Comprehension of an unseen prose passage forms quite an important part of CSS/PCS English. You may be asked to answer given questions on it or make a precis of it.

In either case you will have to comprehend it thoroughly and interpret it correctly. You will have to read the passage twice or thrice in order to grasp its meaning. The first reading of the passage will enable you to know its theme; its second reading will enable you to find out the author’s approach. The third reading will give you the salient points the passage contains.

While reading the passage for the first time, mark all the words and phrases of which the exact significance is not known to you. Consult a good dictionary to know their meaning. Take note of all the similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech and find out their significance in the context.

After having done all this, you will have thorough understanding of the passage. This is comprehension. You are now in a position to interpret it, i.e. to explain certain points in the passage by answering given questions.

You may be asked to explain what the author means by a certain sentence. You may be asked to show its significance in the context. You may be asked to comment on the passage as a whole. You may be asked to criticise the general argument of the passage, stating whether or not you agree with the author’s argument and your reasons for doing it. You may be asked to write a note on the style and character of the author as revealed in the passage. You may be asked to explain certain words and phrases and to use them in sentences of your own. You may be asked to explain certain points in the passage. If the passage is one of reasoned argument, you may be asked to point out flaws, if any, in the argument.
Generally speaking, you are asked to answer questions on the given passage. Your answers should be clear and concise. Write them in simple, idiomatic English. Never forget that the answers must be written in your own English. Let your answers be relevant and to the point. Say just what the question asks and say it in complete sentences.

Here is a solved example:

An unseen passage (comprehension)

A classless society does not mean a society without leaders. It means rather one in which every citizen becomes for the first time eligible for leadership, if he has the power to lead. It means a society in which everyone is given, as far as possible, the chance to develop this power by the widest diffusion of educational opportunities in the broadest sense, and by keeping the career wide open to talents of every useful kind. It is often said that a community of equals will not allow itself to be led. But, in fact, most men are, in most things, very willing to be led, and in danger of giving their leaders too rather than too little authority, especially if they are free to choose them, and assured that the leaders cannot exploit them for personal economic advantage; leadership so far from disappearing, will come into its own in a truly democratic society. But it is likely to be a more diffused leadership than we are used to; for a better nurtured people will have more citizens with strong wills and minds of their own wishful to lead, some in politics, some in industry, and some in the professions and arts of life.

This is the idea of the classless society. Some will reject it as contrary to their interests, some as Utopian and ‘against human nature’ for there are some who deny, indeed if not in word, that the aim of society should be to promote the greatest happiness and welfare of the greatest number, and others who hold, with pessimistic honesty, that most men must be driven and not led.

Read the above passage and answer the following questions in your own words:

Q.1.    What is a ‘classless society’ according to the writer of the above passage?
Q.2.    Does the write believe that ‘a community of equals’ will refuse to follow a leader?
Q.3.    How will different types of people receive the idea of the classless society?


Ans.1.    A classless society, according to the writer, does not mean a leaderless society or a society that will reject a leader. It means a society in which everyone will find adequate opportunities of developing his qualities of leadership to be used for the benefit of society.

Ans.2.    The writer does not believe that a community of equals will refuse to follow a leader. The writer believers, on the contrary, that most men are quite willing to follow their leaders if only they are assured that they will not become authoritarian and selfish. Indeed, when people are free to choose their leaders, and are confident of their social commitment, they are likely to give their leader too much rather than too little authority to lead them. Indeed, in a classless society, leadership will become truly democratic.

Ans.3.    Different types of people will reject the idea of a classless society for different reasons. Some will reject it as it will go against their vested interests. Since their position is likely to be affected by it, they will oppose it. Others will think it to be Utopian, unrealistic impracticable, or unrealizable, because such an idea militates ‘against human nature’ which supports inequality and difference. They, therefore, do not agree with the view that society should aim at promoting the greatest happiness and welfare of the greatest number. Finally, there are those who will reject the idea of a classless society because their experience has made them cynical in their view of human beings. With ‘pessimistic honesty’ that is with honesty and without any hope of improvement, they believe that most men are unfit for enlightened leadership and that they are fit only to be driven, or forced to do things.

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