Passage Mapping – Improve Reading Comprehension

Passage mapping is one out of 250+ strategies recommended in the UCAT study guide to improve reading comprehension.

Reading comprehension is a multifaceted process that depends on multiple skills, including your ability to make inference. That’s probably why, when you Google “How to improve reading comprehension,” you’re bombarded with a list of articles filled with esoteric verbiage about mental frameworks, remediation and reading attitudes. It’s difficult to find concrete tips you can immediately apply for the UCAT. Luckily, there’s one technique that’s both simple and effective: passage mapping.

What is Passage Mapping?

Passage mapping is a visual representation of a passage that shows the main idea surrounded by connected branches of associated topics split according to paragraphs or ideas. In a classic passage map, you’ll always find the main idea of the passage, prominently placed in the centre of the map canvas, with all other ideas and keywords arranged around the centre in a radiant structure. See template below:

passage mapping example

From the above template, we can see the main idea or subject of the passage is placed in the centre, linked to 4 individual topics, with each topic having its own list of keywords and idea. There is also the use of arrows to indicate connections between the topics.

How does it improve Comprehension?

Identifying the main idea of each paragraph is a great skill to develop for the verbal reasoning subtest. Passage maps aid with this and offers a number of benefits that can aid your ability in comprehending and retaining the information read. They are as follows:

  • Passage maps help with structuring your thoughts. No matter how complex an idea or text, a passage map helps by forcing you to organise the information.
  • Passage mapping provides a clear overview of a topic. It enables you see the bigger picture, find connections and detect hierarchies between individual pieces of information.
  • Passage mapping enhances memory by utilizing mental recaps. Because they encourage the use of single keywords instead of whole sentences, you are able to review core concepts and ideas at a glance.

How to create a Passage Map

No matter how complex the passage, the steps for creating a mind map are simple:

Step 1: Skim text or passage

Step 2: Write subject or main idea in the centre of canvas

Step 3: Draw branches that point away from the center. Each branch symbolizes one thought or idea related to the subject. Use connectors wherever applicable.

Step 4: From each branch, more ideas can branch off. List meaningful keywords for each branch.

Now that you know how to create a basic passage map, let’s look at an example and draw a passage map to help work through the text:

passage mapping example 2

There is no wrong or right way to draw a passage map, the visual representation you use must be drawn out in a way that you understand and are able you recall the finer details by only reviewing the map. See below a visual map for the passage provided:

passage map

The idea is that by looking at a keyword say ‘WWF” you should be able to recall the finer details from the passage. After drawing a passage map, review it and perform a mental recap. Avoid looking at the passage as much as possible and summarise the entire passage.

passage mapping exercises

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