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)!

 

Advertisements

GMAT / GRE Reading Comp: Primary Purpose

“Primary purpose” questions on the GRE and GMAT ask you to understand the author’s overall intention. Try this practice passage on your own, then read further down for a couple questions, their answers and a full explanation!

Behavior science courses should be gaining prominence in business
school curricula. Recent theoretical work convincingly shows why behav-
ioral factors such as organizational culture and employee relations are
among the few remaining sources of sustainable competitive advantage in
modern organizations. Furthermore, (10) empirical evidence demonstrates
clear linkages between human resource (HR) practices based in
the behavioral sciences and various aspects of a firm’s financial success.

Additionally, some of the world’s most successful organizations have made
unique HR practices a core element of their overall business strategies.

Yet the behavior sciences are struggling for credibility in many
business schools. Surveys show that business students often regard
behavioral studies as peripheral to the mainstream business curriculum.
This perception can be explained by the fact that business students, hoping
to increase their attractiveness to prospective employers, are highly
sensitive to business norms and practices, and current business
practices have generally been moving away from an emphasis on
understanding human behavior and toward more mechanistic organiza-
tional models. Furthermore, the status of HR professionals within
organizations tends to be lower than that of other executives.
Students’ perceptions would matter less if business schools
were not increasingly dependent on external funding-form legislatures,
businesses, and private foundations- for survival. Concerned with their
institutions’ ability to attract funding, administrators are increasingly tar-
getting low-enrollment courses and degree programs for elimination.

Question #1: The primary purpose of the passage is to

A. propose a particular change to business school curricula
B. characterize students’ perceptions of business school curricula
C. predict the consequences of a particular change in business school curricula
D. challenge one explanation for the failure to adopt a particular change in business school curricula
E. identify factors that have affected the prestige of a particular field in business school curricular

Question #2: The author of the passage mentions “empirical evidence” primarily in order to

A. question the value of certain commonly used HR practices
B. illustrate a point about the methodology behind recent theoretical work in the behavioral sciences
C. support a claim about the importance that business schools should place on courses in the behavioral sciences
D. draw a distinction between two different factors that affect the financial success of a business
E. explain how the behavioral sciences have shaped HR practices in some business organizations

Here’s how I broke down the passage (your style of note-taking might be different, and that’s perfectly okay):

Topic: Behavior science
Scope: challenges facing B.s.
Author’s pov: It should be gaining prominence. +

Paragraph 1: to state that B.s. should be gaining prominence and give 2 reasons:
(1. organization culture + employee relations are important)
(2. HR based in B.s = $$$)

Paragraph 2: to add a 3rd reason
(3. successful orgs use that HR)

Paragraph 3 : to give 2 reasons why B.s. is struggling
(1. students seem B.s as peripheral b/c they focus on the norms)
(2. HR professionals are low status).

Paragraph 4: to add a 3rd reason why B.s. is struggling
(3. $$ comes from external sources; courses get cut if not popular)

OVERALL PURPOSE: to explain why B.s. should be prominent & explain challenges it faces

Since this is a “primary purpose” question, we must especially make sure to eliminate answer choices that ARE in the passage, but are not “primary” as well as choices that are outside the scope of the author’s focus.

A. Out of Scope. The curricula itself is not the focus.
B. Misused Detail. While this is mentioned in the passage, it isn’t the overall purpose.
C. Incorrect. The “consequences” are not specifically mentioned, nor are particular changes described.
D. Incorrect. The author does not challenge one explanation – he offers a variety of reasons why B.s is not getting its due, but does not “challenge” any of them, or suggest one carries more weight than the others and even if you interpreted it to refer to the 2nd paragraph, this would not be the focus of the ENTIRE passage.
E. CORRECT! The passage focuses on why B.s. is being challenged.

For the second question, this is a Function question. When a question asks WHY the author uses one aspect of the paragraph, go back and review the function of the ENTIRE paragraph. After all, don’t details all serve to support the main goal of their containing paragraphs?

We could re-word the question as, “WHY does the author use “empirical evidence?” To make a prediction, all we need to do is return to our notes. We said that he used it as an example of why B.s SHOULD be gaining prominence. Now that we have our prediction, the answer is clearly (C).

How to Handle Short Passages on the GRE

One benefit to the Revised GRE test is that there are two short Verbal sections with 20 questions each instead of one long section. Another is that you can now freely move back and forth between questions within a given section. This means that you will be able to answer look at questions and choose the order in which you can answer them.

According to the official GRE website, “reading comprehension passages are drawn from the physical sciences, the biological sciences, the social sciences, the arts and humanities, and everyday topics, and are based on material found in books and periodicals, both academic and nonacademic. The passages range in length from one paragraph to four or five paragraphs.”

So how should your approach change from longer to shorter passages? For longer passages, it makes sense to thoroughly read and take notes on the important information presented (main idea, function of each paragraph, author’s point of view, etc.). Shorter passages, however, will usually only be accompanied by 1-2 questions.

Therefore it makes sense to read the questions first before looking at the passage. Quickly identify the pieces of information you’ll need to find. For example, let’s say the first question asks about the “Main Idea” and the second question asks about the Logic behind the author’s use of a specific detail. You will only have two tasks as you read: find the purpose, and find out why the detail is included. There’s no point in trying to focus on the author’s point of view if it isn’t necessary to answer any of the given questions! Make your job as simple as possible.

Creating these clear tasks for yourself is an effective strategy for shorter passages, since you don’t have as much text to decipher.

Application Questions on the GMAT

Application questions on the GMAT go one step further than Inference questions, asking you to apply what you have learned from the passage to a different or hypothetical situation. They are similar to New Situation questions!

Straight from the horse’s mouth, the Official Guide to the GMAT outlines 4 possible ways Application questions can test you (starting on p.361), and points out the importance difference between Inference and Application questions. To solve Application questions, you must recognize the underlying features of what’s in the passage when presented to you in new contexts.

Check out the video question on #9 on this Learnboard. Notice the first question the instructor asks in the video is, “where do we read about Shakespeare apologists?” Use the key phrases from the question stem to locate the relevant info in the passage. You shouldn’t have to re-read more than 1-2 sentences for each Application question.

Where to Find Challenging Text for Non-Native Speakers

If you’re studying for the GRE or GMAT and English is your second (or third) language, you’ll definitely want to get some extra reading in by looking for challenging, high-quality GMAT-like publications.

Here’s a few suggestions free online suggestions!:

– NY Times book review (I really like this article’s description of how to use these articles for practice: http://smartestprep.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/the-new-york-times-exercise-reading-comprehension/)

– Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/

– The Economist: http://www.economist.com/

– The Spectator: http://www.spectator.co.uk/

– Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/

Keep in mind that the GMAT and GRE RC is not “hard” because of it’s incredibly advanced language. Most of it is readily comprehensible, although it may occasionally use unfamiliar scientific or business terminology. The challenge of RC lies in breaking down the rhetoric of the passage, and grasping not only what the author’s argument is, but HOW he/she makes it. Absolutely seek out tougher study materials, but make sure to apply your RC method to new passages as well!

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.