Reading Comprehension (RC) is one of the question types of the Verbal Section in the GMAT exam. These questions are designed to measure your ability to understand statements and words, understand logical relationships between significant points and more. You are given a passage that is followed by questions asking you to interpret the given material  and draw conclusions. Additionally, the questions test how well you are able to understand the main idea, supporting idea, structure, style and more. 

In this article, we have listed down some GMAT reading comprehension tips for you so that the process becomes a lot easier for you. So, let’s take a look. 


The Reading Comprehension Passage

RC passages can be of two types: Short and Long. Typically, the short passages are about 200-250 words followed by three questions and long passages are about 300-350 words followed by four questions. The subject and content of the passages can be related to any subject — literature, social science, business, natural science and more. Do note that you don’t have to be a subject expert in any field as this is not to test your subject knowledge. It’s all about testing how well you read, understand, evaluate and correct written material.

Now, let’s take you through some of the reading comprehension tips and strategies that we have listed below.

Tips for the Reading Comprehension Passage:

Below we have mentioned 3 tips for the reading comprehension passage for you.  

  • Read the Passage Carefully

Reading the passage carefully is very essential as the GMAT RC questions require you to have a thorough understanding of the passage. You may want to skim and scan, however, not very advisable for first time reading. When you’re reading the passage for the first time, you should do an in depth one. For this, we would advise developing a habit of reading everyday. You can read anything you wish to — blogs, articles, books and more. Doing so will help improve your reading skills and prepare you for such sections/questions of the exam. 

Having said that, we wouldn’t wholly advise against the skimming and scanning technique considering the time constraint during the GMAT exam. You might not be able to read the passage thoroughly for a second time. Hence, this is where the skimming and scanning technique can come to your rescue. Skimming means reading to get an overview of the main ideas in the passage and scanning means only to read to find specific information in the passage.  

You can start skimming through the passage by reading the title, the introduction or the first paragraph, every first sentence of all the paragraphs, all headings and subheadings, and the last paragraph. Also, make sure to notice charts, graphs, pictures, and italicized or boldface phrases and words. Additionally, when scanning, anticipate the answers and look for clues. For instance, if a question needs you to specify a date, then look at paragraphs where there are numbers. Look through headings and subheadings that will help identify where your answers can be and selectively you can read and skip through sections in the passage accordingly. But as we have mentioned before, we advise reading thoroughly as some questions might require a detailed understanding of the passage. 

  • Identify Structure Words 

Structure words are quite important in the GMAT passages because it helps you locate certain important information in the passage like the central idea or the opinion of the author, etc. As mentioned before, you might not have time to read and more so, remember everything in the paragraph, but it is pertinent that you know what the passage is about — the main and supporting ideas. With the help of structure words you will be able to locate the key information. For example, GMAT often tests your ability to compare and contrast ideas given. While reading the paragraphs, if you focus on the structure words you’ll be able to easily comprehend what the author is describing in the passage. Thus, structured words help you to identify and locate the key information. 

 In the below table you will find some structure words for your reference:

Contrast wordsConclusion wordsAddition words
Nevertheless Also
Still Eventually
  • Make a Mental Note of Everything 

There’s a typical structure that the GMAT reading comprehension passage follows: at the beginning there’s the main claim, at the middle of the paragraph, the main idea will be elaborated and at the end will be a conclusion. At times, this structure may vary but this is the most definite one, however, getting the main idea of the passage is important. Hence, read each paragraph thoroughly and after each paragraph make a mental summary of what you read. While making a mental note of things, this is what you need to keep in mind — what and why? What is the author trying to say? Why is the author trying to convince us of what’s written? What’s the idea of each paragraph? Why are the paragraphs organized that way? So, keep asking yourself these questions as you read, figure out the answers and make a mental note to help you when you need to answer questions. 

Types of GMAT Questions:

The following section will take you through the most commonly asked questions in reading comprehension. It’s important to identify the kind of questions being asked to you as it helps in analyzing and answering them easily. Identifying the questions is a main part of the strategy. 

  • Main Idea Questions

These types of questions look for the main idea discussed in the passage. Although the passage might discuss in detail about multiple aspects, it will always be connected to the central idea. You can look for keywords such as main theme, primary purpose, mainly concerned with, etc. 

Sample questions: 

What is the primary purpose of the passage?

Which of the following options summarises the main idea discussed by the author?

  • Database Questions

Database questions will be based on the information that is already provided in the passage. To solve these questions, you simply have to go back to reading the relevant section of the passage and choose the right option.

Sample questions:

According to the passage, which of the following is true?

The author does not support the idea of xx which was a result of ….

  • Inference Based Questions

Inference based questions seek to find the answer that is not explicitly given in the paragraph but is implied by the author in the passage. These questions require you to understand what is being implied. When you read each paragraph, make sure to take notes not only on what is directly being stated by the author, but also on whatever he implies by use of certain phrases and words. Look for descriptive adjectives that reveal the author’s opinion, and also make sure to trust your own impressions of the passage. 

Sample questions:

It can be inferred that the author does not agree with …

According to the passage the author suggests the use of …

  • Tone Based Questions

Tone based questions simply look for the emotion displayed in a part of the passage by the author.  Tone based questions are about the authors’ emotions, hence,  while reading check for words that talk of emotions like sad, happy, angry. Moreover, identify keywords and adjectives for the same.

Sample questions:

What is the tone of the author in the sentence …?

What is the attitude of the author towards xx?

Tips to Solve Reading Comprehension Questions:

Below are 3 ways in which you can solve RC questions.

  • Answer the Question Being Asked

You are bound to get answer choices that might seem factually correct but that don’t seem to answer the question asked. For instance, if you are being asked the main idea in the passage, it’s not going to be any supporting idea/evidence. Hence, that’s why it’s essential to read the passage thoroughly, so that you are well aware of what is being asked and what answer should be your choice. 

  • Go Back to Reading a Passage

Once you read the question, go back to the passage and reassure your choice. This assures your answer choice is correct or incorrect. 

  • Follow the Elimination Technique 

The best way to save yourself time as well as increasing your chances of getting the correct answer is using the elimination technique. Here you can eliminate all the answers you think could be wrong. Doing so leaves you with few choices to choose from, thus making it easier for you to choose the right answer.  

We hope these GMAT reading comprehension tips will help you greatly. Don’t forget to refer to these tips when preparing for the exam with mock tests and practice questions.

We wish you all the best!


Talk to an expert?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.