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How to Improve Your Reading Ability

This topic has 1 expert reply and 6 member replies

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KevinRocci Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts
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How to Improve Your Reading Ability

Post Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:58 am
Howdy!

One aspect of the GMAT that causes students a problem is reading. Not just reading comprehension questions, but all the reading on the test. Critical Reasoning, Math word problems, IR questions, and sentence correction require an astute reading strategy. Students need to read efficiently and quickly to manage their time well.

There are two ways to improve your reading ability.

First, you should be reading all the time to prepare for the GMAT. Read. Read. Read. This will help you to learn new words, see different passage structures, and become familiar with forms and styles employed by authors. As with most things, we can't get better unless we are doing. So spend some of your free time reading articles, short stories, essays, reviews, and all manner of text.

But don't just read anything. You need to read higher level passages. You need to improve your ability to process information written for an academic and educated audience. I recommend reading the following news sources regularly. You can read other materials as well, but make sure that you dedicate ample time to reading from these news sources. And try to read articles on topics you normally would not choose to read. This will help you to feel comfortable with topics you normally don't encounter. The GMAT has a wide range of topics and disciplines that appear in reading passages and arguments so it is important to read a wide range of topics in your free time.

1. The New York Times
2. The Wall Street Journal
3. BBC
4. The Economist
5. The MIT Technology Review

The second thing you need to do is improve how you read. Just reading more won't be enough. You'll need to practice focused, active reading. You need to read like your life depends on it, like a hungry bear waking from months of hibernation. You need to read with purpose.

One way to activate your reading process is to ask yourself a set of questions every time you read. And ask yourself these questions multiple times as your reading. The answers may change as you read. So ask yourself:

1. What is the main idea? You should be able to put this into a couple phrases, not necessarily a long sentence. Try to start at the broadest possible level and then narrow more and more. So start with the general topic, then try to figure out what the scope of the passage is. That is, if the passage is about dinosaurs, what part of dinosaurs are we talking about? Skeletons? Fossil records? Biology? Coloring? Why they disappeared? Relationship to modern day birds? Through this process you should be able to narrow and narrow until you have a good summation of the main idea.

2. What is the structure and flow of the passage? You need to pay attention to transition words in the passage. You need to think about where you have been and where you are going in the passage. How does this paragraph connect to the main idea? What's its purpose in terms of the main idea? And how was it connected to the previous paragraph? Through these questions, you will get a "road map" of the passage. You'll have a sense of what happens where. And you will have a better understanding of examples or reasons because you will know their purpose in terms of the main idea of the passage.

3. What is the author's tone and what is the author's purpose? You always want to try and infer the author's opinion about the topic. The author's opinions and beliefs will leak into the passage and influence the word choice and position in the article. So pay attention to the positive or negative tone of the adjectives and adverbs in the passage. In terms of the author's purpose, we don't have to do too much work. There are really only four reasons that people write something: to entertain, to persuade, to inform, or to describe. Obviously, passages will have elements of all of these, but usually there is one main reason that author sat down to write what you are reading.

I hope that you find these suggestions and tips helpful! Good luck dominating the GMAT! Smile

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GMAT/MBA Expert

Post Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:38 am
Paying attention to a passage's structure and flow will help you locate important information that you may be asked about, even if you don't get a question explicitly asking about "flow."

For example, if a passage begins: "For years scientists have believed Theory X. However.." That "however" should jump out at you as a signal that the author is likely preparing to present information that contradicts what the scientists have believed. If you were to get a question asking about what the author believes vs what the scientists have believed, we know where to find the relevant discussion.

Here is an official passage with some key transition words highlighted. Notice that the content following transition words tends to be important:

Many people believe that because wages are lower in developing countries than in developed countries, competition from developing countries in goods traded internationally will soon eliminate large numbers of jobs in developed countries. Currently, developed countries' advanced technology results in higher productivity, which accounts for their higher wages. Advanced technology is being transferred ever more speedily across borders, but even with the latest technology, productivity and wages in developing countries will remain lower than in developed countries for many years because developed countries have better infrastructure and better-educated workers. When productivity in a developing country does catch up, experience suggests that wages there will rise. Some individual firms in developing countries have raised their productivity but kept their wages (which are influenced by average productivity in the country's economy) low. However, in a developing country's economy as a whole, productivity improvements in goods traded internationally are likely to cause an increase in wages. Furthermore, if wages are not allowed to rise, the value of the country's currency will appreciate, which (from the developed countries' point of view) is the equivalent of increased wages in the developing country. And although in the past a few countries have deliberately kept their currencies undervalued, that is now much harder to do in a world where capital moves more freely.

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VivianKerr GMAT Instructor
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Post Fri Mar 06, 2015 1:24 pm
This post rocks. To chart the "flow" of a passage, I use a specific template to make a Passage Map.

This is a sample MGMAT passage:

Measuring more than five feet tall and ten feet long, the Javan rhinoceros is often called the rarest large mammal on earth. Though the habitat of the Javan rhino once extended across southern Asia, now there are fewer than one hundred of the animals in Indonesia and fewer than a dozen in Vietnam. The decline of the species may have progressed too far to be reversed.

For centuries, farmers who wished to cultivate the rhino’s habitat viewed the animals as crop-eating pests and shot them on sight; during the colonial period, hunters slaughtered thousands for their horns, as poachers still do today. The surviving Vietnamese herd has diminished to the point that it can no longer maintain the genetic variation necessary for long-term survival.

The Indonesian herd cannot be used to supplement the Vietnamese population because, in the millions of years since Indonesia separated from the mainland, the two groups have evolved into separate sub-species. The Indonesian rhinos are protected on the Ujung Kulon peninsula, which is unsettled by humans, and still thought to have sufficient genetic diversity to survive.

The lack of human disturbance, however, allows mature forests to replace the shrubby vegetation preferred by the animals. Human benevolence may prove little better for these rhinos than past human maltreatment.

And here's how our notes might look:

Topic: Javan rhino
Scope: its survival chances
1st chunk: to introduce the endangered Rhino
2nd chunk: to explain why the rhino is endangered
3rd chunk: to describe how 1 solution won't work
4th chunk: to emphasize that the Indo herd, though protected, might not survive either
Purpose: to describe the causes of endangerment & challenges facing 2 rhino species

Don't underestimate the power of INFINITIVE VERBS! So many function and main idea questions present their answer choices as infinitive verbs! Check out the RC in the OG if you don't believe me. Smile Verbs help us keep things in the author's perspective, so we're focused more on what a paragraph is DOING than what it's SAYING. We can always go back for what it's SAYING, but if you don't understand the "flow" and paragraph structure on the first read, you'll probably miss at least 1-2 accompanying questions.

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Thank you for all the "thanks" and "follows"! Smile

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AlinaAustin Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:08 am
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bluej244 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
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Post Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:38 pm
KevinRocci wrote:
Howdy!

One aspect of the GMAT that causes students a problem is reading. Not just reading comprehension questions, but all the reading on the test. Critical Reasoning, Math word problems, IR questions, and sentence correction require an astute reading strategy. Students need to read efficiently and quickly to manage their time well.

There are two ways to improve your reading ability.

First, you should be reading all the time to prepare for the GMAT. Read. Read. Read. This will help you to learn new words, see different passage structures, and become familiar with forms and styles employed by authors. As with most things, we can't get better unless we are doing. So spend some of your free time reading articles, short stories, essays, reviews, and all manner of text.

But don't just read anything. You need to read higher level passages. You need to improve your ability to process information written for an academic and educated audience. I recommend reading the following news sources regularly. You can read other materials as well, but make sure that you dedicate ample time to reading from these news sources. And try to read articles on topics you normally would not choose to read. This will help you to feel comfortable with topics you normally don't encounter. The GMAT has a wide range of topics and disciplines that appear in reading passages and arguments so it is important to read a wide range of topics in your free time.

1. The New York Times
2. The Wall Street Journal
3. BBC
4. The Economist
5. The MIT Technology Review

The second thing you need to do is improve how you read. Just reading more won't be enough. You'll need to practice focused, active reading. You need to read like your life depends on it, like a hungry bear waking from months of hibernation. You need to read with purpose.

One way to activate your reading process is to ask yourself a set of questions every time you read. And ask yourself these questions multiple times as your reading. The answers may change as you read. So ask yourself:

1. What is the main idea? You should be able to put this into a couple phrases, not necessarily a long sentence. Try to start at the broadest possible level and then narrow more and more. So start with the general topic, then try to figure out what the scope of the passage is. That is, if the passage is about dinosaurs, what part of dinosaurs are we talking about? Skeletons? Fossil records? Biology? Coloring? Why they disappeared? Relationship to modern day birds? Through this process you should be able to narrow and narrow until you have a good summation of the main idea.

2. What is the structure and flow of the passage? You need to pay attention to transition words in the passage. You need to think about where you have been and where you are going in the passage. How does this paragraph connect to the main idea? What's its purpose in terms of the main idea? And how was it connected to the previous paragraph? Through these questions, you will get a "road map" of the passage. You'll have a sense of what happens where. And you will have a better understanding of examples or reasons because you will know their purpose in terms of the main idea of the passage.

3. What is the author's tone and what is the author's purpose? You always want to try and infer the author's opinion about the topic. The author's opinions and beliefs will leak into the passage and influence the word choice and position in the article. So pay attention to the positive or negative tone of the adjectives and adverbs in the passage. In terms of the author's purpose, we don't have to do too much work. There are really only four reasons that people write something: to entertain, to persuade, to inform, or to describe. Obviously, passages will have elements of all of these, but usually there is one main reason that author sat down to write what you are reading.

I hope that you find these suggestions and tips helpful! Good luck dominating the GMAT! Smile
This is worth sharing. Thanks for sharing this. I know these tips will help many.

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Jacob003 Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:36 am
Evaluate your reading habits to find out where you need improvement.

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Humstudents Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:30 pm
KevinRocci wrote:
Howdy!

One aspect of the GMAT that causes students a problem is reading. Not just reading comprehension questions, but all the reading on the test. Critical Reasoning, Math word problems, IR questions, and sentence correction require an astute reading strategy. Students need to read efficiently and quickly to manage their time well.

There are two ways to improve your reading ability.

First, you should be reading all the time to prepare for the GMAT. Read. Read. Read. This will help you to learn new words, see different passage structures, and become familiar with forms and styles employed by authors. As with most things, we can't get better unless we are doing. So spend some of your free time reading articles, short stories, essays, reviews, and all manner of text.

But don't just read anything. You need to read higher level passages. You need to improve your ability to process information written for an academic and educated audience. I recommend reading the following news sources regularly. You can read other materials as well, but make sure that you dedicate ample time to reading from these news sources. And try to read articles on topics you normally would not choose to read. This will help you to feel comfortable with topics you normally don't encounter. The GMAT has a wide range of topics and disciplines that appear in reading passages and arguments so it is important to read a wide range of topics in your free time.

1. The New York Times
2. The Wall Street Journal
3. BBC
4. The Economist
5. The MIT Technology Review

The second thing you need to do is improve how you read. Just reading more won't be enough. You'll need to practice focused, active reading. You need to read like your life depends on it, like a hungry bear waking from months of hibernation. You need to read with purpose.

One way to activate your reading process is to ask yourself a set of questions every time you read. And ask yourself these questions multiple times as your reading. The answers may change as you read. So ask yourself:

1. What is the main idea? You should be able to put this into a couple phrases, not necessarily a long sentence. Try to start at the broadest possible level and then narrow more and more. So start with the general topic, then try to figure out what the scope of the passage is. That is, if the passage is about dinosaurs, what part of dinosaurs are we talking about? Skeletons? Fossil records? Biology? Coloring? Why they disappeared? Relationship to modern day birds? Through this process you should be able to narrow and narrow until you have a good summation of the main idea.

2. What is the structure and flow of the passage? You need to pay attention to transition words in the passage. You need to think about where you have been and where you are going in the passage. How does this paragraph connect to the main idea? What's its purpose in terms of the main idea? And how was it connected to the previous paragraph? Through these questions, you will get a "road map" of the passage. You'll have a sense of what happens where. And you will have a better understanding of examples or reasons because you will know their purpose in terms of the main idea of the passage.

3. What is the author's tone and what is the author's purpose? You always want to try and infer the author's opinion about the topic. The author's opinions and beliefs will leak into the passage and influence the word choice and position in the article. So pay attention to the positive or negative tone of the adjectives and adverbs in the passage. In terms of the author's purpose, we don't have to do too much work. There are really only four reasons that people write something: to entertain, to persuade, to inform, or to describe. Obviously, passages will have elements of all of these, but usually there is one main reason that author sat down to write what you are reading.

I hope that you find these suggestions and tips helpful! Good luck dominating the GMAT! Smile
Really perfect and awesome.I have so useful information from here.You have done a great effort.

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bonetlobo Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts Default Avatar
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Post Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:06 am
Hi Kevin, this is really helpful. I have started preparing for the exam, but have not started RC as yet.

While all other points from your post were clear, it would be really useful if you could elaborate slightly on your second point: "structure and flow".

By "Flow", what exactly should we keep in mind, and how would it help us answer the questions; I believe there are no questions as: What is the flow of this passage.

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