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Reading Comprehension on the GMAT Part 1 – The basics

GSG Education
7 junio 2021

Reading comprehension is something we are used to being tested on. It is one of the easiest ways to see if students are actually understanding the meaning and purpose of what they read. It is an important skill that most of us do very well, but the tricky part is being asked to do it in such a short amount of time! On pretty much every exam you will see some form of reading comprehension. The GMAT is no exception. It is one of the three types of questions you will see on the Verbal section of the exam.

The GMAT will give you a short passage of about 200-350 words, followed by 3-4 multiple-choice questions, which you will be asked to answer one at a time. It is important to remember that you must answer a question before moving on to the next one. This is not like the TOEFL, where you can click through to find the easier questions before going back and taking a shot at the harder ones. You must answer the questions in the order they are given to you, and you may not skip forwards or backwards. You will, however, be able to see the passage of the left-hand side of your screen for every question they ask about it.

What are these reading passages about, you ask? I wish I could tell you that they are totally awesome and engaging, and catered specifically to your interests. How happy would I be if all of the passages were about education, baseball and Candy Crush strategies? Alas, the passages are all educational topics that are supposedly something you would normally see in a textbook. Although the GMAT can pretty much give us a passage about anything, they tend to stick to these three formats:

-The Historical Passage: discusses an era or an event in history

-The Scientific Passages: describes scientific phenomena or theories

-The Business Passage: talks about business-related topics

Some of those things may be interesting to you, and some may not. The trick here is to pretend that every reading passage you get is incredibly fascinating to you and that you feel so lucky to be able to have the privilege of reading such a riveting piece of writing. Get goofy with it if you have to. Yesterday, while helping a student with a passage about salt levels in the ocean, we imagined sea creatures below the sea were explaining to us how this affected them. It made reading the passage much less painful.

The truth is, you get what you get. You will have no say in the passages you receive on the GMAT and you are wasting time just hoping you will get something cool and interesting. You probably won’t. You may like it, or you may feel indifferent. You may even hate it. You need to make it yours. Imagine it being read to you by your favorite actor. Act it out in your head as a Japanese anime movie. Pretend you are reading it to your little brother or sister or niece or nephew. Do anything you can to make sure you can retain what you are reading just for a little while until you answer the questions. Who knows? You may even learn something cool!

Check back to read about what I call “the active skim”!


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