As I mentioned in my previous exploration of GMAT Reading Comprehension, most of the questions focus on the author’s purpose, so if you can at least identify her main idea as you slog through the passage, the author will guide you to the right answer in three out of four of those main question types:
- The correct answer to a Global question is essentially a statement of the author’s purpose
- The right answer choice to Inference questions, even though these can seem completely speculative, will never contradict the author’s purpose, and is often directly informed by that purpose.
- Logic questions look for an answer that addresses why our author has included a detail or a paragraph in her passage; the why is that that detail or paragraph always serves her purpose.
Common GMAT Reading Comprehension Trap Answers
Now comes the fun part: beating the test designers at their own game. They think they’re so sly and so slick, they make up their tricks and they make ‘em up quick. But, guess what? Nearly every time you see any one of those main question types, lurking among the answer choices is a particular kind of “trap” answer specific to that question type, and if you train yourself to recognize those traps, you’ll never be fooled by them. Let’s be specific.
- Global questions always have trap answer choices that will bring up some detail that the author discusses, but that detail is not important enough to be the main idea, in other words, the trap answer is too narrow. For example, the passage may put forth the concept that dinosaurs went extinct as a result of their inherent stupidity (a completely spurious notion, of course, since we all know how highly intelligent dinosaurs are—especially the large purple hadrosauruses who populate children’s television). The author supports her point by citing the tendency of hadrosaurus mothers to step on their own eggs. An obvious trap answer would declare that the point of the passage is dinosaurs went extinct because they trod on their own nests: too narrow.
- The trap answers for Detail questions will use the mockingbird’s trick. The traps will take words and concepts drawn from the text, they will sort of sound like the passage, but things get jazzed up in the translation, and concepts will veer off in some direction the passage never takes. For example, it will acknowledge that the hadrosaur mothers certainly stepped on their eggs, but they did so because the mothers were sick and tired of their stupid children’s TV shows and just weren’t going to take it anymore, which was very likely true, but the passage wisely avoided such an idea for fear of angering the hadrosaur mothers even further. (Have you ever seen a hadrosaur mother whose moral standing has been impugned? It is not a pretty sight. Consider yourself warned.)
- Inference trap answers go off in directions the author never intended, put words into her mouth, or make absolute, hyperbolic statements. “Yes,” the trap answer will spout, “hadrosaurs made horrible mothers, but the parasaurolophuses were the worst of all: they smoked cigarettes while treading on their nests, forsooth!” Everyone knows that parasaurolophuses preferred pipe tobacco. The goofy trap answer is irrelevant, extreme in nature, and to be avoided with the same avidity as dinosaur tobacco (understandably, since the lack of opposable thumbs renders the proper curing of tobacco leaves nearly impossible).
- Finally, logic questions want answer choices that state why the author includes the business about the hadrosaurus mothers. The trap answer will go into the specifics of infanticide vs. children’s TV shows, rather than point out that the egg-crushing behavior was an example of how stoopid dinosaurs were. However, let me be clear that it is even more foolish to call a hadrosaurus stupid to her face, or she will forget all about her fury over the TV show, and stomp on you.
As you learn to recognize these patterns, GMAT Reading Comprehension questions will become increasingly transparent, and though RC may never be a joyful experience, at least you can experience the joy of beating the GMAT at its own game. ♪♫ I love the GMAT. The GMAT loves me. We’re a happy family…♫♪
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