Reading Comprehension: Contextual Questions

Reading Comprehensions hold a crucial weightage in a number of competitive exams. Various types of questions are asked from RCs. One of the frequently asked questions is based on ‘finding the context’ or contextual questions. Generally, such questions test your vocabulary with reference to the given passage. Such questions ask you to identify the meaning of a particular word/sentence of the passage.
RC Contextual questions usually features in the following forms:
  • Based on how the word “..” is used in the passage, what does the word “..” mean?
  • In the “..” paragraph, what does “..” most nearly/likely means?
  • Identify the synonym/antonym of the word “..” given in the passage.
  • Sum up the meaning of the “..” paragraph/line using one word?
  • Identify the appropriate word that sums up the “..” paragraph/line.
Let’s discuss the right approach to tackle such questions.
Strategy to handle RC Contextual questions
Vocab-in-context questions often accompany reading comprehensions. Basically, you are asked to find the meaning of the word w.r.t the given passage/paragraph. Since, such questions appear simple and straight, you are likely to answer them straightforward based on your earlier understanding of the word. At other times, the word is completely new to you. Also, sometimes the given answer options differ slightly in meaning, making it tricky to identify the correct answer. Follow the given steps to tackle these questions well:
  1. Read the sentence in which the given word is found.
  2. Think of a synonym/antonym (as asked) of the given word before looking at the answer options. Look for the context clues to arrive at the right word.
  3. Now, try to match you own answer with the words given in the answer choices. If you can’t think of any synonym/antonym, try to identify the meaning of the word/its opposite with respect to its usage in the sentence. Then identify the answer option that means the same.
  4. If you can’t figure out the meaning, substitute each answer choice in the original sentence and check which word makes the sentence convey the same message.
Another type of contextual questions asks you to sum up a phrase/sentence in one word. You are required to identify the word that would convey the same meaning as given in a particular sentence of the passage. Read the following steps to ace this question type:
  1. Read the sentence. Simplify it by rephrasing it in your own words. This will help you identify the correct word easily.
  2. Think of the word that would mean same as the given sentence.
  3. Finally, look at the answer choices. Identify the answer option that means the same as your own word. If it seems difficult, firstly eliminate the answer options that appear completely irrelevant.
Lastly, such questions can be mastered only by practice and a good vocabulary.