General Strategies for Reading Comprehension

 Reading Comprehension questions make up approximately 1/3 of the 41 questions on the verbal section of the GMAT –approximately 14 questions. These questions come in combinations of 3 or four, and are based on reading passages that range from 200 to 350 words in length. Make sure you know and understand these instructions before you take the GMAT. It will save you valuable seconds. 1. Try to read the whole text of the passage once, if possible. Many people think you should just skim the passage or read the first lines of every paragraph, and not to read the passage. I believe this is an error: if you misunderstand the main idea of the passage, you will certainly get at least some of the questions wrong. Give the passage one good read, taking no more than 3 minutes to read all of the text. Do not read the passage more than once that wastes too much time. If you have not understood it completely, try to answer the questions anyway. Note: this point of reading the whole passage is important for Russian test-takers or for those whose first language is not English, provided that they can read the passage in 3 minutes or less. 
2. Make brief notes on the text on your scrap paper. As we will see below in greater detail, you should write down a couple of words on A) the Main Idea or Primary Purpose, B) Organization/Structure of the passage, and C) the Tone or Attitude of the author (if applicable). You just need a few words for each of these areas, and altogether it should not take longer than 30 seconds to write down. 
3. Remember that the tone or attitude of the passage is usually respectful and moderate, never going to extremes of praise nor criticism. ETS obtains its Reading Comprehension passages from real articles about real academics and professionals. So the tone of the articles, even when there is criticism in the passage toward an academic or her work, is always balanced and moderate. In the same vein, articles that deal with minorities or ethnic groups are almost always positive and sympathetic. 
4. Look out for structural words that tell you the important ideas or transitions in a passage. Continue to look at the Idea Words
In the same way

Conclusion Words

In summary
In conclusion

Contradiction or Contrast Words

Even though
In spite of
On the one hand on the other hand
Unlike 5. Go back to the text of the passage for the answers. Many test-takers fail to return to the text of the passage to look for the correct answers. They rely solely on their memories and understanding of the passage after having read or skimmed it. Wrong. ETS is counting on that. Go back to the text to look for information to answer the questions. Nine times out of ten, the answer lies within the passage. 
More Specific Problems and Strategies in Reading Comprehension Of the 6 most important types of questions for Reading Comprehension, I will cover the Main Idea/Primary Purpose Questions, and the strategies we can use to answer them. Main Idea/Primary Purpose Questions Many people believe there is no difference between the main or central idea of the passage and the primary purpose of the author of the passage. This is simply not true. Let's take a look at the subtle but important difference between them: Main Idea The question might look something like this:

"Which of the following best states the central idea of the passage?"
"Which of the following most accurately states the main idea of the passage?"
"Which of the following is the principal topic of the passage?"
"The main topic of the passage is...."

Primary Purpose

The question might look like this:

"The primary purpose of this passage is to..."
"The primary purpose of the passage as a whole is to..."
"The primary focus of this passage is on which of the following?"
"The main concern of the passage is to..."
"In the passage, the author is primarily interested in...."
"The passage is chiefly concerned with..." Strategy: Main Idea: Look in the first and last paragraphs for the main idea. Any conclusion wordslike therefore, thus, so, hence, etc. that you see are most likely introducing the main idea. The correct answer will say the same thing as it says in the text, but using different words. The Main Idea is not always stated explicitly in the passage in fact, more likely than not, it is not stated explicitly. Therefore, in order to answer this type of question when it is more implicit: Re-read the first line of every passage, and the last line of the first and last paragraphs. This should give you the general structure or outline of the argument, with which you can answer the Main Idea question. After determining the general structure or content of the argument, eliminate answer choices that are too broad or too specific, i.e. answer choices that go beyond the content of the passage, or that deal with content only discussed in one paragraph of the passage. Make brief notes a couple of words- regarding the Main Idea on the text on your scrap paper while you read. Primary Purpose: What is the author trying to do? What is his intention? If he is evaluating a theory, then the answer could be something like "Discuss an interpretation". Note that the correct answer would deal with "an interpretation", because the author is only dealing with one theory. If the Primary Purpose is to criticize 2 new books, then his intention or his primary purpose might be to "Critique new studies". Again, as in Main Idea questions, re-read the first line of every passage, and the last line of the first and last paragraphs. This should give you the general structure or outline of the argument, with which you can answer the Primary Purpose question. Note: A good main idea or primary purpose does not go beyond the scope of the passage, nor does it limit itself to discussing only one part of the passage. Автор: Robert Simmons teaches MBA Advising and GMAT for Pericles ABLE.



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