Guessing at What the Writer Really Means for the ASVAB

By Rod Powers

The Paragraph Comprehension subtest of the ASVAB also requires you to analyze what you’ve read. Analysis is more than simply picking out the point of the text. Analyzing a passage requires you to draw conclusions from what you’ve read and understand relationships among the ideas presented in the text.

By drawing conclusions about the meaning of a passage, you reach new ideas that the author implies but doesn’t come right out and state. You must analyze the information the author presents in order to make inferences from what you’ve read. For instance, look at the following paragraph:

The local school district is facing a serious budgetary crisis. The state, suffering a revenue shortfall of more than $600 million, has cut funding to the district by $18.7 million. Already, 65 teachers have been laid off, and more layoffs are expected.

Although the author doesn’t say so, you can draw the conclusion that if the state revenue shortfall could somehow be corrected — by increasing state sales tax or income tax, for example — the local school district’s budgetary crisis could be resolved. The $18.7 million cut from the school budget could be restored. The author never actually makes this point in the paragraph, but by using logic, you can draw this conclusion from the facts presented.

Making inferences and drawing conclusions requires you to use your judgment. You don’t want to read too much into a passage. For example, nothing in the example paragraph suggests that electing a new governor is necessary or that increasing federal income taxes would help the problem.

Look at the next paragraph:

The farmers’ market reopened on the second weekend of May. Amid the asparagus and flowers, shoppers chatted about the return of temperatures in the 70s. Across the street, children (and their dogs) played Frisbee in the park. Finally, spring has come to town.

Suppose you’re asked the following question about this paragraph:

  1. It can be inferred from the passage that
    • A. Frisbee playing in the park doesn’t happen in winter.
    • B. the warm weather is unusual for this time of year.
    • C. the shoppers were disappointed in the farmers’ market produce.
    • D. rain is imminent.

If the point of the passage is that spring has come to town and the author uses Frisbee playing as evidence of the arrival of spring, then it’s likely that Frisbee playing doesn’t occur in the winter but does begin again in spring. The answer is Choice (A).