Like figuring out the privacy settings on Facebook, or explaining the anti-aging abilities of Madonna, better scores on the Reading Comprehension questions on the Revised GRE can sometimes feel elusive. There are no “formulas” for GRE RC, but luckily there are some quick tips to better GRE scores on Reading Comprehension. These ten tips will help you turn a bad GRE score into a good GRE score; unlike doing your taxes for the IRS, the GRE doesn’t have to be painful.
1. Find the Main Idea at the bottom of the first paragraph. Just like most 5-paragraph essays, the author of a reading passage on the GRE will often put the thesis at the bottom of the introductory paragraph. If you see any questions that use keywords like “main idea” or “purpose,” look here first.
2. Use your scratch pad! It’s there for a reason. You can’t possible remember every piece of information from the passage, so take short notes to help you focus.
3. Avoid skimming. Try to find the “big picture” of the passage, but if you skim, you’ll be going back through the passage inch-by-inch later on, searching for the answers to the more specific questions! Read thoroughly the first time.
4. Come up with your own answer. For each question write down a Prediction based on your notes and your understanding of the passage. Process of elimination is a much more effective method than simply going straight to the answer choices as written.
5. Remember that Details support Functions. If a question asks you why the author includes a specific detail from the passage, consider that all the details within a paragraph are generally used to support the function of that paragraph.
6. Focus on how the argument is put together. When you read the first time, ask how does each paragraph fit into the author’s main idea? How does the author develop his discussion of the topic? You can always go back for the nitty-gritty details. Look at the structure first.
7. Don’t be thrown by concessions. Sometimes the author will have a very strong opinion and argue it throughout the passage, and then will unexpectedly stop and make a concession to the opposing side, seeming to weaken his argument.
8. Look for the Tone, even if it feels neutral. The author does not always have a strong “voice” in GRE passages. If you have a hard time finding the author’s opinion, it may simply be that he doesn’t have one!
9. Wrong answer choices are often out of scope. The scope of the GRE passage is what ABOUT the topic interests the author. What is his focus? Incorrect choices will involve info the author doesn’t focus on.
10. Put confusing answer choices in your own words. If you’re having a hard time making sense of a difficult set of answer options, you can always “dumb them down” by simplifying them in your own words.
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