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, LongReads.com. 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
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.”