GMAT Reading Comprehension : Tips, Tricks and Strategies to Score Higher

February 19, 2008

Many of my readers/students find RC the toughest in Verbal Section on GMAT. I've only one thing to say to them : you may actually never solve a SC question or involve yourself in Critically Reason out an argument, but you would certainly read something everyday!! Reading comprehension requires lots of practice and very good understanding of the examiner's psyche.

This is what makers of the GMAT have to say about READING COMPREHENSION :

Reading Comprehension Questions

Reading Comprehension passages are up to 350 words long. Topics contain material from the social sciences, physical or biological sciences, and business-related areas (marketing, economics, human resource management, etc.).

Because the Reading Comprehension section of the GMAT® exam includes passages from several different content areas, you may be generally familiar with some of the material; however, no specific knowledge of the material is required. All questions are to be answered on the basis of what is stated or implied in the reading material.

Reading Comprehension passages are accompanied by interpretive, applied, and inferential questions.

What Is Measured

Reading Comprehension questions measure your ability to understand, analyze, and apply information and concepts presented in written form.

This section evaluates the following abilities:

  • Understanding words and statements in reading passages: Questions of this type test your understanding of and ability to comprehend terms used in the passage and your understanding of the English language.
  • Understanding the logical relationships between significant points and concepts in the reading passages: Questions of this type ask you to determine the strong and weak points of an argument or to evaluate the importance of arguments and ideas in a passage.
  • Drawing inferences from facts and statements in the reading passages: Questions of this type ask you to consider factual statements or information and, on the basis of that information, reach a general conclusion.
  • Understanding and following the development of quantitative concepts as they are presented in verbal material: Questions of this type involve the interpretation of numerical data or the use of simple arithmetic to reach conclusions about material in a passage.

I have a post discussing each of these types :

How to Tackle Reading Comprehension Questions on the GMAT

Here are some links you may find useful :

Here is the list of all Tricks /Pointers I could think of :
  1. Read between the Paragraphs.
  2. Read for Author's Main Idea and Primary Purpose.
  3. Create a thought flowchart by writing down the Main Idea and Primary purpose after each paragraph.
  4. The Main Idea of the passage is the repeated idea in each of the Main ideas (of the paragraphs)
  5. The primary purpose is mostly the Primary purpose of the concluding paragraph.
  6. Classify the passages as
    1. Explanatory (Mostly Science passages, explain one theory/phenomenon in detail)
    2. Comparative (two or more point of views on a theory/topic. Doesn't go in much detail)
    3. Argumentative (Subjective, opinionated. Mostly social science/business topics. Pros and cons of a topic with author's views on them)
  7. Paraphrase the text to simplify.
  8. Don't over read. Skip examples, dates, lengthy names, any details which can be referred in case something is asked explicitly.
  9. Don't go for choices which hold true only for one part of the author's argument.
  10. Don't go for choices which exaggerate the author's conclusion.
  11. Don't fill in the blanks yourself. Use only as much is there in the passage.
  12. At the end of reading, ask yourself questions like : What was the passage about? What was author's motive in writing all this?
  13. Read quickly through soporific passages.
  14. Read the first question before the Passage.
  15. Use your Critical Reasoning techniques for reasoning/inference/strengthen/weaken questions.

Suggested Books : Kaplan 800, Kaplan Verbal Workbook, Official Guide, Manahttan Reading Comprehension

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  1. Anonymous7:15 PM


    Your first point, read between the paragraphs. What does it really mean? Can you explain a bit?

  2. Reading between the paragraphs basically means that you should think as to why the author jumps to the next paragraph. Whats his purpose in doing the first para an introduction and the next para is an explanation on the above mentioned theory? Or the next para is a conclusion? It basically means knowing/grasping the hidden motive of the author in changing the para. There has to be a reason as to why the author doesn't wrote everything in the same para!!

    Hope that helps...

  3. Anonymous11:48 PM

    What is the approximate time it should take to read a passage, including the time it takes to write the main idea and primary purpose of EACH paragraph.


  4. Hi Anonymous!!
    I totally understand your frustration. Writing down the Main idea and PP of each para can take sometime. But but are a few points...

    1. You read very quickly and not like what u r used to. (skipping examples, detailed info, names, etc.) So you save time.

    2. Your main idea (MI) and primary purpose (pp) are very short...a few words. so its not gonna take long.

    3. when u do this, u dont have to find stuff when answering your questions...and that save a LOT of your time.

    4. Last but not the least...its like making a habit...when u have done this for lets say 100 will easily be able to do all of it under the allotted time.

    reading and answering shud take arnd 8 mins. i keep 5 mins (max) to read and take down the main idea and pp and another 3 mins to answer 5 questions.

    hope that helps!

  5. Anonymous8:37 AM

    Thanks, this helps a lot! I read somewhere that you should read it (along with making notes) in 3 minutes. Spent the whole weekend stressing out and not getting much done. But now that you mention 5 minutes, I feel much better.

  6. Just to add...I must also stress that the time taken differs with the length of the passage....So if the passage is really short...2-3 mins reading time is the max u have...
    I gave the 5 mins as a max estimate...which wud b applicable to lengthy passages.

  7. Anonymous4:09 AM

    Commendable Effort there!!! Wowww....

  8. Yup, makes sense! 4-5 mins for short passages and 8 mins for long passages max all inclusive.

  9. Anonymous9:52 AM

    hi i am very tensed how to cope gmat im not good in maths &after going through the verbal part im more tense bcoz its very challenging

  10. Hi Mukul... I am also planning to take GMAT this year.Need your advice on the same. I am a and have got 3 years of wrk ex..currently working with a MNC. Need to know will I be able to prepare for Gmat in next 3 months? Do i need to join some coaching institue?Also suggest the current edition of the books that would be required to prepare. Your reply would be very helpful.

  11. GMAT exam is based on three difficult section. Those preparing for GMAT exam should concentrate all the section preparation. Time Management for each section helpful to ace your GMAT score.

    Best Regards
    GMAT Sentence Correction

  12. I knew that there are a lot of strategies about how to get a higher score on such tests, and the one you have presented seems to be really helpful.

  13. nice post..thanks for useful blog..


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