How to Beat GMAT Reading Comprehension

April 11, 2014
Kaplan GMAT

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There are some fortunate beings among us who seem to thrive on GMAT Reading Comprehension problems. The rest of look on with veiled mirthless smiles at these blessed souls, all the while muttering under our collective breaths, “what, are ya nuts!” If you’re like most of us mere mortals, Reading Comp is a complete pain: long, nearly incomprehensible passages on subjects about which we know little or nothing, and care even less, followed by inscrutable questions that seem to have been devised by the Sphinx herself.  What’s to be done to tackle this part of the Verbal section?

How To Beat GMAT Reading Comprehension

Well, if you’ve looked into any part of the GMAT with the least little bit of attention, you will have noticed that this beastly test is filled with recurring patterns, and, though widely varying Reading Comp passages hardly seem likely to harbor repeated patterns, the questions that follow each passage are loaded with patterns.  There are big overarching patterns that provide structure to the questions you are asked. Patterns determine the nature and features of the questions.  And if you know anything at all about the wily ways of the wicked and perfidious test designers, you know that they love to throw tricks and traps in your way.  But Ha hah! Here’s where you win and they are hoist by their own petard: there are patterns to the kinds of traps they throw into the answer choices.

GMAT Reading Comprehension Question Types

A survey of the types of questions you can get in Reading Comp reveals that well over 90% of the questions in this problem type fall into just four categories:

  • Global questions, which ask for the main idea of the passage
  • Detail questions, which ask about something explicitly stated in the passage
  • Inference questions, which ask you to find the one irrefutable answer choice, based upon the information in the passage
  • Logic questions, which ask why in the heck the author brought up some detail, or included some particular paragraph in the passage

That list of question types is itself a recurring pattern discernible to anyone who takes inventory of the questions, but there’s an underlying secret pattern that you can use to your advantage: most of the questions focus on the author’s purpose, so if you can at least identify her main idea as you slog through the passage, the author will guide you to the right answer in three out of four of those main question types. Stay tuned for my next blog entry, where I’ll take you through  what the right answers look like in these question types.

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