IBEW Reading Comprehension Test: Overview, Sample Questions, and Helpful Practice Tips

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This is a complete preparation guide for the IBEW reading comprehension test.

In this post, you’ll find:

What to Expect in the IBEW Aptitude Test Reading Comprehension Section?

The reading comprehension section includes 36 questions to be answered in 51 minutes, and it’s the second test after the IBEW math test section.

The section consists of short passages followed by multiple-choice questions that evaluate your:

  • Ability to understand written text
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar

How High Should You Score on the Reading Comprehension Section to Pass the Test?

The score you’ll receive on the IBEW electrical aptitude test is combined (math + reading), meaning you must do well on both sections to pass the whole test.

The minimum passing score for the entire test is 4/9. It means that you need to score in the top 4-ninth of test-takers to get invited for an interview.

That being said, it’s not always that straightforward.

In highly competitive locals and unions, only a limited number of open apprenticeship spots exist. So, the candidates who score the highest are the first to be invited for an interview.

Candidates who only pass but don’t score that high are pushed down the line and are contacted only when new slots are opened again. And this could take many months.

That’s why preparing beforehand is important to increase your chances of scoring high and getting invited for an interview fast.

Visit our IBEW test scoring guide to learn more about the exam’s results and see answers to FAQs.

Now, to get a feel for this test section, let’s try a few sample questions (with answers) that assess the same skills as the actual test.

Take this free IBEW practice test for additional reading sample questions.

IBEW Reading Comprehension Sample Questions

Sample Question #1

A growing body of research suggests that the regular, high-level use of more than one language may actually improve early brain development. According to several different studies, command of two or more languages aggrandizes the ability to focus in the face of distraction, decide between competing alternatives, and disregard irrelevant information. These essential skills are grouped together, known in brain terms as ‘executive functions’ and research suggests they develop ahead of time in bilingual children. While no one has yet identified the exact mechanism by which bilingualism boosts brain development, the advantage likely stems from the bilingual’s need to continually select the right language for a given situation.

What is not an example of an ‘executive function’?

A. Lydia calculated the expected yearly revenue of her store with ease.
B. Marvin can easily summarize a complex text.
C. Alan weighed his different options before choosing to study Agriculture
D. Despite the fire alarm going off in the midst of taking her test, Maria got an A

‘Executive functions,’ as presented in the passage, are the ability to focus in the face of distraction, decide between competing alternatives, and disregard irrelevant information.

After identifying the ‘executive functions, we are left to translate the distracters into the corresponding abilities:

The ability to summarize a complex text (distracter B) is a practical translation of the ability to disregard irrelevant information.

The ability to weigh different options before deciding (distracter C) corresponds with the ability to decide between competing alternatives.

The ability to continue concentrating during an exam despite background noise accords with the ability to focus in the face of distraction.

Distracter A does not correspond with any of the three ‘executive functions’ mentioned in the text and, therefore, is the correct answer.

Sample Question #2

Earthquakes happen when plates, or rocks, within the Earth suddenly break or shift under stress, sending shock waves rippling to the surface. Most quakes are unnoticeable by people on the surface. In fact, thousands of quakes occur every day around the globe, most of them too weak to be felt. Severe earthquakes, however, cause widespread destruction and occur on average once every five years. These great earthquakes can destroy cities, burst dams, trigger volcanic eruptions, and set off landslides and giant sea waves. Most occur along fractures in the Earth’s crust called “faults”, and these follow along the edges of major plates, huge slabs of rock that make up the Earth’s lithosphere, or shell.

Which of the following statements is correct?

A. Minor earthquakes cannot be measured
B. Some earthquakes bring large scale devastation
C. All earthquakes occur along fault lines
D. All volcanic eruptions are triggered by earthquakes

Option B is the correct answer: “Severe earthquakes, however, cause widespread destruction and occur on average once every five years.”

Sample Question #3

Water Purification Systems are solid state devices that are found at home or in private businesses, designed to purify drinking water (potable water) and cleaning and bathing water (safe water) in order to reuse them. A water purifier works through the process of reverse osmosis. Water purifiers cleanse water by passing it through a series of filters. This helps remove large amounts of contaminants and other harmful chemicals. The purifier also forces the water through a special plastic covering. The special pores of the plastic covering can block the atoms and molecules of pollutants. Water must go through five distinct stages of sanitation before it is ready to be used at home straight from your water faucet:

● In coagulation, coagulants like lime and alum are added to the water, which causes particulates to clump together.

● Next, the water is shaken into larger clumps, called flocs.

● The sedimentation process requires that the water stand for 24 hours, which allows the clumps to settle to the bottom.

● The water is then filtered, disinfected (usually with chlorine), and aerated.

● Aeration helps to remove certain contaminants like radon.

Choose whether the following sentence is True, False, or Cannot Say:

Five different filters are used to remove different contaminants from the water.

A. True
B. False
C. Cannot Say

The correct answer is “Cannot say.”

While the text states that ”water must go through five distinct stages of sanitation before it is ready to be used at home,” we must not confuse stages of sanitation with the number of filters used to filter the water.

According to the text, ”water purifiers cleanse water by passing it through a series of filters.” Thus, the text does not provide an exact number of filters used in the process, and the answer is “cannot say.”

Many consider the reading comprehension portion the easier part of the exam (although you shouldn’t neglect it as it makes up 50% of your score). Check our detailed guide to see what question types are the most difficult on this test.

Additional Helpful Practice Resources for the IBEW Aptitude Test

Since it’s crucial to score high to ensure you’re getting invited fast for an interview, setting aside time for thorough prep is recommended.

This will ensure you know what specific question types to expect, get used to answering questions under time pressure, and learn efficient solving techniques.

Several test prep companies offer preparation materials for the test. But we found that the best value for money is offered by JobTestPrep IBEW Aptitude Test practice.

This is the only company that provides practice material for the mechanical reasoning questions (in addition to math and reading) that appear in some locals’ aptitude tests.

Get dozens of accurate IBEW practice tests (math, reading, mechanical) to help you pass the exam.

Prep Tips to Get More Questions Right

Here are a few quick tips to fine-tune your performance on these question types:

  • Remember that your answers must rely solely on what’s given in the passages and not on your knowledge. You might come across information you find wrong or inaccurate, but you must relate to it as if it’s correct.
  • Read the questions before reading the passage. It can be helpful to first look at the questions to see what information you should focus on when reading the passage. This can also help save you time by avoiding going back and forth to the passage each time you need to answer a question.
  • Watch out for the clock. The reading comprehension section is considered easier than the math section, but it’s still taken under tight time limits. You’ll have less than 90 seconds for each question, so manage your time wisely so that you’ll reach and answer all questions.
  • Improve your reading speed. Some test-takers might find it difficult to thoroughly understand the presented passages and answer all the questions in the short time allotted. However, this ability can be quickly improved, either by external aids, such as free apps, or by intentionally adopting a “sprint running” attitude while ensuring not to sacrifice accuracy.

Check our IBEW test preparation guide to get 9 additional tips to help you start off on the right foot.


Reading comprehension is the second portion of the IBEW aptitude test, and candidates often overlook it since it’s not as intimidating as the math section.

Despite that, the score you receive on this section is combined with the math portion’s score, so it’s just as important as the math part. And this means you should also set some time aside to prepare for it.

This guide, hopefully, gave you a clear understanding of what to expect in this section and helped you start preparing using sample questions and accurate practice material.