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Strategies for GRE Reading Comprehension

Most GRE test takers will list out various reasons why they find reading passages “tough”.  Any of these reasons look familiar?

  • Passages are  too  wordy
  • Answer choices are confusing
  • Topics of passages are not  familiar
  • Many questions  are difficult to understand
  • Reading the passages takes up too much time
  • Complex and dense information in the passages defies  comprehension

Well, all of these major challenges on GRE Reading Comprehension can be addressed with the right strategies for the passage, questions, and answer choices. On the GRE, remember you get points for getting an answer correctly and NOT for understanding the passage!!

Hence, you need to switch on a ‘GPS’ that will help you triangulate a strategy to ace reading passages on the GRE-



Map the passage

Acing GRE Reading Comprehension requires a clear-cut strategy, and you need to focus on what information you need to extract from the passage. Tackle the passages head-on with the following tips:

‘Interview ‘the passage- A great way to get started with a GRE reading  passage is to  ‘interview’ the passage  with some   pre-prepared questions. Jot down words or phrases as you get answers from the passage. Scan the paragraphs quickly,looking for relevant information that will help you map the passage.

Some questions that can help you interview the passage are:

  • What is this passage about?
  • Does this passage discuss a problem or change?
  • What does the author say about this problem or change?
  • Does the author offer a solution to the problem?
  • What is the impact of the change?

Watch out for sign posts

Authors usually choose their words with care, and GRE passage writers are no different from any other author.  Pay attention to transitions or signposts that the author uses to indicate the flow of ideas in the passage as many questions are based on transition of ideas in the passage.

More of the same…

These transitions indicate that the passage is going to continue in the same vein and reiterate what has already been mentioned earlier.  These transitions help you map the passage as you don’t have to really look at the details that follow these transitions unless a question specifically asks for these details. Some words that require attention in the passage are:

  • And
  • As well as
  • In addition
  • Also
  • Moreover
  • Likewise
  • Similarly

About to take a turn…

These transitions show that the passage is taking a change in direction and what follows will be in contrast. For such transitions it is  important to note what is coming before and after the transition as many questions on the GRE are based on such transitions. While skimming the passage pay attention to the following transitions:

  • But
  • However
  • In spite of
  • On the other hand
  • Nevertheless
  • Nonetheless
  • On the contrary

Time Transitions

Some GRE passages are about changes over a period of time. In such passages time transitions are extremely important as these indicate the main points about the changes that are being discussed in the passage. And yes, questions will test your understanding of these changes.  Some common time transitions on the GRE are:

  • After
  • Currently
  • During
  • Earlier
  • Later
  • Meanwhile
  • Now
  • Until
  • Recently
  • Simultaneously
  • Subsequently


The key word that defines a strategy for a GRE question is – Simplify.

Make sure that you understand the question before you go to the answer choices.
Some questions on the GRE aren’t questions at all.

For example

The passage suggests which of the following about the historians mentioned in the third paragraph?

Simplify this question by first checking if this question is a ‘what’ or a ‘why’. Once you’ve done this you will have a clear idea of what the question is asking. In this case the question is a fairly simple one that is asking-

What does the third paragraph say about historians?

Let’s look at a more  complicated question


According to the passage, historical studies of affirmative action in early America that were produced during the 1990’s differed from studies of that subject produced prior to the 1980’s in that the studies produced during the 1980’s?

This question is actually asking

What is the difference between the two studies?

Turn the question back into a question by simply attaching a what or a why to the question and you’re headed in the right direction towards a top score.

Answer choices

The very carefully written answer choices on the GRE are meant to confuse you. While this is applicable in other question types as well –in no other question type does this cause you more trouble.

Answers that are commonly wrong are

  • Recycled information from the passage – words and phrases that come directly from the passage
  • Strong language or opinions
  • Unnecessary comparisons of the passage
  • Information contrary to the  passage
  • Out of the scope of the passage

Manya-The Princeton Review has time-tested Reading Comprehension strategies   that are designed to ensure that test takers focus on getting answers right rather than getting stuck and wasting time. Reading Comprehension on the GRE comprises nearly  half of the Verbal measure questions, so if you’re  looking for a top score  you need a comprehensive strategy that covers the passage, questions and answer choices.

Walk into any of our centers for a demo class on Reading Comprehnsion  and get a sneak peak into the Manya-The Princeton Review strategies to know more!!!

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