I don't think you need to (at least I don't, it works for some people) paraphrase because the level of detail needed is greater than a paraphrase. You need to know the author's intent, tone, scope, etc...all of which are determined by the words used. If you glance over the words and get the overall scope for a paraphrase, you might miss some of the key words. I look for words such as THEREFORE, EXCEPT, MUST, OFTEN, NEVER, ALL. These types of words tell me how forceful the author is trying to be. THEREFORE shows me where a conclusion is located. The conclusions are very important in these types of passages and some have conclusions and others don't conclude anything.
Look at Verbal Test #1. The first is a RC passage, and the first question asks "The primary purpose of the passage is to..."
You can get this by paraphrasing, but it will take you longer than just pulling out key words.
The answer choices are:
a) convince the reader of the significance of a literary figure
b) explain the failure of an experimental type of poetry
c) trace the development of a literary movement
d) debate the merits of traditional forms of poetry
e) introduce important contributors to a literary movement
Looking at each answer, without ever reading the passage, we can figure out what types of words or phrases are going to be in the passage giving us clues as to whether this is the right answer.
a) "convince" means the author will certainly make a conclusion, with premises and be logical. The passage should flow with steps from one point to another and leading us to the conclusion the author has reached so that we don't see the conclusion and think, "That doesn't make sense." If you don't see conclusion-oriented words in the passage like "because", or "therefore", etc, this answer is probably wrong.
b) If the passage is trying to "explain" something, it should be loaded with examples, and then after those examples it should state the significance of that example to the principle, situation, or theory being explained.
c) "trace" - this is going to be one of the simplest things to pick out. If the passage feels like you're reading a history book and discusses past events and how these things lead to what is going on now, this answer is correct. Words to look for are "then", "Back in", look for years within the passage. If this is the correct answer, the passage, logically, should take you step-by-step through the timeline the passage wants to "trace". It should also highlight important events that took place with relation to the topic discussed.
d) "debate" - there will be two (or more) opposing viewpoints and certainly look for contrasting words such as "Moreover", "but", "because", "contradicts", "misses the point", "not the case", etc. A debate should be easily picked out because you'll read one thing, and then a viewpoint that is most certainly going to oppose that viewpoint and there will be support and conclusions all around what the author is trying to get the reader to believe.
e) "introduce" - in this sense, it will most likely have different names and the passage will be incredibly boring. Few people that read this passage on a GMAT exam are going to care about some obscure poet. "Obscure" because if the poet did not need to be introduced, the poet would be famous already. If this is the correct answer, you might find yourself reading the last sentence and thinking, "Crap! I don't remember any of that. It was so boring!" Because the reader is just trying to inform you of something that you could care less about. Look for words that lead you into another part of the passage to a new topic or person. "Another person....", "More recently discovered...". You might also find words of distinction such as "Although", "except" because the author might organize the passage by contrasting styles of poets.
I hope this helps you out in thinking through a Reading Comp passage. Without even seeing the passage you can get a good idea of what you need to look for to answer the questions.
J Allen Morris
**I'm pretty sure I'm right, but then again, I'm just a guy with his head up his a$$.