Chapter OneThe Reading Section
The reading section of the CBEST is designed to test your comprehension of a variety of written passages. The selections used for the passages frequently come from social studies, science, humanities, health, consumer affairs, and literature. Each passage, statement, graph, and so on, is followed by questions based on its content. There are 50 questions that comprise the reading section on the actual exam, and questions come from written material in the form of passages, outlines, indexes, charts, graphs, and tables consisting of:
* long passages (200 or more words)
* short passages (approximately 100 words) * short statements (1 or 2 sentences)
This section tests your ability to understand, interpret, and analyze passages. You will be asked to assess and respond to four different selections of reading passages:
* reading comprehension passages;
* reading comprehension passages with numbered sentences; * fill-in-the-blank items; and
* interpretation of displays and graphs.
CBEST test takers should know that the assessment of these passages tests your ability to recognize two general skill areas of reading. Approximately 40 percent of the questions are drawn from critical analysis and evaluation skills, and about 60 percent of the questions require comprehension and research skills.
Critical Analysis and Evaluation Questions
* Identify reasons, details, or facts that support the author's main idea * Distinguish between fact and opinion * Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of an argument * Compare and contrast information presented in the passage * Make general predictions or logical assumptions * Recognize the author's underlying attitude, opinion, tone, or viewpoint * Recognize the intended audience
Comprehension and Context Questions
* Identify the main idea of the passage * Identify the purpose of the passage (informative, descriptive, persuasive, or narrative) * Identify the meaning of a word or phrase in context to the passage * Draw conclusions or generalizations, or make inferences between people, ideas, or events in the passage * Identify relationships between general and specific ideas * Make inferences and implications based on information in the passage * Determine the meanings of figurative language * Determine the sequence of events in a passage
Research and Reference Skills Questions
* Understand the organization of the passage
* Understand how to locate and use information in a book (table of contents, indexes, chapters, paragraphs, reports, and so on)
Reading passages are from a broad spectrum of general-interest topics, but no outside knowledge of the topics is necessary to answer questions. All questions must be answered on the basis of what is stated or implied in the passage, or information given.
Basic Skills Necessary
The level of difficulty and complexity of selections varies among passages. Being able to comprehend what is specifically stated in the lines and what is "suggested or implied" between the lines are important skills. The test-taking techniques of active reading and marking a passage, described later in this chapter, are also helpful.
The directions given for the Reading Section are:
A question or number of questions follow each of the statements or passages in this section. Using only the stated or implied information given in the statement or passage, answer the question or questions by choosing the best answer from among the five choices given.
General Strategies for Answering Reading Questions
1. Use your time wisely! You should take about 70 minutes to complete 50 reading questions.
2. Use only the information specifically stated or implied. Do not use outside information or previous knowledge to answer the questions, even if it seems more accurate than the information in the passage.
3. Answer all the questions for one passage before moving on to the next passage.
4. Do not spend too much time on any one question. All the questions are of equal value. If you are taking the entire three sections of the CBEST in one day (reading, math, and writing), you have about a minute and a half to answer each question. This includes the time required to read, mark, or write down information from the passage. If you're stuck on a question, mark it (or write it down) and move on. There is no penalty for guessing wrong answers because your score is based upon your number of correct responses.
5. For paper-based test takers, make sure your answers on the answer sheet correspond to the answer choices in your answer booklet. Placing one answer in the incorrect choice can shift all your answers to incorrect spots! For computer-based test takers, make sure you have clicked the correct answer choice and that it is completely filled in before you proceed.
6. If a question takes you more than a minute and a half to answer, use the elimination approach described in the Introduction on page 7 and move on.
1. Preread the questions.
2. Read and mark the passage.
3. Focus on stated or implied information.
4. Answer the question that is asked. CBEST candidates who become comfortable using these strategies tend to score higher on reading tests than readers who do not use these strategies.
Step One: Preread the Questions
The technique of prereading the questions is an important skill that will help you remember specific information so that you'll know what to look for in the passage. It will also help you assess what type of question is being asked.
Circle, underline, or write down key words or phrases that may stand out in the question. Do not read the answer choices at this time. Just mark or write down the operative words or phrase in each question-that is, look for what you are being asked to answer.
Computer-based test takers can preread questions by using the next and previous buttons on the computer while taking notes on the scratch paper that is provided. Make sure that you are comfortable with this approach before the day of the exam.
Step Two: Read and Mark the Passage (Active Reading)
The technique of active reading involves steady concentration while reading the passage. As you become actively engaged and purposeful in your reading, you become actively in control of your reading experience. This is accomplished by marking, highlighting, underlining, circling, or writing down important words or phrases in the passage. Do not overmark or overwrite! Just give yourself a few reminders. A few marked or written phrases per paragraph help those ideas stand out. Don't worry if you're doing this incorrectly. As you practice this skill of gathering information while focusing your attention, you will become more efficient at quickly identifying important information in the passage.
As you read the passage, look for the writer's main idea. Do not memorize the passage. You can go back and review anything you need to later. Just look for the main point or think about how you might summarize the passage. Ask yourself, "What is the author's main point?"
Note important ideas and details. Pay special attention to information relevant to the question you have skimmed. When reading passages, it is important to identify facts and details that support the main idea of the passage. Look for facts, statistics, and details. Make note of quotes and words that are highlighted. Circle, underline, or write down definitions, places, numbers, and ideas. Be brief. Remember not to underline or write down too much, just a few details that stand out.
Computer-based test takers may find it useful to briefly write down key words or phrases, along with the line numbers (if available) on scratch paper to help trigger your memory for subsequent questions. Some passages contain numbered lines for reference to help you easily refer back to details of the passage. Longer passages may not fit on the computer screen, so you may need to scroll down to read the entire passage. Remember that you can move forward to the next question and back to a previous question at any time, but you should answer all the questions for one passage before moving on to the next passage. This helps you stay focused on one topic at a time. Note that you may be asked to refer back to the passage on a previous screen each time you answer a new question. It's an easy process, but make sure you are comfortable with this computer skill before the exam date.
Step Three: Focus on Stated or Implied Information
Answer the questions based only on the material in the passage. Assume that the information in each passage is accurate. Use the information that is stated or implied. Implied means that the answer is something suggested but not explicitly stated in the passage. These question-types test your understanding of the passage alone; they do not test the historical background of the passage, biography of the author, or previous familiarity with the work from which the passage is taken.
Step Four: Answer the Question That Is Asked
Identifying what is being asked may seem obvious, but make sure the answer you choose corresponds with the question being asked. As you read the question, circle, underline, or write down key words or phrases to help you recall what is being asked. Many of the questions on the CBEST may have more than one answer choice that is true. However, just because an answer is true does not mean it is the correct response if it does not answer the question! This type of answer choice is often on the test to "distract" you from the correct choice. Make sure you read all the answer choices before making your final selection.
Practice General Strategies Using the Four-Step Approach
Before specific strategies are introduced for the critical analysis, comprehension, and research question types, let's review and practice the general strategies in the four-step approach that will be useful on all types of reading questions:
1. Preread the questions. 2. Read and mark the passage.
3. Focus on stated or implied information.
4. Answer the question that is asked.
Sample for Step One: Preread the Questions
Prior to reading the passage, read each question (but don't spend time reading all the multiple-choice answers) and circle or write down the most important words or phrases.
1. The author's argument in favor of freedom of speech may be summarized in which of the following ways?
A. If every speaker is not free, no speaker is. B. Speech keeps us free from the animal kingdom. C. As we think, so we speak.
D. The Bill of Rights ensures free speech.
E. Lunatic speeches are not free speeches.
The most important part is usually the most concrete and specific one. In this case, you might circle "freedom of speech." The question parts that you circle will be those you'll tend to remember when you read the passage. In this case, you would be likely to notice and pay close attention to "freedom of speech" when it occurs in the passage.
After prereading the questions, read and mark the passage. Always mark or write down those spots that contain information relevant to the questions you've read. In addition, you should mark other important ideas and details. In general, remember not to overmark; never make more than a few marks per paragraph in order to make those parts you mark stand out. More specific advice on marking follows, in reference to specific subareas of reading skills.
Sample for Step Two: Read and Mark the Passage
Directions: Use the passage that follows to answer the next two questions.
By the time a child starts school, he or she has mastered the major part of the rules of grammar. The child has managed to accomplish this remarkable feat in such a short time by experimenting with and generalizing the rules all alone. Each child, in effect, discovers language in the first few years of life.
When it comes to vocabulary growth, it's a different story. Unlike grammar, the chief means by which people learn vocabulary is memorization.
Some people have a hard time learning and remembering new words.
2. Although vocabulary growth involves memorization and grammar learning does not, which of the following can be concluded about both vocabulary and grammar ?
A. Both make use of memorization.
B. Both make use of study skills.
C. Both make use of words.
D. Neither makes use of words.
E. Neither makes use of writing skills.
The correct answer is C. Sometimes it is useful to mark out and eliminate incorrect choices. You should eliminate choices A, D, and E. Choice A contradicts both the passage and the question. Choices D and E are not reasonable. Choice B is a possibility, but Choice BLDBLD is better because grammar learning in young children does not necessarily involve study skills but does involve words.
Samples for Step Three: Focus on Stated or Implied Information
Use the passage provided above to answer the question that follows.
3. Which of the following is implied by the last sentence in the passage?
A. Some people have no trouble learning and remembering new words.
B. Some people have a hard time remembering new words.
C. Grammar does not involve remembering words.
D. Old words are not often remembered.
E. Learning and remembering are kinds of growth.
The correct answer is A. Implies tells you that the answer is something suggested but not explicitly stated in the passage. Choice B is explicitly stated in the passage, so you may eliminate it. But Choice A implies the opposite: If some people have a hard time, then it must be true that some people don't. Choices C, D, and E are altogether different from the meaning of the last sentence.
Directions: Read the passage below and answer the three questions that follow.
It sounds like such a simple thing to do: buy some new light bulbs, screw them in, save the planet.
But a lot of people these days are finding the new compact fluorescent bulbs anything but simple. Consumers who are trying them say they sometimes fail to work or wear out early. At best, people discover that using the bulbs requires learning a long list of do's and don'ts.
Take the case of Karen Zuercher and her husband in San Francisco. Inspired by watching the movie An Inconvenient Truth, they decided to swap out nearly every incandescent bulb in their home for energy-saving compact fluorescents. Instead of having a satisfying green moment, however, they wound up coping with a mess.
One of the 16 electric bulbs the Zuerchers bought at a local discount store did not work at all, they said, and three others died within hours. The bulbs were supposed to burn for 10,000 hours, meaning they should have lasted for years in normal use. "It's irritating," Mrs. Zuercher said.
Irritation seems to be rising as more consumers try compact fluorescent bulbs, which now occupy 11 percent of the nation's eligible sockets, with 330 million bulbs sold every year. Consumers are posting vociferous complaints on the Internet after trying the bulbs and finding them lacking.
Some experts who study the issue blame the government for the quality problems, saying an intensive federal push to lower the price essentially backfired by encouraging manufacturers to use cheap components.
"In pursuit of the holy grail, we stepped on the consumer," said Michael Siminovitch, director of a lighting center at the University of California, Davis.
"Somebody decides to save a little money somewhere," he said, "and suddenly we have hundreds of thousands of failures."