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Reading strategies

education Updated: Aug 25, 2010 11:47 IST

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In the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), paragraphs in the passage will often have “structural signposts” near the beginning that signal how the paragraph fits into the structure of the passage. Some of these signal that the paragraph is going to continue the line of thought expressed in the preceding paragraph, while other words signal that the paragraph is going to express a different point of view.
. Speed is important, but not at the expense of reading carefully. You will consume too much time on Reading Comprehension if you feel compelled to re-read a
passage you just finished reading moments ago. Read carefully the first time, to avoid this.
. Work to improve your vocabulary. Reading Comprehension passages typically include technical or complex language that you can ignore. However, if you
struggle with other more common words, your reading speed will suffer. Get into the habit of looking up the meanings of words you don’t know.
. Read well-written material, as often as possible. You should become a voracious reader. Read classic literature from Virginia Wolff, William Faulkner, F. Scott
Fitzgerald, Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Kafka, and works of contemporary novelists like Don DeLillo, Doris Lessing, Chinua Achebe, and Toni Morrison.
. Read poorly written material, as often as you can stand it. The GMAT often includes convoluted and poorly written passages. It is not an accident. The test-
makers want to uncover your ability to navigate through shoddy writing and still comprehend the important points of the passage. Overly dense science and
technology pieces are good practice too. Verbose, stilted essays are even better.
. To best prepare for the passages, read selections from each of the three topic areas. Do not read for pleasure; instead, practise reading critically. For practice
on business-related passages, focus on editorial pieces in periodicals like The Economist and Forbes, and newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and Financial
Times. For science-related passages, the New England Journal of Medicine, Bio-IT World, Sky and Telescope, Scientific American, Technology Review, and
Smithsonian are all representative sources. For social science-related passages, American Heritage, Harvard Political Review, American Legacy, and the
feature stories in African Voices are all useful reading material.
. When you see a main idea or logical structure question — a question that deals with the passage’s big picture — you should have a fairly good idea of what the
answer should look like from your initial strategic reading of the passage. If you identified a likely thesis statement, do a focused reading of the thesis statement
and the surrounding sentences. Work through the answer choices one by one, and check back through the passage to confirm that your understanding of it is
correct. Also, be open to changing your mind about the passage if one of the answer choices makes you think in a new way.
. Students often struggle with these passages because they get bogged down in the complexity of the terminology used. With technical passages, mentally re-state
the logic in your own words. Focus on the fundamentals. Tone is usually neutral on technical passages, but if you are unclear about the scope and the author’s
primary point, you will flounder.

(Rohit Majumdar, Verbal Faculty, CPLC)