GRE Prep: Hard-level Reading Comprehension Questions (Part 1)

GRE Prep: Hard-level Reading Comprehension Questions (Part 1)

Hard-level Reading Comprehension Questions (Part 1)Before we tackle a hard-level question, let’s recap the three key strategies for reading comprehension (RC) questions that we covered in the previous post.

First, get the main idea of the passage by paying attention to the key phrases and topic sentences; read critically and annotate the passage even on your first reading. Try to re-phrase the argument yourself before looking at the question. Second, attack your options by highlighting keywords and identifying differences between the options (take note of extreme words and passage hooks!). Third, re-read the passage for logic match. This will allow you to check if your potential answer works in line with the logic of the passage.

With these in mind, let us now direct our attention to the hard-level question that concluded our previous post.


Conservation stands for the same kind of practical common-sense management of this country by the people that every businessman stands for in the handling of his own business. It believes in prudence and foresight instead of reckless blindness; it holds that resources now public property should not become the basis for oppressive private monopoly; and it demands the complete and orderly development of all our resources for the benefit of all the people, instead of the partial exploitation of them for the benefit of a few. It recognizes fully the right of the present generation to use what it needs and all it needs of the natural resources now available, but it recognizes equally our obligation so to use what we need that our descendants shall not be deprived of what they need.

Which of the following, if true, would most contradict the author’s argument in the passage?

A. Our present-day needs outpace what future generations will need

B. A study proves that the development of public lands for only a few citizens is done in a complete and orderly fashion

C. Private monopolies take better care of the environment than public citizens do

D. Most businessmen advocate for private monopolies to manage public assets on the basis of bottom-line profits

E. Those in favor of environmental destruction also operate with prudence and foresight


Do not plunge into the options—first find out what the author is arguing about.

A brief annotation of the passage would look like this:


Conservation stands for the same kind of practical common-sense management of this country by the people that every businessman stands for in the handling of his own business. It believes in prudence and foresight instead of reckless blindness; it holds that resources now public property should not become the basis for oppressive private monopoly; and it demands the complete and orderly development of all our resources for the benefit of all the people, instead of the partial exploitation of them for the benefit of a few. It recognizes fully the right of the present generation to use what it needs and all it needs of the natural resources now available, but it recognizes equally our obligation so to use what we need that our descendants shall not be deprived of what they need.


Notice that the passage is structured in this manner:

  1. Main claim: Conservation works according to “practical common-sense management,” the way businesses function.
  2. Supporting premise: Like businesses, conservation believes in “prudence and foresight”.
  3. Supporting explanation: It believes in utilitarian deployment of resources, and recognizes its obligation towards future generations.

For a sentence to strongly contradict the author’s argument, it must attack the main claim, most possibly by showing that businesses, in the first place, do not function according to “practical common-sense management,” and according to what it terms “prudence and foresight”.

The only option that does this is option D. If businesses utilize private monopolies to manage public assets, this means it does not execute what the passage terms “prudence”, which is aligned with a utilitarian deployment and management of resources. Since this disturbs the main claim of the argument, its conclusion would fail to follow.

Note that the other options mainly target the argument at the levels of supporting premise and explanation (if at all), and hence fail to strongly contradict the author’s argument. For instance, option A may weaken an aspect of the argument’s supporting explanation, but it fails to disturb the premise and the claim.

The correct answer is D.

For more hard-level RC questions, click here.