GMAT Avengers Study Group: Short RC Passages:

by on November 28th, 2014

Reading Comprehension passages on a GMAT come in a variety of lengths. If we skim through the RC section inThe Official Guide, we will find some that are twice as long as others. Most of the times the challenges are of extracting information in a reasonable amount of time from longer passages.

But, there are challenges with shorter passages as well. Many of the tactics we may rely upon for three- and four-paragraph passages are not as effective on their briefer counterparts.

Important Characteristics of Short Passages

  • Most of the passages often have one paragraph and thus, making it difficult to skim
  • No visual clues to tell us where to find a topic sentence
  • Higher percentage of the passage is devoted to detailed content  because the passage is not long and there are fewer signpost sentences
  • Short Passages, on average, cover more complicated content

How to Handle Short Passages

  • Whenever a short passage appears on the screen, the first step would be to not to try to rush through it. Expect to spend nearly as long reading and analyzing a 200-word passage as you would do with a 400-word passage.Remember, the difficulty of the topic may make it just as challenging.
  • Make an effort to understand every sentence as you read through the passage as there  would hardly be anything that we can skip
  • While working through the questions, expect to see fewer “big picture” questions  and more inference questions. As a result, we may be required to combine the information from  two or three sentences in a way we had not expected. This is primarily because of less content in the passage and thus, we can expect most of it to be more complex.

We will now share the links of the  articles that we shared on our Facebook Event Page:

Important points about the question Format and Structure of RC are provided below for a quick refresher:

  • GMAT Passages are between one and five paragraphs in length
  • One will usually see two shorter and two longer passages in the Verbal Section
  • Usually, there will be 3 questions for a shorter passage and four questions for a longer passage. We can answer only one question at a time and can’t go back to previous questions.
  • The passages usually have the tone and content that one might expect from a scholarly journal
  • We are not expected to have prior knowledge of the subject matter in the passage
  • The passage stays on the screen for ALL the questions that pertain to it.
  • One should spend 4 minutes per passage and a little less than 1.5 minutes per question. (Some prefer taking 2.5 to 3.5 minutes on a shorter passage and 3.5 to 4.5 on a longer one with one minute per question.)

Basic Principles of Reading Comprehension are as follows:

  • Look for the Topic and Scope of  the Passage
  • Get the gist of each  paragraph and its structural role in the paragraph
  • Look for opinions, theories and point of view—especially the author’s
  • Don’t obsess over details

To improve your comprehension levels in general, it would be a good idea to follow and read from the following publications/journals on a regular basis: The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American,, ScienceDaily, MIT Technology Review, Smithsonian, University of Chicago Magazine. However, do not expect this to show magical results. With regular practice, we will see results.

Practice Questions

Passage 1

Radio galaxies and quasars—quasi-stellar radio sources—usually display two symmetric, radio-emitting lobes. These sources can stretch more than 10 million light years across–more than twenty times the visible extent of the typical host galaxy, and more than 100 million times the diameter of the Milky Way.

In 1971, Martin J. Rees suggested that hidden engines located within the nuclei of the parent galaxies generate the energy needed to power the giant radio lobes. He proposed that high-speed particles shooting along narrow channels could transport this energy. A few years later other investigators demonstrated that, in many sources, jet-like features do seem to connect a radio-bright core in the galaxy’s nucleus with knots of radio emissions emanating from the outer extremities of the lobes. The nature of the engine that powers the processes in radio galaxies and quasars is still a mystery, but most astronomers think a massive rotating black hole lies behind all the commotion. Theorists commonly suppose that material spiraling toward a black hole becomes compressed and heated to a temperature of millions of degrees before it vanishes into the hole’s interior. The superheated particles circling the hole may be responsible for various exotic phenomena that occur in and around the centers of active galaxies, such as the formation of radio jets.

1. According to the passage, which one of the following is an accurate statement concerning radio-emitting lobes?

(A) They are powered by superheated particles spiraling toward black holes.

(B) Their exact energy source remains a question for scientists.

(C) They stretch more than 10 million light years across.

(D) They are probably responsible for the formation of radio jets around the centers of active galaxies.

(E) They are always symmetric in their orientation.

2. According to the passage, scientists’ hypotheses about black holes and their part in radio-emissions would be best supported if which of the following were found to be true?

(A) Some particles become greatly condensed and raised to high temperatures as they near the entrances to black holes.

(B) Many exotic phenomena have been observed in and around the centers of active galaxies.

(C) High-speed particles do, in fact, shoot along narrow channels and transport energy from quasars and radio galaxies to their lobes.

(D) Particles inside black holes have been shown to reach temperatures of several million degrees.

(E) Radio emissions of radio galaxies were found to have different wavelengths from those of quasars.

Passage 2

The golden toad of Costa Rica, whose beauty and rarity inspired an unusual degree of human interest from a public generally unconcerned about amphibians, may have been driven to extinction by human activity nevertheless. In the United States, a public relations campaign featuring the toad raised money to purchase and protect the toad’s habitat in Costa Rica, establishing the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in 1972. Although this action seemed to secure the toad’s future, it is now apparent that setting aside habitat was not enough to save this beautiful creature. The toad’s demise in the late 1980s was a harbinger of further species extinction in Costa Rica. Since that time, another twenty of the fifty species of frogs and toads known to once inhabit a 30 square kilometer area near Monteverde have disappeared.

The unexplained, relatively sudden disappearance of amphibians in Costa Rica is not a unique story. Populations of frogs, toads, and salamanders have declined or is appeared the world over. Scientists hypothesize that the more subtle effects of human activities on the world’s ecosystems, such as the build-up of pollutants, the decrease in atmospheric ozone, and changing weather patterns due to global warming, are beginning to take their toll. Perhaps amphibians – whose permeable skin makes them sensitive to environmental changes – are the “canary in the coal mine,” giving us early notification of the deterioration of our environment. If amphibians are the biological harbingers of environmental problems, humans would be wise to heed their warning.

1) According to the passage, all of the following are true EXCEPT:

(A) Humans are at least partially responsible for changing weather patterns.

(B) Toads, like frogs, have permeable skin.

(C) Human activity is not necessarily responsible for the global decline of amphibious populations.

(D) Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve was not paid for solely by the Costa Rican government.

(E) More frog and toad species than salamander species have disappeared in Costa Rica since the late 1980s.

2) It can be inferred from the passage that:

(A) only thirty species of frogs and toads remain in Costa Rica.

(B) humans do not have permeable skin.

(C) the build-up of pollutants in the atmosphere causes a decrease in atmospheric ozone.

(D) humans do not usually take signals of environmental deterioration seriously.

(E) Costa Rica suffers from more serious environmental problems than many other countries.

3) The author uses the adjective “subtle” in the second paragraph most probably to emphasize that:

(A) these effects are not easily recognized by sophisticated testing equipment.

(B) these effects are difficult to notice because they take place over time on a global scale.

(C) these effects are so minimal that they affect only small animal species such as amphibians.

(D) these slight effects of human activity are rarely discussed by scientists.

(E) these effects are infrequently observed because they affect only specific world regions.

4) The passage implies that:

(A) many amphibians are not considered beautiful.

(B) the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve was not large enough to protect the golden toad.

(C) only Costa Rican amphibians living near Monteverde have disappeared since the 1980s.

(D) amphibians sometimes live in coal mines.

(E) no humans yet consider the decline of amphibious populations an indication of a threat to human populations.

5) The primary purpose of the passage is to:

(A) discuss the mysterious disappearance of Costa Rica’s golden toad.

(B) explain why human activity is undoubtedly to blame for the global decline of amphibious populations

(C) convince humans that they must minimize the global output of pollutants.

(D) describe the recent global decline of amphibious populations and hypothesize about its causes.

(E) urge humans to pay careful attention to important environmental changes.

Passage 3

Scientists studying the physiology of dinosaurs have long debated whether dinosaurs were warm- or cold-blooded. Those who suspect they were warm-blooded point out that dinosaur bone is generally fibro-lamellar in nature; because fibro-lamellar bone is formed quickly, the bone fibrils, or filaments, are laid down haphazardly. Consistent with their rapid growth rate, warm-blooded animals, such as birds and mammals, tend to produce fibro-lamellar bone, whereas reptiles, which are slow-growing and cold-blooded, generally produce bone in which fibrils are laid down parallel to each other. Moreover, like the bone of birds and mammals, dinosaur bone tends to be highly vascularized, or filled with blood vessels. These characteristics, first recognized in the 1930’s, were documented in the 1960’s by de Ricqlès, who found highly vascularized, fibro-lamellar bone in several groups of dinosaurs. In the 1970’s, Bakker cited these characteristics as evidence for the warm-bloodedness of dinosaurs. Although de Ricqlès urged caution, arguing for an intermediate type of dinosaur physiology, a generation of paleontologists has come to believe that dinosaur bone is mammalian like. In the 1980’s, however, Bakker’s contention began to be questioned, as a number of scientists found growth rings in the bones of various dinosaurs that are much like those in modern reptiles. Bone growth in reptiles is periodic in nature, producing a series of concentric rings in the bone, not unlike the growth rings of a tree. Recently, Chinsamy investigated the bones of two dinosaurs from the early Jurassic period (208-187 million years ago), and found that these bones also had growth rings; however, they were also partially fibro-lamellar in nature. Chinsamy’s work raises a question central to the debate over dinosaur physiology: did dinosaurs form fibro-lamellar bone because of an innately high metabolic rate associated with warm-bloodedness or because of periods of unusually fast growth that occurred under favorable environmental conditions? (Although modern reptiles generally do not form fibro-lamellar bone, juvenile crocodilesraised under optimal environmental conditions do.) This question remains unanswered; indeed, taking all the evidence into account, one cannot make a definitive statement about dinosaur physiology on the basis of dinosaur bone. It may be that dinosaurs had an intermediate pattern of bone structure because their physiology was neither typically reptilian, mammalian, nor avian.

1) The author of the passage would be most likely to agree that the “caution” (line 29) urged by de Ricqlès regarding claims about dinosaur physiology was:

(A) unjustified by the evidence available to de Ricqlès.

(B) unnecessary, given the work done by Bakker and his followers.

(C) indicative of the prevailing scientific opinion at the time.

(D) warranted, given certain subsequent findings of other scientists.

(E) influential in the recent work of Chinsamy.

2) The primary purpose of the passage is to:

(A) discuss the influence on other scientists of Bakker’s argument concerning the warm-bloodedness of dinosaurs.

(B) provide evidence that supports the claim that dinosaurs were cold-blooded.

(C) challenge the contention that dinosaur bone tissue is innately fibro-lamellar.

(D) evaluate the claim that dinosaur bone tissue provides evidence for the warm bloodedness of dinosaurs.

(E) resolve the disagreement between de Ricqlès and Bakker over the nature of dinosaur physiology.

3) According to the passage, the discovery of growth rings in the bones of certain dinosaurs served to undermine which of the following claims?

(A) That modern reptiles are related to dinosaurs.

(B) That bone growth in dinosaurs was periodic in nature.

(C) That dinosaurs were warm-blooded.

(D) That dinosaurs had an intermediate type of physiology.

(E) That fibro-lamellar bone is the product of a rapid growth rate.

4) The author of the passage mentions bone growth patterns in juvenile crocodiles most likely in order to provide support for the argument that reptiles are not related to dinosaurs?

(A) provide support for the argument that reptiles are not related to dinosaurs.

(B) undermine the claim that most reptiles are slow-growing.

(C) offer an explanation as to why juvenile crocodiles differ from most modern reptiles.

(D) suggest the juvenile crocodiles have a type of physiology intermediate between f mammals and that of reptiles.

(E) suggest that the presence of fibro-lamellar bone does not resolve the debate over dinosaur physiology.

Passage 4

The immigration of Europeans and the importation of West African slaves to America resulted in a convergence of cultures, traditions, and art forms, including music. Jazz, first played in New Orleans in the early 1900s, borrowed heavily from the European musical scale and harmonic system. Jazz ensembles were built predominantly on European instruments, such as the trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and piano. The West African influence on jazz was manifested primarily in its performance. Scatting, a technique used by jazz vocalists to mimic the sounds of instruments, had its origin in West African vocal traditions. The emphasis on improvisation in jazz music, in addition to group participation, also came from West African music.

Some musicologists argue that jazz is a purely American form of music. Others, however, contend that jazz is rooted in a history similar to that of America itself, a history of confluence. Proponents of the argument that jazz is purely American often point to its genesis in New Orleans as evidence for this perspective. The irony, however, is that the essence of America lies in the plurality of its roots. To deny the rich and complex history of jazz, and the true origins of the art form, is to deny the very aspects of the art form that make it undeniably American.

1) It can be inferred from the passage that the author would be less inclined to label jazz an American art form if which of the following were true?

(A) New Orleans was not the place where jazz music was first played.

(B) Jazz music was first created in New York when four avant-garde musicians from different cultural backgrounds came together to experiment with unprecedented musical concepts.

(C) With the influx of West Africans to the Americas came a very specific West African musical style which eventually came to be called “jazz” in New Orleans.

(D) Jazz music actually draws more of its character from South American and Native American traditions than from those of Europe or West Africa.

(E) The instruments used by jazz musicians were predominately of West African origin, not European origin.

2) Which of the following statements concerning jazz is most directly suggested in the passage?

(A) The plurality of jazz’s roots has led multiple cultures to claim jazz as their own.

(B) If jazz musicians had not borrowed from the European musical scale, they would have used the West African musical scale instead.

(C) Only European and African cultures had an influence on the development of jazz.

(D) Jazz was played in West Africa prior to its introduction in New Orleans in the early 1900s.

(E) Instrumentation was not a primary component of the West African influence on jazz.

3) Which of the following elements of jazz most likely has its origin in West African musical traditions?

(A) The emphasis on a tonal harmonic structure.

(B) The use of an instrument to mimic a vocalist’s sound.

(C) The use of traditional African instruments.

(D) The use of many instruments in a jazz ensemble.

(E) An impromptu call-and-response between two instruments in the ensemble.

Passage 5

Desert plant populations have evolved sophisticated physiological behavioral traits that aid survival in arid conditions. Some send out long, unusually deep taproots; others utilize shallow but widespread roots, which allow them to absorb large, intermittent flows of water. Certain plants protect their access to water. The creosote bush produces a potent root toxin which inhibits the growth of competing root systems. Daytime closure of stomata exemplifies a further genetic adaptation; guard cells work to minimize daytime water loss, later allowing the stomata to open when conditions are more favorable to gas exchange with the environment. Certain adaptations reflect the principle that a large surface area facilitates water and gas exchange. Most plants have small leaves, modified leaves (spines), or no leaves at all. The main food-producing organ is not the leaf but the stem, which is often green and non-woody. Thick, waxy stems and cuticles, seen in succulents such as cacti and agaves, also help conserve water. Spines and thorns (modified branches) protect against predators and also minimize water loss

1) The passage refers to the spines and thorns of desert plants as:

I. genetically evolved structural adaptations that protect against predation.

II. genetic modifications that aid in the reduction of water loss.

III. structures that do not participate directly in food production.

(A) I only

(B) III only

(C) I and II only

(D) II and III only

(E) I, II and III

2) The author suggest that the guard cells of desert plants act to do which of the following?

I. Facilitate gas and water exchange between the plants and their surroundings.

II. Cause the stomata of desert plants to remain closed during daytime hours.

III. Respond to sudden, heavy rainfalls by forcing the plants’ stomata to open.

(A) I only

(B) II only

(C) III only

(D) I and II only

(E) I, II, and III

3) The passage suggests that which of the following weather-related conditions would most benefit plants with shallow root systems?

(A) An unusually prolonged drought.

(B) A windstorm.

(C) A flash flood.

(D) A light spring rain.

(E) A winter snowfall.

4) The adaptations of desert plants to their environment would tend to support the statement that:

(A) the rate of genetic evolution is greater in the desert than in more temperate surroundings.

(B) structures in a plant which usually perform one function may, under certain conditions, perform different functions.

(C) while the amount of leaf surface area is critical for a desert plant, it is much less so for plants in most other environments.

(D) desert plants do not have many physiological and behavioral traits in common with other plants.

(E) desert plants could probably adapt to life in a variety of harsh ecosystems.

Passage 6

Among the myths taken as fact by the environmental managers of most corporations is the Line belief that environmental regulations affect all competitors in a given industry uniformly. In reality, regulatory costs—and therefore compliance—fall unevenly, economically disadvantaging some companies and benefiting others. For example, a plant situated near a number of larger non-compliant competitors is less likely to attract the attention of local regulators than is an isolated plant, and less attention means lower costs. Additionally, large plants can spread compliance costs such as waste treatment across a larger revenue base; on the other hand, some smaller plants may not even be subject to certain provisions such as permit or reporting requirements by virtue of their size. Finally, older production technologies often continue to generate toxic wastes that were not regulated when the technology was first adopted. New regulations have imposed extensive compliance costs on companies still using older industrial coal-fired burners that generate high sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide outputs, for example, whereas new facilities generally avoid processes that would create such waste products. By realizing that they have discretion and that not all industries are affected equally by environmental regulation, environmental managers can help their companies to achieve a competitive edge by anticipating regulatory pressure and exploring all possibilities for addressing how changing regulations will affect their companies specifically.

1) It can be inferred from the passage that a large plant might have to spend more than a similar but smaller plant on environmental compliance because the larger plant is:

(A) more likely to attract attention from local regulators.

(B) less likely to be exempt from permit and reporting requirements.

(C) less likely to have regulatory costs passed on to it by companies that supply its raw materials.

(D) more likely to employ older production technologies.

(E) more likely to generate wastes that are more environmentally damaging than those generated by smaller plants.

2) Which of the following best describes the relationship of the statement about large plants (lines 18-26) to the passage as a whole?

(A) It presents a hypothesis that is disproved later in the passage.

(B) It highlights an opposition between two ideas mentioned in the passage.

(C) It provides examples to support a claim made earlier in the passage.

(D) It exemplifies a misconception mentioned earlier in the passage.

(E) It draws an analogy between two situations described in the passage.

3) The primary purpose of the passage is to:

(A) address a widespread environmental management problem and suggest possible solutions.

(B) illustrate varying levels of compliance with environmental regulation among different corporations.

(C) describe the various alternatives to traditional methods of environmental management.

(D) advocate increased corporate compliance with environmental regulation.

(E) correct a common misconception about the impact of environmental regulations.

Answer Key:

  • Passage 1 – B, A
  • Passage 2 – E, B, B, A, D
  • Passage 3 – D, D, C, E
  • Passage 4 – C, E, E
  • Passage 5 – E, D, C and B
  • Passage 6 – B

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