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GRE Reading Comprehension Tips & Strategies

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on June 27, 2023 9:00:00 AM CDT

One of the main challenges of the GRE’s Reading Comprehension questions is that, unlike math, there are no set formulas to learn. This can make Reading Comprehension seem harder, if not impossible, to study for. It seems like the necessary skills are more deeply ingrained—you either have them, or you don’t.

But that’s actually not true. You actually can take lots of steps in your GRE prep to improve your ability to work with Reading Comprehension questions. In this article, we’ll take you through some of the most powerful tips and strategies you can use to improve your ability to tackle GRE Reading Comprehension questions and raise your score.

1. Read deeply, actively, and often

This is the tip that most students tend to brush aside, but it might actually be the most powerful. While there are GRE-specific skills you can build, reading comprehension also requires a lot of different mental muscles that require a lot of exercise to build. Even in the times outside your official GRE prep, you should be doing more reading than you usually do—especially when it comes to academic and argument-/evidence-based texts. This includes sources like research papers, newspaper articles, and academic texts. Reading these kinds of sources will increase your speed and accuracy when it comes to identifying the relevant and knowable components of a GRE-type passage. 

2. Use official practice tests

In addition to reading from other academic-style sources, the bulk of your GRE Reading Comprehension prep should involve official practice tests. Other test prep companies offer proprietary materials that try to match the style of GRE Reading Comp passages and questions, but no source achieves this perfectly. Sticking with official practice tests will make sure you’re learning the actual language of the official GRE.

3. Identify your weaknesses

As you measure your progress, pay close attention to the kinds of questions that give you the most trouble, and use that information to plan your attack as you go about your GRE prep. Are you struggling to identify the main point of a passage, or the tone? Or are you getting hung up on vocabulary words? Whatever your source of difficulty is, be sure to emphasize that kind of question in your practice.

4. Determine the approach that works for you

Some people like to quickly skim a passage, making a rough mental map of its arguments, before they look more closely at the questions. Other people prefer to start with the questions before reading the passage in search of the answers. These are both valid approaches, and you should figure out which one works best for you. The only approach we don’t recommend is to deeply read the entire passage before looking at the questions. This winds up being a waste of time, since you devote a lot of time to reading information you won’t end up needing, and you’ll also need to revisit the passage anyway after reading the questions.

5. Learn from wrong answers

As you go about your GRE Reading Comprehension prep, don’t just make the mistake of just paying attention to the right answers and then moving on. It’s as important, if not more so, to learn from the wrong answers. Wrong answers tend to be wrong because they make assumptions or draw conclusions that are unsupported by actual evidence in the text, or else they draw an overly extreme conclusion based on something in the text. Looking closely at why a wrong answer is incorrect will help you suss out the guidelines for choosing right answers and eliminating wrong ones in the future.

6. Build your vocabulary

Building your vocabulary is one of the most powerful ways to increase your GRE Reading Comprehension skills. Invest in a quality set of GRE vocab flashcards—or a flashcard app—and study them regularly. You can take them with you to study in the unoccupied moments as you go about your day, but you should also schedule regular time to work with them.

7. Find your own answer first

While reading the questions before reading the passage can be helpful, one powerful strategy is to try to determine the answer for yourself before you look at the answer choices. This will force you to examine the passage more deeply and avoid mistakes driven by the power of suggestion. After coming up with answer on your own, look at the answer choices to see which one matches your answer most closely. 

8. Scan for specifics

GRE Reading Comprehension is all about what conclusions and interpretations are actually supported by evidence in the text, versus which are driven by improper assumptions. For any correct answer, you should be able to point to some specific information in the passage that supports it. If an answer feels close to right, but you can’t find any explicit support for it anywhere, it’s unlikely to be a correct answer.

9. Pay attention to the intro and conclusion

The introduction and conclusion contain much of the most important information for answering GRE Reading Comp questions. By focusing on these sections to begin with, you should have a pretty good idea of the passage’s tone, its main points, its scope, its results, and the basic roadmap of evidence it uses to support its argument. 

10. Work with a 1-on-1 GRE Tutor

There is a lot you can do to improve your GRE Reading Comprehension score on your own, but it doesn’t even compare to the results you’ll achieve if you work with a qualified tutor. An expert tutor will know the GRE inside and out. They’ll be able to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, design a customized study plan, build your reading comprehension skills, and deepen your understanding of the test.

 

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Conclusion

Many GRE students tend to neglect Reading Comprehension in their GRE prep because they presume this is the hardest part of the test to study for. This is a mistake, however. With the right approach, it’s totally possible to build your GRE Reading Comprehension skills. Implementing these strategies in your GRE prep will help you maximize your score and set you on a path of achieving your grad school dreams. 

Tags: GRE study tips, GRE reading comprehension, gre prep