GRE Test - Reading comprehension made easy


Reading Comprehension task is a constant and immediate fear for most students taking their GRE test. I shall attempt to make it a less daunting task in this article. 

This week, let us look at the most important part – answering questions intelligently.

RC questions expect you to choose either one correct option from among five given options or one or more correct options from the three given options in the typical MCQ style questions or highlight a specific sentence in the paragraph as an answer to the question asked – pro hint – these are generally the easier questions on the test.

One can also look at RC Questions either as fact based, inference based, structure based and summary based questions based on the extent of reading you need to do, to be able to answer the questions. Generally, fact based questions (not too many on the GRE test) are the easiest and the inference based questions are the most difficult (and it goes without saying that most GRE questions fall into this category).

Inference based questions require you to go beyond what has been mentioned and understand what has been implied by the author as well. Structure based questions on the other hand ask you for the logical connection between one sentence or paragraph and the next – why did the author speak about a specific set of events, for instance.

And finally, summary based questions ask you for the tone, summary or sometimes the purpose of the entire passage. Students often confuse between the summary and the purpose – summary refers to the key points discussed in the paragraph (what) whereas purpose refers to the intention behind writing the paragraph (why?). Summary based questions could also be camouflaged as asking for a suitable title for the paragraph etc. Tone, on the other hand, refers to the way the author has expressed herself in the paragraph – is she being critical/admiring/analytical of someone/something in the paragraph. Often, one way of answering the tone based questions is to look at the adjectives the author has used to convey his/her opinion.

Now that we know the different kinds of questions we get to see on the GRE test, let us look at ways to attack them. Why did I use the word intelligently when answering questions? Keep in mind these few thumb rules when answering questions

  1. Always have in mind a possible answer to the question before you start looking at the options.
  2. Try eliminating the wrong options rather than selecting the right ones.
  3. Eliminate options that are all encompassing or are very strong (words like should/must/all serve as hints).On the same note, also eliminate options which are way too specific and rigid. For example, if the passage is about racism exhibited by white women, an option that speaks about racism in general cannot be the right answer.
  4. Eliminate options that bring in a new idea that has not been mentioned in the paragraph – they generally are not the right answers.
  5. And even if you are familiar with the topic – do not bring your external knowledge into play when answering these questions.

Structure based Questions

The following is an excerpt from “5 Reasons The Women’s Liberation Movement Primarily Benefited Caucasian Women” by Nick Chiles, from Atlanta Black Star. Try reading this paragraph and answer the question that follows it.

Not only did some white feminists refuse to acknowledge their ability to oppress women of color, some claimed that white women had always been anti-racist. The late feminist writer Adrienne Rich claimed, “our white foresisters have … often [defied] patriarchy … not on their own behalf but for the sake of black men, women, and children. We have a strong anti-racist female tradition.” But bell hooks pointed out “[t]here is little historical evidence to document Rich’s assertion that white women as a collective group or white women’s rights advocates are part of an anti-racist tradition.” Every women’s movement in the United States has been built on a racist foundation: women’s suffrage for white women, the abolition of slavery for the fortification of white society, the temperance movement for the moral uplifting of white society.

None of these movements was for Black liberation or racial equality; rather, they sprang from a desire to strengthen white society’s morals or to uplift the place of white women in that society, as asserted by MIT’s journal, The Thistle.

Now, the last two sentences of the passage have been written most probably to do which of the following?

  1. To elucidate the idea of domination of white women in the national movements in America
  2. To present other instances in which the objectives of women’s movements were restricted
  3. To provide additional evidence of racism practiced by white people in America
  4. To conclude with additional evidence that the only motive of white women was to further the white cause

The last but one sentence provides multiple examples to support the idea that every women’s movement in the US has been on a racist foundation. The last sentence is emphasizing on the same examples stressing that none of them were for racial equality. Now, option (1) is speaking in general of the “domination of white women” whereas the paragraph focuses on racism by white women. Option (2) speaks of restrictions to objectives of women’s movements but does not bring in the conclusion aspect of the author. Option (3) seems to be the right choice if we ignore the term “white people”. However, the paragraph focuses only on white women and therefore Option (3) isn’t the right answer. Option (4) summarizes the thought behind the last two sentences – concluding with additional evidence, thus making it the correct answer.


The section that scares students


This article - authored by Mr Mohamed Abdullah, was originally published in Telangana Today on 30th May 2017.

Read 454 times Last modified on Saturday, 05 August 2017 20:06
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