Reading comprehension is one of the most challenging sections of GRE exam; it represents about half of the verbal section. Much of the challenge is that the questions are based on unpredictable themes like fossils found in an ancient civilisation and what it means for history, a new scientific treatment being evaluated in the clinical trials, or the ritual of some species of the Amazon that you never heard before. If you have not prepared well, it is easy to feel frustrated having to try to absorb so much information in such a short time. The good news is that being a standardised test, there are more than a few strategies you can master this section and determine the correct answers without falling into the most common traps.
The first step is to understand what they are asking you. This section goes beyond the understanding or memorising the meanings of the words. The evaluators want to know if you are ready to analyse a reading passage in the holistic terms, which you will have to master at the postgraduate level. This means that you must be objective, discern between important ideas, know the author’s perspective and infer from little information. In other words, you will need to have an active reading approach.
In this post, I will share a few practical strategies that will help you focus on the main ideas and improve the way you interpret text. Let’s check out how you can handle the reading passage on any topic without taking stress in your GRE test.
1 – Identify Structure
Whether the author talks about biology or business, the structure of each reading is very similar, and you have to identify it quickly. The most common narratives are as follows:
I – Problem
The author will present a problem and in some cases will offer a solution or solutions.
II – Description
The author will describe a theory or a phenomenon and provide evidence and/or context to justify or challenge it.
III – Comparison
The author will contrast two theories or perspectives. It is important to identify if the author has some preference or if it is neutral.
2 – Focus on the Main Ideas
Forget the details and get a holistic overview of what is presented to you. You need to identify the main ideas and function of each paragraph. The reading will consist of the point or purpose of the reading, context information, support information and possible implications.
3 – Simplify Ideas
Don’t miss out on the complex grammatical construction. Section the ideas to make them easier to understand. Isolate the words you do not know and try to deduce their meaning by context.
4 – Identify Author’s Perspective
One of the ways to know the general purpose of reading and answering several of the questions is to know for what purpose the author wrote the text. Ask yourself this question frequently while you are analysing a reading i.e., what purpose does the author have?
5 – Take Notes
Annotation is a tool that will help you emphasise the important parts of the text and discern that other parts are less important. Your notes do not need to be very long i.e., just 4 to 8 lines per paragraph.
6 – Know Yourself as a Reader
Knowing the way you do reading will help you learn from your mistakes and focus on your weaknesses, which can range from reading too slow to focus on the details until you have difficulty deciding what the main ideas are.
7 – Don’t Bring Knowledge from Outside!
You do not need to be an expert to respond correctly to reading, no matter what you have heard on the subject. You will have all the information available to answer each question. Moreover, in some cases, our own opinions or perspectives are not necessarily aligned with what the text says and can guide us in selecting the wrong answer. You must distance yourself from your own opinions and focus only on the ideas you can infer from each reading.
Reading comprehension makes a big part of the whole GRE test, and it is a decisive section in overall score. A good GRE score is 290 between to 300 and you can secure this or even high score with your command at reading comprehension.