Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Foundations of Comprehension

Understanding the Basic Components of the Text

The most fundamental questions on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section ask about the basic components of the passages. Comprehension questions at this level may ask you to provide a general overview of the passage or to focus on specific portions of the text. You may be asked to identify the author’s thesis, the main point or theme of the passage, examples, or something slightly more complex, such as portions of the passage where the author digresses from the central theme.

In responding to these questions, you need to be able to recognize the purpose of different portions of the target passage: what is the thesis statement, what examples support the main idea, and what statements pose an argument or assumption? An author distinguishes sections of text that indicate the existence of a sustained train of thought, as opposed to an isolated detail, with rhetorical labels such as “for example,” “therefore,” or “consequently.”

You will also need to be able to recognize when an author seems to have drawn upon multiple sources to support a thesis or when he or she presents different points of view in the single passage. It’s also important to attend to perspective: does the author present his or her own perspective, or does he or she use verbatim quotations or restatements from the perspective of other sources?


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