Learnist Board of the Week: Destroy GMAT Reading Comp (once and for all)

Check out this new Learnboard with a step by step guide to conquering RC once and for all!

Step 1 — To start, here’s the mandatory books you’ll need to get:

  • GMAT Official Guide – 13th edition
  • GMAT Official Guide – Verbal review, 2nd edition

You’ll want to know the RC questions in this book backwards, forwards, and upside down.

Other books with lots of passages to practice:

  • Veritas Prep – Reading Comprehension Guide
  • Manhattan GMAT – RC Strategy Guide
  • Artistotle Prep – RC Grail

Step 2 — Read The Economist, or other high-quality publications!

The Economist is a weekly newspaper focusing on international politics and business news. Not only is its subject-matter right up GMAT’s alley, but its written in a more advanced vernacular than your average newspaper — a level matched by the GMAT RC.

As you read these articles, do the following:

  • Circle the topic
  • Underline any transition words
  • Write down the purpose of each paragraph
  • Write down the author’s point of view in your own words
  • Write down the Main Idea in your own words

Do all of this to build your RC skills — ALWAYS read with a pen in your hand, and always ask the million dollar question, “Why is the author saying this?”

Fun fact: You can use your Delta Skymiles for a free subscription. 3,200 miles gives you 51 issues!

For Steps 3 through 7, check out How to Destory GMAT Reading Comp (once and for all)!



Learnist: GMAT “Logical Structure” Reading Questions

Questions that ask about the “function” of a detail, sentence or paragraph is a Logical Structure question. These frequently appear on the GMAT — always look for the logical keywords that tell you where the author is taking the discussion.

Authors organize their ideas in paragraphs, and each paragraph has a mini-purpose. Why, otherwise, would the author write it? Try to get a sense of the function of EACH paragraph as you read by looking for the keywords. Put the “function” in your own words and write it down!

Since keywords and phrases are ALL you have to go on to extrapolate the structure of the passage and the author’s intentions, practice pulling out the key phrases in this passage. Then scroll down, comparing them to those the author identified.

 This blog is for GRE passages, but they are the same in terms of form and content to the GMAT. Notice the list of “Function” verbs here. Copy them down and try to “assign” an infinitive verb to each paragraph. What is author DOING with each paragraph?

Just like every paragraph has a function, each sentence within each paragraph has a function. Start with the overall function of the paragraph, then ask: how does this detail relate to the paragraph’s overall function? Is it aiding the main idea? Qualifying it? Making a concession?

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.

Learnist: Free Passages to Practice GMAT Reading

If you’ve used up the Reading passages in the GMAT Official Guide and don’t have the money for more books or a prep course, here’s where to find reliable GMAT RC practice material online!

In this video, BeatTheGMAT.com expert Dana walks through an example of how you can break down one of the toughest question types on the GMAT–the Science RC passage. Since Science RC passages are relatively uncommon, it’s great to see one here! Use this video as a warm-up before diving into the remaining resources.

If you haven’t downloaded this free GMATPrep™® software from GMAC, it’s a MUST. It’s free, contains 90 questions and 2 full-length adaptive practice tests, and its RC passages are the closest you’ll find to the actual questions on the official GMAT.

Once you’ve taken the two GMATPrep CATs and thoroughly reviewed them, be sure to download this comprehensive collection of ALL the Reading Comp passages and questions from GMATPrep. You may have seen many of them on your practice CATs, but there’s definitely going to be some new ones!

This is a great way to exhaust more official material with forking over the cash for the GMAT Packs sold on MBA.com.

Here’s the answer key to the 126 GMAT Prep Reading Comp questions found in the previous document. Though explanations aren’t provided, most of these questions have been discussed on various forums and explanations are easily found by typing the question-step into Google. Enjoy!

Check out more free GMAT practice reading passages on Learnist!

GMAT RC: Practice Passage of the Day!

Try this short little passage from Manhattan GMAT — thankfully not all GMAT passages are super-long!

Measuring more than five feet tall and ten feet long, the Javan rhinoceros is often called the rarest large mammal on earth. Though the habitat of the Javan rhino once extended across southern Asia, now there are fewer than one hundred of the animals in Indonesia and fewer than a dozen in Vietnam. The decline of the species may have progressed too far to be reversed.

For centuries, farmers who wished to cultivate the rhino’s habitat viewed the animals as crop-eating pests and shot them on sight; during the colonial period, hunters slaughtered thousands for their horns, as poachers still do today. The surviving Vietnamese herd has diminished to the point that it can no longer maintain the genetic variation necessary for long-term survival.

The Indonesian herd cannot be used to supplement the Vietnamese population because, in the millions of years since Indonesia separated from the mainland, the two groups have evolved into separate sub-species. The Indonesian rhinos are protected on the Ujung Kulon peninsula, which is unsettled by humans, and still thought to have sufficient genetic diversity to survive.

The lack of human disturbance, however, allows mature forests to replace the shrubby vegetation preferred by the animals. Human benevolence may prove little better for these rhinos than past human maltreatment.

Question #1 – Which of the following best expresses the author’s attitude toward the likely fate of the Javan Rhino?
A) optimistic about the Indonesian rhino’s long-term survival
B) resigned to the eventual extinction of the species
C) uncertain about the on-going impact of farmers and hunters
D) pessimistic about the species’ chances for survival
E) ambivalent about the long-term outcome for the Javan rhinoceros

Here’s how I’d break down this passage:

Topic: Javan rhino

Scope: ability of rhino to survive

1st chunk: to introduce the endangered Rhino

2nd chunk: to explain why the rhino is endangered & that Viet herd can’t survive

3rd chunk: to describe how 1 solution won’t work (can’t mix the Indo herd — diff. sub-species)

4th chunk: to emphasize that the Indo herd, though protected, might not survive either (lack of food source)

Overall Purpose: to describe the causes of endangerment & challenges facing 2 rhino species

Question Rephrase: How does the author feel about the fate of the rhino?

Prediction: It needs to be something negative, since the author offers no hope for either species. In fact, he makes it a point to say that the Indo rhino will also likely die out.

We can eliminate A, C and E since they are positive or neutral.

Between “resigned” and “pessimistic,” choice (D) is the more negative choice and therefore correct. Beware of the potential confusion in the phrase “may prove little better.” That means it will NOT prove better. The author provides no hope whatsoever.