Verbal Ability – Tips for Reading Comprehension

Continuing with our series of Reading Comprehension, we explore the next question type in this article. Remember, we cover some of the most essential aspects for the topic in this article and you can use these to solve the questions easily

Identify the tone or attitude of the author of the passage

Every author, while writing a piece, adopts a certain approach. These approaches depend on the intent and the purpose of the author of the passage.

For example, at times the author of the passage might want to criticize a certain action of the government. His approach in general will be that of criticism and to be specific, his tone would be that of criticism.

At first, you should try to identify the nature of the passage. There are three broad categories that you can divide every passage into:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Neutral

In order to identify the nature of the passage, you can carefully observe the ‘buzzwords/adjectives’ used by the author of the passage. If the author uses words such as fortunately, luckily, optimistic, auspiciously, providentially, astoundingly, hopeful, reverential or the like, then there is a certain degree of positivity reflected in his text.

The next broad category of tones is the negative tones category. Some tones that belong to this category are: dogmatic, cynical, derisive, contemptuous, incendiary, aggressive, acerbic, vituperative, caustic or belligerent.

How do you identify whether the tone is negative in nature? Well, you can either identify the general approach of the author or you could use buzzwords. If the author uses words such as pessimistic, ironic or ridiculous, these indicate a negative approach.

The third type of tones is actually the most common tone type that you will encounter. These are the ‘neutral tones’. The tones which fall under this category are: factual, descriptive, analytical, hypothetical, narrative, technical, illustrative, etc.

Another important aspect of tone questions is to identify the main idea of the passage. Once you are aware of the main idea of the passage, you can co-relate it with the tone of the passage and identify the correct answer for it.

Let’s take an example: A teacher says this to his student: Well, you are not the brightest crayon in the box, are you?

In this case, can you guess the underlying sentiment? Here, the speaker of the statement is clearly taunting the student and there is an underlying sentiment of sarcasm in his tone. Thus, his tone is sarcastic (which means cutting, often ironic remark intended to express contempt or ridicule).