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GED Reading Tips: Interpret Texts Effectively

reading-bookDo you have trouble when asked to interpret texts? If so, you’re not alone. But like any skill, it is something that can be developed and honed with practice, and if you’re wanting to perform well on the GED (or any test for that matter), you’ll need plenty of it. Nothing you can do will be better for preparation than simply reading as much as possible. However, as you read, there are some activities that you may want to utilize in order to speed up your comprehension. Here’s what we suggest:

Firstly, question what you read.

The first thing that you can do to ensure you’re on the right path is to question everything you read. Not only will you question events and their relation to the world of the narrative, but you will also weight them against the mode of storytelling.

For example, in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” you have a narrator speaking from the first-person point of view. He’s a character in the story, and he’s also the one telling it. Therefore, you have to acknowledge that some of the things that he says might be in contrast to what other characters in the story — and what you yourself — actually believe or experience.

The narrator insists right away that he is not mad and perfectly sane. This insistence is done so emphatically in the text that we immediately have to question the truth behind it. After all, if his sanity is beyond question, why is he making a point of defending it so strongly? There must be something in the story that happens to cause doubt. The act of questioning leads to the second thing that you should do:

Analyze how the author works to convince you.

When it comes to solid reading comprehension skills, it’s best to be a skeptic and to analyze what you’re hearing on-the-fly. In the case of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the author uses some rationalization techniques to convince you he’s not a head case. Ultimately, he plans to murder his master, but he’s not actually killing the man. No, that would be insane. In fact, he harbors no ill will to the old man whatsoever. He simply cannot abide that pale blue eye with the milky film over it. He even says at one point that he’s not killing the man, but taking the eye.

Being aware of the technique that the narrator is trying to use for convincing you that he’s not crazy actually proves just the opposite. (At least, let’s hope it does. You may not be feeling particularly “sane” after several weeks of studying.

Finally, make your own decision.

Ultimately, it’s for you to decide whether the narrator’s conclusion is consistent with what you’ve heard. In the case of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” most civilized human beings would agree: this guy has some bats in the belfry.

It’s consistent with social norms that killing anyone, except for in cases of self-defense, is not a rational way to solve one’s problems. Even those who might be unhinged enough themselves to condone murder, usually do so out of spite or revenge or a desire for financial gain. They don’t typically kill someone because of an extreme hatred for the victim’s body part. We tend to think of such individuals as being insane or unhinged.

In the remainder of the Poe story, the narrator further proves that he’s not playing with a full deck when he begins to hear the incessant pounding of the dead man’s heart. At the story’s conclusion, he tears up the floor, which conceals the dismembered corpse of his former master and shows the police the heart that he’d removed from the old man’s chest. He insists that they must be able to hear it if he does so strongly.

We know then, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is an unreliable narrator, and so it’s clear that we can’t trust the argument that he’s made.

It’s clear that he’s insane, even though he doesn’t explicitly state that for us, nor does he allow any other point of view in the story. We can interpret from everything we’ve read a conclusion that is not actually spelled out.

A Final Word

A story doesn’t have to be written by Edgar Allan Poe for us to utilize the skill of interpreting text. It doesn’t even have to be fiction. We can flex our interpretation muscles in most any piece of text that comes along. In fact, it’s imperative that we do in order to be better readers capable of reaching our own conclusions and deciding on the reliability of what we’re hearing.

In the old days of journalism, there was more of an emphasis on skepticism and asking the tough questions. Nowadays, there are sources like MSNBC and Fox News that actively spin news one way or the other in favor of Democrats or Republicans, respectively.

A landscape such as this one means that interpreting text effectively is more important than it’s ever been. We can’t count on outside news sources to do it for us.

Instead we have to question everything we hear, consider the source that it’s coming from, and recognize any techniques that the source is utilizing to try and bring us to their own conclusions. You may very well find that you agree, and that’s fine as long as you’re not taking everything at face value.

The GED, especially now that it’s been overhauled and toughened up, attempts to ensure that passing scores go to those students, who are capable of thinking for themselves and not simply believing what they are told. In order to prove you’ve got what it takes, you’ll need to listen to what you hear and synthesize that with your own life experiences.

There’s certainly no escaping it. Whether you’re taking the RLA (reasoning through language arts), math and science, or social studies, you’re going to run in to plenty of reading passages. To mark the appropriate answers, the ability to interpret texts will be one of the greatest weapons in your arsenal. Best of luck in the months ahead!

[Image via Adrian Blau]

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's work appears regularly here at 4tests.com and across the web for sites, such as The Inquisitr and Life'd. A former high school teacher, his passion for education has only intensified since leaving the classroom. At 4tests, he hopes to continue passing along words of encouragement and study tips to ensure you leave school ready to face an ever-changing world.

Website: http://aricmitchell.blogspot.com/

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