Master the details of reading comprehension

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Master the details of reading comprehension

One of the most common Reading Comprehension question types is the “detail” question. The Official GMAT prep materials refer to it as a “Supporting Idea question.” Essentially these are the questions that ask about specific points in the passage rather than asking you to make inferences or find the main idea.

First step is identifying Supporting Idea questions. Phrases like:

  • The author cites/mentions/indicates/states…
  • In the third paragraph, the author…
  • According to the passage…
  • Which of the following statements is supported by…
  • What reason does the passage give for…

Supporting Idea questions can trip up even the most experienced test-takers because you often need to revisit the text to find the answer. One of the most common reading comprehension mistakes is assuming that you know the answer to a detail question after only skimming the passage. Transition words can completely change the meaning of the passage, and GMAT passages are often selected to trip up people who try to skim.

One common GMAT Reading Comprehension strategy is to predict your answer before reading the passage. So if the question is something like “The author uses the example of contract law primarily to show that…” think about your answer before you consult the answer choices and make your selection.

For detail-oriented questions, we recommend revisiting the passage even if you’re 80% sure that you remember right away. It takes only seconds to go back and find the paragraph where the detail in question is addressed.

One of the most common errors in GMAT Reading Comprehension is selecting something that seems as though it would fit in the passage, but is never actually mentioned.

For example, if you’ve just read a passage that discusses the benefits of globalization, a question might ask if the author believes that globalization is good for the education industry. But even if that seems like the kind of thing the author might believe, you’re being tested on the content of the passage itself. Of course, you can make inferences if education is something the author discussed, but if the author doesn’t mention the role of education, it’s probably not the best choice.

When it comes to supporting idea questions, the best strategy is to approach each question as methodically as possible and reference the text carefully as you’re choosing your answers. For a little bit of practice, test your Reading Comprehension skills on the free Prep4GMAT app, which places over 1000 questions in your pocket.

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