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Tones of Reading Comprehension – CAT, XAT, GRE, GMAT
April 15 2024

The tone that an author uses in reading comprehension greatly influences what kind of story the author tells and how the audience recognizes it. To develop a better understanding of the text and to answer well in entrance exams like CAT, GRE, GMAT, etc; it is important to understand the style and tone of the passage. So let's look at some of the most common tones of reading comprehension that you can come across in various exams.

What are the important tones of RCs that usually come in exams?

1. Narrative and Descriptive:

In narrative reading comprehension - the author is the character himself and tries to convey a story or an event. It usually answers the question- "Then what happened?". A narrative type of RC often presents situations like a dispute, conflicts, problems & solutions, motivational events, etc. The basic purpose is to gain a reader's interest and thus, to engage the reader. Topics like the experience of the first day at school or something that changed your life, etc.

In descriptive reading comprehension, the focus is to describe the character, a place, or an event in detail. The author wants you to visualize whatever he sees, hear, smell, taste, and feel.

2. Jovial and Jocular/Humorous:

When the author is humorous, he/she tries to make the context of the passage funny and amusing. While being jovial, he/she is being happy, cheerful, and friendly.

3. Sarcastic:

It conveys a meaning that is exactly opposite to the actual meaning. This may be sometimes confused with humourous, but often sarcasm is used for topics that the author is not much in favor of. Try understanding the context of the passage, and identify if the usage of a sarcastic tone justifies that.

Example - Sometimes I need what only you can provide: your absence.

Also read: Weightage of Reading Comprehension in CAT

4. Critical and Cynical:

Critical tone often describes a fault-finding attitude of the author; in a negative sense. It may also indicate a deep analysis of an issue with an impartial outlook.

The cynical tone is when the author conveys a doubtful nature. He is pessimistic about whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile. These two are pretty common tones of reading comprehension that you will find in exams.

Example - 20% of the CAT will be from CATKing Basic Books

Critical Thought: How can you assure that it will just be 20%? Are you the paper setter? 

Cynical Thought: What about the rest 80%?

5. Nostalgic:

The nostalgic tone conveys a sense of longing for the past. It can be a good as well as a sad memory.

For example - I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places. (The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams)

6. Acerbic/harsh/severe/bitter/caustic/vitriolic:

How might you express your dissatisfaction with something or somebody brutally? Here comes the part of the acerbic tone. The author uncovers his conflict with a hypothesis or may express his despise towards a man in an acerbic tone. When you recognize this tone, you will have the capacity to answer the questions that are asked in RC.

7. Angry/indignant:

Like the above type, this type of tone expresses the creator's outrage towards the subject justifiedly. How would you justify your outrage towards any unfair system? You may do as such by a few arguments, giving real examples and illustrations with respect to the subject. So also, the author means to justify his outrage by expressing different reasons that are identified with the issue.

8. Apologetic:        

As the name expresses, this sort of tone is used to express regret or blame in regard to the setbacks or tragedies that may have happened before. RC sections in light of this tone, by and large, discuss opinions identified with world wars, natural disasters events, or other such calamities that have affected humankind adversely. Such sections may likewise incorporate a lot of statistical data points.

9. Belligerent/bellicose:

In which tone do you think two warring parties have a conversation with each other? As you would figure, they are forcefully unfriendly towards each other. This is when the author receives a belligerent tone of writing. RC passages in light of this sort of tone effectively comprehend and let you effortlessly anticipate the responses to conclusion-based questions.

10. Biased:

While favoring a certain thing/person/group over the other, we tend to utilize a one-sided tone to show our tendency towards it. Likewise, the author utilizes a one-sided tone and displays contentions for a specific thing in that section. When you distinguish the author's stand, you will be able to make sense of the responses to the required question.

11. Commiserating

This kind of tone is used to express pain or show sensitivity for a man or a gathering of individuals experiencing partial practices or social standards. The writer plans to familiarise the reader with the trauma experienced by the sufferers

12. Condescending/Patronising

A condescending tone suggests a mentality of patronizing superiority of a specific thing/individual/gathering. As you would expect, such RC sections may show snobbish or contemptuous tones with respect to things considered inferior in the author’s point of view.

13. Cynical

Do you have a tendency to talk about individuals you find doubtful? Here comes the part of the skeptical tone. Sections are written in a negative tone to uncover the writer's perspective of society being driven purely by self-interest. 

14. Dogmatic           

You should have some solid convictions and points of view with respect to specific parts of life. In what sort of tone will you talk about them? This is the place one-sided tone becomes an integral factor. At the point when the writer is self-assured with respect to his sentiments, he utilizes a fanatical tone to pass on his perspective.

15. Euphemistic

How would you express your despising or contradiction without being hostile or blunt? In such a case, metaphorical tone acts as the hero. RC sections in this sort of tone make use of indirect and implicit statements.

16. Grandiose

As the name suggests, this type of tone is adopted by RCs written in a descriptive or abstract style. The passage may appear more elaborative than necessary. Also, sometimes abstract passages utilize a grandiose style of writing.

17. Introspective 

How would you talk about analyzing your feelings or contemplating your actions? Well, an introspective tone is used in the passage so as to self-examine and reflect upon one’s actions and feelings. You may find this as a common tone of reading comprehension in exams as well.

18. Incendiary/ provocative         

You may have come across some famous speeches by great orators and found their words moving or soul-blending. Well, that’s an incendiary tone into play. It’s the tone of speech that is also utilized by revolutionaries and politicians. In other words, a provocative tone is intended to affect individuals in a negative or positive course.

19. Laudatory:        

How have you commended something or somebody you respected? That is the way that a commendatory tone sounds. Regularly, descriptive passage accepts this sort of tone in order to talk about a specific subject alongside specific justification.

20. Pedestrian

When a passage looks neither interesting nor complex to you, probably it has a pedestrian tone of writing. In other words, this kind of tone is used when the RC passage talks about commonplace, things, and ideas.

21. Populist

As the name says, a populist tone is used to discuss theories and characteristics exhibited by the general populace. The author of the passage utilizes a populist tone to explain the features and behavior of common people.             

22. Sarcastic/satirical/ironical/taunting

Try expressing your disliking indirectly and without sounding too serious. All things considered, a lot of us have talked along these lines at one time or the other. At the point when the author expresses a negative feeling about something in an insulting or unexpected way, he utilizes a snide tone in the section.

23. Speculative       

We do read different articles in daily papers monetary, political, and so forth. Also, RC sections throw light on any such hypotheses that embrace a theoretical tone of composing. Putting in different ways, such passages revolve around hypothetical things and expert opinions.


I hope you found this article on some of the important tones of reading comprehension useful! Overall, remember that the best way to understand the tone of any passage is through the practice of reading. When you become an avid reader, you read through soo many moods and tones, that you will be quick to recognize any passage and its context quickly. You will not even require to remember these set tones of reading comprehension, it would come automatically to you!

That is why we recommend that you read at least one passage every day. You can read these from online websites like Aeon.com, The Guardian, etc. or you can always rely on handy newspapers. Try reading the editorial sections, especially of these newspapers, the sentiments and concerns expressed by experts for relevant topics can help you understand the tones of the passage very well. If you are new to reading or don't find these interesting, pick up short novels of different genres and give them a try. Either way, you have to read! and believe me, it isn't as difficult as it sounds.

So go get a good cup of coffee, grab a paper or novel and start your reading marathon! All the best.

Also read: Strategy to solve Reading Comprehension in CAT

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Rahul Singh

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