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Reading Strategically on the GMAT

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When preparing for the GMAT, students are often concerned about the amount of time it will take to read the reading comprehension passages on the test. Three to four passages can be a lot to read for many students, given the time restraints of the exam. If this sounds like you, I want you to remember two words: read strategically.

Most of the reading you do currently is likely for one of two reasons. First, you may be reading for pleasure, in which case you likely want to absorb as much of the material as possible for your own enjoyment. Second, you may be reading for school or work, in which case you need to make sure you understand the material thoroughly.

When reading for the GMAT, you are reading for an entirely new reason: to answer the questions correctly. As we only see one question at a time on test day, this means we must read the passage before seeing our questions. However, we do not want to get bogged down in the passage, as the only reason we are even looking at it is to answer the questions correctly.

The key, therefore, is to read strategically. As you work your way through the passage, do not get stuck on the details. Instead, focus on the big picture. This means you should read the passage with two goals in mind. Your first goal is to determine what the author is focused on and why the author has chosen to focus on it. Your second goal is to determine the structure of the passage, so that when you do see a question about a specific detail you can quickly find where in the passage the answer is.

By following these steps, you will be well on your way to both answering almost all of your reading comprehension questions correctly and also finishing your test on time.

Bret Ruber
Kaplan GMAT