4 Easy Steps to Rock GMAT Reading Comprehension Passages

Step 1. Find the answers as you read. You already know the types of RC questions you’ll see on Test Day: main idea, detail, logical structure, inference, etc. So why not look for those things the first time you go through the passage? Don’t take notes summarizing. Instead, find the topic, scope, function of each paragraph, author’s point of view, tone, and purpose on your own. Make the inferences ahead of time and read for the implications behind the words. Don’t focus on the details and the subject matter itself.

Step 2. Put the question stem in your own words. Especially for long-winded inference questions, restate the question stem in simpler terms, as if you were asking the question of a small child. For “NOT” and “EXCEPT” questions this is especially important since 4/5 answer choices will actually be correct, and you’ll be required to find the 1 incorrect choice (the opposite of what is usually expected).

Step 3. Write down a prediction. Even for open-ended inference questions, there’s a limited number of logical inferences that can be drawn based on the implications in the passage. Use your notes on the passage to help you eliminate. Process of elimination is a much more effective means of getting the correct answer. You can’t “unread” the answer choices once you’ve looked at them, so if you don’t write down your prediction you will likely adjust it in your head to “fit” answer choices that may be incorrect.

Step 4. Eliminate out of scope choices. Just what does “out of scope” mean? “Scope” is the focus of the passage, how it narrows down the topic. What does the author spend the majority of his time discussing? Think of it like a circular fence. Everything that relates to the passage fits inside the fence. There may be answer choices that relate to the topic, but would not really go “inside the fence.” This would be considered out of scope.

Step 5. Be wary of extreme language. Answer choices that use words like “no”, “none”, “never”, “always” are typically incorrect. It’s possible a choice containing extreme language is the correct answer, but you should only select it once you’ve confidently eliminated the other choices, and confirmed that the tone of the passage does in fact warrant the use of such a strong statement.