GMAT Reading Comprehension: Tips and Tricks

Are you having trouble attempting the Reading Comprehension questions of the GMAT Verbal section? Do not worry, we will list some tips and strategies to help you ace the GMAT Reading Comprehension questions. 

The GMAT Reading Comprehension is not everyone’s cup of tea and there are numerous reasons as to why it isn’t. The most evident reason is that not many students, who are otherwise smart and intelligent, read anything other than what their syllabus prescribes. This leads to poor reading skills which makes answering the GMAT Reading Comprehension questions difficult. We will explore some strategies to ace the GMAT Reading Comprehension. However, first let’s give you an overview of this question. 

GMAT Reading Comprehension: Overview 

The GMAT Reading Comprehension falls under the GMAT Verbal Reasoning section. The Verbal Reasoning section consists of 36 questions, which you have to complete within 65 minutes. This section consists of three question types — Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, and Critical Reasoning. Out of the 36 questions, 12 to 16 questions are devoted to the GMAT Reading Comprehension. 

The GMAT Reading Comprehension tests your ability to comprehend a passage and draw inferences from it. It also assesses if you can understand and analyse the main idea of the passage, its logical structure and the relationship between the statements made in the passage.

A typical Reading Comprehension question will consist of a passage of two to three short paragraphs and will have around 3 to 4 questions based on the passage. To attempt the reading comprehension questions, all you need to do is go through the passage carefully and thoroughly. Apart from excellent reading skills, you do not need any external knowledge to attempt this question type.

 Let us take a look at how you can improve your reading skills. 

Tips and Strategies for the GMAT Reading Comprehension 

Here are some tips to help improve your reading skills and some strategies you can adopt to attempt the GMAT Reading Comprehension:

Comprehending the Passage 

An essential way to improve is by constantly reading just anything every day. Doing so improves your reading skills, which in turn helps you understand what the writer or author is trying to convey easily. You should be able to pinpoint the underlying theme of the passage or story. In addition, you must be able to identify the main idea or statement that the writer is conveying through a passage. 

Practice Selective Reading 

When attempting the GMAT Reading Comprehension, keep in mind that you will find all the answers within the passage itself. To be able to spot these answers quickly and efficiently, you will need to develop an active habit of selective reading. Selective reading refers to the process of reading but with a purpose. In this case, the purpose is to find answers within the passage. You can make use of operative phrases in the question to look for answers within the passage given to you. For example, “what factors contribute to the depletion of mental health?”. The operative phrases or keywords in this question are “factors contributing to the depletion of mental health”, you can look for this within the passage to easily locate the answer.

Mentally Summarise after Reading 

Once you have completed reading the passage thoroughly, take a minute or two to summarise everything that you have understood from the passage. This will help you pick out the main ideas of the passage and help you answer the questions efficiently. 

Pace Yourself 

You will have about 65 minutes to attempt the GMAT Verbal section which means you will have under two minutes for each question. However, it will take you a lot more than two minutes to attempt the GMAT Reading Comprehension. The key to completing the reading comprehension well within the time given is to come up with a  well-timed plan or strategy. A couple of things you can do to save time are as follows: 

  • Do not spend too much time on a particular question. 
  • Once you’ve read the passage twice thoroughly, do not waste time reading the passage for the third time. 
  • You can go back to the passage the third time if you are looking for an answer to a particular question. 
  • Try to make use of keywords and operational phrases to locate the answers easily within the passage. 

Look Out for Transitional Phrases

While you are reading the passage, make it a point to keep an eye on transitional phrases or words. Let us take a look at various kinds of transitional phrases based on the situation: 

  • When comparing two similar things: also, likewise, similarly, in the same way.
  • When contrasting or comparing two things: but, however, on the other hand, on the one hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the contrary.
  • Emphasizing on: even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly.
  • Cause and effect: hence, therefore, thus, accordingly, consequently. 
  • Conclusion: finally, briefly, in conclusion, in the end, on the whole, to conclude, to summarise, to sum up. 

Transitional phrases help you understand the relation between two or more statements or even between different points of view. In a passage when transitional phrases are used, it helps you understand the progression of the writer’s thought process. Additionally, if the passage has a lot of jargon and is rather difficult to understand, transitional phrases help you understand the connection between the main idea and the supporting ideas irrespective of the jargon. 

For example, “Chlorofluorocarbons and halons are gases present in the refrigerator and aerosol cans, when released into the atmosphere they consequently deplete the ozone layer”. As you can see, the transitional phrase “consequently” is used, this indicates that these gases have caused the ozone layer to deplete. Now, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t familiar with terms such as “chlorofluorocarbons” or “halons”, but you are familiar with the role they play in depleting the ozone layer. This kind of information will help you answer questions easily, therefore, look out for transitional phrases.

Take Notes

Most test-takers assume you can make use of the GMAT scratch paper only if you are attempting the GMAT Quant section, but that is not true. You can use it while attempting the GMAT Reading Comprehension as well. When going through the passage you can make a note of the important points in your GMAT scratch paper. You needn’t make note of every single detail but you can jot down the ones you think are relevant or indicate a shift or progression in the paragraph. This can help you save time as well as answer the question accurately.

Use the Elimination Method 

In a scenario where you are confused between all the answer choices provided to you, use the elimination method to eliminate the ones that are not the most appropriate or accurate choices. The GMAT does not use any information that is either biased or way too critical, so if either of the answer choices are critical or biased you can eliminate them without second-guessing yourself. Another way to easily eliminate an answer choice is by checking if the information is borrowed from the passage or not. If the information is not taken from the passage itself, you can eliminate it without a doubt. This is because the GMAT Reading Comprehension does not test you on any external knowledge.

Consider Multiple Perspectives 

It is essential to make note of the various perspectives or viewpoints depicted in the passage. The writer might present their views to us or might present a different viewpoint and agree or disagree with it. In some scenarios, the writer might even try to moderate between two different points of view. It is important to keep track of these shifts in the writer’s narrative as you will be questioned on the same. You might be asked to compare, contrast or even point out the multiple points of view as seen in the passage.

These listed strategies and tips will help you attempt the GMAT Reading Comprehension questions without any difficulty. So, if you incorporate these into your study plan, you can easily ace the GMAT Reading Comprehension. 

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