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How to Improve Your Reading Ability

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Magoosh GMAT Instructor
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How to Improve Your Reading Ability [#permalink] New post 24 Feb 2014, 11:58
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Howdy!

One aspect of the GMAT that causes students a problem is reading. Not just reading comprehension questions, but all the reading on the test. Critical Reasoning, Math word problems, IR questions, and sentence correction require an astute reading strategy. Students need to read efficiently and quickly to manage their time well.

There are two ways to improve your reading ability.

First, you should be reading all the time to prepare for the GMAT. Read. Read. Read. This will help you to learn new words, see different passage structures, and become familiar with forms and styles employed by authors. As with most things, we can't get better unless we are doing. So spend some of your free time reading articles, short stories, essays, reviews, and all manner of text.

But don't just read anything. You need to read higher level passages. You need to improve your ability to process information written for an academic and educated audience. I recommend reading the following news sources regularly. You can read other materials as well, but make sure that you dedicate ample time to reading from these news sources. And try to read articles on topics you normally would not choose to read. This will help you to feel comfortable with topics you normally don't encounter. The GMAT has a wide range of topics and disciplines that appear in reading passages and arguments so it is important to read a wide range of topics in your free time.

1. The New York Times
2. The Wall Street Journal
3. BBC
4. The Economist
5. The MIT Technology Review

The second thing you need to do is improve how you read. Just reading more won't be enough. You'll need to practice focused, active reading. You need to read like your life depends on it, like a hungry bear waking from months of hibernation. You need to read with purpose.

One way to activate your reading process is to ask yourself a set of questions every time you read. And ask yourself these questions multiple times as your reading. The answers may change as you read. So ask yourself:

1. What is the main idea? You should be able to put this into a couple phrases, not necessarily a long sentence. Try to start at the broadest possible level and then narrow more and more. So start with the general topic, then try to figure out what the scope of the passage is. That is, if the passage is about dinosaurs, what part of dinosaurs are we talking about? Skeletons? Fossil records? Biology? Coloring? Why they disappeared? Relationship to modern day birds? Through this process you should be able to narrow and narrow until you have a good summation of the main idea.

2. What is the structure and flow of the passage? You need to pay attention to transition words in the passage. You need to think about where you have been and where you are going in the passage. How does this paragraph connect to the main idea? What's its purpose in terms of the main idea? And how was it connected to the previous paragraph? Through these questions, you will get a "road map" of the passage. You'll have a sense of what happens where. And you will have a better understanding of examples or reasons because you will know their purpose in terms of the main idea of the passage.

3. What is the author's tone and what is the author's purpose? You always want to try and infer the author's opinion about the topic. The author's opinions and beliefs will leak into the passage and influence the word choice and position in the article. So pay attention to the positive or negative tone of the adjectives and adverbs in the passage. In terms of the author's purpose, we don't have to do too much work. There are really only four reasons that people write something: to entertain, to persuade, to inform, or to describe. Obviously, passages will have elements of all of these, but usually there is one main reason that author sat down to write what you are reading.

I hope that you find these suggestions and tips helpful! Good luck dominating the GMAT! :)

More resources from Magoosh:
Introduction to Reading Comprehension (Strategies and Pacing)
How to approach questions
Example of how a passage is outlined
Identifying Patterns in Passages
Pacing strategies
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Kevin Rocci
Magoosh Test Prep

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Re: How to Improve Your Reading Ability [#permalink] New post 24 Feb 2014, 15:22
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Re: How to Improve Your Reading Ability [#permalink] New post 24 Feb 2014, 17:40
Great post Kevin! The Reading section(verbal) is the section that worries me a lot! Especially the RC part, they seem such a drag. I tend to lose concentration at times while reading them. This might help! THanks again!
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Magoosh GMAT Instructor
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Re: How to Improve Your Reading Ability [#permalink] New post 25 Feb 2014, 09:54
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webhishek wrote:
Great post Kevin! The Reading section(verbal) is the section that worries me a lot! Especially the RC part, they seem such a drag. I tend to lose concentration at times while reading them. This might help! THanks again!


Thanks! :-D

They definitely do not chose the most compelling and interesting passages for the GMAT. That's why it's so important to get out the "pleasure reading" approach and be an active reader. I hope that this does help you break through those passages and increase your concentration. Let me know how it goes. :)
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Kevin Rocci
Magoosh Test Prep

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Re: How to Improve Your Reading Ability   [#permalink] 25 Feb 2014, 09:54
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