7 Tips to be Better at GRE Reading Comprehension

7 Tips to be Better at GRE Reading Comprehension
​​The GRE reading comprehension measures your ability to read, interpret and answer questions. Here are 7 excellent tips to make you better at reading passages.
Having strong reading skills is a key skill to master the GRE Reading Comprehension. Reading for pleasure is a proven tactic to build vocabulary and reading comprehension skills.

It was a very ordinary black hat of the usual round shape, hard and much the worse for wear. The lining had been of red silk, but was a good deal discolored. There was no maker’s name; but, as Holmes had remarked, the initials “H. B.” were scrawled upon one side. It was pierced in the brim for a hat-securer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was cracked, exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places, although there seemed to have been some attempt to hide the discolored patches by smearing them with ink.

“I can see nothing,” said I, handing it back to my friend.

“On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in drawing your inferences.”

An excerpt from the book The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle

Are you a Watson or a Sherlock? Are you ready for the challenge or do you feel too timid? Do not worry. You are not alone. Thousands of students face issues in reading long passages and make meaning of what they read.

Your ability to concentrate and stay focused is put to test. RC is one of the three question types in the Verbal Reasoning Section. Let us understand GRE RC in detail so that you are prepared for what is to come.
In this post, we shall cover the following topics.

Table of Contents

Why does the GRE test you for Reading Comprehension skills?

While reading is a fundamental skill, the ability to comprehend what you read is a skill that you develop over a period of time. There is a lot of reading you will run into at a top business school. Many a time, you will have to apply what you read to immediate use. This could be in the class, group discussions, projects and case studies.
The GRE test is merely assessing your preparedness to read and comprehend passages should you run into at top schools. With that in mind, it is only fair to say that this question type eliminates students who are unprepared to meet college reading challenges.
Developing strong reading skills is an advantage for your college life. Now that you know why you are being tested on this skill, let us understand the various types of reading passages that appear in the test.

What types of reading passages are there?

Most of the passages are adopted from everyday reading materials – both academic and non-academic. Passages which appeared in textbooks, business books and journals have appeared in RC. Some topics may be challenging due to its depth or lack of familiarity. This may be from subjects such as philosophy or physics or everyday topics.
There are about ten reading comprehension passages in the GRE test. Most of the passages are 1 or 2 paragraphs long. A couple of passages are several paragraphs long.
With so many topics around, you can only read and know so much. Do not let unknown topics worry you. There is some hope. The good news is that almost all the answers to the questions are found within the passages. Isn’t that great? Now let us understand the type of questions asked based on these passages.

How many types of questions are asked in RC?

About 1 to 6 questions are asked for a given passage. Questions in RC aim to assess the students’ ability to differentiate facts from opinions.

There are three question types.

  1. Multiple choice question with only one correct answer

In this question type, a question is asked from the passage. Up to 5 answer options are provided. Only one of the options is correct. You are expected to choose the correct answer.

  1. Multiple choice question with only one correct answer
In this question type, a question is asked from the passage. 3 answer options are provided for each question. Here is the catch. The correct answer may be one of the options or more than one of the options. At times, it may be that all the 3 answer options are correct. Choose wisely.
  1. Multiple choice question with only one correct answer
This question type is applicable only to computer-based test. It does not appear in the paper-based test. The paper-based test has one of the earlier question types repeated in this place.
In this question type, a one-line description is made based on a given passage. You are expected to identify the word or sentence from the passage that aptly matches the description made in the question.
There are 3 question types based on reading comprehension passages. Reading from a range of resources helps to learn and be prepared.

Where can I find reading materials for preparation?

Reading materials are all around you. Newspapers, business magazines, classic books, academic journals such as JSTOR and Google Scholar are a good place to start. Previous years question papers are a useful resource to practice. The Official Guide to the GRE General Test published by ETS, the creators of the GRE test is a good resource to find reading materials for preparation.
Besides, a simple web search yields lots of free resources. Yet, one must tread with caution when it comes to the credibility of these sources. It is not about quantity but the quality of the content that matters. While resources are aplenty, what is more important is that you develop a habit of reading on a wide range of topics in anticipation of the test. What if you are in a hurry to get this done. You just want to improve your reading skills in time for the test.

How can I improve my reading comprehension skills?

Good reading is a habit built over a long period of time. If you are concerned about developing reading skills in the next ninety days, despair not. There are a couple of strategies that may ease your pain. Here is a simple one.
In this technique, the reading process is divided into three strategic phases.
Before Reading:
  1. Do you have any previous knowledge about this topic?
  2. Are you familiar with the vocabulary or the ability to make sense of it?
  3. Scan the passage and see if you are able to make a general sense of the topic.
During Reading:
Good readers are active readers. They use a complicated process of simultaneously interacting, constructing and extracting information. That’s a mouthful. For the layman, you must read with a purpose. To Read with purpose, you must ask questions, visualise the topic and reflect on the ideas.
After Reading:
  1. Try relating this topic to prior reading experiences
  2. Reflect upon the information in the passages and what ideas they try to convey
  3. Are you able to extend the meaning beyond the words used in the passage
  4. Summarise what you read in your own words
You will be tested on the following abilities.
  • Vocabulary – meaning of words and their usage in sentences
  • Text blocks – ability to understand large blocks of sentences
  • Major points – building blocks of the passage. This may be a sentence or sentences that build the argument and move the topic forward
  • Minor points – blocks of sentences that support the major points such as examples or statistics
  • Summarize – determine the essential parts of the passage, extract the important points and process the information in your own words. It is more like I did not know what to expect, I read and now I understand.
  • Draw conclusions – sometimes you must go beyond merely stated words to make sense of the passage. Inference is a key skill to draw conclusions. Conclusions are logically based and not based on personal opinions.
Practising various reading comprehension strategies needs time and patience. It may also need guidance. Relying on an expert helps a lot. If you are a self-learner there are plenty of resources to get started.

Where can I get more practice?

Practice reading from a variety of resources.
Online Journals:
These are a few online resources to get started. Besides these, your tutor will provide you with reading strategies and reading practice material. This should get you prepared for the test day.

Read for Pleasure

Reading for pleasure is an activity when you choose to read in anticipation of a satisfactory experience. Numerous pieces of evidence point to the fact that correlates pleasure reading to better reading comprehension skills and in turn leads to higher scores on standardised tests.
According to Pullman(2004), on what makes reading a pleasurable activity:
Consider the nature of what happens when we read …. It isn’t like a lecture: it’s like a conversation. There’s a back-and-forthness about it. The book proposes, the reader questions, the book responds, the reader considers.
And we are active about the process… We can skim or we can read it slowly; we can read every word, or we can skip long passages; we can read it in the order it presents itself, or we can read it in any order we please; we can look at the last page first, or decide to wait for it; we can put the book down and … we can assent or we can disagree.


What are your strategies for reading comprehension? We would love to hear your thoughts!


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Santhosh M
Santhosh M

Santhosh leads digital marketing at Capstone. He is passionate about writing awesome content and building the Capstone brand.

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