Page 1 Reading Comprehension Study Guide for the ACCUPLACER® test

How to Prepare for the ACCUPLACER Reading Comprehension Test

General Information

The ACCUPLACER Reading Comprehension test is designed to measure your ability to read and synthesize information. This exam poses 20 questions of two different types: reading a passage and using the information therein to answer a question, and sentence comparisons.

Passage Questions

When looking over the passage questions, there are several things you should pay attention to:

Main Idea

The main idea of a passage is the basic idea driving its purpose and tone. The easiest way to identify the main idea is to ask yourself after reading, “What is the purpose of this passage?” Equipped with this simple question, you can readily answer questions regarding a passage or the main idea of a paragraph.

In the passage listed below, the main idea is that reading is an extremely important aspect of basic education. This is the purpose of the passage: to illustrate how vital reading is.

“Reading is an integral aspect of learning. Although many students do not find reading entertaining or rewarding, reading functions as the basis of every field of study; if you are unable to read, you are unable to study history, language, and even math and science. Reading should be the number one priority at the onset of education.”

Secondary Ideas

Contrary to the main ideas, secondary ideas function as the backup purpose of a passage. In a paragraph discussing the importance of taking action to eradicate environmental issues, for instance, the secondary idea may be to encourage local governments to enact change, while the main idea may be to enact change in your own life. To identify the secondary idea, you may piggyback off of the question “What is the purpose of this passage?” with “What else is this passage trying to say?” Though secondary ideas may be far more difficult to identify, some persistence and searching will deliver an answer.

In the passage below, a secondary idea is that fashion is a highly marketed industry, selling glamour. Although this is not the main idea of the passage (which is that ethically sourced clothing should be sought out), it certainly holds weight in the overall passage and demonstrates an idea that plays a role in how the overall idea is delivered.

“*The clothing industry is something of a black mark on the fashion industry. While fashion is marketed as something glamorous and idyllic, the reality of clothing manufacturing tells a different story. Sweatshops and child labor are only just touching on the myriad of issues within the clothing industry, as extortion and death tolls are becoming commonplace. Choosing ethically sourced clothing companies is now more important than ever.”


Application questions require you to identify ideas embedded within a paragraph to answer a question about the subject of a passage. This may be as simple as asking you what the conclusion is, but may be as complicated as asking you to locate and identify key facts and figures in the passage to reach a conclusion not identified within the body of the paragraph.

In the test, you might be asked to identify supporting details. In the passage below, the supporting details are: what happens when an owner dies and how animals seek attention. These details support the overall idea of the passage, which is that cats and dogs are best suited to different personality types.

“Dogs are typically best suited to men and women who like companionship. Although cats are entertaining and enjoyable to have around, they are typically more independent creatures, and care more for their own welfare than their owner’s. When an owner dies, for instance, dogs are known to lie at their feet, howl, or cease eating or drinking out of grief. When a cat’s owner dies, however, cats have been known to make a meal out of said owner. When a dog wants comfort, he typically approaches with his head held down, and seeks a gentle touch. When a cat wants comfort, he often plants himself on top of or in front of whatever you are currently working on and demands attention.”


Inference questions require you to synthesize the information presented in a passage to answer questions such as, “What is the author implying in this passage?” “What is the passage suggesting through its use of the word ____?” To answer these questions, you must employ some amount of intuition while reading and use context clues to determine meaning, rather than searching for themes and ideas blatantly stated in the text.

What might be inferred from the following passage?

“Eric walked in the door, his step light. He called out to his mom, an envelope tightly clutched in his hand. His mom rounded the corner, her eyebrows raised in a silent question. Eric smiled, held up the letter, the initials ‘UC-B’ glinting in the lamplight. His mother let out a triumphant shout and rushed to hug her son.”

Based on the passage above, it can be inferred that Eric got some good news and likely was accepted into a university. Although this is not directly stated in the text, the excitement, initials on the letter, and the very presence of a letter all point to this outcome.