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Reading for the GMAT: The Economist

Get the most out of reading for the GMAT

Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to prepare for GMAT Reading Comprehension is simply to read.  Not surprisingly, one of the best sources of reading as you prepare for business school is a weekly news magazine called The EconomistThe Economist is one of the most intelligent weekly journals in print, and it brings a highly sophisticated perspective to all issues affecting micro- and macroeconomics.  Its articles explore economics, politics, demographics, technology, etc.  It targets the highly intelligent.  If you can understand tone and implication in Economist articles, you will have absolutely no problem with these tasks on GMAT Reading Comprehension.  If you read The Economist regularly between now and the time you take the GMAT, the familiarity you glean with national and world issues also might serve you well on tackling an AWA Issue or Argument Essay.  If you make a habit of reading it, that will give you an edge in business school, and after that, and edge in the business world.


How to Practice for GMAT RC

All that’s great,  but how do you get the most out of reading The Economistit right now for GMAT Reading Comprehension?  Here are my suggestions:

1) Read actively, with paper and pencil. Practice summarizing briefly each paragraph, writing this in shorthand on paper, just as you will write on the notepad on test day.

2) Always summarize for yourself, in ten words or fewer, the main idea of the article, then double check that each paragraph plays a role in supporting that main idea.

3) Practice looking for “signal” words — (“although”, “however”, “but”, “nevertheless”, etc. etc.) —words that indicate a shift in the direction of the argument

4) Always ask yourself while reading: is this a neutral perspective, or is the author arguing for or against something? The Economist tends to have a balanced tone and a subtle wry sense of humor, so it’s a particularly good source for this, because it doesn’t hit you over the head with tone. Exactly what words and phrases in the passage provide the hints for tone and the author’s perspective?

5) Once you have sorted out the main idea & role of each paragraph, go back to some juicy or memorable detail — why did the author mention that? How does that detail support the paragraph? How does it support the main idea of the whole passage? (I can guarantee that every single syllable in the The Economist serves a specific purpose.)

6) Really advanced — pick an intriguing article and pretend you are GMAC. Write a set of 3-4 questions on this article. What would be particularly GMAT-like things to ask? You know they will ask for the main idea — can you come up with tempting-sounding decoys for wrong answer to that question? Can you formulate detail questions? tone questions? etc. The more you practice writing these question, and creating your own tempting-sounding wrong answers, the easier they will be to spot on test day.


Practice with Others

You can get even more out of this if you convince a couple of your friends to join you, forming an Economist-GMAT-RC study group.  Imagine there are four people in such a group, and you all agree to read a particular article from The Economist. Let’s say you draw from a hat — one person has to create a main idea question, one has to create a tone question, one has to create a “purpose of this paragraph” question, and one has to create a detail question. Each person reads the article and creates his/her assigned question, and then the next time you meet, each person has three other questions to answer. One of the best ways to understand the logic of GMAT questions is to try to write them yourself!

Magoosh has a series of video lessons on GMAT Reading Comprehension.  If you sign up for Magoosh and watch those lessons, and read The Economist weekly, and meet with friends to study those articles, you would become a GMAT Reading Comprehension pro, and by test day you would be handling this question type with ease.

Here’s a sample RC question from inside Magoosh.


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+!

8 Responses to Reading for the GMAT: The Economist

  1. vardhaman lodha July 3, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Hello dear Mike,

    i have been struggling a bit with RC with around 50 percent accuracy..i have subscribed for the economist..i hav 3 months for gmat exam..could you please suggest how many articles should i work on every day on average to better in RC?it would be a great help if u could help me out with this issue….thanx mate.. :)

    • Mike
      Mike July 4, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Dear Vardhaman,
      I’m happy to respond. :-) Well, the Economist magazine comes out one a week. Ideally, you would read the entire magazine during the course of the week, so that would be a few articles every day. If that is way too much, I would say: read for at least 1 hour every day. That’s 1 hour, over and above any GMAT preparations you are doing. Does this make sense?
      Mike :-)

  2. Abhi September 25, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Hi Mike
    I want to improve my reading Skills regarding GMAT RC’s.
    Could you please suggest me some study material?

    • Mike
      Mike September 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

      Dear Abhi,
      First of all, one of the most important things you can do to prepare for the GMAT RC is just to read, read, read. The Economist is excellent material. You can find out about more here:
      Practicing GMAT RC questions without having a daily habit of reading on your own is almost pointless.
      Here’s a blog article with a free practice RC passage + questions.
      If you sign up for Magoosh, you will get lessons on RC, as well as multiple original practice GMAT passages & questions. Because of the combination of lesson videos, as well as explanation videos for each question, I would recommend Magoosh.
      Mike :-)

  3. the variable x August 4, 2013 at 3:47 am #

    Sir, I am a first year student of engineering, and I wish to crack the gmat. How exactly should I start preparing?

    • Mike
      Mike August 4, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Dear X,
      If you’re an engineering student, it sounds like the math will not be a challenge. Keep reading, as I recommend in this post, especially about business so that you develop intuition for that world. As the time approaches, I would recommend following one of the study schedules in the right margin of this page.
      Mike :-)

  4. rizzi1234 April 2, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    I found myself struggling with English preparation for Bank PO exam, and needs an exhaustive study guide as well as ideal preparation medium for cracking IBPS exam. I have a query, I found an English course at… is it good enough to enroll at?

    • Mike
      Mike April 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

      Rizzi: unfortunately, I know zilch about this site. I found this article about WizIQ on Wikipedia: It says that anyone can be a teacher —- unlike Magoosh, where instructors are rigorously selected, it appears that anyone can go on WixIQ and say they want to teach. Given that, it’s just not clear to me how helpful it is going to be. Maybe very helpful, maybe not. I can’t tell. I know that the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it — I don’t know if that is possibility for you. Magoosh would give you excellent help with English grammar. As for WizIQ, I don’t know — I just don’t know what to say about it. Sorry.
      Mike :-)

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