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 to do so — 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 that 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 Financial Times newspaper every day and the Economist magazine every week.  I also recommend Bloomberg Businessweek.  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 relatively 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 a 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.

The New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly are exceptionally well-written journals.  The focus of each is a little more literary, so the topics are somewhat less likely to appear on the GMAT, but because the writing is of exceptionally high quality, these still provide excellent practice for sophisticated reading.

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 even start to write full practice GMAT Reading Comprehension questions 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.)




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31 Responses to GMAT Reading List

  1. Ankush Chavan December 30, 2019 at 3:33 am #


    I have a basic query:
    For verbal section, people say that one must read as much content (newspaper/articles/novels) as possible. But I have a thought that instead of spending time in reading articles and practising RCs separately, we should better allocate the whole time in practising RCs because RCs eventually cater to different genres (science, economics etc) and along with the reading of passage we also get to solve the questions. This way we can solve 2X RCs in the same time. 🙂
    What do you suggest?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 21, 2020 at 2:11 pm #

      Hi Ankush,

      You should certainly plan to study as many RC questions as possible, but we still recommend that students read other materials for a few reasons. First, most students generally only have access to a limited number of practice questions, so if they only read RC passages they may run out more quickly. Second, and perhaps more important, we want students to improve their general reading comprehension skills, which requires longer and more challenging material. GMAT passages are generally pretty short, and we encourage longer articles because it helps students improve their stamina by reading longer passages.

  2. Varun July 3, 2019 at 5:15 am #

    While this is a great list, are there any free resources for reading since most of the above mentioned sources like Economist and NYT are behind a paywall.

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 8, 2019 at 2:35 pm #

      Those paywalls can be frustrating. (Note though that if you register for an account, you can get 10 free articles a month from NYT; the Economist offers a less generous 5 free articles a month.)

      To avoid paywalls and still have your pick of a wide range of good material, I recommend sites such as Arts and Letters Daily and The Electric Typewriter. These sites collect links to a variety of free-access articles around the web that have GRe-like quality. That way, you don’t have to hunt down the free, non-paywalled material yourself. 🙂

  3. Hamza September 16, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    Hi Mike !
    I have problems with the questions related to nature and life sciences in general. What can you advice me, please ?

  4. Saleel Dalal April 28, 2016 at 12:22 am #

    Hi Mike,

    I have been reading the economist cover to cover for months and I must say its an excellent no-nonsense publication. Ideally, I want to read the WSJ daily, economist and scientific American weekly and take the occasional trip to a the library to get down to those academic journals for the social sciences. I also had my eye on the bimonthly technology review by MIT. Wonder if you would recommend this publication. Also, this would mean that I would have to skip Bloomberg businessweek, ny times, Atlantic monthly etc.
    Please let me know if my strategy is right. Would love to hear your advice on the same.


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 2, 2016 at 3:42 am #

      Hi Dalal,

      In all honesty, no one expects you to read all of those publications anyway! If you pick a core few (I also love The Economist) to read regularly and expand your reading skills/vocabulary, that will be more than sufficient to help you with all of your verbal skills. 🙂

  5. Tair February 21, 2016 at 10:31 pm #

    Good Day, Mike!

    Thank you for your tips. I am going to start my preparations now, and I have unlimited access to Harvard business review articles. I am wondering is this a good material to read every day? Thank you in advance

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 22, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

      Hi Tair,

      I think that this is a good source to read from, but I wouldn’t only read articles from HBR — you’ll want to supplement this with other sources, such as the New Yorker or the New York Times, to broaden the range of topics you’re reading about, as well as the styles.

  6. Sushant January 20, 2016 at 4:09 am #

    Hi Mike,
    This is sushant.
    A simple question: How to start preparing for Gmat..???
    I read all the reviews above…. But couldn’t link myself to what exactly people are asking..!! Intrigued though..!!
    Talking about myself… I’m a working professional in a MNC company in Mumbai. I’ve a work exp of almost 2 yrs now & i want pursue MBA in IB.
    I need that initial push to get me going…


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 29, 2016 at 11:23 am #

      Hi Shushant,

      Happy to help! The best way to start preparing for any large task like the GMAT is to become familiar with its content, structure, and purpose. The GMAT is an exam to find candidates for business school, so everything you’re asked to do is designed to find people who are able to think in a logical, business-like way. You should explore a GMAT official guide’s explanation of the GMAT, read this blog post on the GMAT, and start exploring some of the GMAT resources to get a feel for it.

      If you’re studying with us, you can follow one of our GMAT study schedules. If you aren’t, the study schedules can still help you to structure your own approach with whatever resources you end up working with! I hope that helps you start to dig into the GMAT, and thanks for your patience regarding this reply. 🙂

  7. life October 14, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Do you think reading NTY opinion does improve efficacy to tackle RC.

  8. kpol April 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    Is Nature Magazine a good source for reading articles on biology, geology, physics, etc?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike April 28, 2015 at 11:11 am #

      Dear kpol,
      I’m happy to respond. 🙂 If we are talking about the prestigious academic journal Nature, then yes, that’s extremely high level scientific reading, considerably more sophisticated than anything the GMAT will give you. If you can understand articles in Nature, then you definitely will have no problem understanding the science on the GMAT. If you can understand those articles, then you are more than ready for the science passages. At that point, I would urge you to read more about politics, economics, and social science, so you understood the dynamics of those disciplines better.
      Does all this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

  9. 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.

  10. 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 MᶜGarry
      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 MᶜGarry
          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 MᶜGarry
              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 🙂

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

    Hi mike,

    Would bloomberg businessweek helps?

    I’m deciding between the economist and bloomberg businessweek.

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      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 🙂

  12. 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 MᶜGarry
      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 🙂

  13. 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 MᶜGarry
      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 MᶜGarry
          Mike January 19, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

          Dear Paresh,
          You are quite welcome. Best of luck to you.
          Mike 🙂

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