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I have a very vivid memory of taking the GRE and realizing that, in the middle of “reading” a Reading Comp passage, I was actually staring at the wall. I often share this anecdote in my first GRE class and ask how many students have had a similar experience; most hands go up.
Boredom and distraction are two of the biggest enemies many of us face when doing Reading Comprehension on standardized tests. We’re being asked to read a number of different passages on topics that may not interest us and that often use language that’s difficult to decipher. Plus, the test is long, and the more fatigued we get, the harder it is to sustain attention.
The good news, though, is that attention can be trained through practice, much as one would build endurance by running regularly. One simple way to build attention (and boost your GRE Verbal score) is to read one article a day that deals with a topic you’re not already familiar with.
Here are a few guidelines for structuring this outside reading so you can work towards improving your GRE Verbal score.
- Read articles from disciplines that are outside your comfort zone. For example, if you’re a humanities person, read science articles.
- Pick articles that are GRE-like. This means they should be fairly sophisticated in style, vocabulary, and content. I’ll include a few examples below.
- Read with a purpose. You should never just read for the sake of reading on the GRE. As you read each article, focus on finding the answers to these questions: What is the author’s main point? Why did the author write this article? You may even take this exercise a step further by jotting down brief answers to these questions after you’ve finished reading.
If you work full-time, outside reading is a great way to get in some study time on weeknights, when you might be too tired for more intense work, like solving difficult math problems. Added bonus: you’ll learn some cool new things.
To jumpstart your reading, here are a few articles from GRE-level sources. Since science and technology passages are often the trickiest for many students, all of these articles are on scientific topics. Enjoy!
Say hi to ’Oumuamua, our first interstellar visitor! Astronomers on Maui spotted this weird-looking object last October. Learn more about its origins here.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Rewilding” sounds pretty cool. This article discusses the ecological impact of reintroducing predators like wolves in places where they’d previously been eradicated. There are some adorable pictures included, too.
For a more challenging read, check out this article on why life on Earth looks the way it does. Why do most organisms have legs and not wheels? And what might this tell us about what we could expect from alien life forms?
The ability to pay close attention to complex tasks is a core GRE skill—and one that’s hardly encouraged by our high-tech lifestyle. Check out this article to learn more about how to improve your attention span, while also practicing Reading Comp to boost your GRE Verbal score. 📝
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Cat Powell is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York, NY. She spent her undergraduate years at Harvard studying music and English and is now pursuing an MFA in fiction writing at Columbia University. Her affinity for standardized tests led her to a 169Q/170V score on the GRE. Check out Cat’s upcoming GRE courses here.