Reading comprehension tests. Someone Please tell me this isn't cheating.

Here’s the deal I was talking to a couple of coworker the yesterday and we got to talking about test (for school).

We broached the subject of reading comprehension test. I proceeded to tell them that the way I take my test is; I go down read all the questions first then go back and read the couple of paragraphs of whatever it is they’re testing you over.

The response I got from BOTH my coworkers is this is cheating. :dubious: I mean come on, how can this be cheating? To me it’s just good common practical sense.

I already know this isn’t cheating I just need someone to tell me I’m not crazy. My friends are the ones that are crazy…
(btw. I do this with multiple choice math tests too…)

Cheating? No, that is a good test taking strategy. I would advise reading the entire passage after you have read the questions. The questions will give you an idea of what the passage is about and what you should be looking for in the passage.

For something like the SAT’s (or some other standardized test), I found that it was really the only way that made sense. Reading the entire passage first never helped me any, but reading the questions, then the passage worked.

It’s not cheating - most test taking strategy guides will tell you to read the questions, then the passage.

It’s a test of comprehension, not memory; they aren’t trying to ascertain whether you can hold all the details in your head, but whether you can identify, understand and expand upon a relevant detail provided in writing.

it is perfectly valid to re-read the passage, in fact stupid not to re-read it.

I wouldn’t say that they’re crazy - I would guess that they don’t do very well on standardized tests and have never figured out why not.

It is good, common, practical sense. Not cheating in the least.

In fact, I think it could truly be said that thinking you mustn’t go back to the text after reading the questions demonstrates a distinct lack of comprehension.

How could it be considered cheating? Do the directions say you can’t read the questions first? If it wasn’t allowed, they’d give you the passage to read, then take it away from you and give you the questions.

It’s a little sad that they didn’t learn this basic test-taking technique in school.

Definitely not cheating for the the reading comprehension test or the math test either? It boggles the mind that they would believe that it is.

It is absolutely not cheating at all. The key word, as everyone else has pointed out, is comprehension.

When I’m taking a test of that nature, I usually rapidly scan through the reading passage; then I read the questions; then I go back and re-read the passage with the questions in mind. That is how I would expect any student of mine to take an exam pertaining to reading comprehension as well.


I agree with Mangetout. Somewhere along the line they misunderstood the instructions. It’s probably a conclusion they came to when they were very young and they’ve just never rethought it.

A person with poor comprehension would not be able to read the questions and then extract the information. Your friends are handicapping themselves for no good reason.

Good luck with that.


I certainly don’t think it’s cheating, but I’d be interested in hearing from someone (perhaps a reading specialist or secondary educator) about whether reading the questions first is a good idea or just *seems * like a good idea.

It certainly can’t be a bad idea.

“Damn, now that I know exactly what information I’m looking for, I’ll never be able to find it! If only I had waded aimlessly through the sea of data before determining my objectives, I would have recalled every item perfectly, but now that I have specific topics and phrases to watch out for, I’m screwed!”


I am neither a literacy specialist nor a secondary educator, but I am an elementary school teacher and have taken several courses and workshops on reading instruction. Reading the questions first is indeed a recommended comprehension strategy and one that I teach my kids to use, especially with informational text. It provides a purpose for reading, prompts you to activate your prior knowledge about the content, and creates a sort of scaffold on which to hang the new information. In fiction reading, comprehension is enhanced when you read for a purpose (the questions again provide the purpose) and when you constantly make and evaluate predictions about what will come next. Good readers do these things unconsciously and constantly, but young readers and poor readers must be taught the strategies. In short, reading the questions first is accepted, encouraged, and research-backed.

Hope this didn’t sound too “teacher-ish.” I can probably dig up some cites if you wish.

I teach 7th Grade Reading, and no, it’s not cheating; it’s a good strategy. In fact, I teach my students that reading the questions first sets the purpose for reading.

Of course, I also teach them other strategies to help them organize the info so that answering the questions is a snap.

Here are links to the two methods I use in my classroom:

Third teacher chiming in.

Reading questions first, THEN reading the passage, is a strategy I recommend for better comprehending and answering questions asked in all subject areas, including the sciences and history, not just quote unquote “reading assignments” – i.e., fiction and informative non-fiction.

Using personal experience, I recall in high school being fairly intimidated by the works of Shakespeare. I very quickly realized I understood the point of his sonnets and plays much better armed with the questions prior to actually reading them.

I coach other teachers who have trouble with standardized testing… everyone I’ve ever coached who actively switched to the reading the questions first found that strategy alone tended to raise their test scores by 7-15 points.

I keep thinking of that scene in Men in Black, where Wil Smith is being tested to see if he’d make a good MiB. You remember that scene, SHAKES? The one with the wierd shooting range, and the white room with the egg-shaped chairs and break-away pencils?

Your friends are everyone in that scene who isn’t Wil Smith.

Fourth teacher - 8th grade English and Writing.

You better believe that in the review for standardized tests, I hammer into my kids that they read the questions first and the passage second. It increases comprehension, and they get a higher score.

If it is not against the rules, how could it possibly be cheating?

You are being presented with a passage and some questions on the same page. Unless reading the questions first is explicitly prohibited, the obvious intention is that you will approach the problem in whatever manner you deem appropriate.

Thanks to you, Askia, and Proudest Monkey for your sincere and useful replies, unlike certain other people who went the usual SMDB smarmy-sarcastic route.