How to Master Reading Comprehension on the GMAT:
The reading comprehension section on the GMAT is often dreaded and it’s not hard to see why. Even for bibliophiles and voracious readers, the subject matter that the test creators pick is often dense, complex, obscure, and slightly foreign (in terms of novelty, not content). You would hope that they pick interesting topics for you to engage easily with, the kind that you would pick to read for leisure, but they don’t. They pick topics that you might find in a business setting or classroom; anything that is relevant and pertains to ideas and discussions in business school or beyond—that is a sure bet. Not only that, but the manner in which these topics are presented is wieldy and sometimes convoluted. At least, it can seem that way. But before you lament about why any of this really matters in your real life, you should see why you should be receptive to mastering reading comprehension. In business school, you will be asked to do cases and more often than not, you usually won’t be given enough time to read through every single word and detail. Instead, your reading prowess will be brought to light. You’ll have to deduce what is important and concentrate on those elements until you can assemble a framework for the main ideas and arguments that back up certain perspectives, or changes in conclusion. At work, you are also going to have to make decisions despite having incomplete information. On the other hand, you will have to sift through a ton of information to get the gist of everything. When you find yourself losing motivation for the reading comprehension section on the GMAT, remember everything that we mentioned above and trust us that mastering RC will actually help you beyond school in the real business world.
- See the bigger picture.
Anyone do yoga? Take a deep breath. It helps to look at the trees, but you also need to see the whole forest to be able to get through it. It’s kind of like looking at a map. To effectively get through reading comprehension, you need to see the big picture as well as note any major shifts or changes in thinking. Take light notes to help you boil the main idea down. Mark where it’s getting specific with examples but you don’t need to spend time on the minute details. “Bookmark” sections that you think you will come back to if you actually get a question on it. Sometimes you might feel uncomfortable because you will feel like you are skimming or outright overlooking some of the details, but that is okay. You are on a budget (for time).
- Improve your reading speed.
When you drive on the freeway and you need to head to your destination in a timely fashion, you will still need to adhere to the overall speed of everyone else. On the GMAT, you will need to align yourself to managing your time efficiently and being able to get to the main message as quickly as possible. Each time you get engrossed in a tiny detail in the passage, that is like taking a rest at an inn to examine the billboard. Keep driving. If you’ve tried all of the above and don’t know how to read and focus correctly (where you are also sort of skimming) and are unnerved by trying to find this balance, then you should consider getting a tutor. This is especially relevant for those whose native language isn’t English. English comes with a lot of bells and whistles, so if you don’t understand the nuanced turn of a phrase, you might find yourself scratching your head in search of the meaning when that was not what the question was even asking.
- Find the main point
Sometimes high-brow literary fiction isn’t necessarily plot-driven; there are works of art that meander and are intended to leave an impression on the reader. However, for the GMAT, reading comprehension is intended to sell you or dissuade you from a main point. There is a main point to each passage you read and you have to find it like you are on a treasure hunt. Without knowing what the main point is, you are like a traveler without a compass. So, when you read the passage, you need to make sure you understand what point the author is trying to make or why he or she wrote the passage to begin with. There is no rubric as to where the main idea will show up. Sometimes it can be in a sentence or it can be strung along two main sentences. It can show up declaratively as the first sentence or stated at the very end like a firm conclusion. It might also be woven in discretely. You have to hunt for it and figure out how the rest of the written content supports this main idea. As a reader, you become an investigator.
Being a good reader doesn’t mean you have to be a detective. Being a good reader means getting to understand a situation based on certain elements. When you read new content, you have to get a gist of the context quickly, especially on the GMAT. Having this type of skill will be extremely useful in your business career. Being able to read well correlated to sharpened critical thinking skills. Since the GMAT is primarily an executive reasoning test, you need to be able to demonstrate how you think. How you think also is inextricably tied to how you read.
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