gmat preparation courses
left image spacer Table of Contents spacer Find Classes & Tutoring spacer 24 Hour Tutor spacer GMAT Forums spacer GMAT Home spacer right image

    Reading Comprehension
  I: Introduction  
  II: The Challenge  
  III: The Five Steps  
  IV: Question Types  
  V: Tips  
  VI: Sample Essays  
   GMAT Prep Course
spacer nav GMAT Guide Contents spacer
spacer nav Application Essay Guide spacer
spacer nav GMAT Essay Guide spacer
spacer nav 5 GMAT CAT Tests spacer
   GMAT Resources
spacer nav GMAT Classes & Tutoring spacer
spacer nav Use the Test Pacer spacer
spacer nav Essay Grading Service spacer
spacer nav 24 Hour Tutor Support spacer
spacer nav GMAT Home spacer

II: The Challenge
  Print out chapter   Print Chapter

Think of the Reading Comprehension section as a reality TV show where you are dropped in the middle of a jungle with no clues about where you are or how to proceed. On the GMAT, a reading passage will be dropped in front of you without any background whatsoever.

Imagine encountering a passage about which:

1. You don't know the title.
2. You don't know the author.
3. You don't know when or where it was published.
4. You can't see any preceding or following paragraphs.
5. You don't have enough time to fully read it.
6. The content is dense, boring, academic, smeared with jargon, and covers a topic about which you have little knowledge (or interest).

….And your mastery of those 150 to 300 words will determine your future business school and career options.

You're going to need a compass.

Reading for a Purpose

The Reading Comprehension passages often are going to be purposely jargon-intensive, distraction-filled, and dense. In college you were taught to read and memorize for detail, but if you read that way on the GMAT, you would get bogged down and run out of time. In order to beat the GMAT, you have to re-learn how to read.

Let's look at one sample sentence:

Most traditional financial-market analysis studies ignore financial markets' deficiencies in allocation because of analysts' inherent preferences for the simple model of perfect competition.

That's just one sentence. You will have to process and parse through sentence after sentence like this, while also preparing for the questions that follow. If you know beforehand, however, what to look for, what to cue in on, and what to ignore in a passage, you will be able to stay in control and not get bogged down. You are not reading the passages for pleasure or to acquire knowledge; you are reading for the sole, cold purpose of answering the questions as efficiently and accurately as possible. So let's take a look at what types of questions are asked and see if they can tell us what to look for in the passages. (Note: We will go over these question types in more detail later.)

Macro Questions - cover general issues (macro is Greek for "large" or "big picture")
1. Main idea
2. Purpose of the passage
3. Tone
4. Organization of the passage
5. Category of writing (advanced)
6. Identity of the author (advanced)

Micro Questions - refer to specific elements of the essay
7. Detail of the passage
8. Definition of a term or phrase
9. Support for a premise – Where’s the proof?
10. Function of part of the passage (advanced)

11. Inference

I. Introduction

III. The Five Steps