Reading Comprehension Strategies

Reading Comprehension Strategies

On the HESI A2 exam, you will encounter passages in three different formats and you should be prepared for all of them.

1. Paragraphs and Passages:

Short passages followed by a series of multiple-choice questions. These passages typically test comprehension in a variety of ways.

2. Charts, Maps, Graphs, and Diagrams:

Visual representation of information or data followed by a series of multiple-choice questions. Typically test ability to comprehend, interpret, or apply data.

3. Following Directions:

Step-by-step instructions that lead to a specific solution or result. Typically test ability to sequence events and locate important details in text.

Below you will find strategies to employ when dissecting paragraphs and passages; analyzing charts, maps, graphs and diagrams; and following directions.

Helpful Strategies for Paragraphs and Passages:

1. Read the title and scan the paragraphs.

Try to get a feel for what the topic is and what to expect from the passage before you even start reading. Make predictions about what you think the text is about.

2. Read questions first.

Read the questions and the answer choices before reading the relevant passage. This will give you a general idea of the types of answers being given and it will also guide you as you read the passage. This kind of guided reading improves comprehension on the first pass through the text and will save you time later.

3. Read quickly and carefully.

After you finish reading each section, briefly review what you just read before you move on.  What was the main point of the paragraph? How was it supported? Who were the main characters?

4. Underline, circle and make mental notes of key sentences.

If you know that a sentence is key support for an important idea, mark it clearly. Be sure to mark the sentences that are evidence or support for certain questions.

5. Finish the passage:

Finish the passage and then move on to the questions.  Don’t worry about answering questions in order. Look for questions you know first and answer them right away. This way, you can move ahead of the exam rapidly and then come back to the more difficult questions and give them more thought. For those more difficult questions, first eliminate answers that are obviously wrong before you select answers.  

Helpful Strategies for Charts, Maps, Graphs, and Diagrams:

1. Visualize:

Before analyzing the graph, chart or map in any way, try and get a high-level overview of its meaning.  If it is a measurement, what units are used?  If it is a graph, what is it depicting?

2. Identify the problem:

When reading the question, first identify the problem and then see how the graph, chart or diagram can help solve that problem.  Ask yourself, how does this graphic help me solve this problem?

3. Trends:

In the Reading Comprehension section, you will mainly be asked to spot general trends and how they relate to the problem you are trying to solve.  Don’t worry! You will not be asked to make complex calculations.

Helpful Strategies for Following Directions:

1. Read:

The first thing to do is read through the directions carefully without trying to carry out any of the instructions. Get a high-level understanding of the directions.

2.Step by step:

Once you have a general idea of the directions, go step by step through each instruction.

3. Write:

As you carry out the instructions, mark each step.  Write notes, circle, or underline as necessary.

4. Draw it out:

In many cases, drawing a diagram will help you visualize and carry out the instructions.

5. Recheck your work:

When you have finished, go back over the directions to ensure you have followed them correctly and reached the goal. 

All of the strategies above are suggestions and not the only way to attack a certain passage, diagram or chart.  Do you have any strategies that are not listed above that work for you? If so, reach out to us at and tell us what works for you!