Strategies for GRE Reading Comprehension


As you study for the GRE Verbal section, you’ll be doing a lot of reading. Unlike theText Completion or Sentence Equivalence questions, you can easily get a great score on GRE Reading Comprehension questions.

To most GRE test takers, reading passages seems to be tough, and they list out various reasons behind it. Do any of these reasons look familiar to you? A little strategy can go a long way on the GRE Verbal section, so use these GRE strategies to get one step closer to your dream score:

  • Passages are too wordy, or verbose
  • The choices of answers are confusing
  • Much of a passage is irrelevant
  • Questions are difficult to understand
  • Reading the passages is too time-consuming
  • Complex and dense information in the passages defies comprehension

It seems that there needs to be only the right strategy for addressing the challenges you face reading passages. Here, you should always bear in mind that you get points for getting an answer correctly, and not for understanding the passage.

All you need to do is to switch on your GPS. Doing so will help you easily triangulate a strategy to be a master in reading passages in the GRE.

Map the passage

Acing GRE Reading Comprehension is a matter of smart strategies, and you need to attend to what information you need to get from a passage. Here are some tips for that:

Interview the passage: A great way to get started with a GRE passage is to interview it, with some prepared questions. As you get the answers from the passage to the questions, note them down. Scan the paragraphs, looking for relevant information that helps you map a particular passage.

Here are some questions for the interview:

  • 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 signposts

Authors are very meticulous and pedantic when it comes to choosing words, and so are GRE-passage writers. You need to attentively read between the lines, attending to the transitions or signposts that an author uses to indicate the flow of ideas in a passage. Many questions are based on the transition of ideas in a passage.

Those transitions point out that passage is going to continue in the same thread and repeat what has already been mentioned. They help you triangulate a whole passage, for you don’t need to attend to the details following them unless a question specifically asks for the details. Here is a list of some words and phrases that you need to attend to:

  • And
  • As well as
  • In addition
  • Also
  • Moreover
  • Likewise
  • Similarly
  • About to take a turn…

Such transitions point out that passage is changing its direction, that what follows will be in contrast. What follows and what comes before these transitions should always be noted down, for many questions in the GRE are relevant to them. Here are some of the adverbs and connectors indicating such transitions:

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

A GRE passage comprises of many transitions. They are all-time transitions, which are extremely important, as they indicate the main points of the changes being narrated in the passage. Moreover, there will be many questions testing your understanding of these changes. Here is a list of some common time transitions in the GRE:

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


The keyword that defines a strategy for a GRE question is simplify.

Completely understand the question before reading the choices of answers. In the GRE, some questions are not questions at all.

Here are some examples:

  • According to the passage, what is suggested about historians in the third paragraph?

Simplify this by first checking if this question has the pronoun “what” or “why.” Having done it, you will have a clear idea as to what the question is asking. Doing that easily simplifies the question:

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 done during the 1990s differed from the studies of that subject done prior to the 1980s in that the studies produced during the 1980s?

This question is actually asking, What is the difference between the two studies?

Change the question to mean the same, without altering its meaning, by attaching a what or a why to it in the right direction.

Answer choices

The choices of answers in the GRE are meant to confuse you; they are tactfully written. No other types of questions will trouble you as much as this does.

Following are some of the commonly wrong questions:

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

We, at Manya-The Princeton Review, has time-tested reading-comprehension strategies. They are all designed to ensure that test-takers focus more on getting correct answers in lieu of wasting time and getting stuck. Reading-comprehension in the GRE comprises nearly half the verbal-measure questions, so if you are looking to get a top score, you need to have a comprehensive strategy that covers all the passages, questions and answer choices.

Walk into any one of our centers for demo classes on reading comprehension, and get a lot more about the Manya-The Princeton Review strategies.

Learn top experienced tips to ace the GRE: Download our FREE, Complete Study Guide to the GRE!


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