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Intro to Reading Comprehension


Welcome to the GRE Reading Comprehension introduction. In this video we are going to talk about the different kinds of reading comprehension questions you can expect and we will also give you a sense for the layout of the verbal section, and how the reading comprehension section questions will appear. That way, you can anticipate and pace yourself better as you work through the verbal sections.

So, first of all, the reading passages. How long are they? Always an important question from a pacing standpoint. You can have a very short 80-word reading prompt or maybe even something close to 450 words. So that's quite a range.

Now, the answers to these questions, this is important will always be based on information in the passage. You don't have to bring any outside information, nor should you despair if you realize, as is the case with many reading passages, that they are on some hopelessly obscure topic that you know nothing about. Everyone is on an even playing field, and most people don't know anything about the topics that the GRE chooses for their reading passage content and even if someone does know something about it it doesn't really matter.

All the information that you need will be contained in the passage. In terms of number, you should expect to see about 13 reading comprehension questions. So about half will be reading comprehension. The other half will be a mix of text completion and sentence equivalence question types, for order it's not consistent.

You won't have all your reading comprehension grouped together, then all of your text completions grouped together, then all of your sentence equivalence is grouped together. You should expect something a little bit more like a few text completions to start then a sprinkling of reading comprehension questions then to round it out a few sentence equivalences and then, maybe some more reading comprehension.

All right, let's talk about the passage and questions because not every reading passage is the same length nor does every reading passage have the same number of questions after it. So let's start with the short reading passage. It's about 120, usually less than 140 words long, and usually has two questions, though sometimes it might have only one question after it.

Then there is the medium passages, which are usually around 190 to 250 words long, so it does jump up quite a bit here. And there's usually, I would say, three questions, if I had to find an average, but two to three questions is possible. Next is the rare, but you could even encounter a long reading passage, and that could be around 450 words.

That can range anywhere from 350 to 450. So you know if you're reading a long reading passage, get ready for at least three, maybe four questions one right after the other relating to that passage. Finally, there's something called the paragraph argument, which is usually around 80 words. Also, what's important is there is always one and only one, never more, questions that follow the paragraph argument.

Now, let's talk about question format. Most of the question formats will be what you've come to expect on almost every standardized test and that is five possible answers associated with a multiple-choice question. So that should feel like business as usual. Here's what it looks like.

You have something like the passage is primarily concerned with, and then five answer choices to choose from. Next up, we have the less common question types, but these are typical and specific to the GRE. The first one is the multiple answer question. What this means is that there will always be three, not four, not five, not six, but exactly three answer choices and any can be correct.

So for this example, with the three answer choices, you could have answer choice B, and that could be the only answer. Or you could have answer A and B both be correct. Or you could even have all three of them be correct. Some variation of those possible answer choices. It will be very straightforward when you are dealing with a multiple-answer question on the reading comprehension section, because again, you'll see just three possible answers, and you will notice that these have little brackets around them.

Moving on, let's talk about the select the sentence question type. This one is actually pretty rare unlike the multiple answer question in which you may see two or three in a section, you may go through an entire section without even seeing a single select the sentence question. Again, this is where you look into the passage and you actually highlight the sentence.

It looks something like this. It's very clear that you are to select the sentence, that provides support for an answer to a question in the passage. There is a separate module which will cover all of the reading question types in detail. That will be helpful to have a better understanding for this odd question type.

In terms of the layout in which you'll encounter these questions, expect some variation. Here is an example of a typical arrangement and while we cannot promise that this exact layout will be the layout you'll encounter what you will see won't be too terribly different. Section 1, questions 1 through 3 will typically be text completions.

Questions 4 through 5 short reading passage, questions 6 through 9 sentence equivalences. Questions 10 through 12 may be a medium reading passage or a short reading passage and that will likely be followed by paragraph argument. For section 2, questions 1 through 4, text completions, again, questions 5 through 9, short and medium reading passages, questions 10 through 12, sentence equivalences, and those final questions 13 through 15, short reading, and a paragraph argument.

And again, there will be some variation. Having a rough sense of the layout of the test can be helpful in terms of overall strategy, pacing, and the ability to be flexible so that you are prepared for the order of the questions you face. Along with that, it's important to know your own strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, reading comprehension can take longer for most test takers than text completions and sentence equivalences in terms of seeing an improvement.

But of course that depends on your own skillset and the skillset you're bringing to your prep process. To wrap this introductory video up, let me remind you, the more you practice, the more familiar you will become with the reading comprehension section and the more accurately you will respond to reading comprehension questions.

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