Many test takers get frustrated when they uncover that a point of weakness in their GMAT practice tests is the reading section. “But I have an English degree!” or “I read part of a book each day!” While reading difficult, dense reading material each day – like the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, or The Economist – can certainly boost and hone your reading comprehension skills, the reality is that (just like the rest of the test) there is a strategy behind the reading comprehension section that is more than, well, just reading.
One strategy that a lot of test takers don’t think about is the logistics behind the reading comprehension section. Many test takers have a hard time adjusting to reading passages and answering questions on a screen, unable to underline, highlight, or circle key portions of the passage. Additionally, the screen is split – the reading passage is on the left hand side, while the current question appears on the right hand side. Therefore, screen space is limited, most often requiring that test takers scroll up and down through a passage, versus seeing it all presented at once.
For students who have practiced reading passages in a book and/or have not practiced on a screen in the same format as presented on the GMAT, this can be disastrous. Scrolling through a passage takes a few more valuable seconds. Failing to account for that differential can greatly impact your Verbal score.
Reading on a screen can make it more difficult for you to retain information from the passages, especially for ones that are incredibly dense and boring. It is essential for high-scoring test takers to recognize that the GMAT is a) lazy in the types of questions it asks about reading comprehension and b) is always setting a trap for you to make a careless mistake.
The best way to read a passage is to look for the acronym STOP – scope, tone, organization, and purpose. These are the four items that present themselves in the form of questions most often on the exam. By reading for these four items, you are anticipating answers to a good chunk of the questions that will be asked.
Furthermore, the GMAT is banking that you will make careless errors in your rush to read and answer questions. The key hint is that these are reading “comprehension” questions, with heavy emphasis on comprehension. Test takers often overlook words like “except for” and “infer.” Make sure you read the question twice, make sure you’ve fully understood what is expected in your answer, and then move to process of elimination to get to that correct answer.
More than anything else, make sure you are doing at least some (if not the majority) of your reading comprehension practice online and on a screen. While you may do the bulk of your day to day work on a computer, the GMAT reading comprehension section requires extra care and attention.
The above GMAT Tip comes from Veritas Prep. Since its founding in 2002, Veritas Prep has helped more than 100,000 students prepare for the GMAT and offers the most highly rated GMAT Prep course in the industry.