Reading Comprehension - Tones & Summary
shahzar_khan last edited by shahzar_khan
Director, Verbal Ability | Elite's Grid
we will be mainly covering the below points in this article:
- How to Identify Tones in a RC.
- Various type of tones.
- How to summarize paragraphs of a passage.
- How to briefly write summary of such passages.
- Other related tricks.
Always note that:
- A comprehension passage contains a number of paragraphs. Every paragraph has a central idea which is expounded with ideas and illustrations and other references.
- The key sentence that gives the central idea of the paragraph may be at the beginning, middle or end of paragraph. This sentence enunciating the central idea, is otherwise called ‘topic sentence’
- The crux of the problem is just to understand the writer's point of view. According to the’ difficulty of the passage reading speed should also fast.'
Four subjects that you should cover for sure are:
As far as practice for RCs goes, you should build up your practice slowly and steadily. As of now, you would do well to solve 2 to 3 RCs a day. Carry out this exercise for 5 days at least every week, and this way, you should be able to cover 10 to 15 passages a week. As time goes on, you are advised to increase your practice to 20 passages a week, and in the last month, you should be practicing at least 3 RCs a day. Always keep in mind that you need to build your stamina as far as RCs are concerned.
Make notes while practicing RCs:
One basic activity that you can carry out while solving RCs is making notes. Why make these notes? Well, these are mental bookmarks that help you locate appropriate information and help you understand the passage that much better. While you making notes, there are three fundamental things that you need to identify:
- subject of the passage: which/what is the precise thing the author is talking about.
- main idea of the passage: what is he saying about the author.
- tone of the author of the passage: which is manner he has adopted in the passage.
The above are three central considerations in figuring out what the passage is all about. Make sure you note these down every time you solve RCs. This is the best way to figure out the gist of the passage, and once you take hold of the central points of the passage, you can answer inference based questions easily. Also, a thematic make-up and a logical sequence of the passage will be built-up within your mind, which would enable you to answer questions from particular parts of the passage.
Look out for structural words that tell you the important ideas or transitions in a passage.
Though this tip might appear cumbersome to many, yet it holds value. There are a number of words which play specific roles in a sentence and paragraph.
In the same way
These portray three roles that words can play in a paragraph, and these roles help you establish the motive of the author. For example, contrast words are an indicator that what would follow would be a contradiction of the reasoning pattern so far, and a new direction will be lent to the paragraph.
The above roles are described below:
Continuity words: The author would support his point of view further.
Contrast words: The author would introduce a contrarian point of view.
Conclusion words: The author would sum up his argument so far.
Suppose, I am writing an Article on the state of slums and poverty stricken multitudes in India.
Essentially, the subject is Poverty and India. The main idea would be the problem I highlight. What actually am I trying to communicate. Sort of similar to subject, but a bit more detailed. Bit is the keyword here. It means that the main idea would be a bit more detailed than the "Subject" or "title" of the passage. So, a possible main idea of an article titled Poverty in India might be: How poverty affects the households, education, infrastructure and administration of a country.
Remember that Details are used to reinforce each paragraph. Detail questions make up a big proportion of RC questions. If you are asked about the purpose of a Detail or why the author mentions something, take a look at the paragraph in which the detail is found. Authors use details to support their points. What point is the paragraph trying to make?
Find the implication to support the Inference.
The correct answer for an Inference question is NOT something that sounds reasonable to you. It is the choice that puts into words an unstated implication from the passage. Only once choice can be correct because the passage will be worded in such a way as to only support ONE of the implications. Look for stated support for each answer choice in the passage. Don’t rely on your memory, and avoid large leaps in logic. The correct answer is ALWAYS based on something from the passage. You just have to find it!
How To Take Notes
Your notes should be heavily abbreviated – much more aggressively abbreviated than notes you would typically take at work or school. In fact, if I look at my notes for a passage a few days later, I should have a lot of trouble figuring out what they say (without using the passage as a reference). How can we get away with abbreviating this heavily? Again, we’re taking advantage of the nature of this test. You’re going to spend perhaps 6 to 8 minutes with this passage and then you can forget about it forever. You don’t need to commit anything to long-term memory, nor do you need to take comprehensive notes from which you can study in a week (as you often have to do for school). Of course, if you’re just practising, you are going to review your work later, but you should still practice as though it’s the real thing.
Tone of the passage
Tone of the passage indicates the opinion of the author on the subject he/she is writing about.
Consider you are asked to describe your favourite novel. From your voice, body language and expressions, you would be indicating that you like the subject you are talking about. Even without these physical clues, your attitude towards the subject would be unmistakable from what you say and the words you choose. Identifying the tone of the passage essentially boils down to understanding the emotion behind what is written in the passage. Tone is essentially expressed through descriptive elements - adjectives, adverbs, and figures of speech. Pay close attention to these while deducing the tone of the passage.
Type of Tones:
Identify the tone:
- He shot the man.
- He shot the man with his Beretta 91.
- The question is, did that man deserve to get shot?
- Evil doers deserve evil things, such as getting murdered.
- Funny how The gun collector was murdered by a knife.
- His dead body is worth more than my entire property.
- Detached / Formal
This is a general highlight of an event. Not too descriptive, not too analytical, Hence, formal.
This gives a few more details, and now we are analysing the given details, hence, analytical.
Critically questions the aspect, hence critical.
- Disapproving / Cynical
There is a disapproval of the person, the evil doer.
- Mocking/ Sarcastic
A mocking statement, that even if he's (the evil doer) dead, the people analyzing the after effects (cops, or the Good Guys), have little or no value, comparatively.
Hear the voice:
Read the passage as if the author is speaking to you. Do you think the author is expressing approval/disapproval/neither approval or disapproval of the subject? Do you think the author is excited by the subjected or dejected by it? Is he/she shying away from discussing the subject or getting weary of it? What is the dominant emotion? -Anger, reverential, mocking, objective? This can help you a long way in determining the tone.
If the passage is about a person, would you want someone to say that about you?
If the answer is “Don’t Know” for the questions, the tone of the passage is neutral. If the answer is negative then the tone of the passage is negative.
Similarly, if your answer is positive the tone is positive. This alone can help you strike off one or two options. If the tone of the passage is not negative, strike off all options that are negative.
A note of caution, even if the author does not use a single negative word, the tone can be negative
For example : if the passage is sarcastic or satirical, the author can indicate his displeasure regarding the subject without using a single negative word, as in the below example:
Apple just launched the new Macbook yesterday. A gigantic new screen and more features, exactly what I had always wanted from a computer. And to top it off, it is also extremely reasonably priced. Now you have to sell just one, yes just one, kidney to have the privilege of owning the Macbook.
The attitude can be superficially positive but in reality be extremely negative and biting.
Descriptive words: When the author is guarded about expressing their opinion about a subject, you will need to pay closer attention to the descriptive words used. Be extremely sensitive to strongly positive or strongly negative adjectives.
Egregious is a strongly negative word. Even if the author tempers his judgement with other slightly positive words, the net effect would still be negative. Common types of tones The tone of the passage can be classified as follows:
Subjective: The author has an opinion on the subject and tries to justify his/her opinion by stating facts/arguments. The facts/arguments are not studied in an impartial way but are instead used as a tool to prove their viewpoint.
Objective: The author analyzes all the information available and may come to a conclusion. If they show approval or disapproval of the subject after studying all the facts, the tone of the passage is critical. Critical, unlike what is indicated by common usage of the word, need not be negative. It just implies that the author has objectively (impartially) considered all the facts and arrived at a conclusion.
What is meant by ‘tone’?
The ‘tone’ refers to the feelings or emotions expressed by the author towards an issue. It could also encompass his style of writing. What sentiment does the author express towards the subject? That is the tone.
An example would better reflect what I am attempting to state. Consider a title such as ‘The dismal state of Indian Politics’. Now how does such a title express the author’s tone?
The answer is that through the usage of the adjective ‘dismal’ here, the author’s sentiment towards the subject of Politics is also conveyed to the reader. We know how the author feels.
Now let us take up some examples of tones and discuss how you can recognize these. We shall discuss some important tones that you could appear as answer options in the entrance exams.
Descriptive or Informative:
This tone is appropriate when the author has given a lot of figures, facts or data in the passage. The author’ purpose of writing the passage/ article was to increase the reader’s knowledge of the given issue or subject. Hence a lot of details are given.
A characteristic of passages with a descriptive/ informative tone is therefore the presence of data, facts etc and the relative absence of opinions.
Examples of passages where a descriptive/ informative tone is used:
- Passages dealing with events in history: giving details of some battle, dates, information about the rule of some civilization, king etc
- Passages dealing with some technology: providing details about some gadget, describing the features of some instrument etc
- Information about some building, landmark, historical place etc. For example, the passage may describe the Qutab Minar, giving information about when it was built, who built it, the material used for its construction etc.
This is typically used for passages when the author expresses his views on some issues and takes a stand-is this person or issue right or wrong? Is this good or bad? Is someone intelligent or dumb? These are all judgements. Therefore the characteristic of such a tone is the presence of opinions or the author’s perception/ views on a person, thing or issue.
Examples of passages where a judgemental tone is used:
An expert giving his verdict on some issue-could be an automobile expert speaking about a car and providing his opinion on what is good or bad about the new vehicle, or a connoisseur of food providing his opinion about a dish, for example A follower or fan speaking about an issue close to his heart. For example, someone writing about a particular player
This is quite an important tone, for there are several passages that appear in B-school entrance exams where this tone is appropriate as an answer choice. What is the characteristic of such a tone? The characteristic of an analytical tone is the presence of reasons or logic/ justifications to support something. In such passages, the author tries to analyze an issue, presenting the pros and cons, or compares two or more things and tells you why he feels something is better etc.
Examples of passages where an analytical tone is used:
An author stating that he feels something could happen in the future and providing reasons to justify why he feels in that manner
An analysis of some event in the past-reasons given to explain a certain event, action etc. For example, the author could analyze why India won the last cricket match etc.
The author comparing two or more things and justifying why he feels something is better
Passages in which the pros and cons of a certain action are weighed.
For example, should Company A acquire Company B?
The decision needs to be analyzed and reasons given both for and against the issue.
As everyone knows, the general idea of the Doctrine of Descent is that the plants and animals of the present day are the lineal descendants of ancestors on the whole somewhat simpler, that these again are descended from yet simpler forms, and so on backwards towards the literal "Protozoa" and "Protophyta" about which we unfortunately know nothing. Now no one supposes that Darwin originated this idea, which in rudiment at least is as old as Aristotle. What Darwin did was to make it current intellectual coin. He gave it a form that commended itself to the scientific and public intelligence of the day, and he won widespread conviction by showing with consummate skill that it was an effective formula to work with, a key which no lock refused. In a scholarly, critical, and pre-eminently fair-minded way, admitting difficulties and removing them, foreseeing objections and forestalling them, he showed that the doctrine of descent supplied a modal interpretation of how our present-day fauna and flora have come to be.
What is the author’s tone in the passage?
Solution: The purpose of the paragraph is to inform the reader about the merits of the Doctrine of Descent. The author critically examines the work and gives it credit where it is due. The tone of the
passage is neutral - neither too positive nor negative.
From the options we can reject option B as it adds new information that the original idea was first thought of by Aristotle. The passage just says that the idea is at least as old as Aristotle without
stating its origin. We can eliminate option C as the tone of the passage is neutral and not negative like the option. Option C is dismissive of Darwin’s work and hence does not match the passage in tone.
Dismissive in the sense that if you analyse a theory, you are bound to look at both the pros and the cons of the theory. here, we are only seeing the positive remarks, and no "negative" sides of the theory. Hence, to call this analytical would be to assume that a negative side is present and we can dismiss the positive content.
Option D gives too many details while missing out on the actual merits of the doctrine.
To begin to explain the meaning of Serious Tone, with respect to RCs, let's first recall the meaning of serious. Normally, Serious is a person who is formal, firm, and generally avoids any mockery or jokes. The structure of such passages is very formal, there is one main difference between Serious and Formal - The use of words and format. If you get the exact same text or passage in the form of a poem, it can be considered serious, but never formal. Similarly, if you get the same text in form of an email or a circular, it will be formal.
- Let's consider any of the articles featured in the recent Sheena Bora murder case. What you will realise is that most of these articles or feeds were 'critical' of Sheena Bora's mother, Indrani Mukherjea.
- In essence, being critical implies evaluating the aspects of a text and analysing the factors and facets of the article. The best example if a critical tone would be a movie review or a food outlet review.
- There, the user would reiterate the good things about the movie before taking a plunge at the more miserable and critical objects of the movie.
- I am already far North of London, and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid.
- I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There Margaret, the sun is forever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour. There – with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators – theresnow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in’ beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe, Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light?
- I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only, this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man.
- These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.
We will be making summaries one para at a time.
I am already far North of London, and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight.
“far North of London.”
Description of the breeze.
“Towards which I am advancing”
beauty and delight of pole – a point of view of the author. (Contrasting general view is that the poles are seat of frost and desolation.)
Summary: Author is excited to travel to the North.
Can be written as: Author Travelling ↑ (To save time ;) )
There Margaret, the sun is forever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour. There – with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators – there snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in’ beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe, Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light?
Sun is always shining.
The post/ article is being addresses to the author’s sister
That poles are more beautiful than any other habitable place on earth.
Summary: Author describes the beauty of the poles, as per his expectations and imaginations to his sister.
Can be shortly written as : Author → sister : Poles be awesome.
I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only, this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man.
Author expects/ wishes to find the reason why Compass needles points to North.
Author notes his excitement, mood and expectations to travel and explore an unchartered territory – North Pole.
Summary: Expectations of author and things he expects to find in the North Pole
Can be shortly written as : Author → N Pole, expectations?
These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.
Author is not afraid as the same in replaced by his curiosity and excitement.
Author explains that even he’s disappointed in his findings and adventures, he will still be successful by finding a shortcut to other countries.
Summary: Author explains that curiosity and that he may get a bit disappointed, but won’t be unsuccessful, because he might find the secret of polarity.
So, that's all form a Tones, Notes and Annotation (Summary) perspective. There is still so much ti learn in RCs. Keep solving the questions, be abreast with the theories, and the type of tones, and keep on learning.
Abhijeet Kumar Singh last edited by
Thanks for this post.. exactly what I wanted
rishitater last edited by rishitater
Analytical is neutral. I didn't quite get the logic behind the tone of Doctrine of Descent passage
rink3676 last edited by
Thanks @shahzar_khan for the wonderful insights. Very helpful.
Conduira last edited by
How to Study for GRE Vocabulary
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test which is written by graduate students who are aspiring to study abroad. This test is accepted by most universities across various disciplines.
There are two kinds of GRE examination papers- GRE general and GRE subject tests.
It has three sections- verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. While GRE Verbal Ability and GRE Quantitative Aptitude are graded from 130-170, GRE Analytical Writing is graded from 0-6.
There is a common notion among students that verbal reasoning is usually the most difficult section of the GRE general paper. It is popularly said that to achieve a good score in GRE, one must ace the verbal reasoning section. Most students initially take the vocabulary section casually but gradually realize the high standard of preparation required to do well in this section. Then they stress themselves by trying to achieve the standard target of remembering the meanings of 3500 words. Now, 3500 is a huge number and starts looming as a major fear factor for the student. It is difficult to memorize 1000 words, let alone 3500.
We can help you achieve the idolized goal of 3500 words but you have to willing to work much harder and smarter. Most students perceive that the manner to achieve this goal is to sit down with the dictionary and as and when they come across a word they do not understand, they memorize it. This isn't a practical way of learning because it is impossible to memorize the dictionary definition of every single word.