Civil Service Examination Coverage: Reading Comprehension and Paragraph Organization

Reading comprehension is the act of understanding what you are reading (k-12 reader). Reading comprehension is the act of understanding what you are reading. The goal of all reading instruction is ultimately targeted at helping a reader comprehend text. The process of comprehending involves decoding the writer’s words and then using background knowledge to construct an approximate understanding of the writer’s message.
There are three levels of comprehension:

LITERAL – reading what is right there
Here the reader finds the answer in the text. The reader might be asked to do any of the following:

  • Identify the main ideas of the paragraph or short story.
  • Recall details that support the main ideas.
  • Organize the sequence in which the main events occurred.

INTERPRETIVE – reading between the lines
Here, the reader interprets the information to find answers. The reader might be asked to any of the following:

  • Predict endings and anticipate consequences.
  • State reasons for events.
  • Make generalizations.

APPLIED – reading beyond the lines
Here the reader makes links between the text and his or her own experience and knowledge to develop an answer. The reader asks open-ended questions to promote deeper understanding and do the following:

  • Make generalizations.
  • Make comparisons.
  • Make judgments.
  • Make recommendations and suggestions.
  • Make decisions.
  • Create alternative endings.


  1. For you to have an overview of what idea you are going to focus on, read first the questions, not including their choices. This makes you see the important and relevant idea you have to remember.
  2. Usually, the most important ideas are usually placed in the introduction and conclusion or concluding part of the context. Those parts usually consist the main idea of the passage.
  3. When answering, be sure that you read all the choices. Do not be excited when you seem to find the correct answer, there might be another answer that would fit best.
  4. Stick on the idea of the passage. The answer is always in the passage.
  5. Do not spend a lot of time in one question only.
  6. Elimination process is one of the best ways if you are hesitant of your preferred answer. You eliminate all the obviously wrong choices, and select from the remaining.
  7. Review your answers when you finished early. You might have missed some. Reread the passage and its questions.
  8. Take note of the main idea of the context. The main idea is the main topic or the central idea of the context.
  9. In analyzing a context, take note of the following elements:
    a. Main idea – main topic or central idea of the context
    b. Climax – the highlight of the story or the most intense part of the story
    c. Plot – series of events in a story
    i. Introduction – This establishes characters and setting.
    ii. Rising action – section where a series of events occur to build up to the conflict.
    iii. Climax – major turning point of the story where everything converges and main character must make life-changing choice, leaving reader to wonder what will happen next.
    iv. Falling action – Events and complications are resolving, and the consequences of your character’s choices are revealed.
    v. Conclusion – the conclusion of your story, which may have a happy or tragic ending.
    d. Characters – the individuals that the story is about
    e. Settings – the location of the action: the time and the place
    f. Theme – the underlying message of a story, and themes can be direct or indirect; they can be blatant or subtle.

Paragraph organization refers to the way sentences are ordered and structured to create a unified and cohesive body of the text. The principal features to consider in paragraph organization are the topic sentence and controlling idea, supporting details, organizational patterns, and signal words.
In paragraph organization type of exam, the most important idea an examinee should take not is the topic sentence. Topic sentence the most general sentence in a paragraph, and it has two parts: A topic: the subject or issue being discussed, and; A controlling idea: a point, opinion, or feeling about the topic.


  1. Read all the sentences while trying to find the topic sentence.
  2. Decide on a logical manner how the next idea is related to your topic sentence. Here you may use contextual clues or transitional devices like also, besides, however, similarly, therefore, etc.
  3. Look for the concluding sentence or the closing sentence. It usually the final thought or conclusion and marks the end of the article, paragraph, or story.

Sources: Insignia Review Center – CHQ Institute Inc.

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