GMAT Reading Comprehension

GMAT Reading Comprehension Part 1 – Remember These Words

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What is Reading Comprehension? This question can strike fear in many non-native English speakers here in Buenos Aires.

At first glance, this seems straight forward — do we understand what we are reading? Yet for those considering business school in the U.S. — which require applicants to do a reading comprehension test via the GMAT — it’s one of the more challenging parts of the process, regardless of English fluency.

There are many reasons why this is so. In my experience, the main cause is applicants becoming overwhelmed by the complexity of a large piece of text. Pressure often begets pressure.

To counter this, I recommend reducing the size of the passage by summarizing each sentence with just a few words. Then I go back and search for specific nuggets of information related to the specific question in the exam.

For example, if I were to summarize this article, it would be with one word: “Tip.”

Why is “tip” enough? As this entire post is about reading comprehension, there is no need to use any specific information unless the question itself asks about reading comprehension tips. It’s nothing more than a time-saving tactic — why read something unless you know you’re going to use it?

To illustrate, here is a passage and three questions:

 

500-600

The new school of political history that emerged in the 1960’s and 1970’s sought to go beyond the traditional focus of political historians on leaders and government institutions by examining directly the political practices of ordinary citizens. Like the old approach, however, this new approach excluded women. The very techniques these historians used to uncover mass political behavior in the nineteenth-century United States—quantitative analyses of election returns, for example—were useless in analyzing the political activities of women, who were denied the vote until 1920.

By redefining “political activity,” historian Paula Baker has developed a political history that includes women. She concludes that among ordinary citizens, political activism by women in the nineteenth century prefigured trends in twentieth-century politics. Defining “politics” as “any action taken to affect the course of behavior of government or of the community,” Baker concludes that, while voting and holding office were restricted to men, women in the nineteenth century organized themselves into societies committed to social issues such as temperance and poverty. In other words, Baker contends, women activists were early practitioners of nonpartisan, issue-oriented politics and thus were more interested in enlisting lawmakers, regardless of their party affiliation, on behalf of certain issues than in ensuring that one party or another won an election. In the twentieth century, more men drew closer to women’s ideas about politics and took up modes of issue-oriented politics that Baker sees women as having pioneered.

 

  1. The passage suggests which of the following concerning the techniques used by the new political historians described in the first paragraph of the passage?
  • (A) They involved the extensive use of the biographies of political party leaders and political theoreticians.
  • (B) They were conceived by political historians who were reacting against the political climates of the 1960s and 1970s.
  • (C) They were of more use in analyzing the positions of United States political parties in the nineteenth century than in analyzing the positions of those in the twentieth century.
  • (D) They were of more use in analyzing the political behavior of nineteenth-century voters than in analyzing the political activities of those who could not vote during that period.
  • (E) They were devised as a means of tracing the influence of nineteenth-century political trends on twentieth-century political trends.

 

  1. It can be inferred that the author of the passage quotes Baker directly in the second paragraph primarily in order to:
  • (A) clarify a position before providing an alternative to that position
  • (B) differentiate between a novel definition and traditional definitions
  • (C) provide an example of a point agreed on by different generations of scholars
  • (D) provide an example of the prose style of an important historian
  • (E) amplify a definition given in the first paragraph

 

  1. According to the passage, Paula Baker and the new political historians of the 1960s and 1970s shared which of the following?
  • (A) A commitment to interest group politics
  • (B) A disregard for political theory and ideology
  • (C) An interest in the ways in which nineteenth century politics prefigured contemporary politics
  • (D) A reliance on such quantitative techniques as the analysis of election returns
  • (E) An emphasis on the political involvement of ordinary citizens

 ~~~

Let´s analyze the answer choices  for all three of the questions now, starting with the first question.

  1. The passage suggests which of the following concerning the techniques used by the new political historians described in the first paragraph of the passage?
  • (A) They involved the extensive use of the biographies of political party leaders and political theoreticians. This is exactly what it says they didn´t do: “The new school of political history that emerged in the 1960’s and 1970’s sought to go beyond the traditional focus of political historians on leaders and government institutions.”
  • (B) They were conceived by political historians who were reacting against the political climates of the 1960s and 1970s. The passage doesn´t say anything about political climate or reactions to it.
  • (C) They were of more use in analyzing the positions of United States political parties in the nineteenth century than in analyzing the positions of those in the twentieth century. The passage says these historians did not focus on leaders
  • (D) They were of more use in analyzing the political behavior of nineteenth-century voters than in analyzing the political activities of those who could not vote during that period. The passage mentions their shortcomings in analyzing women, being the fact that women did not vote, therefore we can infer that they analyzed voting activity more than other forms of political activity – Correct.
  • (E) They were devised as a means of tracing the influence of nineteenth-century political trends on twentieth-century political trends. Never mentions this.

Correct answer is D

 

  1. It can be inferred that the author of the passage quotes Baker directly in the second paragraph primarily in order to:
  • (A) Clarify a position before providing an alternative to that position. The author does not provide an alternative to Baker´s position.
  • (B) Differentiate between a novel definition and traditional definitions. Baker´s position is an alternative to the traditional position – Correct
  • (C) Provide an example of a point agreed on by different generations of scholars. Never provides an example of someone agreeing with Baker.
  • (D) provide an example of the prose style of an important historian. What does prose mean? (As Anish said in his post “What Do You Know,” Google it) Basically it is something to do with grammatical style. Either way this is not the reason he quotes Baker, so don´t be scared by the complicated words.
  • (E) amplify a definition given in the first paragraph. This does nothing to any definition in the first paragraph

Correct answer is B

 

  1. According to the passage, Paula Baker and the new political historians of the 1960s and 1970s shared which of the following?
  • (A) A commitment to interest group politics. Baker was dedicated to this, the other historians focused more on voting behavior
  • (B) A disregard for political theory and ideology. Never mentions this
  • (C) An interest in the ways in which nineteenth century politics prefigured contemporary politics. Never mentions this about the historians
  • (D) A reliance on such quantitative techniques as the analysis of election returns. Historians did this, not Baker
  • (E) An emphasis on the political involvement of ordinary citizens. Mentions this about both – Correct

Correct answer – E

~~~

As you can see from the examples we have seen, for the most part, unlike in critical reasoning, the answer to Reading Comprehension questions tends to be in the text (at least for easier questions, there are some more difficult questions that require further analysis). Even question 2, which required some analysis had the answer right there.

The short notation, I made for the first paragraph was –  New school v. old school / Ignore Women

While for the second paragraph, I wrote down – Baker / Focus Women

By making these notations, we can recognize when a question asks about Paula Baker specifically in question 2 and we can go directly to the second paragraph to search for the answer.

Try these methods in your next Reading Comprehension exercises, and let me know if it helps in the comment section.

For more practice check out the following link from GMAT Club: Reading Comprehension Directory. Please note that you have to be a member to access the link (it’s free and only takes a couple of minutes)

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