The paragraph comprehension exam is one of nine parts of the ASVAB exam. Many ASVAB candidates find the paragraph comprehension exam difficult, but, with the right long-term preparation, you too can ace this part of the test.
As the name suggests, the exam involves an intense understanding of how to interpret paragraphs; their overall meaning, how individual words should be interpreted in a given context, and how to accurately extract detail from the paragraph.
Many candidates often ask the question – why does the ASVAB exam test our knowledge of paragraph interpretation?
It’s an important question.
After all, if you believe that the exam has no relevance to your long-term career, you are unlikely to be motivated to study for the test. The reality is that accurate paragraph comprehension is a fundamental tool for many different careers – a military career included.
Over the course of your career – whether it’s a military career or almost any other career – you will be expected to read or examine reports. If you have relatively weak paragraph comprehension skills, you are more likely to misinterpret, or, perhaps worse, be unable to interpret the detail that you need to know.
Candidates with greater paragraph comprehension skills are also the same candidates with the greatest analytical skills. They can tease out the detail but, more than that, can understand the deeper meaning of the text in a way that other candidates cannot. Evidently, then, examiners are searching for candidates with a high degree of paragraph comprehension skills.
There are four types of question to expect on the ASVAB paragraph comprehension exam:
- Detail-specific questions – questions that ask you to extract a specific detail from the paragraph. You are presented with a paragraph and asked to determine the meaning of several disparate statements. For example – 2-3 answers may be “likely”, but you may need to determine which is “most likely” based on the words and phrases used.
- Overall-meaning questions – here, you’re asked to read a paragraph and determine the precise overall meaning of the paragraph. Again, just like the detail-specific questions, more than one answer may appear to be true. It takes practice – and lots of it – to harvest the overall meaning quickly so you can move onto the next question.
- Synonym-type questions – this type of question asks you to read a paragraph and asks you to select a word that “most resembles” the meaning of a word or phrase in the paragraph. “Like” and “similar” are examples of synonyms – two words that mean approximately the same thing.
- Inference questions – here, the meaning of the paragraph is not obvious. The question asks you to “infer” the meaning of the paragraph based on the facts presented. Here, you must evaluate the situation presented and determine what the paragraph is likely to conclude.
These are four very different type of question.
In many respects, though, this exam overlaps with the ASVAB word knowledge test. We recommend preparing for both exams using the same study strategies. That way, you can maximize your knowledge and application of words, whilst correctly interpreting those words in the context of paragraph comprehension.
The question now becomes – how do you effectively prepare for both exams?
We cannot underestimate the importance of reading – a lot.
If you are not a “natural reader” and find it a somewhat alien activity, try to build that interest over time. Nobody is asking you to read Ulysses. However, you should focus on what interests you.
Clearly, a career in the military interests you.
Search online for books, comics or political documents that most relates to you. Start by reading a few paragraphs a day. Build that to 5 pages a day, then 10 pages a day. Do it over time. Everyone learns at a different rate, so do what works best for you.
It may take practice, but that’s the case with any learning activity.
As you read, keep these factors in mind:
- What is the overall meaning of this paragraph?
- What conclusions, given the facts, can I reasonably draw?
- What is the specific meaning of each word?
- Am I actively or passively reading the text? Is my mind “elsewhere” half of the time? Use these opportunities to ‘snap’ yourself out of it to re-focus on the text and return to be an ‘active’ reader of the text.
If you don’t know the meaning of a word, note it down and look it up later. Add to your vocabulary every day. You’ll be surprised how rapidly your critical thinking skills, and paragraph comprehension becomes, over a relatively short period.
The next best way to prepare for the ASVAB paragraph comprehension exam is to practice, practice, practice!
Practice as many sample paragraph comprehension questions are you can. The more you practice, the more you realize where your strengths and weaknesses lie. You begin to understand where your thinking approach is working, and where it’s costing you marks.
By practicing ASVAB sample questions, you begin to understand what to expect on the day of your exam. This is invaluable for long-term preparation. It means that when you read / study new paragraphs, that you “know what to look for” – honing those skills over the long term.
While you can pass the exam without practicing questions, statistics show that those who practice lots of questions perform far, far better on the day of the exam.
If you don’t practice questions, you’ll never really be fully prepared for the needs of the exam. If you don’t have access to ASVAB practice questions, register with ASVAB Test Guide today.
We’ve put together the most comprehensive range of ASVAB paragraph comprehension questions to help you pass the 2019 ASVAB test. Each question comes with a detailed, explained answer – meaning you learn more each time.
In conjunction with the study approach above – and with a consistent study schedule – you are sure to ace the ASVAB paragraph comprehension test.
ASVAB Test Guide is the leading online resource to help candidates pass their 2019 ASVAB exam and get enlisted in the military. Check back to our ASVAB blog soon for even more great tips and tricks to maximize your exam performance!