I get asked about Reading Comprehension quite a bit. Many students simply don't know what they can do to improve. The obvious steps are (1) do a lot of practice problems and (2) read a lot, but I want to tell you about one more strategy that I use in my GMAT classes that seems to really affect the way students approach RC questions.
I give my students a sample GMAT short passage, but I don't give them the questions. I ask them to read the passage, taking notes if they choose. At the end of 3 minutes, I surprise them by asking them to cover up both the passage and their notes. Then I show them a mid-level (600 or so) question that asks something general about the passage (not a question that asks about a specific detail).
Some students are naturally good at RC and can successfully answer the question, but others understandably struggle. After all, if you're expecting to have a reference document, you don't need to retain anything, right? Actually, that's wrong! The whole point of the exercise is to teach students to make the absolute most of their first read. You want to understand at least enough of the passage so that if you have a conversation about it later, without having it in front of you, you will be able to recall how the passage is constructed and why it is important.
My next step is to tell the students that for homework, they should try one or two RC passages from the Official Guide the same way. There will be a crucial difference though: this time they will know what's coming!
Now, they will read more actively the first time around, they will take notes because they want to remember and not because they want to copy, and they will recall information from the passage more vividly. What I find really interesting is that nearly all my students can still do this in only 3 minutes. The idea that better reading always takes more time is a fallacy: I think many times, better reading just takes desire. Many students even tell me that when they cover up the passage, they do better on those questions than they do otherwise! Of course, I don't recommend this rule for your real GMAT - I just would like you to try it when you study, and see if it improves the way you read.
Ryan Jacobs | Manhattan GMAT Instructor | San Francisco
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