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GMAT Reading List

Learn what to read now to best prepare yourself for GMAT Reading Comprehension

Not surprisingly, one of the very best ways to prepare for GMAT Reading Comprehension is simply to read, preferably from a high-quality reading list of GMAT-style material.  If you have only a few weeks between now and the GMAT, you probably should stick to GMAT RC passages for practice.  If, though, you have several months between now and your GMAT, you can afford to invest time in reading for the GMAT.  If you don’t like to read, that is all the more reason why you have to read, to get your mind in shape for the reading you will have to do on the GMAT.


What to read for the GMAT

First of all, what subject areas would be relevant?  All GMAT Reading Comprehension passages fall into one of four areas

1.  Physical Sciences

2.  Biological Sciences

3.  Social Sciences

4.  Business

A good reading plan for the GMAT should cover all four of these areas, and should all be material written at a high level of English usage.  While reading a Wikipedia article about a science topic you don’t understand might stretch your mind, there’s no guarantee the grammar or the choice of vocabulary will be of the highest quality.

The easiest area for which to make a recommendation is business, and there are more Reading Comprehension passages on this in the Official Guide than on any of the other three categories.  If you are planning to go to Business school, get an MBA, and pursue a corporate career, you already should be reading the Wall Street Journal newspaper every day and the Economist magazine every week.  If you have never taken economics, it would be worthwhile to get either an Economics text book or some other introductory books, such as Yoram Bauman‘s Cartoon Introductions to Micro and Macroeconomics.  Those latter two books may not be at the highest level of English usage, but if you are lacking a strong background in economics, those books would be an excellent way to catch up.

For both the physical and biological sciences, Scientific American is an excellent source.  If you have a relative weak background in the natural sciences in general, pushing yourself through Scientific American articles could be excellent training for wrestling with similar passage on the GMAT.  If you are more ambitious, get your hands on a textbook (borrow from a friend or from the library) and force yourself to read a couple chapters.

For the social sciences, unfortunately most popularly available publications (e.g. Psychology Today) are not nearly academic enough.  Occasionally, the New York Times will cover an academic social science issue; in particular, if the Sunday NYT Book Review reviews a book about social science, that can be good material to read.  Here, unfortunately, there is no analog to the Economist magazine or Scientific American.  If you really want social science reading practice, I have to banish you to the academic journals.  Go to a good academic library, and peruse the highly respected social science journals: yes, this will be very dry and cerebral, but if you can stomach these, then anything the GMAT throws at you will seem easy.  You may also try this open access listing of online academic journals.


How to read for the GMAT

You know a question the GMAT Reading Comprehension almost invariably asks is the “main idea” question, so whatever you read, you should constantly be in the habit of summarizing the main idea(s) and the roles of each paragraph.  That’s a bare minimum.

Ideally, you will find a GMAT reading partner.  Then, if both of you struggle through the same article, you can quiz each other on the main idea, you can discuss points of view and tone and details.  If you are very ambitious, you can every start to write full practice GMAT Reading Comprehension for each other.  (If you practice having to create four tempting and credible-sounding wrong answers for each question you write, that process will give you great insight into the patterns that the GMAT uses in crafting its wrong answers.)




About the Author

Mike McGarry is a Content Developer for Magoosh with over 20 years of teaching experience and a BS in Physics and an MA in Religion, both from Harvard. He enjoys hitting foosballs into orbit, and despite having no obvious cranial deficiency, he insists on rooting for the NY Mets. Follow him on Google+!

16 Responses to GMAT Reading List

  1. Lilit November 27, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    Dear Mike,
    I want to improve RC part. I need to answer questions on some 50 passages. It seems I fail because of lack of experience on answering RC questions. Could you help with materials or send a link where I can find more RC passages to practice.

  2. KI August 15, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    Hi Mike,

    This is a great article here.
    Could you please provide sources to read about Humanities, I face problem in such passages.
    I believe in GMAT, one gets 4 passages covering Science, Business, Humanities , etc.

    Thanks in advance.


    • Mike
      Mike August 15, 2014 at 10:49 am #

      Dear KI,
      I’m happy to respond. :-) Technically, the GMAT RC passage that are not about business or the natural science tend to be about the social science more than the humanities. Social sciences = human things about which one can gather data and test theories (psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.). Humanities = things of beauty, things that are said to enhance our human nature by their ennobling character (poetry, art, music, etc.) Strictly speaking, I don’t think I have ever seen an official GMAT RC passage about the Humanities, but of course, many are about the Social Sciences.
      As I indicated above, there’s not a single go-to source for the Social Sciences. I would recommend Harper’s weekly, the Atlantic Monthly, and even National Geographic (covers both natural sciences & social sciences). Even better, if through a library, you can get access to academic textbooks and journals on social science topics — that dense academic writing would be ideal for GMAT RC practice.
      Does this all make sense?
      Mike :-)

      • KI August 15, 2014 at 11:34 am #

        Mike, all these make sense !

        Although , I have invested lot of time in Humanities passages :(
        I have 2 months for GMAT, I want to improve RC .. the accuracy level is yet not developed. Would you like to give suggest some ways on how to get grip in RC and within these 2 months, how much reading is required.

        Thanks a lot for your response.


        • Mike
          Mike August 15, 2014 at 11:49 am #

          Dear KI,
          I would suggest reading at least a hour a day every day — that’s the time for outside reading, over and above any GMAT preparations you are doing. Furthermore, it would help to diagram everything you read — what’s the main idea? what’s the role of each paragraph? whey did the author mention individual details? The more you read, the easier all of this will become. Also, if you are not already a member of Magoosh, the Magoosh lessons on GMAT RC could really help you.
          Mike :-)

          • KI August 17, 2014 at 8:58 am #

            Mike .. Thanks a lot for the information.
            You have presented here really a correct approach towards reading :)

            I am starting my journey towards an hour reading daily !!
            About the Magoosh lessons on GMAT RC- are these paid lessons?

            Thanks and Regards

            • Mike
              Mike August 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

              Dear KI,
              You are quite welcome, my friend. :-) Yes, to see the Magoosh RC lessons, you would have to purchase the Magoosh product, at least the Verbal product. For this, you would pay about the price of a high quality book. I am very glad you found my advice helpful.
              Mike :-)

  3. wilson June 18, 2014 at 2:34 am #

    Hi mike,

    Would bloomberg businessweek helps?

    I’m deciding between the economist and bloomberg businessweek.

    • Mike
      Mike June 18, 2014 at 11:38 am #

      Dear Wilson,
      I’m happy to respond. :-) Bloomberg Businessweek is a fine publication. I would say, a habit of reading either Bloomberg or the Economist regularly will help you immensely. Best of luck to you!
      Mike :-)

  4. Govind June 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for this guide. I followed a link to this page from The GMATClub. As I am an engineering graduate, I generally have trouble with economics and business related RC passages. I have followed your suggestion to read the Economist and it has helped me a lot.


    • Mike
      Mike June 16, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      Dear Govind,
      I’m very glad you found this helpful! Thanks for letting us know! Best of luck to you, my friend!
      Mike :-)

  5. Paresh January 19, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for suggesting a reading list. It would be helpful if you suggest any particular sections(opinion,sports,…etc) that we must read the most inside WSJ, Economist,etc

    • Mike
      Mike January 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

      Dear Paresh,
      Definitely read anything about business, politics, world events, science & technology, and trends in human behavior. At that is vital. If an opinion piece talks about any of those topics, read it. I would say any sports and any coverage of media celebrities would be the sections you could skip, although if you need practice with English, even those would be worth reading. The WSJ will have a little of that fluff, but the Economist will really have none: you can read that from cover-to-cover.
      Mike :-)

      • paresh January 19, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for the precious reply.

        • Mike
          Mike January 19, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

          Dear Paresh,
          You are quite welcome. Best of luck to you.
          Mike :-)

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