GMAT Reading Comprehension: Improve Speed by Taking Notes

by on September 5th, 2015

Making Notes from BookSince the GMAT is a computer-based event with time restrictions that can trip up even the most seasoned test-takers, it probably sounds absurd to think that adding work could actually help you get through a section faster. However, passages in the Reading Comprehension section of the GMAT can be particularly tricky, especially considering that at an average of 350 words, they’re fairly short. We’ve discussed previously the general points you should look to extract from any passage on the GMAT, but before we go any further on taking notes, let’s review those points:

  • What is the author’s point-of-view/overall argument in the passage?
  • What are the supporting examples he or she uses to support the argument?
  • What is the structure of the argument (e.g. two opposing sides vs. one sided, informational vs. author’s opinion)?

While this may seem simple enough, test-takers often find themselves referring back to a passage, only to find they need to re-read the entire text again. To make life much easier on test day, here are a few things to keep in mind while taking notes during the Reading Comprehension section of the GMAT.

Resist the temptation to try and rewrite the entire passage

Rewriting a statement often works well in other facets of GMAT Verbal—particularly in Sentence Correction—but is counterproductive when tackling a Reading Comprehension question. No question in the Reading Comprehension section will ask you to rewrite or correct any part of a passage; you’ll only be required to respond to questions based on the passage, so don’t add any unnecessary work for yourself.

Before you begin a passage on the GMAT, start by creating a quick outline, using the three points we discussed in the previous section. As you read through the passage, jot down anything you find addresses any one of the points we discussed above. With the right amount of practice, you’ll train yourself to spot and take note of the details you’ll need to answer the corresponding questions. More importantly, you’ll be able to refer back to a solid set of notes instead of having to rely on only the passage itself.

Review the questions before you read the passage

Although passages on the GMAT are consistent in the way they are formatted, they’re packed with lots of information that you won’t need to remember to respond to the corresponding questions. The easiest way to find out exactly what you will need to remember? Take a peek at the questions before you dive into your reading.

While your outline should address the three points we discussed in the previous section, knowing what lies ahead in the questions will help you hone in even further on the most relevant information. You’ll also read through passages more quickly (without sacrificing accuracy) because you’ll be focused on finding only the details you’ll need to respond to the questions.

Once you’ve read through a passage, refer back to your notes to answer each question in your own words before looking at the answer choices. While this won’t work quite as well when there isn’t a clear question (i.e. “the author would agree with which of the following statements?), this strategy will help you avoid answer choices that could be correct and rely on what you know to select the answer choice that is correct.

This post appeared first on the Economist GMAT Tutor blog.

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