As you study for the GRE Verbal section, you’ll be doing a lot of reading. Unlike the Sentence Equivalence or Text Completion questions, you can get a great score on the RC questions even without an impressive vocabulary. A little strategy can go a long way on the GRE Verbal section, so use these GRE strategies on your practice GRE questions to get one step closer to your graduate school admissions goal!
Begin with the Topic and the Scope. The topic should be obvious within the first 1-2 sentences of the passage. Look for the noun that appears to be the focus of the sentence. Is the topic a historical figure, a scientific phenomenon, a business plan, a social theory, etc? The scope is a little more specific than the topic. What about the topic interests the author? Think of the topic as the top of an umbrella. The scope shows the parabola of the umbrella and describes what would and would not fit under it. For example if our topic is “radiocarbons” maybe our scope is “theories about how carbon dating works.”
The Tone is either Neutral or Strong/Complex. Look for the adjectives the author uses to describe the topic, and the main topics of the individual paragraphs. What does he/she like or dislike? Look for descriptive phrases, and write down a “happy face” or “sad face” symbols to track the opinions and how they change or develop. Does the author introduce other people’s opinions? In harder passages, the author will have mixed feelings. He may feel overall positively towards the topic, but have certain specific reservations. It’s also possible the author is removed from the passage, and takes on a more neutral/scholarly tone. Don’t worry if the opinion is subtle – just select answer choices that reflect that.
Go back to the passage for Detail questions. Refer back to your passage map and the specific paragraph that contained the detail. Try to use your notes on that paragraph as a prediction FIRST, and only delve back into the passage if the answer choices are too narrow. Try to use the information in your passage notes as a prediction first. It is often enough to help you eliminate the four incorrect choices. Only if absolutely necessary should you re-read the specific lines of the passage.
Write down the Purpose as soon as you finish reading. Main Idea questions ask about the main points of the passage, and accompany almost every passage on the GRE. These questions require you to understand the purpose of the passage as a whole, so make sure to write down your idea of the Purpose as an infinitive verb before you move on to the first question. The answer choices will only confuse you.
Inferences are based on Implications. As you read each paragraph, take notes not only on what is directly stated by the author, but also on anything he implies by his use of certain words or phrases. Look for any descriptive adjectives that will reveal the author’s opinion, and trust your own impressions. Think of a passage like a body of water. There is always much more going on beneath the surface.