These steps we took for reading comprehension are the same for short passages as they are for long passages. The difference is, in long passages, you want to make sure you find the main point of each paragraph so that you know what the author is doing over the span of the entire passage. The structure and logic of the passage will emerge nicely if you do this.
So this time, lets examine a longer passage. Before we look at the passage, we want to glance at the first question. “The author reports which of the following about drinks made from cocoa beans” We don’t need to read the answer choices, but now we know we want to be on the lookout for cocoa beans. This looks like a detail question, as it involves specific information from the passage.
In order to see what the author is doing across the entire passage, we need to make a note of what he is doing in each paragraph. So what could we say is the main point of the 1st paragraph?
Well, very simply, it introduces the three main worldwide favorite non-alcoholic beverages, with tea, coffee, and cocoa beans at the top. It looks like tea and coffee are normally neck and neck at the top, but coffee has the edge in international commerce. (If it helps, you can practice jotting down on scratch paper what is going on in each paragraph. In the interests of time, though, it is best to learn to do it in your head for test day.) So with these two short notes before us we can easily recall what the first paragraph is about.
Lets keep reading on to the second paragraph… This second paragraph is about coffee. The main point of it seems to be coffee’s universal appeal, everyone drinks it from the “most fashionable” to the “most hardworking.” There definitely seems to be a positive tone to this paragraph as the author touts the drink as having a place in the “rational diet of all civilized people on the earth.” This is quite a far-reaching positive statement, so we can rest assured the author has a positive attitude towards coffee. (Our short hand notes about this paragraph would just say P2 coffee= universal appeal, everyone drinks it, and the tone is +.) Notice too, that this idea turned out to be the first sentence of the paragraph. Often times the main point of the paragraph will reside in the first 1 or 2 sentences of that paragraph.
Moving on to the third paragraph, the main point seems to be the opposition to coffee. The author lists how coffee has endured prejudices and superstitions, as well as political and fiscal restrictions, but nevertheless “triumphantly moved on” past these oppositions. So the main point here is just the opposition to coffee and that it overcame. (Thus, our shorthand notes would be something like: “opposition to coffee which is religious, political, medical, yet it is triumphant.”) Notice that the author’s attitude towards coffee in this paragraph is a pronounced positive. Talking about a bean as being triumphant certainly exhibits an affirmative sentiment!
Notice then, we followed not only the content of the passage, but also what the author was doing. In the first paragraph, there is an intro to the world’s favorite beverages. In the second, the author discusses coffee’s universal appeal. And in the final paragraph, the author discusses coffee’s triumph over opposition. Over the course of the passage, the author demonstrates his affirmation of coffee, whereas in the beginning, he only seemed to be neutral.
So, we have just read the passage critically, there is one more thing for us to do, and that is to record the author’s intention or purpose. What is he doing with what he says, or what is the purpose of the passage as a whole?
Using the notes we’ve gathered, we can see that the author writes “To affirm (+) coffee a world favorite beverage, universal in appeal, and triumphant in its popularity” (The “+” sign just signifies that the tone is positive.)
With practice you will be able to do this process in your mind, and you will be able to see the general layout of a passage without getting bogged down by the details. It may be helpful to write your notes down in the beginning, though, just as you get the hang of it. Armed with this analysis, then, we can turn to the questions.
Our first question asks about cocoa beans.
Do you remember where we saw cocoa beans?
Back in the first paragraph was the only place the author mentioned them. He says cocoa beans are a distant third in the favorite beverage category. He really doesn’t mention anything else. So we would predict something like cocoa beans were “behind coffee and tea”, or “in the list of favorite beverages”, something like that.
Looking at the answer choices, do we see one that matches our prediction? Yes, choice C- “They are not quite on the same level as coffee and tea.”
Choice A is wrong because it goes directly against what is stated in the passage.
Choice B is wrong because the author does not say anything with regards to it being pleasurable.
Choice D won’t work because it is obviously wrong. The author does not make a single negative comment in the entire passage.
Choice E tests a detail from the first paragraph. We are told all three drinks enjoy world-wide consumption, so this answer is wrong.
So, as you see, predicting an answer choice led us rather quickly to the answer, and was very simple to do once we’ve read the passage critically.
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