5 Uncommon GMAT Verbal Question Types, and How to Approach Them

by on September 30th, 2010

Not all question types are created equal when it comes to the GMAT verbal section. About half of all Critical Reasoning questions ask you to strengthen or weaken an argument, while Reading Comprehension questions tend to focus on main ideas and inferences.

Still, it is important to become aware of the less common kinds of questions before test day. The following five each constitute less than 5% of the Verbal section, but if you’re familiar with them ahead of time you can make sure you’re ready when they do pop up on test day.

1. Role of Statement (RC/CR)

These questions jump right out at you with boldface phrases on CR and highlighted sections on RC. The question asks you to describe the function of one specific sentence, phrase, or word. Often the answer choices are abstract descriptions of the argument’s structure. For example, an answer choice might say, “the first statement adds evidence to support the author’s conclusion; the second undermines a common objection to this conclusion.”

Approach: For CR, always start by ruling out answer choices that mischaracterize the first statement, often by exaggerating its force or misstating its tone. RC questions occasionally focus on the usage of single words, and require a bit of pre-phrasing – coming up with your own right answer before looking at the choices. Again, think to yourself, “Why does the author include this statement at all?”

2. Conclusion (CR/RC)

Conclusion questions appear in a few different ways. For CR, you can expect either a passage with a __________ at the end, or a short passage with the question stem like “the author is arguing that…” Usually the wrong answer choices will try to confuse evidence with conclusions or toss in an irrelevant topic.

Approach: Ask yourself which claim in the answer choices is most clearly supported by the rest of the argument. In short, what is the author trying to convince you of?

3. Paradox (CR)

Paradox CR questions fall under the “explaining events” umbrella. Often the word “paradox” is in the question stem. The passage will describe some seemingly contradictory event, like increased business expenditures leading to net savings, and then ask you to choose the answer choice that explains how this is possible.

Approach: Watch for opposite answer choices here. Often the most tempting options are those that make the paradox worse instead of resolving it, since you’re already thinking about why the situation is paradoxical in the first place.

4. Parallel Reasoning (CR)

These are REALLY rare. You get some sort of argument in the stimulus, then have to pick the answer choice that mirrors the logic of the passage. The quickest way to spot this question type is to look for the word “analogous” in the question stem. On rare occasions there will be a __________ in the question stem, with answer choices that complete the sentence.

Approach: Brush up on your debate analogies to prepare for these questions. When you’re in a discussion with a friend, it’s second nature to reach for analogous examples to prove a point (i.e. “We shouldn’t split the bill, because you ate more at dinner. That would be like me asking to share rent evenly if your room were in the closet.”)

5. Tone (RC)

Tone questions show up in RC sporadically. These questions ask you to characterize the author’s attitude, usually with two-word phrases like “passionate disdain” or “dispassionate analysis.” There is not a lot of strategy involved; you really just need to get a feel for the passage overall and figure out which answer choice fits best.

Approach: Be mindful not to confuse the tone of people quoted in the passage with the tone of the author. The GMAT will often try to trick you by describing the perspective of an opposing group, when it’s actually the author’s perspective you need to consider.


  • your article is awesome.I have more problem in R.C. section
    I am missing main idea and purpose some time.what should I do read quick and with getting both. thanks

    • Thanks for the compliment!

      RC has many of the same question types as CR. CR conclusion questions are similar to RC main idea questions.

      Main idea and purpose are different things. Main idea focuses on the text while purpose focuses on the author's intent. An RC main idea question requires you to know the overall point of the entire passage. To figure out the right answer, read the entire passage and then try to summarize it in one sentence.

      Purpose questions ask you to figure out why the author wrote the article. You need to understand the structure of the passage to answer these questions. Think about what the author does with each paragraph. Perhaps the first paragraph introduces an idea, while the second provides evidence to support it. Figure out if the author is explaining something, arguing against an idea, comparing two different methods, or doing something else entirely.

      That is just some general advice. I hope that helps you out. If you still struggle, be sure to do a lot of practice questions and find a good prep course if you can.


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