Reading Comprehension Overview

I'm going to confirm something that you already know: Reading Comp Sucks!

It's incredibly boring. The passages confuse people and the questions make test takers feel stupid.

It happens to everyone. We walk into the test feeling like we're pretty smart people, but just a few minutes into the reading section we all think, "Wow, when did I get stupid?"

Even I hate the reading comp section of the GMAT. I find it incredibly uninspiring, mostly because there aren't a lot of test-taking techniques to apply. There are some, of course, and I know them so well that I can now anticipate which questions will be asked simply by noting the structure of the passage as I read through it, but I still hate the section. It's mindless drudgery. I'd rather do math or sentence correction.

The Most Important Technique

The most important technique to apply in reading comp is process of elimination. That's true for all three of the verbal question types, but it's especially true in reading. The correct answer rarely sounds great — it's purposely "obscured" — but the wrong answers all contain some element that is clearly incorrect. So the way to excel in reading comp is to identify what's wrong with all four incorrect answer choices. Use that technique for all three verbal question types, but live by it in reading comp.

Should I Read Good Books to Improve My Reading Comp?

You should definitely read good books, but doing so won't improve your performance in reading comp. The GMAT reading passages are not examples of great literature. In fact, they're purposely poorly written, so reading Thoreau won't help. It's better to do practice drills using material from standardized tests.

What Can Material I Practice with Other than GMAT Passages?

You're in luck here. The reading comp passages from every standardized test can improve your GMAT score. Start with the SAT. (I'm serious.) You can find lots of actual SAT reading passages that are perfectly relevant to GMAT test takers. The reading passages on the GRE are also like ours, as are the passages on the LSAT. Try them all. And if you're really ambitious, download the free official MCAT test and try the reading passages it contains.