Articles published in Reading Comp

Causality on the GRE

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Causality on the GRE by Neil Thornton

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You may have heard the maxim “correlation does not imply causation” before. It’s a common expression, but what does it mean for your GRE score? Lots. Read more

How to Hack GRE Reading Comprehension: Think Like a Lawyer!

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - How to Hack GRE Reading Comprehension: Think Like a Lawyer! by Ceilidh Erickson

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After working with thousands of students, I’ll admit: Reading Comprehension is my least favorite subject to teach. Why? Because unlike Quant, it doesn’t have concrete rules to apply, so it can be harder to find ways to help when students are struggling.

I have found, though, that many students who struggle with GRE Reading Comprehension aren’t actually struggling with the “reading” or the “comprehension” part (unless they struggle with English skills generally). No, the passages – though dense and often boring – are mostly ok. It’s answering the questions that’s a struggle!

RC questions can seem vague, and the answer choices can feel like a sphinx’s riddle. Often 2 or 3 answers choices may seem equally right, or maybe none of them seem right! So what should you do? Read more

The GRE Verbal Golden Rule: No Stories

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - The GRE Verbal Golden Rule: No Stories by Ryan HopsonDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


There is a very simple rule that I try hard to instill in all of my students. It will serve you well on all parts of the verbal section. It will help you in that most dire of text completion conundrums — the two words that both seem to make the sentence make sense. It will help you in sentence equivalence, when there are two oh-so-tempting pairs of answers, and you just can’t seem to judge between them. And most importantly, it will help you in reading comprehension, particularly in identifying the traps the test makers have so diabolically hidden for you. My verbal golden rule:

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Easy Answers Are Lousy Answers on the GRE

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Manhattan Prep GRE - Easy Answers Are Lousy Answers on the GRE by Chelsey CooleyDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


There are a few different types of wrong answers on the GRE. Some wrong answers are just there in hopes that you’ll guess incorrectly: they actually don’t make much logical sense, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, they look just as good as any other option. Other wrong answers are meant to trick test-takers who make particular mistakes. If you pick an answer on a Text Completion problem that’s exactly the opposite of the correct one, because you missed a critical word like despite or although, this is the type of wrong answer you’ve fallen for. Read more

GRE Reading Comp Doesn’t (have to) Suck, Part 1: Systematic but Flexible

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gre-reading-comprehensionWhy do you hate GRE Reading Comprehension so much? You’re reading and comprehending right now, aren’t you? You read thousands of words every day: status updates, tweets, news articles, emails, reports, books, magazines. In fact, much of the time you LOVE to read, losing yourself for hours in a Harry Potter book or a Stephen King novel. So what’s so bad about reading comp?

I know. I know. “Reading Comp is boring,” you say. Dense. Impenetrable. The subject matter is unfamiliar. The questions are tough. The answers are indistinguishable–either all of them match, or none of them match.

Also, the passages are usually poorly edited excerpts from longer pieces, and therefore lack context, titles, summaries, explanations, and transitions. Often the passages are written for a specific audience (archaeologists, literary theorists, science buffs) and therefore use unfamiliar jargon. You’re thrown in the deep end of the pool, expected to process dense material quickly on a stressful day. No wonder your eyes glaze over and you find yourself reading the same sentences over and over again, getting nothing.

Therefore you do it all wrong. You read and reread, trying to memorize very detail in the passage. You waste tons of time trying to understand the densest, most detailed parts of the passage, losing the thread of the argument. You reread again. In a rush now, you read the question too quickly and spend too much time poring over the answers, searching for evidence of each answer in the passage. When you do that, you find evidence for every answer back in the passage, confusing you even more. You waste time reading again. Finally, you pick something that kind-of matches something in the passage and hope you’re right. You get it right sometimes, but for no rational reason that you can explain.

The cure? You have to develop a systematic but flexible approach that allows you to answer the questions accurately. Then, you need to practice that approach until you’re comfortable and confident.

Here’s the secret. If you spend a lot of time practicing Reading Comp, you will improve your score. That’s it. Just practice. Do questions. Check your answers. Pat yourself on the back when you’re right. Find out why you were wrong when you were wrong. Do more passages. Do old passages again. Repeat.

Again. Be systematic, but be flexible.

How to be systematic:

Every time you do a question, follow these 4 steps. Every time. Never skip a step. These steps should be so ingrained they’re second nature.

1) Read the question.

Understand what the question is really asking. Put the question into your own words. Decide if it’s specific or general.
Identify key words from the question to go hunt for back in the passage.

2) Go back to the passage. Read what you need.

For general questions, you’ll have to quickly read the whole thing, focusing on main points, opinions, and structural clues, while ignoring the specific details.

For detail questions, you have to go back and find the specific information that answers the question. Use key words from the question to guide your hunt. Read a few lines above and a few lines below that key word.

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GRE Reading Comprehension is Like Speed Dating

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gre-reading-comprehensionImagine two friends, Gina and Tina, who are going to a speed-dating event. Gina really, really wants a boyfriend. Tina is just going because Gina dragged her there, and she’s only willing to date someone who is perfect for her.

At the event, Gina finds herself liking every guy that she meets: Guy #1 is smart and successful, so it makes sense that he’s proud of his accomplishments. Guy #2 is really funny and clever. The waiter just didn’t understand his jokes. Tina, on the other hand, has a very different impression of these guys: Guy 1 has been bragging about himself the whole time, and seems arrogant. Guy 2 thinks he’s funny, but he’s actually being cruel and making fun of people.

At the end of the event, Gina can’t decide which of the guys she likes best, because she has found reasons to like all of them and she has overlooked any reasons not to like them. Tina, however, was looking for reasons not to date these guys, so she notices these dealbreaker flaws. She has managed to whittle the list down to one person whose personality matched hers.

Of course in real life, dating is subjective, and what might be a dealbreaker for one person might be fine for someone else! On GRE Reading Comprehension, though, there are definitive right and wrong answers, and we have to learn how to spot the wrong ones.

Look for Dealbreakers

When it comes to Reading Comprehension on the GRE, you want to act like Tina, not Gina! You will often be presented with questions whose answer choices all seem to have appealing qualities. If you’re looking for what makes an answer right, you may overlook certain critical flaws, and talk yourself into choosing a wrong answer. If you’re looking for what makes an answer wrong, though, you’re a lot more likely to notice those deal-breaking flaws!

Take a moment to read the following passage*:

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Studying Reading Comprehension with The 5 lb. Book

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gre supernova I’ve got an interesting* Reading Comp question for you from our new 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems.

*Well, it’s interesting if you like standardized tests, Reading Comprehension, and astronomy. : )

Let’s try it out! Normally, you’d see several questions associated with an entire passage but I’m only giving you one of the paragraphs and one question. Give yourself up to about two minutes total to read the information and answer the question.

In 1604 in Padua, Italy, a supernova became visible, appearing as a star so bright that it was visible in daylight for more than a year. Galileo, who lectured at the university, gave several lectures widely attended by the public. The lectures not only sought to explain the origin of the star (some posited that perhaps it was merely vapour near the earth), but seriously undermined the views of many philosophers that the heavens were unchangeable. This idea was foundational to a worldview underpinned by a central and all-important Earth, with celestial bodies merely rotating around it.

 

The author mentions which of the following as a result of the supernova of 1604?

 

(A) The supernova created and dispersed the heavy elements out of which the earth and everything on it is made.

(B) Galileo explained the origin of the supernova.

(C) The public was interested in hearing lectures about the phenomenon.

(D) Galileo’s lectures were opposed by philosophers.

(E) Those who thought the supernova was vapour were proved wrong.

© ManhattanPrep, 2013

Just an FYI: the full passage consists of two paragraphs, so you might have taken about 2 minutes or so to read the whole passage. Three questions go along with the entire passage; expect to spend about a minute to a minute and a half on each, depending upon the specific question type.

Italics represent quotes from the passage or questions.

Let’s dive in! The paragraph tells us about an event that happened in 1604: a really bright star appeared; Galileo tried to explain it; some previous views of others were undermined by Galileo’s views; those previous views were foundational to the idea that everything revolved around Earth.

The question asks what the author mentions, so this is a lookup detail question; the answer will appear directly in the passage somewhere. Specifically, what happened as a result of the supernova in 1604?

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The 5 lb. Book: How to Study Logic-Based Reading Comprehension

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gre reading compWe’ve very excited because our latest book, the 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems, has just hit the shelves! The book contains more than 1,100 pages of practice problems (and solutions), so you can drill on anything and everything that might be giving you trouble.

Let’s try out one of the problems! Give yourself about 2 minutes to answer this Logic-Based Reading Comprehension (Logic RC). Afterwards, we’ll solve the problem and also discuss how to approach Logic RC questions in general. Read more

How to Analyze a Reading Comprehension Argument Structure Question

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GRE rcIn addition to the long, boring reading comprehension passages (that everyone hates!), we will also see quite short passages that are perhaps more appropriately called arguments. We might be asked to strengthen or weaken the conclusion, find the conclusion, articulate the role of a specific piece of information, and so on. Today we’re going to talk about Analyze the Argument Structure questions.

We’re going to use the analysis process that we discussed in a previous article; please take a look at that article first if you haven’t already.

We want to average about 1.5 to 2 minutes on RC questions in general, so set your timer for either 1.5 minutes (if RC is a strength) or 2 minutes (if RC is a weakness). (© ManhattanPrep)

(1) Local authorities are considering an amendment to the litter law that would raise the fine for littering in the community picnic area to $1,000. (2) Advocates say that raising the fine will make people take notice of the law. (3) They may be correct that higher fines get more attention. (4) Since the inception of the litter law, incremental increases in the littering fine have proven to be consistently effective at further reducing the amount of litter in the community picnic area. (5) However, raising the fine to $1,000 would actually have the unintended effect of increasing the amount of litter in the picnic area. (6) Picnic area users would perceive this fine to be unreasonable and unenforceable, and would disregard the litter law altogether.

Select the sentence, by clicking on the passage itself, that provides support for the author’s position in the passage.

Note: the real test will not number the sentences; we’ll just be able to click on a specific sentence to highlight it. We can’t do that in this article, though, and it’s a lot easier to talk about the sentences if we number them, so voila. I inserted numbers. : )

The first thing everybody does is check the answer “ so I’ll tell you that the answer is Sentence 6. Even if you answered correctly, though, you’re not done! You still need to analyze the problem.
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The Manhattan Prep GRE Reading Comprehension Study Guide

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Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Reading Comprehension Study Guide by Stacey KoprinceDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GRE courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Did you know that you can find everything you ever wanted to know about Reading Comprehension here on our blog? Well, okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating just a little but not that much! Follow the links! Read more