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Tips for Success on the Regents' Test in Reading.


"Tips for Success" contents

1. Introduction
2. Practice
3. General suggestions
4. Taking the test
5. Time & pacing
6. Understanding the questions
7. Strategies I use
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Introduction

The Test contains 9 reading passages, or short (175-250 words) extracts of text from a variety of books, newspapers and magazines which 2nd year college students "are expected to be able to read and comprehend."

Reading comprehension is assessed by:

—asking about details in the passages,
—asking the reader to define words when there is sufficient context to do so,
—asking the reader to draw inferences and make conclusions based on information in the passages,
—asking the reader to analyze how the writer makes his or her point, and what writing techniques are used.

There are 9 passages and about 54 questions on the test and you have 60 minutes to do them.

You need to get about 39 questions right out of 54 to pass. The more passages you read, and the more items you answer correctly, the better your chances of passing.

Practice

Never take a test this important without practicing. You can do 3 things:

1. Take a paper and pencil practice Regents' Test test in 1 hour. Get it scored. You need to get at least 40 right to pass.

2. Go to the Regents' Test Website and practice the online test. It is not timed. In this test, each answer is analyzed and explained.

3. You can also get a better understanding of how to "think trough" the questions by doing the Tutorials. A link to the tutorials is on the Contents page.

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General suggestions

A. Most people spend 5 to 8 minutes reading each passage and answering the questions that go with it.

B. Generally, you will take ½ the time reading the passage and ½ the time answering the questions.

C. Always answer all the questions because, unlike on some tests, on the Regents' Test there is no penalty for guessing.

D. If there are only a few minutes left, you should answer all questions —even if you just guess.

E. There is no pattern to the answer choices. Whether the answer is A, B, C, or D is random. On this test, it is not true to say that "the longest choice is most likely to be right", or that "choice B is always the best guess".

Concentration is essential

You will be reading 9 unrelated passages about very different things. This can cause information overload. You may still be thinking about the passage you just read even though you are reading the next one!

This is normal. You don't usually read this way. You'll need some reading-test techniques for the special kind of reading the test demands.

For example, try reading the first sentence or paragraph of a new passage several times: one time to help you adjust to the new topic, and the second time to understand it more thoroughly.

If you find yourself losing concentration, catch this immediately and re-focus. You will need to go back and re-read from the point where your attention drifted.

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Taking the Test

A. Begin by looking through the whole test. This helps you get a sense of where the longer passages are.

B. Always read every word in every passage. Do not skim or read the passages rapidly. Some questions may depend on you noticing a few specific words in a passage —which you might miss if you read too fast.

C. Don't read the questions and choices first. It takes up time and doesn't usually help (but read the "Strategy" part of these tips for more suggestions).

D. Some passages are short and have 5 or 6 questions; some are longer and have up to 8 questions. Do not spend too long on a long or difficult passage. This may prevent you having time to read an easier passage.

E. As usual on multiple choice tests, eliminate choices. There are often small but important differences between them. You should read all 4 choices almost always.

F. Be methodical about using your answer sheet correctly. Particuarly if you do the questions out of order.

G. After reading each passage, answer all the questions that go with it. Do not leave a question until later; your best chance of getting it right is after you have read the passage. Guess and move on.

H. Don't spend too long on a lengthy or difficult passage. This may prevent you getting to an easier passage at the end of the test if you run out of time.

I. Read the questions at least as carefully as you read the passage.


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Time and pacing

A. Although there is a test clock in the test room, it is a good idea to set your own watch to 12:00 when you begin. Then it's easy to see how much time is left.

B. Check to see if the last 2 passages are long, or if they have more than 6 items. You'll need to know this in case you are running out of time at the end.

C. Don't fret about time; but, on the other hand, proceed smoothly through the test.

D. Do the passages in order. Often, the first passage is judged fairly easy. After that, the passages are of varying difficulty.

E. Just because one passage may be longer does not imply that it is more difficult than shorter ones.

F. You should be starting the 6th passage with about 30 minutes left. So just look up at the clock when you complete question 30. You will have 4 passages, and about 24 questions left.



G. After you have read 7 of the 9 passages you should check how much time is left. If there are 12 or more minutes left, you will have enough time to read the last 2 passages and answer all the questions.

H. If there are less than 10 minutes left to read the remaining 2 passages, you must make a decision. You won't have enough time to complete both remaining passages (unless they are short, or have only 5 questions).

I. With 10 or fewer minutes left and 2 passages to go, look to see if one of the remaining 2 passages has more questions, or if one is shorter than the other, you should do that one first —and don't rush!

J. Then just guess the answers to the other passage in the remaining time.

K. If you have only 6 minutes left, and 2 passages to read, do the one with most questions.

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Understanding the questions

A. Questions about details
Look back to the passage to find answers to questions that ask for "how, who, where, what, when" kind of information. You shouldn't need to guess if the question says "According to the passage" or "The writer states that."

Sometimes you can use information from one question to help you answer another.

B. Questions about word meanings
When answering vocabulary questions, substitute each choice in place of the underlined word in the passge and read over the sentence to see if it works.

You may need to read several sentences in addition to the one with the underlined word to get the full sense of the writer's intent.

Don't assume that the obvious definition works for a word when the question asks for a definition of a word "as it is used in the passage".

Many questions contain the phrase "Based on information in the passage you can conclude that…". This means that even though you may be a world authority on the subject of the passage, you must base your answer on information contained in it rather than on your expertise.

C. Factual & opinion statements
Some questions ask you to distinguish between statements of fact and statements of opinion.You don't need to read the passage at all to distinguish between a factual statement and an opinion.

A statement of fact is a statement that can be proved true or false: the statement "Today is a sunny day" could be proved one way or the other (by looking out to see).

A statement of opinion cannot be proved by objective means: the statement "Today is a nice day" can't be objectively proved —for you it may be nice, but that's your opinion.


So don't look back at the passage to judge whether something is a statement of fact or opinion -just decide if you could prove it true or false.

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Strategy

When I am taking a reading test like this one I look over the questions that go with each passage before I read it so I can decide which questions to do first.

I do not, however, read the question choices, because it takes too long and doesn't seem to be very helpful.

I like to know what kinds of question there are so I can do the easiest ones first after I've read the passage.

For example, I look for vocabulary questions, with words underlined in the passage, or detail questions containing the words "The passage states that..."

Next, I look for questions that ask for the main idea; I will do these after the easier ones.

I then go ahead and read the passage. Sometines when I see that there is a vocabulary word underlined in the text, I glance over to the appropriate question and try to answer it while (rather than after) I read the passage.

After I have read the passage and answered the detail and vocabulary questions, I then do the more difficult "inference" questions, which begin with phrases such as "You can conclude that..." or "The passage suggests that... These questions take more thought.

Finally, I answer the questions that ask the reader to choose the best the main idea statement.

Often, doing the questions like this helps me pick up information that may give me a better idea of what the main point of the passage is. I am, after all, re-reading parts of the text as I scan for details, etc.

If you use this strategy, be sure to answer all the questions right after you read the the passge, and be careful to put the answers with the correct choice on your answer sheet. Good luck!


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Page last updated: February 24, 2010