GRE Prep: Top 3 Strategies for Reading Comprehension Questions

GRE Prep: Top 3 Strategies for Reading Comprehension Questions

In this post, we will analyze a medium-level Reading Comprehension inference question and point out 3 key strategies that will help you tackle RC questions in general. Here it goes:


This question is based on the following advice from a nineteenth-century housekeeping book.

That a thorough, religious, useful education is the best security against misfortune, disgrace and poverty, is universally believed and acknowledged; and to this we add the firm conviction that when poverty comes (as it sometimes will) upon the prudent, the industrious, and the well-informed, a judicious education is all-powerful in enabling them to endure the evils it cannot always prevent. A mind full of piety and knowledge is always rich; it is a bank that never fails; it yields a perpetual dividend of happiness.

Which of the following best matches the reasoning given by the author in the passage?

A. The financial banking system in the U.S. will never fail

B. A savings account allows bank customers to both prevent and endure financial hardship

C. Wise investments can prevent future financial misfortune

D. Consistent investment dividends make bank customers perpetually happy

E. Judicious financial planning determines one’s future status


 

Get the main idea.

1. What are the key phrases and topic sentences?

When you read the passage for the first time, read critically. Generate the main idea or argument of the passage as you go along, highlighting crucial words, phrases or sentences. A quick annotation of the above passage could look something like that:


That a thorough, religious, useful education is the best security against misfortune, disgrace and poverty, is universally believed and acknowledged; and to this we add the firm conviction that when poverty comes (as it sometimes will) upon the prudent, the industrious, and the well-informed, a judicious education is all-powerful in enabling them to endure the evils it cannot always prevent. A mind full of piety and knowledge is always rich; it is a bank that never fails; it yields a perpetual dividend of happiness.


Generate the main idea in simple words

Armed with these keywords, we can now simply re-phrase the argument ourselves: A useful education not only prevents all kinds of misfortunes, it empowers you to constantly find satisfaction and thus bear with the misfortunes when they strike.

So far, so good. And then you confidently read your question and glance at the options—here’s when you get utterly confused. Why are we talking about banks, investments and savings?

Attack your options

1. Highlight keywords and know the differences

Do not fluster; read the options and quickly identify the differences between them. At the same time, be wary of extreme words (never, always, doubtlessly, only etc) and passage hooks (specific words in the options that can also be found in the passage—they hook the confused student to select erroneous options simply because they look more legitimate with their specific references).

Let’s now quickly annotate our options:


A. The financial banking system in the U.S. will never fail (use of extreme language and lack of support, reasoning mismatch)

B. A savings account allows bank customers to both prevent and endure financial hardship (prudent investment helps to prevent and endure bad stuff)

C. Wise investments can prevent future financial misfortune (wise investments prevent bad stuff  note difference from B)

D. Consistent investment dividends make bank customers perpetually happy (consistent rewards make people happy  irrelevant to argument which states that it is education, rather than the rewards of education, that makes people happy)

E. Judicious financial planning determines one’s future status (planning determines future factors  irrelevant to argument)


After considering the options in this critical fashion, we can narrow down our choices to B and C. More precisely we ask ourselves: does education only prevent misfortune, or does it also help us endure it?

Re-read your passage

1. Match the logic

Going back to the passage and our own re-phrasing of the main idea, we can conclude that the author advocates education because it prevents and helps us endure hardships: “a judicious education is all-powerful in enabling them to endure the evils it cannot always prevent”.

The choice that most clearly matches this logic is B. In the same way that education prevents misfortune or helps people endure it, prudent investments help customers prevent and endure financial hardship.

Now that you have understood the 3 key strategies to answering Reading Comprehension questions, how about trying out this hard-level question?


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


To read the explanation to the above question (and test yourself with more hard-level questions), click here. To find out more about common Reading Comprehension Question types, click here.

To go back to an overview of the GRE Verbal Reasoning component, click here.