The Reading Section: An Overview

In the Reading Section of the ELI-ASSET, you read three academic level passages. The readings come from introductory textbooks, journals, newspapers, or magazines. They are prepared for non-experts in the field, so you do not need previous background knowledge about the topics to understand what the writer is communicating.

The readings are presented in your test booklet, and they vary in length. While you are reading you can underline, take notes, or highlight ideas. You CANNOT use a dictionary or any other resource materials.

At the end of each reading, you answer a series of questions about that passage. The questions are printed in your test booklet, so you will read them and answer them on a separate answer sheet. You can refer to the passages while answering the questions.

For all three passages you will answer a total of 30 to 35 questions. You will have 60 minutes to complete the entire reading section. If you finish early, you must stay in your seat. You should check your answers carefully.     

Reading Skills and Strategies

To test your ability to comprehend academic reading, the reading section focuses on a variety of skills and strategies. Here is a list of the seven skills that can be evaluated. Please note that not all of these skills will be tested on every reading or on every version of the ELI-ASSET.

  • Identifying the Main Idea: An important academic reading skill is understanding the main idea or "big picture" of your textbook chapters and journal articles.
    Main idea questions might be worded as follows:

    • What is the writer's main idea?
    • What is the writer's most important message?
    • What does the writer mainly discuss in this passage?
    • What does the writer primarily discuss in this passage?
  • Recognizing Details: Another important study skill is being able to identify important details in a reading. The details support, explain, and develop the main idea. Details can be facts, examples, anecdotes, statistics, dates; they can be any specific information that relates to the main idea.
    Detail questions might be worded as follows:
    • According to the passage, + wh-question
    • Wh- question
    • A True-False Question
  • Understanding Inferences: Another important academic reading skill is the ability to infer ideas that the writer does not state directly. We call this "reading between the lines." Imagine, for example, that you read the following in your history textbook: "In the United States, women won the right to vote in national elections in 1920." Even though the sentence does not mention men, you can inferthat before 1920 only men were allowed to vote for the U.S. presidents.
    Inference questions might be worded as follows:
    • The writer implies that....
    • What does the writer imply about...?
    • It can be inferred from this reading that...
    • What can you infer from this reading?
  • Guessing Vocabulary from Context: While you are reading your textbooks and course notes, you will encounter a lot of new vocabulary. Sometimes the writer will define new terms right inside the passage; sometimes, you will have to guess the meaning of the words from the context.
    Vocabulary questions might be worded as follows:
    • The word "X" probably means...?
    • The word "X" is closest in meaning to...
  • Recognizing the Organizational Structure of the Reading: Good writers organize their texts carefully so that they are easy for the readers to understand. A psychology textbook chapter that describes the memory process will be organized by time order; a geology textbook chapter that describes the Ice Age will organize one section by cause and effect order. A political science textbook that explains the two major political parties in the U.S. might present the information by using comparison and contrast.
    Good writers also use signal words -- or road signs -- to let the readers understand the text quickly and easily.
    Questions on organizational structure might be worded as follows:
    • How did the writer organize this passage?
    • What ideas will the text probably present next?
  • Questions about Pronoun Reference: To understand how ideas are connected inside a text, a good reader can accurately identify pronoun and other types of reference. For instance, when a good reader sees the pronoun "it" or the pronoun "they," he can determine what noun that pronoun is pointing or referring to. Likewise, when a good reader sees the words "this" or "these," he can figure out what they are pointing back to inside the text.
    Reference questions might be worded as follows:
    • In line 5, the word "those" refers to...
    • The word "it" in line 10 refers to...
  • Identifying the Writer's Purpose and Tone: When reading a passage, it is important to know what the writer's purpose is and what his attitude-- or tone-- is to his topic. Is the purpose of the text to inform? Is the purpose to state an opinion? Is the purpose to argue in favor of one theory or another? Is the purpose to convince you to take action?
    What is the writer's tone? Some examples of tone or attitude are descriptive, objective, informative, concerned, humorous, critical, persuasive, indignant, and skeptical. If there is a question about the writer's tone, read for a certain attitude or emotion that is expressed through the choice of words or details. 
    Questions about the purpose of the reading passage might be worded as follows: 
    • What is the writer's purpose in this text?
    • What is the purpose of this passage?
    Questions about the writer's tone might be worded as follows:

    • The writer's tone in this passage is... 

Types of Questions

To evaluate your reading skills and strategies, the ELI-ASSET includes two question types:

  • Multiple Choice

  • True/False

Sample Reading Passage and Questions

Here is a short example that illustrates some of questions found in the Reading Section of the ELI-ASSET.

Read this short text about The University of Akron's athletics program.

The University of Akron's athletics history dates back nearly 130 years. Now, 18 intercollegiate sports strong, with more than 350 student-athletes, the Akron Zips are into their second decade of Mid-American Conference membership and poised for academic and competitive growth.

The Zips' intercollegiate athletics program includes basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field and volleyball for women; and baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, and indoor and outdoor track and field for men. Rifle is offered as a co-ed sport.

Many newcomers to UA wonder how the university's athletic teams came to be called the Zips, a nickname commonly acknowledged to be one of the more unique monikers in intercollegiate athletics. In 1927, a campus-wide contest was conducted to choose a nickname for the University's athletic teams. Student Margaret Hamlin suggested "Zippers," which was also the name of a popular rubber overshoe sold by Akron's B.F. Goodrich Co. In 1950, then-athletic director Kenneth Red Cochrane shortened the nickname to the "Zips."

The birth of Zippy, The University of Akron's mascot, happened over 55 years ago when the student council, under president Dave Frye, decided the University needed a mascot. "Zippy" the kangaroo was officially declared UA's mascot on May 1, 1953. Dick Hansford, UA student council adviser at the time, recommended the kangaroo, and it was approved by the council.

Questions 1 through 5 below are about the reading passage above. Read the questions carefully. You can look back at the passage to help you answer the questions.

Do NOT mark any answers on this page. Mark all of your answers on the separate reading answer sheet. Only answers marked on your answer sheet will be scored. Be sure to fill in the square of your choice completely with your pencil. You must cover the letter inside the square completely and fill in the entire square.

  • 1. What is the purpose of this passage?
        A. to persuade UA students to play sports
        B. to show the importance of sports at US universities
        C. to provide background about the UA athletics program
        D. to show that women and men have equal access to sports at UA
    1. 2. In the second line of paragraph 3, the word "monikers" is most similar in meaning to
          A. monies.
          B. nicknames.
          C. teams.
          D. monograms.
      1. 3. Which of the following sports is played by both men and women teams at UA?
            A. tennis
            B. golf
            C. swimming
            D. basketball
        1. 4. True or False: UA teams have been called the Zips since 1927.

        2. 5. In the last sentence of the passage, the word "it" refers to
              A. kangaroo.
              B. time.
              C. student council.
              D. UA.