Page 3 Reading Study Guide for the CBEST

Identifying Intended Audience

Identifying the intended audience involves using context clues and evaluating subject matter and delivery. A piece using simple language, for instance, will likely be geared toward children or individuals who speak another language. A piece using formal language is likely to be geared toward an academic or professional audience. When you are working to identify the author’s intended audience, look at the following aspects of the work:

  • Content
  • Language use/difficulty
  • Tone
  • Purpose

The subject of the piece will narrow the scope of the author’s audience. Language use and difficulty will identify the age level and context of the audience. The tone of the piece will determine whether the author seeks to alienate, invite, or simply inform his audience; it will also play a key role in audience determination. Finally, identifying the purpose of the piece will allow the previous three puzzle pieces to click into place.

Comprehension and Context

Comprehension simply means being able to both read and understand information. If you are presented with a concept, are able to read through the concept, but do not understand it, you are lacking in comprehension. To practice comprehension, look at context clues and research the background of the piece in question. Context simply means the placing of something; if something is taken out of context, it can be twisted to mean something else. For instance, if someone said, in response to a question about their child, “He is having a rough time,” the statement is fairly innocuous. If the statement is taken out of context, however, it could be applied to a number of false scenarios, including school and trouble with the law.

Considering the following components of a passage will help you to do the analysis necessary to answer questions in this section of the test:

Relationships between Ideas

Relationships between ideas are typically denoted with a connecting word or phrase. In the compound sentence, “Vicki and Stephanie were friends; however, Stephanie is angry with Vicki over a monetary misunderstanding,” the semicolon and the word however demonstrate a relationship between the ideas―in this case, demonstrating the contrary nature of the second part of the sentence.

When searching for relationships between ideas, the most common indicators are words such as “and, like, or” and punctuation marks, such as “; : , —”. Each of these reveals a relationship between two sentences or ideas.

Sequence of Events or Steps

The sequence of events (or steps) typically involves bullets, numbered lines, or words such as “then,” “next,” etc. To identify a sequence of events, ask yourself whether or not actions are being presented in a certain order. A simple paragraph will not necessarily have a sequence of events or set of steps.

1. this
2. shows
3. sequence of events

1. this
2. might
3. also show a sequence of events

To create your own sequence, use a numbered list or bullet points, or simply use language (“first,” “next,” “then,” “after,” etc) to demonstrate the passage of time or the need to continue through a list of instructions or events.

Organization of Ideas

The organization of ideas is a key component in creating (and reading) a written work. Failure to organize a piece will result in something incoherent or confusing. The best way to organize ideas is to follow this simple format: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.

The introduction should begin with a hook, or attention-grabbing line or premise, followed by a brief overview of the piece, and closing with the thesis (or main idea of the work).

The body of the piece should follow this basic format: Topic sentence, supporting ideas, conclusion. Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence to reveal the purpose of that paragraph. Next, provide details to support the topic sentence, and close out the paragraph with a conclusion or a tie-in to the following paragraph.

The conclusion should offer a closing argument or a succinct summation of the work, as well as a restatement of the thesis.

Although this is a simple formula, it ensures that your work and the work of others follow a clear, concise organizational pattern.

You may be asked to identify the type of organization used by the author in a reading passage. Is the passage in chronological order or does it present the most important ideas first, leaving less crucial details for last? Another passage might deal with the positive side of a premise in the beginning, and reserve the final sentences for negative aspects. The answer choices will give you an idea of what type of organization to look for.