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GRE Article of the Month – November 2012

State of the Species
By Charles C. Mann for Orion Magazine

I’ve extolled the powers of reading many times on this site. My enthusiasm stems from the fact that reading helps wire the brain so that it becomes more efficient at processing the stream of words that you will have to sort through on the GRE verbal section. Think of it as pushups for your reading brain.

Then, there is also the wonder of vocabulary. Seeing words in context gives you a deeper understanding of those words are used. And when you encounter words that you have already learned, there is a shock of recognition. With new words, you can simply look them, store them somewhere convenient, and voila, you’ve now expanded your lexicon.

The key has always been finding articles that are interesting, challenging, and have that ineffable GRE-ness to them (meaning that GRE could very well excerpt a snippet and turn it into one of the wonderful passages you’ll see test day). In other posts, I’ve recommended specific sections of the New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, or The New Yorker. Many times students tell me that they’ve floundered about looking for something that was apt.

Today, I am not going to direct you to a specific source; rather I am posting a specific article, which will be the first in a series of articles entitled Article of the Month (it’s sort of like Oprah’s book club, without the book, and I suppose the club). I’ve selected the article based on the very criteria above. The article is science-y, which for many always makes for a challenging field. The writing is for the most part more conversational than technical, but there are some patches of difficulty. I’ve also made sure that the article is long, so that your reading brain will really get a work out.

A few important things to keep in mind: First off, don’t just slog your way through the article. Meaning, don’t just string words together hoping to get to the end of the article so you can give yourself a pat on the back (this is the default reading habit for most, and can be difficult to change). Instead, think about what you are reading, taking a break every few paragraphs to reflect and summarize. This skill is something you definitely want to develop to the point that it becomes natural.

The second point is this: reading these long articles will not automatically mean you will answer 100% of the Reading Comprehension questions correctly. That is like expecting that doing a lot of pushups will help you become good at a specific sport. Pushups will only make you more fit; you still have to learn the specific skills of that sport. Likewise, the GRE Reading Comprehension is a skill that you can only hone by doing GRE practice questions and learning from your mistakes.

That said, whip your reading brain into shape with the following article, taken from the website, Each week, LongReads gleans articles from the periodicals, newspapers, and magazines. The one I’ve selected today is entitled “State of the Species”, which originally appeared in Orion magazine. It is a thought-provoking article that is eloquently written. Different viewpoints, including the author’s, are introduced throughout the piece.

I’ve also provided a smattering of vocabulary words that show up in the article, words that could easily turn up in one of those pesky three-blank Text Completions. When you make similar lists, make sure to look up these words, take an example sentence (or two), and then turn it into a real flashcard or a virtual one. I’ve actually gone ahead and done so with the first word. You may even want to look up the words before reading the article and then see if you can understand how they function in context.

Good luck, and enjoy the article! (And if you are really up for it, write a summary of the article using some of the vocabulary words you encountered).

Vocabulary From the Article

Example flashcard:

Frivolous – “Unworthy of serious attention; trivial”

Ex. Sent. 1) “The subject was anything but frivolous: donning a garment is a complicated act.”

Ex. Sent. 2) “But when it comes to larger historical events, such speculations tend to seem frivolous and beside the point.”

Vocabulary list:

  • Apologist
  • Symbiotic
  • Donning
  • Fervently
  • Latent
  • Bottleneck
  • Pullulating
  • Incursion
  • Calamity
  • Teeming
  • Haphazardly
  • Taut
  • Scoff
  • Plasticity
  • Heartening
  • Banishment
  • Implausibility


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9 Responses to GRE Article of the Month – November 2012

  1. Koustuv March 4, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    Hi Chris! Can you fix the link of this essay which redirects to another Article of the Month Essay, A Nose for Words of the New York Times. In that Magoosh page ( however the link is broken.
    Thanks for this blog, its immensely helpful and rich with content!

    • Rachel Wisuri
      Rachel March 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

      Hey Koustuv,

      Thanks for pointing that out! I just fixed it. 🙂

  2. Divya August 16, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    “Oprah’s book club, without the book, and I suppose the club”!!! Ha ha ha! I love your sense of humor, Chris!!! So many times, it has saved me from getting bored or falling asleep (esp after lunch!) 🙂

    Thanks for the link, that was a great read! Whew! My brain feels totally worked out! As an arts student, I have difficulty paying attention during the science passages, so that was great practice! Am off now to practice some RC with questions! 🙂

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm #


      Glad you are finding the reading articles (and the accompanying commentary) fun! Also, happy that the article gave you a work out. Test day there may be one of those dense reading passages, so it is good to give the brain into shape :)!

      Good luck!

  3. Nicki November 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Hi Chris. I found your website online, and signed up for Magoosh services yesterday. Love everything! So I checked out Longreads, and it is fabulous! Read two amazing articles, one about The Grateful Dead and the other about a recently solved cold case murder in the hip hop community, and saw about 30 GRE words. Can’t beat good reads plus GRE words.

    Thanks for the tips!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm #


      Great, I am so happy you are enjoying Magoosh thus far! And Longreads is great! I’m currently reading one of the articles you mentioned above! It’s a great way to learn and reinforce GRE vocab.

      Good luck :).

  4. Barbara November 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. It was quite lengthy, but overall a great read, with some cool ideas and arguments. However, I did not find it as convoluted as some of the articles I’ve encountered on the GRE (I’m studying to take it a second time). Perhaps that had more to do with how familiar I am with the subject than other topics, and because the author is a fantastic writer (His book, 1491, offers great GRE practice as well, with a nice blend of academia and GRE-words). I guess that just goes to show that if I get in the mind frame of “loving” whatever I’m reading, it will be easier to understand! Thanks for posting this article. I’m definitely going to add the website to my list of GRE-worthy reading sites!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

      Hi Barbara,

      You bring up a good point – this article, and many that I recommend, aren’t quite as convoluted as GRE passages. As I risk putting readers to sleep, I want to recommend something that is interesting, yet filled with GRE words. Also, for many who don’t read much, articles such as Mann’s, provide a nice transition from little-reading to dry, convoluted GRE reading.

      I’m glad you liked the article. Hopefully for December, I can find something equally engaging :).

      • Han October 20, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

        You are very helpful!

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