GMAT Tip: Reading Comprehension

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The GMAT Tip of the Week is a weekly column that includes advice on taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, which is required for admission to most business schools. Every week an instructor from a top test-prep company will share suggestions for improving your GMAT score. This week’s tip comes from Brian Galvin, director of academic programs at Veritas Prep.

Because reading comprehension questions often involve rather dense passages, many GMAT students find them to be intimidating. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. By keeping in mind a few simple tactics, you can minimize the chances of getting bogged down by a seemingly tricky reading comprehension passage.

First, bear in mind that most reading comprehension questions are best addressed by re-reading a portion of the passage, and often the correct answer choice is a paraphrase of text from the passage itself. Even within the paraphrasing, key words will often remain, such as scientific words and jargon specific to the subject at hand.

Obviously, if a question refers to one particular paragraph, then you will know that you should re-read it. If the question is so general that you could return to multiple paragraphs or the entire passage, then you should narrow the field by eliminating the obviously incorrect answer choices. Remember: If you can go back to the text, you want to do that.

Second, to help you know which paragraph to return to, and to help you comprehend the passage as a whole, you should stop at the end of each paragraph and very briefly summarize it in your mind before you move on. One way to do this is by writing down a handful of words that describe the main idea of each paragraph. This will help fix in your mind what was in each paragraph and will help you return to the correct paragraph when possible.

Do not try to make up time on the actual reading of the passage. It may feel as though you’re saving time by skimming, but this is almost certainly time you will lose later, when you need to go back and read the passage in detail every time you answer a question.

Brian Galvin has been with Veritas Prep since 2006 and since then has devoted himself to developing new and better ways to help students master the GMAT. He has earned a 99th percentile score on the GMAT and has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in education from the University of Michigan. He has taught high school history in Detroit, worked in sales and marketing for the Detroit Pistons NBA franchise, and has completed an Ironman race.

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