Tackling Reading Comprehension Problems in the GMAT

With regard to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

We previously examined how to read Reading Comprehension (RC) passages. If you have not read our earlier article, go ahead and do so right now.

Today, I want to talk about the three primary types of questions that appear on RC: Main Idea, Specific Detail, and Inference. I also want to talk about how to analyze RC problems.

In general, we learn the most from a problem after we have finished doing it. Our review is the real learning experience. Any problem can (and should!) be analyzed using the questions discussed in this “How to Analyze a Practice Problem” article.

How would that work with a Reading Comprehension question? Glad you asked. This article contains an example of a complete RC Inference problem analysis—you will learn not only how to analyze an RC problem but also how to tackle Inference problems. (In general, Inference problems ask us to deduce something from some piece of evidence provided in the passage.)

Let us tackle Main Idea questions next. These questions focus on the main point of a passage, though we could also be asked to give the main point of just one paragraph.

Specific Detail questions ask us to address some particular detail mentioned explicitly in the passage. We could be asked what the passage says or why the author mentions a certain thing. Knowing whether you are dealing with a What question or a Why question is important. Think about the answers to these two questions: What are you studying? Why are you studying it? Completely different answers!

Those will cover most, if not all, of the RC question types you will see when you take the GMAT. You might also encounter a Strengthen or Weaken question, similar to the questions that we see in the Critical Reasoning section. These are fairly rare in RC, though—chances are good that you will not actually see one.

So go ahead and tackle those Reading Comprehension question types and remember this: when you are studying, your goal is not (just) to get the question right. Your goal is to learn something that you could apply on a different question (or questions) in the future!

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