the other hand, examinable.

Furthermore, as a future member of the police career, you should actively attempt to learn as much police vocabulary and police-related knowledge as you can. The more you read, the more your mind becomes accustomed to how the laws of grammar work. It means you don’t need to spend hours upon hours learning the minutiae of grammar. Instead, these rules flow naturally. And, given that you intend to become a law enforcement officer, reading about policing should be a pleasure, not something that involves much effort. In this way, you can rapidly improve your police knowledge, vocabulary and rules of grammar/spelling all at the same time. In addition, you also improve communication skills and report analysis, too.

Reading is an extremely powerful tool. Don’t overlook it.

Top 5 Tips on How to Improve Reading Comprehension

But it takes time, and sometimes a lot of practice.

But that practice is worth it in the end; it carries the dual benefits of improving your knowledge/communication skills, as well as significantly enhancing your police test result to make it through to the police academy.

Here at Police Test Study Guide, we encourage candidates to follow these 5 steps to improve your reading comprehension skills.

  • If starting out, start small. Begin by reading a few pages a day, then progressing to 10 pages a day before reaching a number that keeps you mentally concentrated.
  • Don’t be afraid to re-read the text. If the material is difficult and embedded with details and complicated words, don’t be afraid to take your time and perhaps re-read two or three times.
  • Make a police vocabulary list. It’s imperative that you improve your knowledge of police vocabulary. When you come across a word you do not understand, make a note of it, search for its definition and commit the word to memory. The more you practice using the word – both in written and oral forms – the quicker it becomes part of your long-term memory. Flashcards are a powerful way to revise police vocabulary.
  • Practice reading comprehension quizzes. The more quizzes you try, the more you become accustomed to where you keep going wrong. These are the self-improvement alarms you need to hear. The louder, the better; they give you the chance to remedy your weaknesses and turn those weaknesses into strengths.
  • Trust your instinct. Often, common sense makes the most sense. When reading suggested answers, always think through the logical and rational possibility of each answer. Ask yourself, does one answer sound too ridiculous to be true? If so, chances are it probably is! Don’t drown yourself in the passages. Allow your instincts to play a role.

How to improve reading comprehension, then, takes time and effort.

But it’s time and effort well invested. The end-product, that of passing the police officer exam, joining the academy and becoming a law enforcement officer, is well worth that time and effort.

Take Police Practice Tests

We have put together a sample police test quiz on reading comprehension. Take the quiz and see how you score.

Don’t worry if you do not score well.

Remember, practice tests are about learning where you need to improve. Though reading comprehension is just one part of the police written exam, you must still score well to beat the competition.

Nobody, after all, starts out on practice tests scoring 100 percent!

If you would like to improve your reading comprehension skills further, registered members have access to a comprehensive range of lessons and sample quizzes to help bring your comprehension skills to the next level.

In the meantime, though, check back to our police test blog for more great tips and tricks on how you too can enhance your reading comprehension skills and get through the US police exam in one piece!

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