How to | GRE Reading Comprehension

For many students, reading comprehension is the hardest part of the entire GRE test. You might consider it boring to read through an entire comprehension passage that you have no business with. We understand that feeling and that is why we want to help you to be better at preparing for GRE reading comprehension.

After this article, we are sure that we can make you like reading comprehensions more. Before you know how to prepare for reading comprehensions, you would need to have a reason or motivation for actually trying to ace it.

The most important reason why you should learn how to prepare for the GRE reading comprehension is that it covers almost half of the questions in the verbal reasoning section. So knowing how to answer the reading comprehension question would mean that you already have half the score even before the test starts. Is that motivation enough? If so continue reading this article to uncover gems that would help you make reading comprehension in GRE a walk in the park.


If you are taking the GRE test for the first time, then you should expect to see a lot of unfamiliar words in the comprehension passage. These words might catch you off guard and might take a whole lot of time to understand. If you read the comprehension with the aim to understand everything then you would be wasting a lot of time. That is why you need to learn how to prepare for reading comprehensions the GRE way.

On the test, there are usually about five passages per section and these passages will have questions ranging from 1-5 each. Since there are two verbal reasoning sections it is expected that you have a total of 10 reading comprehensions on your test. The comprehension passages also contain 1-5 paragraphs.

The passages are usually gotten from online news articles, school journals, books and other works of literature. The content of the passages sometimes includes topics like arts, politics, history, day to day activities and so on. You might even find out that you have read a certain comprehension passage somewhere else before.


For every reading comprehension, there are 3 types of questions that you would have to answer. These are:

Multiple-choice Questions (Choose 1 answer): You have likely seen these kinds of questions before. These questions are the regular multiple-choice questions with 5 answer choices where only one of those choices is the correct answer. You can only choose one answer choice for this kind of questions. Be sure to read the answer choices well before selecting your answer.

Multiple-choice Questions (Choose 1 or more answers): in this case, you would have options to expect there are only three here. Out of those three choices you would need to choose the answer or answers that are correct. All three of the options could be correct, so you would need to be extra careful when selecting. If all three options are correct and you choose just two, you would forfeit the score for a correct answer.

Select-in-Passage: This kind of question is seen only in the GRE tests. Here you would have to click on a sentence in the comprehension passage that correctly answers the question asked.

Remember that you are reading the passage only to answer the questions asked. So it would be a waste of time, if you are trying so hard to remember the points or content in a passage after you have answered it.


The GRE has organized the passages into different components or segments. Even with the different components, there are some essential building blocks that are common to all of these segments. The passages can come in the form of critiquing an old theory and proposing a new one or by asking a question and then providing a solution or answer to the question later on in the passage.

When you know what these essential build blocks are, you are one step ahead of getting the hang of the GRE comprehension passages. These essential building blocks are:

The Point of the passage

Background of that point

Support of the point

Implications of the point

All comprehension passages in the GRE must have a point. Your first job, when confronted with a passage, is to find that point. The point is the singular most important feature is a passage. It contained the information that the author is trying to pass across to you the reader. By the time you have read through the passage, you should be able to identify what the point of the passage is.

The background of the point is the information that you need in order to recognize the point. You need to make use of your discernment to know whether a statement is background information or just some supporting evidence to a claim.

Support is a piece of extra or additional information that buttresses the main point of the passage. This support can come in the form of case studies, pieces of evidence or examples.

Implications of the point simply mean post-effects of the main point. These can also be likened to the consequences or end results of the main point. They are quite the easiest to understand out of the four essential building blocks to any GRE passage.

When you are able to identify the essential building blocks in a passage, you would be able to answer the questions quicker and with more accuracy, thus saving time and earning yourself a higher score.


Now that you know the question types and composition of the GRE test, the next cause of action is to know how you can fire yourself to success in the tests.

This section of the article would discuss how you can do just that with these 5 easy steps.

Begin by  completely reading the first and last paragraph and then the first and last sentences in the other paragraphs

To save yourself a lot of time in the GRE test, you do not need to read every single paragraph in the passage. Completely read only the first paragraph so as to get the point that the writer or author is trying to pass across to you the reader. The point of the passage is usually contained in the first paragraph while the implication of the point or conclusion is in the last paragraph.

When you are done with the first and last paragraphs, you can then move on to other paragraphs in the passage. With the other paragraphs read only the first and last sentences so that you can have a general overview of the text's structure.

You could also begin by reading the questions first. This way, you have the question at the back of your mind and can easily point out the answers when you find them.

Takes notes as you read the paragraphs

Taking notes while reading is one sure way of getting you a high score on the reading comprehension section. When you take notes, you are working your brain more and making it more aware of the conscious effort you are making to remember something.

Also when you write things out by yourself instead of just reading them, you would remember those things more and for a longer time too. The note where you write in should be one that you can carry around so that you can sneak a peek or two even when you are on the move. Don't use multiple notes unless you want to defeat the purpose of keeping a note.

When you jot a note down, you also save yourself the time and stress of having to go through a whole lot of resources or materials just to find a particular sentence. You don't want to write another textbook so keep the notes as small as possible. Write down only important or relevant information like keywords or phrases. Also, write down words that you do not understand but would want to know the meaning of later.

It is not necessary that you write your notes down in full text. You should use a medium that you are totally comfortable with. Some students have found out that when they use symbols or illustrations, they remember certain things more. You can do the same too. Find out what works for you and use it so as to increase efficiency.

Identify Key Words and Signal Words

Understanding keywords and signal words are important if you want to ace reading comprehension in GRE. You need to identify these words and find out what they mean to the passage. Although we have advised that you should not read the entire text of a passage, it is important that you peruse the text for the sole purpose of identifying the keywords and signal words.

Take note of keywords and the meaning that they have in a passage. This might require that you have a jotter or notepad handy so as to take your notes quicker. All the reading comprehension that you would find in the GRE and even elsewhere for that matter have keywords and phrases that you need to take notice of. These words can sometimes be referred to as signal words. Examples of these words include for example, furthermore, therefore, firstly, in contrast, on the contrary, the sequel to that, nevertheless, many believe, according, subject to, whether and so on like that.

Create a visual movie in your head

When you are done with reading the paragraphs in a passage and have taken as many notes as is needed, the next logical step is to start finding answers to the questions. That sequence is exactly what you should follow if you are sure that you are not under any pressure at all.

If you are under pressure though, it is likely that you would have forgotten many of the things that you have read from the passage. You might be able to answer the first question but might find yourself running back and forth the passage so as to answer the remaining questions. Doing this would waste a lot of your time.

What you need to do in this case is to create a visual movie in your head. Take a maximum of 30 seconds to replay the whole passage in your head in the right sequence. If you happen to do this successfully then you would be able to answer the questions better.

Start Answering The Questions

If you read the article from the beginning then you should be already familiar with the different kind of questions that are common on the GRE. With the right strategy, you should be able to answer the question thrown at you correctly.

Remember that for Multiple Select questions, you do not get any scores forgetting one or two of the options correctly. Miss one and you miss it all. You have to choose the options correctly to be awarded any scores.

Understand the question well before you choose your answer and do not try to be overconfident when answering questions.

Other things that you can do to ace is the reading comprehension on the GRE include practicing beforehand with the authorized GRE material from ETS and also make sure to work on areas you know you need help with.


Many fall on the way as they race to ace reading comprehension in GRE, but we are sure that you can find your way all to the finish line if you follow the guidelines that are outlined in this article.

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