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Ways to "bblast" the GMAT RC.

Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:08 pm

Elapsed Time: 00:00
The RC forum is the most doomed place on BTG. People never come here. Even, the AWA forums are more active than this place.

I think I am pretty good at one domain of the GMAT- the reading comprehension. So I am coming up with this post to help all of you who
are looking for guidance in RC's. This is a way I wanna give back something to the forum. I'll start off with a few basic strategies and then
address any specific queries that people have.

Materials to be covered.
1>Start with the Official guide 12. Buy a cheap timer and time an an RC progressively as per the number of questions. OG-12 has 24
2>Switch over to the official guide verbal review. It has 18 passages.

Additional material :
1>Search for OG-10 somewhere. It has over 50 passages. Most of them are covered in OG-12 and OG-Verbal but a good 10-15 fresh
meat(New RC's) are available in OG-10.
2>Do the GMAT prep RC's attached at the bottom of this page.
3>You can use the Aristotle RC-99 for reading practice only. This book will improve how you read and discern data, however dont fret too
much over answers and explanations and ambiguous stuff. Use this book at the start of ur prep if u are on a long 3-4 month budget. Else
bunk it.
4>Manhattan RC book. If you want order this book. Some cool stuff on strategies and 7 good passages with super explanations at the end.

Of course doing the official guide or any other RC passage without explanation is useless. Time ur passages for 7-8 minutes, but review each
passage for 20 mins. Try to recognize the pattern of questions on the Official guide.

Strategies :
1>As soon as you see an RC quickly see the time on the upper right and write it down on your scratch pad- do not work more than 6 mins
on small passage and 9 mins on long. the 1st and second RC will have 3 questions-3rd RC will be looooong and will have 4 questions, 3rd RC
will also be quite challenging so keep 8-9 minutes for this passage-if you are about to get 40+ then fourth RC will also be very challenging(3
questions), but the questions will be realatively easier due to the cruel content.

Above format will always be true. I can even provide you with approximate Question numbers at which you will see RC's (dont dig that
much)!!!!On gmat prep 1st RC always appears at question 6 and ends at Q8. On exam last month I saw the first RC at question 5 . Past
saturday I saw the first RC at question 7. I have given the gmat prep multiple times and GMAT thrice- The patten never changes. Some
people claim to have seen 3 long passages on the test. I'll tell you the scientific reason behind this. The monitor size and display resolution
at the test centre are different. So some of the small passages appear larger to you and appear with with a small "page down bar". These
passages would appear the usual 1/2 to 3/4 of the screen at home on ur laptop, but appear larger on the GMAT.

2>please make notes while u read- the slight pause while u look down to write something helps u comprehend the passage better.

3>Read the first and last lines of each paragraph extra carefully- they will almost always have a detail question attached.

4>Dont read as if u are reading the economist or WSJ. The passage will twist and curl from one direction to another, so pause for 2 secs at
these points and make sure u are noticing where the story is going.

Question types :
I am pretty sure you people know the question types, here is a short jist of major ones.
A> the passage suggests........ - this means u have to answer a diffcult question; the answer to which will NEVER be stated in the passage
but indirectly has to be concluded.

eg->1st paragraph on a passage on heart/smoking says that certain bacteria can pass through almost impermeable heart membrane - last
line of 3rd para says that nicotine from smoking can attach itself to SOME bacteria.

Question - The passage suggests which of the following regarding effects of smoking ?
correct answer- nicotine can sometimes get though the impermeable membrane of the heart.
distorted incorrect answer-Nicotine always reaches heart via bacteria carriers.

B>"according to the passage"........- this will always be exactly stated in the passage in some other terms. be sure to look back into the
passage and VERIFY before hitting next.

C>Main idea- this one has to encompass all 3 paragraphs of a long passage. A very common trap is to describe some stuff in para 1 and 2.
Then give some other explanations in the 3rd para. A wrong answer choice will include the main idea encompassed in the 1st two para's.
And the right answer which looks wrong will be surprisingly correct for a simple reason- it has some elements from all 3 paragraphs !!!

D>it can be inferred - this is a simpler variant of "the passage suggests" crap.
So, it will be great if u try to differentiate between question type under headings I have listed above.

Final note- Dont take 3rd party test prep RC's too seriously. GMAT and OG passages have a strict pattern and style which other prep
companies fail to reproduce. So stick to official sources for REAL rc prep.

How to time GMAT and GMAT prep RC ?

Here is a small sample :

RC1 start time 66 end time 59. 7 minutes 2/3------------------------------------CIO women
RC2 start time 49 end time 42. 7 minutes 3/3------------------------------------Volcano
RC3 start time 33 end time 26. 7 minutes 3/4------------------------------------Snakes
RC4 start time 16 end time 11. 5 minutes 3/3------------------------------------Health care
Above data is from GMAT prep-1 . I used to write start end time on my scratch pad. I did this for 3-4 GMATpreps and then the timing
problems in RC were history for me. Towards the end I started writing end time beforehand on my scratchpad. So I was working within a
small time frame for each particular RC.

In sum :
I have to wrap up my bschool application in the next month so I am not able to compile the GMAT prep RC in once place as I promised in
my debrief. But I will certaily do that later. For now here are 18 of the GMAT prep RC's on a webpage. Caution - DO NOT USE THIS

Please click on the link and then convert the page from Chinese to English. If you are using Google crome the option will already be
presented to you .

GMAT RC: Eliminating Wrong Answers


Learn tips for simplifying your approach to GMAT Reading Comprehension


Of course, on any GMAT question, eliminating wrong answers is always to our advantage. There are myriad methods of

eliminating answers in the Quant section: because of the constraints specified in the question, the answer must be

negative, or greater than 7, or divisible by 5, or etc. On Sentence Correction, one eliminates by identifying splits among
the answer choices. On CR, there are fewer clear cut rules for eliminating answers, and some students may feel there are

essentially no clear cut rules or procedures for eliminating answers on RC.

Patterns among incorrect Reading Comprehension answer choices

Despite this perception, there are some discernible patterns that RC incorrect answer choices follow. Learning these

patterns and mastering them can be a huge boon on test day!

1) Emotional tone

The tone of virtually everything on the GMAT verbal section is balanced, measured, and reserved. This is the tone of most

professional business writing. Think, for example, if a business executive described a colleague or competitor in

flamboyantly emotional language: that executive would probably be risking a law suit! Even strong praise and strong

criticism has to be couched in subtle, understated language. Everything in the RC passages will reflect this balanced tone,

and all the correct answers will have this balanced tone. Any answer choice that has any emotional charge to it must be

incorrect. Examples of answer choices with this flaw:

that the sponsor of the new bill despises people who exploit the poor.

that the factory workers union was elated by the new retirement package.

Without even knowing the passage or the question, we can tell these would be wrong answers. The words despises and

elated connote very strong emotions, and this is far too strong for the tone of GMAT RC.

2) Unrealistic scope
Philosophers and religions throughout history have regularly made universal claims about life, the universe, and

everything. Even natural scientist make universal claims within their subject area: every electron in the universe has a

spin of 1/2. The claims in the business world are far more modest. The modern global economy is an extremely

complicated system: no one thing is ever the only cause of a vast system of changes. No economic rule holds in every

case without exception. The claims in economic discussion tend to avoid universal or universalizing claims. Therefore, any

answer choice which extends an argument to an unreasonable extent is quite likely to be an incorrect answer. Examples:

as the price of an item rises, the demand always decreases.

the Presidents policy is responsible for all the economic problems of American cities.

every employee in the factory is opposed to managements surveillance plan.

Again, we need neither the passage nor the specific question to recognize these as incorrect choices. The first seems to

invoke a law of economics, but fails to account for its exceptions. The second discusses something that account for all the

economic problems any modern post-industrial economy is far too complex for any one factor to account for all the

economic problems of anything. The third one is particularly interesting: its easy to imagine that a surveillance plan

would be unpopular, that perhaps the majority of employees didnt like it, but we always have to be careful when talking

about everyone. There are often folks who are completely clueless: eight months after the surveillance plan has been in

operation, they still may be totally unaware of it. There are also folks who are deliberately contrary, and enjoy disagreeing

with everyone else. Unless the passage indicated explicitly that 100% of the employees, every last one, responded in the

same way, its a vastly unwarranted assumption that all the members of any group would agree unanimously on anything.

3) Very fancy language

Sometimes, the GMAT will try to intimate you with fancy language. One pattern of incorrect choice involves high-level

vocabulary and specialized terminology. The answer will not be correct, but it will be a potent distractor, because folks

think: gee, I dont even know what those words mean, but they certainly sound clever! That must be right. This one is

less universal, but when you see an answer choice loaded with difficult words, that should certainly send up red flags. For


the author inveighed against the hermeneutical underpinnings of the CEOs assertion.

Regardless of the passage, regardless of the question, I can guarantee this choice would never be a possible correct

answer in any conceivable GMAT RC context. But, gosh, doesnt it sound fancy? That is precisely what will tempt many

GMAT takers to choose it. The word inveigh is not only difficult but also fails according to the first criterion discussed: it

is emotionally too strong. The word hermeneutical is incredibly obscure, relevant in only certain abstruse academic

fields, and does not pertain to anything discussed in the modern business world. If you see an answer choice loaded with

words you dont know, in your mind, mark it tentatively as wrong, and return to it only if every other answer choice fails


4) New idea
This can be a tricky one. Sometimes, a RC answer choice will mention or discuss something that wasnt mentioned at all in

the text. This new idea will be clearly related, in some way, to what was discussed, but never explicitly mentioned. For

example, suppose the passage is about the difficulties related to the Civil War that Lincoln faced during his presidency.

Then, a brand new idea, not discussed in the passage, could concern: the challenges of any other wartime president, or

the challenges Lincoln faced concerning domestic issues only tangentially related to the war. The new idea has to be

close to what was discussed in the passage thats what makes it tempting but technically, it was never explicitly


Ideally, you will read the RC passage thoroughly once, summarizing in brief notes, and thereby be familiar enough with the

content to recognize immediately such an answer. Assuming you are in the habit of reading thorough the first time, then if

you read an answer it triggers a Gee, I dont remember that being mentioned feeling, dont doubt yourself and

immediately accuse yourself of overlooking it. Rather, know this is a pattern for incorrect answer choices.

5) Doesnt answer the question

This can be the most devious type of wrong answer. This will be a statement that is 100% consistent with the passage,

completely supported by the authors discussion. The trouble is: it doesnt actually answer the question posed.

Suppose, once again, the passage is about the difficulties related to the Civil War that Lincoln faced during his presidency.

Suppose the passage explicitly discusses General Burnsides inadequacy as a Union general, for example, at the Battle of

Fredericksburg. Now, if the individual question concerns, say, the challenges resulting from disagreements among

members of Lincolns cabinet concerning matters of the war, then an answer choice along the lines of Lincoln was highly

critical of General Burnsides performance at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Well, that issue was certainly explicitly

discussed in the passage, it is a completely supported assertion, but it has absolutely nothing to do with disagreements

among Lincolns cabinet. That is a hypothetical example of this very tricky type of GMAT RC wrong answer.


The more familiar you become with these patterns among the incorrect answer choices, the more efficient you will be in

dispatching one GMAT RC question after another. Heres a practice question.

Resources Available:

Rhyme's "How to Destroy Reading Comprehension" Strategy - Recommended!

Gin's RC Strategy
How to stay focused on RC by Knewton
GMATPills RC Pill - the only video approach to RC demonstrating reading and thinking process
OG 12 contains 24 passages with 139 questions and Verbal OG has 18 passages followed by
104 questions
Manhattan GMAT RC

The only RC dedicated book

Comes standard with online access to 6 CAT tests and RC Question bank (7 passages
and 25 questions)
Includes 14 total passages in the book to practice plus reference to the OG 11/OG 12.
PowerScore Verbal Bible - contains a section on RC - not much RC practice though - just a few
Kaplan Premiere - contains a section on RC that has 8 passages/50 questions plus additional
exercises online. There is alsoKaplan Verbal Workbook that contains additional RC passages and in-
depth strategies. (I used this approach)
Cracking the GMAT Cat by PR - includes several banks of verbal questions mixed together
PR 1012 - 30 passages with 150 questions split by passage type (science, business,
humanities, etc)
LSAT RC - this is really HARD and is used very rarely, but I thought I'd give you a full picture
GMAT Fiction - a collection of fiction books to help (esp. non-native speakers) master the RC
review of Aristotle's RC99 - by rishiraj

Reading Comprehension Strategies:

1. Read the entire passage very carefully first.
I prefer this strategy (it helped me to get from inconsistent 50% correct RC to about 80-90% and eventually in 96th
percentile in verbal). It is outlined in various amount of details in Kaplan, PowerScore, and MGMAT books.
The idea is fairly straightforward - while critically reading the passage, you build a mental map, stopping to
paraphrase after each paragraph and at the end to quickly summarize the passage. The strategy also involves
critically reading - meaning constantly asking why a certain sentence/phrase is there, how they add to the
development, and change the tone. It is important to master each of these elements before actually trying to put
the entire strategy together. At first it does feel awkward - almost like wearing an armor suite that is clunky and
seems useless - useless until GMAT shoots an arrow at you that is. Some of my challenges were questions such as -
why do I need to stop (waste valuable time) and paraphrase the passage? (that answer comes in gradually). Also,
how to actually stay interested and keep my thoughts from wandering around as I read? And finally - how to read
critically? It took a while to learn to pick every word and notice subtle differences in tone (words such as however,
but, still, and examples help reveal author's true intention). I trusted the strategy and strangely enough it worked.
I could see improvement within just a week. My performance became a lot more consistent and the strategy was
becoming a lot more natural. I was also starting to catch little traps planted in the text and noticing tone a lot
more than before.

It is also good if you can start reading regularly to train your ear. (See this post for my recommendations on
reading material I call GMAT Fiction). If you are not a native speaker, you should keep a notebook and a dictionary
handy to keep track of all the new words you encounter. Some of them you will meet over and over in the book, so
it will be much faster to look up. For international students, my recommendation is 1-2K pages within a month to
get your mind tuned and prepped to absorb large quantity of English passages. Also, many recommend
WSJ, Economist, NY Times, and other magazines, but I found those too short and very boring. Though the passages
were hard, i could force myself to read only a few articles before my mind would start wondering somewhere else.
with books this did not happen, so I preferred that option.

2. Skim the passage briefly.

This is another RC strategy. As Princeton Review puts it - "spend no more than a minute or two reading the entire
passage." (Cracking the GMAT Cat)
The goal is to create a mental roadmap of the passage and get a very general idea about the tone and layout and
then go back to the passage to answer each of the questions. This strategy works for a number of people but did
not work for me. I could only use it if I were really short on time and had to pick my battles. In my experience
GMAT passages are always tricky and it is not easy to figure out if the author is arguing for or against a certain
point by simply skimming the text.
1. Always read the First and Last sentence more carefully no matter what. GMAT passages are very structured and
the first stence will always contain the main idea and set the tone.
2. Watch for trigger words such as "but, however, still, regardless, nevertheless, although" and others
3. Always ask yourself why the author put this example here
4. Pretend that you are very interested in the reading material or another option is to play a game with the author
and try to prove the author wrong - pick at every word
5. Always know what the main idea of the passage is, even if the questions are not asking for it
6. It helps to know the vocabulary but you can make it - as long as you know all of the tone and general words, you
will be able to tell author's direction. Specifics may not matter, though again, I have found that good vocabulary
helps on RC
7. Do whatever it takes to help you read/remember the passage better - write summary notes (even if you never
go back to them), paraphrase each paragraph or even sentence, etc.

Common Pitfalls:

More often than not, the most typical second best answer choice on the RC will be out of
scope. I found it quite amusing and made a game out of it (I know, I am a bit over the top with RC
but it was the hardest section for me to master). After a while, I can very quickly (i.e. immediately)
pick out an answer choice that goes outside of the scope of the passage as a general question
(purpose/title/etc) or even a more specific one.
Another catch/trap you will see quite a bit is reliance on "trigger" words. For example, the
passage will spend 2-3 sentences on one point and then at the end will flip it with a "but",
"however", or another "trigger" word. This is designed to catch those who skim/skip or don't read
attentively and is really a big reason to read the passage attentively (in my view) vs. just rushing
through it. For example, a passage may talk about how the number of accidents has been growing
and that many people have been injured in the last year in car accidents and at the end, say "but
death rates have declined" and an example of a trap would be an answer choice that would say
"Injuries and fatalities are rising as the result of car accidents."
Finally a more subtle way to get many of us to pick the wrong answer choice is making the text
very heavy fact-based with long complex words and terminology, which distracts from the simple
task of analyzing the passage and asking why each sentence is put where it is put. Sometimes, you
can get to the answer by just looking at why a certain sentence is in a certain spot. However, most
focus on facts, understanding/remembering which minerals or microbes live in which environment,
etc. The facts and dry details are there not to test your memory/knowledge of the subject but rather
to distract and not let you see the passage structure clearly.

Common Mistakes with RC

1. Not following a strategy or changing
it on the test - biggest issue
2. Poor English vocabulary/skills - if you
don't know what you are reading, how
do you expect to answer the questions?
3. Taking too much time to answer each
4. Having to re-read the passage
multiple times

GINs RC Technique
Downloaded from
I will start my humble verbal suggestions with RC, mainly because I believe the importance
of this section is not well understood and there are too many theories. Again the following is
my own technique(it may not be 100% original of course) and should be used with

First some thoughts on RC,

Out of the 3 verbal question type RC is the easiest to explain to a person who does not
know anything about GMAT. Few years ago,I was talking to a friend of mine who was
curious about GMAT and asked me about question types in verbal,SC,CR and RC. When I
finished explaining RC , she said:''So it is just understanding what you read'' . She will
never be a gmat guru but she was right. At the end of the day,GMAT RC,despite its question
types,word games,close answer choices,is about understanding what one reads! So in
theory if you are clever enough to understand all you read you should get all RC questions

Yet, my humble opinion is that most testtakers, the ones who get 20-35 and who think RC
was easy, make many mistakes in RC. Unlike SC, RC is very sneaky and doesnt make you
feel you are getting questions wrong.

RC also carries a huge importance for the timing in verbal section. If you plan to solve an
RC within 5 minutes,when you dont really understand the passage ,that time doubles
immediately. Whereas, you can always pass a SC question by looking at the difference
among choices, if you dont know where the info RC question is based upon in the passage,
you are doomed. Worse: The additional time you spent in RC wears you out , decrease your
morale. Please check your verbal mistakes, it is very likely that you will get more CR and SC
wrong right after a horrible passage! At least this was happening to me.

Also, my experience with gmatprep tells me RC and CR mistakes are more damaging to the
verbal score than SC ones(even after accounting for the disproportion in question number)


Overall Approach

I read so many general approaches to RC,

- Skim passage fast, then read very quickly answer qs. - Skim passage,read first and last
sentence of each paragraph - Read first question first,then read passage answer first
question immediately then read the rest of the passage.........

My opinion: This is not the way to go if you are serious about RC and your verbal score.
So,the following is my general approach and I repeated these 2-3 times just before the
verbal section on the test day.

1) Start to read(:)this is great advice,no?) SLOWLY. This was one of the best advices I
have seen. I read this somewhere dont remember. It is crucial. You wanna solve RC as
quickly as possible so you rush into the 1st paragraph, read it in 20 sc and move to the next
and basically=> You have no idea about what to expect next,you have no idea about
author's position, no clue about author's goal.

2) Paraphrase with exaggeration! You should think for 1-2 seconds in every 2-3
sentences and repeat your understanding in your own language. But when you paraphrase
add something to it. When you repeat your understanding in your own language, say
something in your mind that will make you remember that. For example, if author says
scientist A was wrong. I paraphrase this in my own language: Wow look at this author , he
says this stupid scientist made wrong assumptions.Lets see why?.... It may sound silly but
it is very effective. This exaggeration also keeps your attention at high levels.

3)Related to the previous item: Reading with the desire to learn and at least agree or
disagree with the author! In almost all passages, either the author or the people
mentioned argue for X and some other people argue for Y OR there are two things described
and author gives evidences etc.
It is not easy to stay focused in a long RC passage, to achieve this,I always tried to take
sides,when possible, and criticize either the author or the other parties... Since I like
arguments and discussions, this technique helped me follow turns in the passage, evaluate
evidences and claims, expect what might come next. So, simply, take sides.(even in a
neutral passage that just describes a phenomenon,you can find a way to stay focused by
using number 2 and 3 above). Never ever read a gmat passage as if you are reading
newsweek. What all gmat books tell you is => Read to learn?! But how??? Once again,I am
repeating, the only way to read to learn is to TAKE SIDES and CRITICIZE,QUESTION,MAKE

4)Take notes. I didnt take notes at all on my first gmat. I thought I wont refer to those
notes anyway why bother?? I took notes this time, did I refer to the notes? NO!So what is
the importances of notes. For me, notes are useful in that they help you undertand the flow
of the passage. They can also, help you understand info given a bit better since you think as
you write it down(but make sure you think and dont just copy and paste to the sheet!).
Dont take sophisticated notes,here how my notes would look like(of course passage is made
1962, New England: Feminist VS Politicians, Policitians X(for me ,this cross means
something negative that is all,so it might mean dont like,oppress etc) feminists
Feminists fight protest
Samanda K. +++ (means something + so support here) feminists! BOOK.
BOOK DIFFERENT than Contemporaries BEC. 1,2,3( I would just write 1,2,3 to make sure I
remember 3 reasons are given)

BUT(I would write turning points very big) AUTHOR SAYS NO! SAMANDA STUPID!



My notes would be a bit longer but definitely they would not be easy to read anyway.So my
notes serve their purpose the moment I write them,that is it. MAKE SURE YOU TAKE

5) Last and extremely important point in the overall approach: Once you finish the passage,
the biggest mistake you can make is to go and read the question immediately. I know you
say what the hell I will do??? Well, here it is,take 10-15 sc,scroll up, and just
remember what you just read in 1-2 words per paragraph and visualize the flow of
the passage for the last time.So for the above made up passage, my recap would be,





This step is so crucial and helped me so much I dont know what else I can do to make you

These steps may seem time consuming,but trust me on two things

- Other techniques will cost you more time overall,you will need to dig and search for
info,get frustrated, lost concentration. And still get more questions wrong

- Also:)) believe me you wont be able to apply this approach 100% under the test
conditions so it wont be that time consuming. YET,developing this systematic approach is so
important, it will help you a great deal even if you dont follow each step to the max.


Tough RCs: Lets first define tough. For me, tough RCs means RCs that reduce my
accuracy rate from above 90% to 60-70%. Toughness is not directly linked to the length,
structure or topic of the passage. I call an RC tough when I am unsure of 2 of the 4 answers
I just gave!!! So whenever you see the word tough in the following explanation,
remember what it means in this context.
How RC becomes tough: I identified two(and 1 unique) major ways GMAT makes RC
tougher and causes your verbal score take a dive towards low 30s.

a) Double or Triple Trouble: Who- What -Where-How-Why?

If you start annoying GMAT verbal, it will throw you one of these Double/Triple trouble
passages. These are passages where you are presented 2 or 3 theories, items, animals,
events at the same time. This is still okay right, so GMAT does another thing, it talks about
2-3 attributes of these 2-3 main things. So you might have a bug which can fly but can not
walkJ then you might have a bug which can walk but can not flyJ , then the first group can
have members which are red but die at young age, then others in different colors but die
old,the second group might have members which have a thick shell in red and reproduce
young, the other members have no shell and reproduce when they are old etc.
This is the first trick GMAT uses. It overloads you with similar but different information for
all the main things(bugs,events, people, theories etc) in the passage. Most people would
say there is no need to understand those details,I say it is very important to understand the
main differences between these groups as you read the passage. Passing these sections is a
fatal mistake. (please ctrl+f this word in 1000 RC doc. Macropterous, give yourself 7 mins
for the passage you found)
What I do: I try to;
-Identify points of difference (how do they differ) and also parity (how they are similar)
between these different things. Is it the time they die? Is it the whether they have a shell?
Is it their color?
- Depending on the situation, I wrote down main points and try to undertand where the
author focuses and gives examples etc. I then paraphrase (again using exaggeration)
my understanding.
-Also, I try to think of the questions I may get? This is critical. You should practice this in all
RCs you solve and trust me it will not only help you know the questions in advance but also
improve your understanding of the passage.
-In my first actual gmat and earlier prep tests I used to not read these comparisons and
think these are details I have to disregard. What a mistake!!! Read this very carefully, it is
correct that in RC you dont need to read all the details. BUTTTT not all details are
nonsense info that author is not interested in!!!! If author gives details to prove his case or
to explain an issue, you better damn read those details and read them well. Simply put, if
you feel author is trying to say something to you, try to understand that section of the
passage very well.
Rule of Thumb: If you read a long paragraph and except for 2-3 lines you understood
everything, should you feel confident??? NO! RCs are designed in a way that you and I
dont get some sections of the passages and believe me the questions will be directly from
those 2-3 lines of the passage that you didnt understand. As I said above, this will
happen especially with passages that compare/descrive two three things. I accept that
knowing what is superficial detail and what is important detail is not easy but if you work
with tough RCs you will be so good at this, trust me.
One last thing that can further complicate these passages and that is used in CR as well:
Naming names:)Simply put, the passage says red bugs with shell at the beginning then
somewhere in second paragraph(by the time it refers to all different bugs and makes your
brain go crazy) it refers to the same bugs as hareklisnese. Or it talks about different
books/authors and all of a sudden starts calling that one of the book/author by another
name. And it does this without really warning you. This of course complicates things and
becomes deadly if you are already frustrated with all the details you get and you dont notice
the sudden change in names!
Last advice: Dont think not drawing a small table in 20 sc will cost you more time than
not taking notes will! At the risk of overgeneralizing, I am saying that if you dont fully
understand: What,Where,How, Why aspects of these tough passages, you will be literally
guessing, even if you dont admit. Try macropterous, you will see what I mean. These are
just like the 50-51 quant questions you solve in math section, why do you give 5-6 minutes
to 1 question in quant but not spend 20-30 sc to draw a simple table in a 51 verbal

b) Close Answers

Sometimes the passage itself will be easy to read, probably passages on business or social
sciences etc., since the passage is easy you will relax and your attention level will drop.
Then , when you start reading the questions you will say: Damn, I understood everything
how can I not answer these questions?. The second GMAT trick in RC is to give the test
taker an easy passage with very tough questions with answer choices so close one would
need to think of the meaning of 1 word etc. to click the right answer.
Cases in point are the Role of Gender in Africa etc RC in the new sets (key words Ghana-
Kenya role of women and) and Women Education in US, a discussion about an author
RC in old sets.
When you get these passages, understanding the passage is not enough. No matter how
carefully read the passage, how effectively you take notes etc. You will have to evaluate at
least 2 probably 3 answer choices. They will be very close. To trick you even more, GMAT
will make the 2 choices as follows

a)Half of this choice will be exactly true and will be put in a very good format. So if author
described a book , half of this choice will say, author described a book!!! So you will go: Oh
this is 100% true so this might be the answer. Yet the other part will be blurry, it will use
words from the passage . Your brain will remember those words and also the halo effect
created by the first half(which crystal clear & correct) will make you think this is the answer.

b) This answer choice will not be so crystal clear, maybe it will say author introduces an
issue and give examples,( this part will be okay but still not as good as the first part of the
answer choice a) then the second part will be even less appealing but you wont think it is
incorrect , you will feel it is just not that direct and good looking as the answer choice

In tough passages you will always face this dilemma: YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO
DESCRIBED ABOVE!!! GMAT knows that your brain will remember few words from the
passage and also that you will prefer more direct and good looking answer. In the
above example, answer choice a will be wrong because one word or one part will be wrong.

What I do: First,since I know I will do well in verbal, I know that when GMAT gives me an
easy to read passage=> Answer choices will be close!!!. I spend less time on the passage. I

Then when answering questions, I wrote on the paper the choices I eliminated (I do this in
verbal when things get messy and tough) and the two left! Then I use POE by focusing on
single WORDS!!! Not on the complete answers. And I always ask myself: IS THIS REALLY
TRUE? If answer says author questioned the validity of a theory I directly ask: Did the
really do that? NO=> one word is wrong,the whole thing is wrong. Remember this rule if the
one piece of information,verb used to describe an idea,event etc. is wrong , the answer
choice will be wrong. Doesnt matter whether the rest,which might be 90% of the answer
choice, is correct and very nicely put in words!!!!! One word wrong=>GONE.

The last thing I do, I pay attention that I am extremely confident! Dont be confident if you
dont know anything. But if you know a lot, you have to be very confident to eliminate the
other answer choice! No matter how many questions you solve, unless you have the
extreme confidence, YOU WILL BE STUCK BETWEEN TWO ANSWER CHOICES (this is correct
in CR as well).

Once again I repeat, business, social sciences etc. passages are easy to read and
will definitely have close answer choices. Dont relax when you read these
passages if you wanna nail the next 4 questions!

In your prep, try to solve business and social science passages as well,dont just focus on
science passages. Remember topic does not make a passage easy or tough.

C) Satiric/Unclear Tones: Just a short advice: Sometimes, the author will use satire
or will write in a way to disguise his tone==> you wont be able to understand what he
really thinks,normally it should be easy but still: If you notice author is using satire/unclear
tone and you dont really understand what he thinks. STOP READING! UNDERSTAND WHAT

Applying all the techniques I mentioned above,I gradually improved my speed from 9
minute for long and 7 minute for short ones to 7 minutes for long and 4-5 minutes for short
ones. I generally spend 3 or 3.5 minutes to read long passages and max 2 minutes
for short passages. I try to give questions around 1 min. Yet if I feel passage is easy to
read I speed up and leave more time to the questions. Also, if passage is a really messy one
and I feel I am getting lost and wont be able to answer questions, I definitely spend more
time on the passage.

so=> Adapt your timing not only according to the length of passage but also according to
how you go with reading it. If you feel you can crack the passage in 3 minutes and
questions in 3 minutes, dont spend more time just because you feel you did not spend
enough time.

One more tip, if you are aiming for 7 min in the real thing, aim for 6 in the practice, you will
surely exceed your ideal timing in the real test. Give yourself a safety margin.

FINAL TIPS(not in order of importance and some points may have been discussed

- ALWAYS identify different parties in the passage. How many organizations are being
mentioned? What are their position? Be aware of the different names and titles used in the
passage. DONT go and reread those sections to learn ''what/who is what/who'' when you
get a question that uses 2 different names from the passage. Know each party and just go
back to the passage to confirm your answer.

-In primary purpose,main idea etc. questions. DONT USE ANYTHING BUT POE. AND ASK
to do with passage,e.g(extreme case) main purpose of the passage?
a) describe .....b)evaluate
If the author has just listed the results of a research but did not evaluate them, b can not
be correct!!! Be aware of this verbs etc.

-DO NOT DISMISS a weird looking answer right away. Especially the ones with a critical
word you dont know. This is one of the biggest trick of GMAT. No one ,even native
speakers, can not know the meaning of all words=> GMAT puts one weird word in the
answer , you feel none of the other choices make sense,but since you dont know the
meaning of that word you can not click and confirm. FOCUS ON THE WHOLE SENTENCE ,GO
in CR question,it is a mean thing to do but I have seen it in many tough questions) . DONT

- VERY IMPORTANT: In inference and suggests.. questions, you will be given a word or
sentence from the passage or the question will be related to a person or something
mentioned in the passage: NOW,EVERY DECENT GMATTERS KNOWS that one should go that
part of that passage and read 1 or 2 lines below or above. BUTTT not everyone knows this:
USES DIFFERENT NAMES FOR THE SAME THING). If you do this you will see that most
difficult inference questions becomes piece of cake because once you have all information
from different part of the passage, your job is just to choose the correct info. Most people
just read 2-3 line above and below and then say " what the hell, none of this mentioned in
here!!!". WORST....: GMAT is so clever,since it knows you will just read those lines, one of
the answer choices uses the info mentioned in those lines but it is actually a bogus answer
which is half true ,half false. REMEMBER if you are asked a question about black bears and
you are given line 34 as reference, read those lines then check whole passage for black bear
and synonyms used to refer to these animals!!! This is the only way to beat these tough
inference questions.
- Suggest questions...are generally easily solved by going to the passage and just picking
the info. But note that some ''suggests'' questions are actually inference questions. If you
feel none of the answer choices makes sense in a ''passage suggests''question then think
about the possibility that it is a tougher question,a hidden inference question.(apply the
previous technique).


- A comparison. Japan is ....yet most of other asian countries....

The comparison may be more subtle. Just keep your eyes open.

- What others think about X(author,thing,book,research,finding). RCs are all about

opinions!!! Always understand the opinions mentioned in the passage. OPINIONS AND

- WHYSSSSSSSSS? If author talks about something and then he gives REASONS for a
position,belief etc. or maybe he talks about an event and gives REASONS==> YOU HAVE
TO REMEMBER THESE WHYS... e.g Dr. Lokaromof left Russia in 1915 when he was 32
and moved to Finland,where he was able to express his identity much more freely in the
democratic environment he lived in for 35 years. Yet,Karamov claims Lokaromof was
enjoying free.... in Russia before 1915 anyway, Karamov agrees with previous scholars in
that Lokaromof left Russia for his first love Helsinkia!

If I read this , I make mental notes of 3 things: Russia was not as good for this guy as was
Finland(free envir.democracy etc). COMPARISON But this is not necessarily the reason he
left. REASON?The reason has been an issue discussed by scholars. A guy,(about whom
author will talk more I guess), agrees with previous scholars etc.. OPINIONS

Of course, I summarize this in 3 sc and my mental notes are much shorter but wanted to
write in full here.

- Examples/Analogies/Interesting stuff: If the author starts to explain an issue and

gives examples,uses analogy or talks about something striking!!! open your eyes, you will
get a question from there!!!

- SHIFTS: Everybody says pay attention to the connectors such as but, however etc. to
notice the shift in the passage. I say, guys forget about hunting words, you wont even be
able to differentiate words when you are going for above 42 in verbal. JUST FOCUS as I said
earlier,takes sides, if you take sides, you wont have to notice any words. You will feel even
the slightest change in the passage. EITHER SUPPORT THE AUTHOR( say to yourself,this
author thinks just like me, I like this guy...) or CRITICIZE the AUTHOR( what a jerk, where
the hell he comes up with this....). WHEN A SHIFT OCCURS, MAKE SURE YOU PUT A SIGN in

Tips continued
- For the prep, Do not solve all 1000RC etc. Just use ctrl+f to search for questions you are
weak at. If necessary read one passage just for 1 question!!! There is no point in solving
many ''suggests'' that questions if you are already good at that. REMEMBER THE MORE YOU

- This tip is also valid for RC.

==> If you feel like, none of the answer makes sense

- You are not reading the question right.You are misinterpreting the question or the
answer choices.
- Your intepretation of the relevant part of the passage is wrong.
- Close your eyes for 1 sc,take a deep breath and look at the question with a fresh mind.
DO NOT STARE AT THE QUESTION for minutes,you wont get it, if you are looking at it from
the wrong angle. DONT PANIC,there is nothing that is impossible to do on GMAT. It is just
understanding what you read. You can surely crack it,just stay cool.

==> If you feel like there are too many answers

- You understood the question and passage correct but you fail to notice the minor
- Everything sometimes really depends on the meaning of 1 or 2 words. When you face
a dilemma between 2 choices,treat it as a SC question, focus on the differences between
choices,if necessary write down the main verbs etc.

In terms of prep, last 2 tips,

- DO ALL , I REPEAT ALL STICKY RCs in scoretop RC forum.


- When you finish reading this whole post, take notes from it and just use whatever suits
your style. Develop your own techniques.

Attitude: Read each gmat passages on the test as if they are given to you by Harvard or
Stanford admission committee and your admission depends on your understanding and
critique of these passages. Show them that you can UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU READ.



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How to Study for GMAT Reading Comprehension


Reading Comp. Facts

Fact: A typical GMAT Verbal Section will have four Reading Comprehension passages, among batches of SC & RC. Each Reading Comprehension question

has a batch of 3-4 questions with it.

Fact: Short Reading Comprehension passages are typically 200-250 words, and typically have 3 questions. Long RC passages are typically 300-350

words, and typically have 4 questions. A GMAT Verbal section usually has 3 Short passages and 1 Long passage, although in rare instances it could have

two of each.

Fact: Passage may concern the natural and social science (e.g. from textbooks or journals), the humanities (e.g. from books or academic articles), or the

business world (e.g. economics, sales, human resources, etc.) In no case are you expected to have outside knowledge of whats in the passage.

Fact: The primarily skills RC tests are (a) the ability to determine the main idea of a passage; (b) the ability to draw connections between facts and

concepts; (c) the ability to extend the pattern, to see where the argument is heading.

Fact: The GMAT presents RC on a split screen. On the left side is the passage: it will have a scroll bar if its long. On the right side, one question at a

time will appear. You will always be able to see the passage in its entirety, but you can only see one question at a time.

Fact: Virtually all RC questions fall into one of the following six categories:

(a) find the main idea (this is almost ALWAYS one of the questions)

(b) supporting ideas/details why did the author mention such-and-such?

(c) inferences with which new statement would the author agree?

(d) analogical applying information in the passage to a completely new and different situation

(e) logical structure does author support a new idea? contrast two ideas? shoot down something traditionally accepted? etc. etc.
(f) tone the emotional color with which the author presents the material is the author enthusiastic? critical? optimistic? etc.

GMAT Reading Comprehension Strategies

Strategy #1: GMAT Reading Comprehension is not a speed reading contest!

Give yourself 2.5 minutes for short passages, and 3.5 minutes for long passages. Every time you read a passage, set a timer for this time, so that you

get used to it: you will find that these times let you read at a relaxed that allows for thorough comprehension, while still affording a minute per question.

Strategy #2: Map, dont memorize!

When you read, your job is to determine (a) the main idea of the passage, and (b) the topic/function of each individual paragraph. Create, as it were, a

map of the passage, from which you can locate details if the questions address them.

You do not need to memorize the vivid details of, say, Hesseldorfs new theory of the evolutionary changes in mammalian digestion at the onset of the

Pleistocene; you just have to know: where does the passage go into detail about that factoid, so if a detail question arises, you can go back to that place

and re-read. Your goal is to read the whole passage once, at a relaxed pace, and re-read only specific detail passages as necessary.

Strategy #3: Take notes!

This is one strategy many people fight tooth and nail. When you read RC passages, take notes on scrap paper. Write down the main idea, in ten words

or fewer (symbols & abbreviations that make sense to you are fine). Write down the topic of each paragraph, in ten words or fewer. This seems like it

would take more time, but when you practice this skill and get efficient at it, its actually a time-saver overall.

On the real GMAT, you will get a erasable packet and dry-erase pens: many folks find this is helpful for calculations on the Quantitative section, and the

principal use on the Verbal section is for taking notes on Reading Copmrehension questions.

Heres an excellent way to see how good your notes are. Read a passage, taking notes. Then, without even looking at the questions, put that passage

aside. The next day, with just your notes and without rereading the passage, try to answer the questions: you probably wont be able to answer detail

questions, but if your notes are any good, main idea questions should be easy.

Strategy #4: Read the first question first

One suggested strategy is: before your read the passage, read the first question - not the answer choices, good god! but just the question. That

way, you will have it on your radar. In particular, if the first question is a detail question, you will have your antennae up for that detail as you read.

Not everyone finds this helpful. Experiment, and see what works best for you.

Strategy #5: Read!

Especially if RC is not your thing, then read every day. Read hard challenging reading even outside your GMAT prep.

TheEconomist ( is, for a variety of reasons, probably the best weekly journal to

read regularly.

For science reading, both Scientific American and National Geographic are excellent sources. If you have a friend who majored in a discipline different

from yours, ask to borrow a couple textbooks and ask for their recommendations of good chapters to read. After you read it, your friend may even be

willing to quiz you on the text.

Wikipedia is another virtually inexhaustible source of challenging reading. Pick a famous scientist (e.g. Linus Pauling, Marie Curie, Barbara McClintock,

etc.), follow the link to one of their discoveries or theories, and read that thoroughly. Or, pick a famous historical figure whose name youve heard but

about whom you know nothing (e.g. Cardinal Richelieu, Suleiman the Magnificent, Eleanor of Aquitaine, etc.) and read thoroughly about their role in

history. Or pick a discipline about which you know nothing, follow a link to one of the important ideas in that discipline, and read about it thoroughly.

Theres no end of cool new stuff to learn!!

See also

= The most important RC strategy

= Strategies for the six RC question types

= The Secret Sauce of RC success

Heres a practice question to try out:

More from Magoosh

Reading for the GMAT: The Economist

GMAT Reading List

MGMAT Reading Comprehension (Guide 7) Book Review

Curiosity: The Secret Sauce of GMAT Reading Comprehension Success

By the way, sign up for our 1 Week Free Trial to try out Magoosh GMAT Prep!

About Mike McGarry

Mike creates expert lessons and practice questions to guide GMAT students to success. He has a BS in Physics and an MA in Religion, both from Harvard,
and over 20 years of teaching experience specializing in math, science, and standardized exams. Mike likes smashing foosballs into orbit, and despite
having no obvious cranial deficiency, he insists on rooting for the NY Mets.

13 Responses to How to Study for GMAT Reading Comprehension

GMAT Reading Comprehension Technique: Read Carefully Once


GMAT test takers have a variety of ideas and suggestions about how to tackle the challenge of GMAT Reading Comprehension. Some like to skim, or to

speed read, or to read the first paragraph carefully and skim the rest. Perhaps there are individual test takers for whom each of those is a valid

approach. For most people, though, I think there are three words that summarize the core of the RC strategy that will be the most successful for the

widest variety of test takers. At Magoosh, we recommend: read carefully once.

Basics of GMAT Reading Comprehension

Just as a reminder. Your GMAT Verbal section will have 41 questions, which will be split approximately equally into the three question types: Sentence

Correction,Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension - about 13-14 of each. The RC questions, obviously, will be clumped around passages. A

short passage (200-250 words) typically has 3 questions, and a long passage (300-350 words) typically has 4 questions. On your GMAT section, you

most likely will see three short RC passages and one long passage, although you could see two of each.

Reading the RC passage

What we recommend at Magoosh is: take time to read the passage actually to read it. This would be 2.5 minutes for a short passage and 3.5 minutes

for a long passage. From now on, in all your GMAT RC practice, set a timer when you read to convince yourself that these times are, in fact, ample for

digesting a passage. GMAT RC is not about speed reading. It is not about a mad rush through a passage. It is about actually reading in precisely the

way you will have to read articles and memos once you have your MBA and are out working in some management position. You want to be able to read

it once and get what you need. Yes, you may have to go back and re-read a specific part to answer a detail question, but your first reading should be

enough to give you the layout of the whole passage.

You goal is in reading is to follow the argument and understand it, but not to memorize. Map, dont memorize! As you are learning, the practice of

note-taking can help you develop this absolutely crucial skill. Students resist practicing with note-taking, thinking it will take more time, but in the long

run, mastering the skill of map dont memorize through note-taking is one of the biggest time-savings on the entire GMAT.

What notes do you take? Write down the main idea, preferably in ten words or fewer. Feel free to use arrows, symbols, any shorthand code that makes

sense to you. Write down the main idea of the passage very briefly, and write down just as briefly what each paragraph is about. This is your map of

the passage. Eventually, you will be able to dispense with the physical notes and do this entirely in your head. This is important to practice: DO NOT

plan on doing on mapping a passage the first time on test day. Practice note-taking every time you read a GMAT RC passage, until you can seamlessly

create a mental map every single time.

Here is one excellent test of your note-taking ability. One day, read a passage, at the relaxed speed we recommend, and take notes on it. Put those

aside. A day, or a couple days, later pull out just those notes, not the passage itself, and try to answer the question from the notes. Of course, you will

not be able to answer every question, but from your notes, you should be able to answer any main idea question easily, and for detail questions, you
should have a good idea about where you would re-read in the passage to find that specific information. Over time, you can perform this same practice

with your mental maps read it once and set it aside - maybe not a day later, but a little later, say, after a couple math problems - then without

looking back at the passage at all, answer a main idea question. Practice this way, and you will become someone who dispatches batches of RC question

with lightning efficiency.


Read the GMAT RC passage once. Read it carefully, for understanding. Take notes, to learn how to extract a main idea and create a map of the flow of

the passage, and use your map to locate details you need. You can practice right now on this free question.

Strategies for the 6 Reading Comprehension Question Types


Virtually all GMAT Reading Comprehension questions fall into these 6 categories.

1) Find the Main Idea

GMAT asks this question about almost every passage in RC. This is the number-one RC skill, which you need to practice over and over again. It will help

to read at a relaxed pace (2.5 minutes for a short RC passage, 3.5 for a long passage). It will help to practice taking notes. It will also help to practice

repeatedly, checking the official answers each time and reading the explanation in the OG to understand, whether you got the question right or wrong.

2) Detail

The role of the second paragraph is , The author mentioned the life cycle of wombats at the end of the first paragraph in order to

This is not entirely different from the first question type. The main idea is what informs the entire passage, what drives the whole passage, so any detail

mentioned has to support the main idea in some way. To answer a detail question, you need to know the main idea, and you probably will need to go

back and re-read those particular sentences to see how it plugs in to the main idea.

3) Inference

Good authors are not explicit about everything: while they say something things directly, they imply others. Inference questions test your ability to read

between the lines, to figure out what the author is implying.

On the GMAT be careful to stay hyper-faithful to the passage. Any correct implication is something that was not explicitly stated but must be true. It

must be a direct logical consequence of what was said. If the passage says, Ben has been to every country in Europe at least once, we cant

necessarily infer that Ben enjoys traveling maybe Ben hates traveling but has had to travel for work, for example. An undeniable implication is: Ben

has been to Portugal at least once. Thats the level of logical undeniability that you should seek in inference questions answer choices.

4) Out of Context

Some of these questions will present a new concept, one not discussed at all in the text, and ask you what the author would think about it. Here, you

need to have deduced from the passage the perspective and preferences of the author in order to answer this question.

The questions may also ask you to compare something in the passage to a hypothetic example from a completely different situation. The compromised

situation of the raccoon described in line X is most like , and then the correct answer could be something like a ballerina with a broken foot. In these

questions, you are asked to abstract out all particulars, and focus on what is essential to the situation or relationship in its most austere logical form.

In both cases, however seemingly remote the focus of the question is, the correct answer should still resonate with the authors main idea.

5) Logical Structure

Some questions will ask about the structure of the passage as a whole: Does the author present her own new idea? Does the author contrast two ideas,

showing evenhandedly the strengths and weaknesses of both? Does the author sharping criticize a particular position or perspective? Sometimes this

question is phrased as: what would be the best title for this passage?

Here, the main idea and paragraph summaries you formulate for your notes will be invaluable. Another huge help will be the logical direction words

moreover, although, ironically, but etc. Always pay attention to these words when you read anything, to the way they shape the passage, and

you thereby will start to develop an intuitive sense of the logical structure of passages.

6) Authors Tone

This is tricky, because unlike the extreme opinions typical of nutcases in the media, all the opinions and perspectives of GMAT authors will be moderated

and nuanced. An author who judges something promising is wildly enthusiastic about it. An author who deems something less than satisfactory is

completely slamming it. An author who finds something troubling is essentially pee-in-his-pants upset about it. If vivid emotions are bright colors,

then GMAT passages dont get any more colorful than pastels. Pay attention to any words that have any emotional charge: these are the ones that will

allow you to figure out the tone.

Its also important to remember: the tone in the passage will avoid extremes, so the correct answers to tone questions will avoid extremes as well. If the

correct answer to a tone question is skeptical, wrong answers could include dismissive or vengeful, words that simply are two extreme for the tenor


Practice Questions
GMAT Reading Comprehension Strategy: Everything Except


Focus on this difficult question type

One common question on GMAT Reading Comprehension is something along the lines: In this passage, the author argues all of the following EXCEPT

that . . . What strategy can we use to take on this frequent and difficult question?

Think as the test-maker thinks

Think about the folks who write the GMAT. When they write a question that says, The passage said all of the following EXCEPT . . ., what kinds of

answer choices do they have to have? Four of the answers have to be clearly and unambiguously in the passage; these four have to be anchored with

direct textual references. For those four, the four that are not the answer to the question, you will be able to find clear evidence in black-and-white that

the passage does talk about it.

Patterns of correct answers

The answer choice that is the correct answer will be something that doesnt appear in the passage exactly like that - but, it will resemble the other

answers, insofar as it frequently will use keywords and jargon from the passage.

One favorite pattern is to scramble the words from one part of the passage so that they say something that not related to, or even contradictory to, what

the passage said. For example, in a passage about tin production in Brazil and copper production in Chile, it would be easy for not in the passage to

swap things around, making a statement about tin from Chile or copper from Brazil, Brazils tin sales to Chile, Chiles copper sales to Brazil, etc. etc.

Another favorite trick it to take a sentiment from the passage and make it more extreme. Extreme is never right on GMAT Reading Comprehension:

everything is about moderating, balancing, considering all points of view. For example, consider a passage in which the author pointed out some of the

advantages of the Dvorak keyboard over the traditional QWERTY keyboard. It would be too extreme, and therefore a good not in the passage answer,

to say that the author suggested that the Dvorak keyboard is clearly the best keyboard layout available today.

Keep these strategies in mind, and soon you will be dealing with these questions with everything EXCEPT difficulty.

Heres a free practice question of this genre:

GMAT Reading Comprehension Questions: Making Observations vs. Inferences


Consider the difference between these two seemingly similar questions:

1) According to the passage, Company Xs revenue has declined over the past five years because of

(A) the advent of new competitors with a technological edge

(B) the rising cost of raw materials

(C) gross misspending at the managerial level

(D) a combination of rising taxes and fees

(E) the publics declining interest in this particular product.

2) The passage implies that Company Xs revenue has declined over the past five years because of

(A) the advent of new competitors with a technological edge

(B) the rising cost of raw materials

(C) gross misspending at the managerial level

(D) a combination of rising taxes and fees

(E) the publics declining interest in this particular product.

Obviously, we cant actually answer either of these, because we dont have a passage here. The point is to discuss strategy.
Questions About What is Said
The GMAT Reading Comprehension will ask you global questions (i.e. about the whole passage) and specific questions (focusing in one line or one

detail). Some specific questions in fact, perhaps the single most common question contains words like According to the author . . . or According

to the passage . . .These are questions asking you for what the author actually and literally said. For example, if one sentence in the hypothetical

passage says: Although Company X had been a model of efficiency for decades, its revenues after 2002 fell as new competitors, armed with the latest

digital technology, claimed ever greater portions of the available market. Here we have a sentence that literally says revenues . . . fell (i.e. a decline

in revenue), and explicitly states the problem is competitors with better technology. BAM! Question #1 has answer A. Its stated in black-and-white.

Thats precisely what we are seeking in this Reading Comprehension question type. When you see according to the passage, you are not speculating or

connecting the dots for yourself. Rather, you are looking for what explicitly appears, in black and white, often in very much the same wording, in the

passage itself. What is actually, literally stated in the passage? That should be the focus on these Reading Comprehension questions.

Questions about What is Implied

The GMAT will also ask specific question about Reading Comprehension passages along the following lines: The passage implies that It can be

inferred from the passage that These questions are asking you for something not literally stated. Be careful here. You will never be asked to make

large logical leaps. You will never be asked to bring in your own knowledge of a particular field. What you will be asked to infer will something unsaid

but obvious to any intelligent person.

For example, consider the sentence: From selling the number one brand in the late 1950s, the company declined in both market shares and revenues,

finally filing for bankruptcy in 1970. One clear implication would be simply: that companys product was not the number one brand throughout the

1960s. While this is not explicitly stated, it would be impossible for the explicit sentence to make sense at all if this implication werent true. Thats the

kind of deduction the GMAT will ask you to make.

The tricky thing is: what is implied in Reading Comprehension is not always located in a single sentence. Sometimes, you the reader must contrast or

combine a fact from one paragraph with another fact from another paragraph. The idea is similar though: putting these two ideas together, what would

any obvious person conclude? Thats the sort of implication the GMAT will ask you to find.

Now, consider question #2 again:

2) The author implies that Company Xs revenue has declined over the past five years because of

(A) the advent of new competitors with a technological edge

(B) the rising cost of raw materials

(C) gross misspending at the managerial level

(D) a combination of rising taxes and fees

(E) the publics declining interest in this particular product.

Suppose the hypothetical passage has these following unconnected sentences (paragraphs given in parentheses).

(Par #1) As the Eastern Bloc cut off economic access to these resources, all companies in the field faced soaring prices for the raw materials.

(Par #2) In the early 1970s, Company Xs upper management made several disastrous economic moves, repeatedly pouring tremendous amount of

capital into research areas that scientists has already declared futile.

(Par #3) In the late 1970s, amid the ravages of run-away inflation and increasingly fickle consumer preferences, only those companies buffered by years

of wise leadership were able to prevent their revenues from falling off in the crisis of those years.

A few of the ideas in the answer choices are mentioned (rising cost of new materials, the publics declining interest), but they are mentioned in

context applying to all companies in the field. In paragraph 3, the passage explicitly links only . . . wise leadership with prevent . . . revenues from

falling. That does directly imply: companies with poor leadership did see their revenues fall. The sentence in paragraph 2 gives us specific evidence of

bad leadership at Company X, bad leadership in the form of poor spending decisions of considerable magnitude. Therefore, the direct unambiguous

implication is that Company Xs revenues declined due to (C) gross misspending at the managerial level.

Not explicitly said, but what any intelligent person unambiguously would infer thats exactly the level of inference for which you are looking on these


Heres are two GMAT Reading Comprehension questions, one of each genre discussed above:

Practice an According to the passage question

The Two Most Common Reading Comphrehension Question Types [#permalink] 15 Aug 2013, 15:57

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Once you have developed a good way to read the passage, the next step in reading comprehension is to develop a way to attack the questions. First and
foremost, test takers should be able to translate the questions into a question that is answerable by them. This means understanding what the question is
asking you to do and the subject of the question. The two most common question tasks that the GMAT asks are: what did the author say
about and why did the author do this. If you can put your question into either one of these categories you will help to set up your
thinking before you move on to the next step, predicting the answer.

The most common question type on the GMAT asks some form of what does the author say about When you are confronted with a question that asks this,
you are essentially looking for a paraphrase of information within the passage. Your main goal will be to go back into the passage and find the information

Some examples of questions that ask what the author says are:

According to the passage, young apes use their strength in which of the following ways? The use of the words according to the
passage indicates that the question is asking what the author said about the topic. This question can be translated into What did the author say was a
way young apes use their strength?

Similarly, the question The passage suggests which of the following about monochromatic photos uses the key words the passage
suggests to indicate that it is asking a question about what the author said. This question should be translated to What did the author say about
monochromatic photos

One especially tricky one is the word infer, or inference. The question it can be inferred from the passage that a study limited to children under 6
years of age would have which one of the following advantages over the study presented by Dr. Coop? On the GMAT, inference is just
another way of asking the test taker to paraphrase information from the passage. The question above can be translated to what is the advantage of a study of
children under 6 to that of Dr. Coop?

A final common question that asks you to paraphrase is which of the following statements about the modernization of the telephone exchange is
supported by information in the passage? Asking what is supported by the passage is just another way to ask for a paraphrase of
information contained therein.

Once you have determined that the question is asking you for a paraphrase of information, your next task is to go to the passage and retrieve the information
necessary. Easier questions will have answers that closely paraphrase the information directly from one section of the passage and harder, more complex,
questions may require you to find two pieces of information from different parts of the passage and combine them into one paraphrase. It is important in your
initial read of the passage that your summary give you an indication whether one topic is discussed in multiple paragraphs so that you can be sure to check if a
combination of information is appropriate.

When you go back to the passage to look for the information, your goal is to get a sense of what the answer should be before you start looking at available
answer choices. You dont have to have a full answer ready but you should know have some idea of the content that could or should be in the answer choice
for it to be correct. If you do not open yourself up to predicting the answer in some form, you are leaving yourself open to the traps the test writers often
leave for you.

The second most popular question type is that which asks why did the author do something. One of the most recognizable version of this type of question is
what is the primary purpose of the passage? This question is often mistaken for a main point question but instead should be viewed as a question
directly asking why did the author write this? Was the authors objective simply to convey facts, or does he want to convince the reader to take a particular
action, or does he want to debunk a popular theory. There are many reasons why an author would write a particular passage but focusing on the why
generates a very different result than focusing on what he said. Looking for the primary purpose will require looking at words other than the main point

There are three main purposes for writing an article, to convince someone of an argument or course of action, the refute an argument or to simply present
facts and come to a factual conclusion.
When the author is attempting first and foremost to convince the reader of an argument or a course of action many of the paragraphs will come to a
conclusion. If the author uses sentences such as clearly the Bonobo Ape is the supreme primate or therefore, investors should use caution when purchasing
California Bonds indicate that the author is attempting to convince you of something with the facts he is presenting. Several paragraphs of this type regarding
the same issue indicate that the purpose of the passage is to advocate this position.

When the author is refuting a position, the author often begins by describing that position and then using words such as however, but or yet to introduce his
point. When the passage uses these
shifts in language alone with negative descriptions of the point of view he is rebutting, it becomes more clear that his purpose is to rebut that point of view
instead of simply promoting his own.

When the author is simply presenting facts, or discussing an issue, the passage will generally have few, if any conclusive language clues. These passages tend
to list more facts and contain less words of opinion; any conclusion reached in them will be of a more factual, dispassionate nature. Many of the Science
passage fall into this category.
Looking at the way in which the author presents his information, and paying attention to the words outside of the specific subject matter is a good way to
predict the answer on a primary purpose question. Of course, beyond knowing the basic argumentative purpose of the argument, you will also have to have a
firm grounding of the subject matter discussed and the authors opinion on that subject.

The Final question type explored in this article is specific questions that ask why an author used a specific word or introduced a specific fact. These questions
often contain the words in order to. For example, one such question from the Official Guide reads The author of the passage mentions the
supervision of schools primarily in order to. It is important to differentiate these questions from the specific what questions mentioned in the
beginning of this article because they are asking a very different question and ask a test taker to look for the same types of clues mentioned in the primary
purpose questions directly above. Looking at indicator words can help you to determine the authors purpose in using specific facts. For instance, the author
mentions chimpanzees in order to can be translated to why does the author mention chimpanzees. This is a very different question from what does the
author say about chimpanzees. Again, looking at the surrounding language is an important factor to determine why an author mentions something. If he uses
words such as for example or consider before the terms then, he is adding the term in as an example for something that was most likely described above.
If instead he starts the sentence with the term, or simply introduces facts about it without any introductory words then he is most likely mentioning the term
in order to convey a fact about it.

To see the difference between these two types of paragraphs consider this set of sentences:

All primates have opposable thumbs. Consider the chimpanzee, which uses its opposable thumbs not only for climbing trees but also for peeling bananas.

Chimpanzees use their opposable thumbs not only for climbing trees but also for peeling bananas. This anatomical adaptation allows it much greater versatility
when living in the wild.

In each of the precedeeding sets of sentences the author mentions the same fact about chimpanzees. However, his purpose for doing so is drastically
different. In the first sentence, the use of the word consider makes it clear that he is mentioning chimpanzee as an example of one of many primates that
have opposable thumbs. His purpose is not to explain the thumbs but instead to prove his assertion. In the second sentence, there is no introductory language
and in this sentence the author mentions chimpanzees in order to tell you about the uses of their opposing thumbs. Think about this in opposition to what the
answer to a what type question would be. For instance, if the question had asked according to the passage what is a characteristic of the chimpanzee? In
this case the answer would be the same regardless of whether you were looking at the first sentence or the second sentence. The answer would be that a
characteristic of the chimpanzee is opposable thumbs.

Of course, this is a small example and there are many variations on this theme. Regardless of the variation, it is important to know whether you are answering
a question about what the author said, versus why he said it. Clarifying this in your mind before you go back to the passage to predict an answer will make you
more accurate in your predictions, and if practiced regularly will make predicting the answer an easier task.

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