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GRE Reading Comprehension Strategies for Exam Preparation
Whenever you watch a movie or read a book, what is the first thing that you do
subconsciously or to a very limited extent deliberately?
You try to classify the movie or the book into its genre. You call it a comedy, thriller, action,
horror and so on.
Then what if your friend asks you what the movie or the book was about, then do you
narrate the whole plot with every detail or do you just put the whole thing in one or two
sentences? In the case of ordinary mortals, which most of us are (though some of you may
take exceptions to this) try to summarize the whole thing in one or two sentences, which try
to capture the whole essence of the plot.
This is also exactly the case with reading comprehension questions that you encounter in
First of all you read the passage and then classify it as science, business, social, political,
socio-economic and so on. Then the next thing is that you hunt for the main idea, i.e. you try
to capture the whole essence of the passage in one or two sentences.
The sad part is, in your test, the grilling doesn’t stop just here. You are put through a whole
plethora of tortuous questions, which attempt to put your entire reading prowess to test.
Here are the 4 main reading skills tested in reading comprehension questions on GRE:
1. Main Idea: This involves the following:
Selection of the main thought in the passage
Ability to decipher the general significance of the passage
Ability to select the best title for a passage
Learn to distinguish between a main idea and supporting ideas
2. Specific Details: This involves the following:
Ability to understand the author’s explicit statements
To get the literal meaning of what is written
To identify details
3. Inference: This involves the following:
Ability to weave together the ideas of a passage and to figure out their relationships
To draw correct inferences
To read between the lines and to figure out the implications of statements
4. Tone/Mood: Ability to determine the tone/mood that is dominant in the passage –
humorous, sarcastic, sad, and so on.
Here are some general pointers that will help you increase your accuracy in Reading
1. As you read each question, determine its type: Main idea, specific detail, inference
2. Make notes for the important parts of the passage on your scratch paper
3. Refer back to your notes or the passage, when in doubt
4. Read the passage carefully, before you start answering the questions
5. Get the meanings of tough words from the context or the ecosystem around it
6. Pay special emphasis on the transitional words in the passage
In spite of
On the other hand
7. Your personal opinions do not matter, so, never answer a question based on your
8. After reading the passage, read each question carefully
9. Work on your vocabulary to enhance your reading comprehension score
10. Work out a plan to deal with questions that ask you find statements that strengthen
or weaken an argument in the passage or statements that the passage does not
provide any information about
Some quick strategies to eliminate wrong answer choices:
1. Out of scope
Eliminate those answer choices that are nowhere supported in the passage
2. Direct contradiction
Eliminate all the answer choices that are in direct contradiction with the information
given in the passage
3. Mix and Match
Eliminate all the answer choices that match with the language but not the meaning
of the passage, or those options that simply try to mash up two disparate ideas from
4. Extreme words
Be cautious with those options which have extreme words. Most often, answer
choices with extreme words are not your probable answers. Extreme words are
words like always, never etc.
5. True but irrelevant
The may be some options which appear to be true with reference to the content of
the passage, but it does not have any significance in light of the question. Beware!
These are traps.
In the next post we will discuss the structure of Argument Passages.
Keep visiting TCYonline.com for more tips and tricks on GRE.
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