What you need to know about GMAT Reading Comprehension

You will be given four reading passages: two long with 4 questions and two short with 3 questions each.  The passages range from one to four paragraphs in length.

Even though you will be given multiple questions per passage, the questions will be presented to you one at a time and, like the other sections of the test, you can’t go back to a question after you’ve completed it. This means that you CANNOT read all the questions beforehand and then look at the passage.   You can read the first question before reading the passage, but since you can’t do that for the rest, I recommend getting in the habit of reading the passage first.

When reading the passage, you have to be an active reader and really pay attention.  They are short passages, but they are dense and full of important information.  I found it helpful to take notes, but since there is limited time, I recommend using short hand and not spending too much time on those notes.  You will always have the passage to refer back to, so just jot down the outline of the passage and where you can find the information (not what it is) so that you can easily know where you can refer back to get the answers.  When doing this pay attention to signal words, especially those that signal a change in topic like: however, in contrast, and make sure you understand the author’s tone and main point.

It is important to keep in mind that there is often a twist.  If the passage starts out saying that most scientists believe X, then it will usually go into a contrasting opinion.  It is also essential to keep in mind who said what.  The GMAT will try to trick you by asking a question about the opinion of the author or someone mentioned in the passage and providing answer choices that include opinions stated in the passage, but not by the person the question is referring to.

There are a variety of different questions on the reading comprehension section, but the ones that are most common are:

  • General/Main Idea: The author of the passage is primarily concerned with…
  • Tone: The tone of the passage can be described as…
  • Organization: The function of the second passage is…
  • Specific Detail: According to the passage, the insects shed their wings because…
  • Inference: The passage suggests that the insects survive in the winter primarily because…

So, how do you study for the GMAT reading comprehension section?

The best way to study for RC is practice, practice, practice!  unlike other sections of the test, you don’t need to learn any new facts or rules, you just need to learn how to take the test.  You need a basic understanding of the specific strategies for each type of question from a book or a course, but after that, get your hands on as many practice sections as possible.  Another way to help you improve your reading comp skills for the GMAT is to integrate more complicated material like scientific journals or political articles into your everyday reading.  If you want to practice with more difficult 700+ level material try using LSAT passages.

Meet the Author

Eliza Chute

I was always just an average student, but with the right course prep I was able to score a 770 on my first try. I had to wade through a lot of material to find what was right for me, but luckily for you I've done all the research for you! See more on my GMAT courses page.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment