Archives For Reading Comprehension

gmat reading comprehensionThey manage to pick such interesting topics for RC, don’t they? It’s always the kind of thing you’d choose to read at home in your free time!

Wait. No, that’s not quite right. But the topics are relevant to business school… well, occasionally. Hmm.

So, let me get this straight. They’re going to give me somewhat obscure, very dense topics with very complicated ideas and sentence structures. I’m going to have about 3 minutes to read such a passage, and then I have to start answering questions about the material. That’s completely artificial; it would never happen in the real world!

Actually, yes it will. You’re going to do case studies in business school. You often won’t be given enough time to read through every last detail carefully; instead, you’ll have to figure out what’s important and concentrate on those pieces, while putting together a framework for the main ideas and the big changes in direction or opinion.

At work, you’re often going to have to make decisions based upon incomplete information. At times, you’ll have a ton of information—and not enough time to review it all before you have to take action. These situations are far from rare in the real world.

So when you find yourself a bit unmotivated because you know you’ve got to study boring RC today, remind yourself that RC will actually help you develop much-needed skills for business school and beyond!

The Master List

I’ve put together what I’m calling the Master Resource List for this question type. A couple of disclaimers. First, this list includes only free resources, no paid ones. There are a lot of good resources out there that cost some money—they’re just not on this list!

Second, this list is limited to my own articles. I’m not trying to claim that only my articles are good enough to make such a list—far from it. I’m most familiar with my own articles, so that’s what I’m using. And, okay, I will admit that I think the Manhattan GMAT RC process is the best one out there. But I’m biased. : )

How To Read

Before you dive into individual question types, it’s critical to know some overall processes for Reading Comp, starting with how to read! You already know how to read in general, of course. I’m talking about How To Read RC.

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gmat reading comprehension speed dating Imagine two friends, Gina and Tina, who are going to a speed-dating event. Gina really, really wants a boyfriend. Tina is just going because Gina dragged her there, and she’s only willing to date someone who is perfect for her.

At the event, Gina finds herself liking every guy that she meets: Guy #1 is smart and successful, so it makes sense that he’s proud of his accomplishments. Guy #2 is really funny and clever. The waiter just didn’t understand his jokes. Tina, on the other hand, has a very different impression of these guys: Guy 1 has been bragging about himself the whole time, and seems arrogant. Guy 2 thinks he’s funny, but he’s actually being cruel and making fun of people.

At the end of the event, Gina can’t decide which of the guys she likes best, because she’s found reasons to like all of them and she’s overlooked any reasons not to like them. Tina, however, was looking for reasons not to date these guys, so she noticed the dealbreaker flaws. She manages to whittle the list down to one guy whose personality matched hers.

Of course, dating is subjective, and what might be a dealbreaker for one person might be fine for someone else. On the GMAT, though, there are definitive right and wrong answers, and we have to learn how to spot the wrong ones.

Look for Dealbreakers

When it comes to Reading Comprehension on the GMAT, you want to act like Tina, not Gina! You will often be presented with questions whose answer choices all seem to have appealing qualities. If you’re looking for what makes an answer right, you may overlook certain critical flaws, and talk yourself into a wrong answer. If you’re looking for what makes an answer wrong, though, you’re a lot more likely to notice those deal-breaking flaws!

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gmat reading comprehensionIn the past, we’ve done some one-off review of parts of RC passages, but this time I’ve got a full one for you. In this article, we’ll look at how to get through this thing (and what to avoid). Next week, we’ll do a question or two.

I chose this passage from the free set of questions that comes with GMATPrep (that is, it doesn’t actually show up in the practice CAT itself). It’s a longer passage, so give yourself approximately three minutes total to get through.

The Passage

A meteor stream is composed of dust particles that have been ejected from a parent comet at a variety of velocities. These particles follow the same orbit as the parent comet, but due to their differing velocities they slowly gain or fall behind the disintegrating comet until a shroud of dust surrounds the entire cometary orbit. Astronomers have hypothesized that a meteor stream should broaden with time as the dust particles’ individual orbits are perturbed by planetary gravitational fields. A recent computer-modeling experiment tested this hypothesis by tracking the influence of planetary gravitation over a projected 5,000-year period on the positions of a group of hypothetical dust particles. In the model, the particles were randomly distributed throughout a computer simulation of the orbit of an actual meteor stream, the Geminid. The reseNavigator found, as expected, that the computer-model stream broadened with time. Conventional theories, however, predicted that the distribution of particles would be increasingly dense toward the center of a meteor stream. Surprisingly, the computer-model meteor stream gradually came to resemble a thick-walled, hollow pipe.

Whenever the Earth passes through a meteor stream, a meteor shower occurs. Moving at a little over 1,500,000 miles per day around its orbit, the Earth would take, on average, just over a day to cross the hollow, computer-model Geminid stream if the stream were 5,000 years old. Two brief periods of peak meteor activity during the shower would be observed, one as the Earth entered the thick-walled pipe and one as it exited. There is no reason why the Earth should always pass through the stream’s exact center, so the time interval between the two bursts of activity would vary from one year to the next.

Has the predicted twin-peaked activity been observed for the actual yearly Geminid meteor shower? The Geminid data between 1970 and 1979 show just such a bifurcation, a secondary burst of meteor activity being clearly visible at an average of 19 hours (1,200,000 miles) after the first burst. The time intervals between the bursts suggest the actual Geminid stream is about 3,000 years old.

Here’s how to read

When you’re reading an RC passage, think about:

(1) What words or parts of the sentence are so complex that I’m going to ignore them for now?

(2) When can I stop reading and start skimming?

(3) When do I have to start paying close attention again?

Below, I go through each paragraph, noting various things. Normal text means: I did read this but didn’t pay extra attention to it. Boldface text really stood out for me: my brain perked up and paid attention.

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gmat reading compIt’s kind of ironic that, in order to do a great job on RC, we actually have to learn what NOT to read. You may already have read an earlier article of mine on this same topic; I want to revisit the issue not only because so many people struggle with it but also because we used an MGMAT example last time. This time, we’re going to use an example from OG13 “ that is, the real thing.

Required Preparation

You need to do a little prep before you can get the most out of this article. :) First, read the introduction entitled How To Read A Reading Comp Passage. (Hint: take some notes! You’re going to be trying this out on a real passage in a few minutes!)

Next, you are going to need OG13 in order to do this exercise “ I can’t reproduce the entire passage here for copyright reasons. We’re looking for the second-to-last passage; it’s on page 414 and begins All the cells in a particular plant

Here’s what to do: set a timer for 3 minutes, read, and take whatever notes you like. If the timer buzzers before you’re done, take note. You can then go ahead and finish the passage “ I just want you to notice how much extra time you need. Then come back here.

Okay, are you ready? Let’s do this!

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gmat reasoningWhich type of RC passage is your favorite “ social science, business, hard science? Just kidding! I know that most people don’t have a favorite type (though most of us have a least favorite type).

Let’s try one out. Because of space constraints, I’m not going to give you the full passage, but I promise I’ll give you everything you need to know in order to answer the question. This problem is from the free set of questions that comes with GMATPrep. Give yourself up to 1.5 minutes to read the passage excerpt and approximately another 1.5 minutes to answer the question.

*  The modern multinational corporation is described as having originated when the owner-managers of nineteenth-century British firms carrying on international trade were replaced by teams of salaried managers organized into hierarchies. Increases in the volume of transactions in such firms are commonly believed to have necessitated this structural change. Nineteenth-century inventions like the steamship and the telegraph, by facilitating coordination of managerial activities, are described as key factors. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century chartered trading companies, despite the international scope of their activities, are usually considered irrelevant to this discussion: the volume of their transactions is assumed to have been too low and the communications and transport of their day too primitive to make comparisons with modern multinationals interesting.

In reality, however, early trading companies successfully purchased and outfitted ships, built and operated offices and warehouses, manufactured trade goods for use abroad, maintained trading posts and production facilities overseas, procured goods for import, and sold those goods both at home and in other countries. The large volume of transactions associated with these activities seems to have necessitated hierarchical management structures well before the advent of modern communications and transportation. For example (I’m going to stop you here! There are two more long sentences in this paragraph plus a third paragraph.)

Here’s the question:

The author lists the various activities of early chartered trading companies in order to

(A) analyze the various ways in which these activities contributed to changes in management structure in such companies

(B) demonstrate that the volume of business transactions of such companies exceeded that of earlier firms

(C) refute the view that the volume of business undertaken by such companies was relatively low

(D) emphasize the international scope of these companies’ operations

(E) support the argument that such firms coordinated such activities by using available means of communication and transport


Got your answer? Debating between two answers? Pick! The clock is ticking J

Let’s start with the passage. What did you get out of it? Here are my notes (as far as we read):

P1: MMC: 19c Brit int’l hierarch b/c of >> vol

16-17c: low vol, prim

P2: BUT 16-17 Cos did lots of stuff, >> vol

Note: at this point, while reading the second sentence of paragraph 2, I realized that the first paragraph was some other people theory “ that this hierarchy and MMC thing started in the 19th century “ but the author is disagreeing in the second paragraph. So now I have the author’s overall point and I’m going to add a couple of things to my already-written notes, like this:

P1: HYP: MMC: 19c Brit int’l hierarch b/c of >> vol

As: 16-17c: low vol, prim

P2: BUT 16-17 Cos did lots of stuff, >> vol, had hierarch already?

HYP means hypothesis, and As: means assumption coming! Note that I’m not using the word assumption in the same way I would on a critical reasoning problem. In critical reasoning, assumptions are unstated. Here, this assumption actually was stated “ the author is pointing out what some people assume to be true (but the author disagrees!).

Okay, on to our question. The question stem mentions a particular group: early chartered trading companies. Oh no! I didn’t write that down. What should I do?
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A student recently asked me to show an example of how I read and take notes on a reading comprehension passage. In this older article, I discussed how to read through an RC passage in general, but I didn’t show an example. If you haven’t already read the older article, read that first; then come back here to see an example.

The passage below is from the ManhattanGMAT CAT database (copyright MG Prep). If you are still using our exams and haven’t yet seen this passage, then you may want to wait until after you’ve seen the passage before you read this article.

As a general rule, we want to spend about 2 to 2.5 minutes on shorter passages and about 2.5 to 3 minutes on longer passages. The below passage is a longer one, so give yourself up to 3 minutes to read and take light notes.

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Reading ComprehensionLast week, a student asked me to write an article on finding The Point in a reading comprehension passage “ specifically, what is The Point and how do we find it? I thought it was a great idea; a lot of people struggle with this.

Note: this article doesn’t address how to answer reading comprehension questions; it focuses on the initial read-through in order to understand the main point of the passage. If you do that well, though, then that should help you answer any kind of question.

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This article was written by our instructor, Stacey Koprince.

Students often ask for non-GMAT reading sources that they can use to improve their reading skills in general, for comprehension and for speed. Recently, some students have asked for more: how should they read such material? Is it the same as reading for work or for pleasure? (Not entirely, no.)

Reading Passages on the GMAT

Several circumstances separate GMAT reading from real-world reading (whether for business or pleasure). Continue Reading…