GMAT Reading Comprehension

The Reading Comprehension question type on the GMAT requires you to read passages that are up to 350 words long (about a page) and answer a small number of questions about them. The verbal section of the GMAT is 75 minutes long, during which time you are likely to see between 3 and 5 reading passages, each with 3-4 questions each. In rare cases, a passage will have only 2 questions attached.

Because the GMAT is an adaptive test, there is no guarantee about how many RC questions any given test-taker will see on the exam. The passage appears on the left side of the screen, with a scroll bar if it runs more than one screen. The questions appear one by one, on the right side of the screen. Thus, the passage is always visible to test-takers while working on questions. GMAT passages may be about the physical or biological sciences, social science, the humanities (history, art, archaeology), or business topics, such as economic models, marketing strategies, or human resource theories. If you are ready to test your knowledge check out the sample Reading Comprehension questions here.

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Reading Comprehension Tips

Every answer can (and should!) be found or inferred directly from the passage. Don’t try to draw on outside knowledge. While some Reading Comprehension passages may read like business school texts, this is not a business test: Test-takers are not expected to know anything ahead of time about the (often obscure) topics covered on RC passages.

Start reading GMAT-like texts now! Reading comprehension passages on the GMAT tend to be dry (even by standardized test standards). The test-makers go out of their way to make the passages complex: They use technical jargon and convoluted phrasing to confuse test-takers.

Keeping different perspectives (including that of the author of the passage) straight is a vital skill for GMAT reading comprehension. As you read through GMAT passages, be aware that many passages will provide multiple perspectives: One person will suggest a theory, and another will disagree with it in certain cases for a specific reason. Keep track of which side of the argument the author is on.

You will occasionally see questions that ask you to identify the author’s tone, to extend passage information to new situations, or to determine how and why the passage is structured a certain way. Before you take the GMAT, practicing identifying the author’s tone in your everyday reading–newspaper articles, magazines, books–and think about why an author decided to use the structure she did.

Use your scrap pad! Write (brief) notes on the main idea of each paragraph. It will help you keep track of the passage’s progression and arguments. At Knewton, we call this process Active Reading.

When answering detail questions, read the sentence or lines referenced as well as a few sentences before and after. Sometimes, context can make all the difference between a right and wrong answer choice!

Don’t let “glazed eyes syndrome” get you down! If you find yourself losing focus, take a deep breath and look away from the passage for a few sentences. When you return to reading, start from the last sentence where you felt engaged by the material.

Don’t panic! Take a deep breath if you start to feel overwhelmed, and be patient with your brain: It’s working hard!

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