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Reading Comprehension GMAT Question Types

Nearly all GMAT questions fall into distinct types:

Macro Questionscover general issues
I. Main Idea
II. Purpose of the Passage
III. Tone
IV. Organization of the Passage
V. Category of Writing (Advanced)
VI. Identity of the Author (Advanced)

Micro Questions—refer to specific elements of the essay
VII. Detail of the Passage
VIII. Definition of a Term or Phrase
IX. Support for a Premise – Proof and Evidence
X. Function of Part of the Passage (Advanced)

XI. Inference

Solving Macro Questions

To answer a macro question, you need to understand how the major parts of the passage fit together. This is why we use Five Questions (The Five Steps):

Question 1. What is the passage type?
Question 2. What is each paragraph about?
Question 3. What is the organization? Create a mental road map.
Question 4. What is the Big Idea?
Question 5. What is the author’s purpose?

The Five Questions are an effective means for answering macro questions because they enable you to focus on the passage’s “big issues.”

As you read the passage, look for answers to the Five Questions. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to answer the macro questions without going back to the passage. You will then have plenty of time for answering the micro questions.


These techniques are an effective means for answering micro questions as they enable you to focus on the essay’s details.

1) Find the section of the passage that is relevant to the question (often this is highlighted for you).

2) Use information in the relevant section to select the correct answer choice.

How to find the relevant section of the passage:
Usually, the GMAT writers help you out and highlight the relevant text of the essay. When there is no highlighted text, micro questions will contain words that help you find the relevant section of the passage.

Watch for Synonyms
Usually in micro questions, the correct answer choice will paraphrase or rephrase the supporting text. For example, consider this excerpt:

. . . My parakeets, Herman, Herman II, and Herman III, were an important part of my childhood. Their deaths taught me that life was fragile—and precious. . .

Rarely will you see questions like this:

Question: What did the author’s parakeets teach him about life?
Correct Answer Choice: They taught him that life was fragile—and precious.

The GMAT will usually not repeat text verbatim; rather, the answer will usually rephrase the supporting text.

Question: What did the author’s parakeets teach him about life?
The correct answer will likely NOT be worded: “They taught him that life was fragile—and precious.” Rather, the answer will rephrase the supporting text, such as: “They showed the author that life was delicate and something to be valued highly.” The correct answer choice should rephrase the relevant part of the passage.

If you see an answer choice that uses the same wording as the supporting text, check it carefully. It could be a decoy. An answer choice can repeat the passage verbatim and still be incorrect. Often the words will be rearranged or used in a different context. In fact, especially for medium and high scorers, an answer choice with the exact wording as the passage should be cause for suspicion.

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