How to Improve GRE Reading Comprehension

How to Improve GRE Reading Comprehension

GRE Reading Comprehension is probably the most difficult section to improve in. Even when progress occurs, it happens slowly. Many become understandably discouraged. After all, there are few sections in which you can feel flustered and perplexed even after reading the explanation. Perhaps my number one GRE Verbal tip on this matter is simply: Don’t give up.

As long as you remain tenacious, there are specific ideas that can help you improve your Reading Comprehension skills. The advice in this post is aimed not at someone who is just starting off (though it is also relevant to tyros), but for those who feel they may have hit a plateau or an impasse where it seems impossible to advance any further.

You may have already applied my other advice: read widely from publications noted for their high-quality prose. Doing this will help you strengthen your reading brain. But to ultimately get over the hump and increase your Reading Comprehension score, you will want to apply the strategies below, and review our Complete Guide to the GRE.

Practice using official GRE Reading Comprehension material

Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.

Content-wise, nothing beats practicing with actual GRE questions from the ETS Official Guide. ETS is the same company that makes the GRE itself, so everything you see in the Official Guide is written to the same specifications as something you’d find on a real GRE. The style and tone of the passage, the way questions and answer choices are worded, and the subtlety between the correct answer and the incorrect answers can only be fully appreciated in actual GRE Reading Comprehension questions.

Know the general structure of GRE Reading Comprehension passages

Most RC passages on the GRE will adhere to the same general structure. First, they introduce a theory or an idea. Then, some background or support will be provided regarding this idea. Often, a similar or competing idea will be introduced and scrutinized. Finally, the passage will close by addressing the implications of the aforementioned arguments.

Once you understand these general tendencies, you’ll be able to better identify the main idea of each passage. Moreover, you’ll train yourself to recognize the function of each individual sentence within the larger role of the main idea itself. Ultimately, you’ll be able to dissect each piece of information and determine whether it is the crux of the author’s argument, a piece of supporting evidence, a counter-theory, or a conclusion about future ramifications.

Know why the wrong answers are wrong

Wrong answers are the soul of Reading Comprehension questions. That may sound odd, like I’m trying to channel Shakespeare, but let me elaborate. Often, you may know the general answer to a question, or you may be able to easily spot common trap answers. But that is not what the GRE is ultimately testing. It is testing whether you can tell the difference between an answer choice that is almost correct and one that is unambiguously correct. Indeed, while sifting through the verbiage of the answer choices, you are truly employing your critical thinking skills.

Only by having a strong sense of why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answer incorrect will you truly have mastered a question.

Re-do passages

Students often balk at revisiting reading passages: ‘I’ve already done that one before.’ Unless you have a photographic memory, you’ll probably have forgotten most—if not all—of a passage you read six weeks ago.

Second, it is not about getting questions right. It is about knowing why the right answer is correct and the wrong answer incorrect (as I just noted above). The chances that you remember the nuances between answer choices are slight to none. Thus, each time you go through a passage is a fresh opportunity to exercise your analytical muscles. Magoosh students who go through practice problems multiple times show a higher score increase than students who do problems only once.

Know the different types of questions

There are a few recurring question types on the GRE Reading Comprehension section. Once you understand the goal of the different question types, you’ll be able to better intuit the correct answer. Likewise, you’ll increase your ability to avoid common trap answers. For more specific information, see the blogposts below:

Be aware of your propensities for mistakes

Do not fear making mistakes during your studies. Instead, realize that each mistake is an invaluable opportunity to learn something new or to correct an old misunderstanding. You will often find a pattern to your mistakes. It could be that you infer too much in inference questions. It could be that you overlook single words that end up greatly altering a sentence’s meaning. Or it could be that you misinterpret the connotations of the answer choices. Anticipating these mistakes can help you greatly.

Make it your goal to understand what errors you are prone to committing, and maintain mindfulness so these errors are not repeated.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

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55 Responses to How to Improve GRE Reading Comprehension

  1. Smruthi September 5, 2019 at 6:56 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I am a premium member. I am finding it difficult to understand the passage within the given time limit, so I start getting anxious and end up getting confused at the turning points of the passage. And most often fall right into the trap that the test has set for me. Do you have any tips or study strategy that would help me with this?

    This sometimes holds good even for TC/SE


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 6, 2019 at 7:17 pm #

      Hi Smruthi! This is absolutely a frustrating problem, and it’s pretty common among test takers. My advice is to solve questions more slowly as practice. Try untimed, or double time. Let yourself practice the problem solving skills that you need and practice being calm. Then you can gradually speed back up to test speed. Students always want to go as fast as they can and prepare the test right away, but sometimes building skills without the same time pressure can help you actually learn them. Then you can focus on getting faster. Hope that helps!

  2. Vaibav May 19, 2019 at 4:02 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I am a premium student from India. I have been struggling with the verbal section more than the quant. I have a problem especially with the reading comprehension where I neither am reading the passage fast nor am I able to understand them. This fundamental reading problem is affecting me in TC and SE questions, where I take quite a long time in understanding the sentences. I would say I am slightly better at learning new vocabulary. I fear there isn’t a structured method of getting the reading better.

    I had initially planned to take the GRE during the first week of July but looking at my progress in Verbal, I have shifted it to August 1st week. I had started preparing for Verbal since last week after having enrolled in a local GRE training institute but I find the classes futile. I realized my fundamental flaw lies in reading itself where I often have to read multiple sentences multiple times to understand or merely understand. Based on some of the blogs that I have read here and outside, a minimum of 3 months is required to see improvement in Verbal. Some say that a minimum of 6 months is required to improve your reading.

    Based on these accounts, my target of writing the exam in August seem impossible. I am also enrolling with a private tutor to get my basics right in reading and comprehension. Do you think it would be too late for me to prepare and get better at Verbal so that I could write my GRE by this year? I am looking to apply to programs in the US for Fall 2020. I would love to get your views and guidance for my struggles.



    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 19, 2019 at 11:47 am #

      Hi Vaibav!

      I see that you’re a Premium student, so I forwarded your messages to some of our Test Prep Experts. 🙂 You should be hearing from someone shortly.

  3. Vaibav May 17, 2019 at 11:54 pm #

    Hey Chris ,

    I’m from India and I’m a premium user. I have been struggling with verbal, though I just started a week or so back. I realised that I’m taking a long time to read in general and longer time to understand what I have read. I would have to read most sentences a couple of times to understand the meaning. While reading I get very distracted by the time and I get discouraged by my ability of not reading/understanding better. I have learnt new words from the magoosh Flashcards, yet I’m having difficulties.

    Based on these incidents and the pattern that I have observed in myself, I can confirm that my reading skills are poor and I’m looking to improve in a month and half. I don’t have a proper guidance of how to improve my reading in general let alone improving for the test. I need a proper structured method of how to improve this in due course of time. Ideally I’m looking to take the GRE by the first week of August so that I have the buffer to take the test again if my scores aren’t acceptable.

    I have also enrolled in a local GRE training institute but I don’t see them guiding me in improving my general reading and understanding skills and point our where exactly I’m going wrong. I will also be enrolling with an English tutor in the coming days to target and find ways to improve this. I would also like your help on how and where to start reading in general/specific to the gre. If I find myself not improving in the coming months, I would either have to shift my plans to next year or not do this at all.

    Awaiting your response.



    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 19, 2019 at 11:49 am #

      Hi Vaibav!

      I see that you’re a Premium student, so I forwarded your messages to some of our Test Prep Experts. 🙂 You should be hearing from someone shortly.

  4. Ukesh August 21, 2018 at 1:29 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I think RC are the most difficult to improve on .I have been working keenly on the RC since 1 months but the improvements are far below than what i have expected.Nearly 50% questions attempted will be wrong.And its becoming frustating and the exam is in 2 months from now.Can i get a better suggestion regarding the RCs imperovement?
    Thank u

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 24, 2018 at 8:10 am #

      Sorry to hear this is happening, Ukesh! It can certainly be frustrating to work really hard at RC and not make the progress you’d hoped for. Exactly what you should do next depends on what you’ve already tried. Your path to improvement in RC also depends on your specific strengths and weaknesses. So you’ll want to carefully assess where your strengths and weaknesses lie in RC. For example, are certain passage types harder than others? Is pacing a challenge? What question types do you struggle wit the most and why? Also assess your RC strengths. For the 50%+ of questions you get right, think about why you get those questions right, and look to build on those successes.

  5. Frank Adu May 31, 2017 at 2:40 am #

    I am a premium student and I seriously need help with the Text completion and Reading comprehension section.
    With the sentence completion, I sometimes find it difficult locating the sentence key in a complicated sentence and it worries me a lot.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 31, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      Hi Frank,

      Given that you have a premium Magoosh subscription, a tutor will reach out to you directly regarding this question. You should hear from someone shortly! Have a great day! 😀

      • Sri March 20, 2018 at 8:27 am #

        Hey chris, i’m a premium member of magoosh, i read all of the 1000 manhattan words and 5lb i did few questions… i thought i can score enough !! but i ended up 135 in gre. Please guide on how to get ahead on this, i’m confused!! needed you buttress …i can follow your advice and implement point to point. Please help!! hope to hear from you soon

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 21, 2018 at 10:13 am #

          Hi Sri,

          I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t reach your target score–I know it’s discouraging to work so hard without seeing the results you wanted. I forwarded your message on to our team of tutors so that they can provide more targeted support–you’ll get an email from them soon 😀

  6. Sami August 16, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    Hey Chris!

    I’ve the same problem as Raghav has! but in many cases I saw that the question asks you about the purpose or author’s concern, so we cannot skim! we should read the whole text to find out about the real purpose. What should we do in these cases

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 21, 2016 at 8:10 am #

      Hello Sami,

      You are absolutely correct–reading the question and skimming can work for some detail questions, but when you need to answer a question about the main point or author’s tone, this strategy can backfire! We recommend this strategy of reading the questions first for students who don’t have much time to improve or already have very strong reading comprehension skills. Generally, the best way to tackle reading comprehension is to carefully read the passage one time before even looking at the question. The key is to read actively and understand as much as possible about the passage before looking at the question, so that you can just quickly reference the passage to find the right answer. For more information on active reading strategies, see this blog:

  7. Raghav July 20, 2016 at 8:32 am #

    Hi, Chris!!
    Firstly, thanks for all the invaluable blogs. I am really concerned about my gre reading comprehension. Actually, the thing is that I find it challenging to read the passage plus comprehend it and at the same time reading and understanding the questions and option choices in limited time period of 2 -3 minutes. If, I read fast then my answers are wrong. Could you please guide as to how to conquer this difficulty with some tricks(if possible) asap as I have only 1 month left to give gre.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

      This is a common problem, Raghav. And for most students, the fix is the same— read the questions first, and then skim and scan the passage for answers. As you glance at the passage for answers, look for keywords that relate to the questions.

      By this method, you may not read the whole passage. But often, you don’t have to. The questions really act as a study guide for the passage, telling you the exact parts of the passage you need to pay attention to.

  8. Sheena June 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    OK, I am scared 🙁
    I keep trying and trying and somehow I am not able to do the GRE RC. My problem has already been mentioned above, (i.e. not being able to choose the right answer when working with speed).
    It baffles me.. I am not suppose to read the entire passage? If I am suppose to do that, then how can I read it+comprehend it+read and comprehend the question+think about the possible answer+choose the correct option in 1:45-2:00 mins :/:/

    I still have 3 months for my test, please help me….I don’t want to give up!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 20, 2016 at 9:56 am #

      Hi Sheena,

      This question can be better answered by our test prep experts since you’re a premium member. I’m sending this to them and you should hear back soon. 🙂

      • Chandrakant Giri May 21, 2017 at 6:40 am #

        I have the same concerns as Sheena has articulated in her query. Likewise, I too am a premium member. Kindly help me out too. Thanks.


        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

          Hi Chadrakant,

          You should be hearing from one of our test prep experts shortly! Have a great day! 😀

          • Aditya Singh July 13, 2017 at 7:13 am #


            You must be tired of hearing this again and again, but I am too facing the same problem as everyone else. I am good with reading but I get confused what should be my main focus while tackling the RC questions.


            • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
              Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 18, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

              Hi Aditya,

              This is a very common problem, and I highly encourage you to take the advice we have given to other readers to heart! If you have strong reading skills and can understand the passage relatively easily, then your focus should be on improving your general reading comprehension strategy. So, besides reading the information given in this blog post, make sure that you follow the RAMA strategy that we outline here:

              You should also practice as much as possible, and make sure that you thoroughly understand each and every question that you answer. Your goal should be quality over quantity: try to understand not only why the correct answer is correct, but also why the wrong answers are wrong. Studying the questions will help you to identify patterns and think more like a test-maker. This is the key to success 🙂

              Oh, and just for good measure, you should definitely read as MUCH as possible–at least an hour a day! 😀

      • Polivio October 23, 2017 at 7:00 am #


        I have the exact same situation that Sheena had. I’m taking 5 minutes to answer an RC question just because I take forever reading the whole passage.

        I’m also a Premium member and would love the extra help!


        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 23, 2017 at 9:40 am #

          Please email us, then, at! Our team has plenty of expertise to help. 🙂

  9. Gopal January 25, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    Hello Chris,

    I have a serious problem in reading comprehension and I can say in while verbal section. I gave GRE two times till date and I could score only 140 in the first time and 137 in second time. I am really disappointed with these scores . I worked out quite good number of examples but couldn’t improve score. Whereas my quants score is 168.

    Please do help me in improving my verbal the previous marks in GRE influence the next text. Though I tried and doing well and feel so at the end I am landing up with low score . I really want to score 160 from this stage .is it possible.If yes please let me know the timeline required and how to achieve it. I am ready to keep my complete efforts .thanks in advance chris

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 10, 2016 at 11:02 am #

      Hi Gopal,

      Improving your verbal is definitely possible! That having been said, it’s certainly not something that’s going to happen overnight. Working on your verbal score is really about improving your overall English comprehension abilities, and, like learning any other language, this is something that can take some time. If you can afford to, I would give yourself at least 3 months to see significant improvement in your verbal score.

      Let’s start with the “big picture.” To improve your verbal score, it’s essential to read, read, read as much as possible. This will improve your knowledge of vocabulary in context as well as your processing of complex sentences and overall reading comprehension. Make flashcards of key words you don’t know.

      If you haven’t seen them, here are some suggested reading materials:


      I recommend you read actively at least 1 hour per day — that’s 1 hour in addition to your GRE studies and following the study plan.

      Reading will improve all aspects of your verbal. You need to improve your accuracy before you worry about your speed. This means you need to read to improve your reading comprehension, and you need to thoroughly review your mistakes to improve your accuracy. When your accuracy on verbal has improved, you can begin to time yourself more strictly and improve your speed.

      When you practice reading, you need to be doing active, focused reading. Please see this blog post for tips on this reading strategy.

      For short term improvement, high-frequency word lists are also helpful! You’ll want to master the 1000 words in Magoosh’s flashcards. It’s important to realize that memorizing vocabulary is no replacement for reading, but learning high-frequency GRE words can help as well, especially in the short term. You want to do both!

      Now, verbal strategy. Here are four very relevant articles you should go through carefully. You don’t have to go through all of these now, but, at you cover these topics in the study plan, please read these articles. These are valuable resources.

      Improving Verbal
      Improving Reading Comprehension
      Reading Comprehension Strategy
      Text completion

  10. Vicky December 28, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    I’m confused. The right answer to a passage was racist. It assumed that Judeo-Christian religion was “more common” and a pantheistic religion was “lesser-known.” That is only true if you are Caucasian American and ignorant of other cultures. Not true if you are educated Caucasian American and educated of other cultures.

    Here is the most of the passage: At the core of their philosophy was teotl, which, rather than an immutable supernatural being like the Judaeo-Christian deity, was an ever-moving and ever-changing, sacred power that animated the universe and its contents. Teotl was in every entity, and every entity was also teotl. Unlike Western philosophy, which fosters dichotomies such as the personal versus the impersonal, that of the Nahuas posited a sacred power that was united with everything; it was both intrinsic and transcendent.

    Here is the question: The definition of tootle and its comparison to the Judaeo-Christian deity plays which of the following roles within the passage?

    A. It compares a lesser-known idea to a more common one to further understanding.
    B. It contrasts the sacred power of tootle with a more familiar object of veneration in order to illustrate that cultures often possess diverging narratives on the origins of the world and the organisms therein.
    C. It provides an explanation of the origins of the cosmos according to some of the proponents of Western philosophy.
    D. It bolsters the case for accepting an aboriginal explanation for the creation of the universe over a Western one.
    E. It encourages further inquiry into a lesser known understanding of the world.

  11. garima September 29, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    I just wanted to know whether reading non-fiction novels like those of Steve Berry would help me out in GRE Reading Comprehension because I just love non-fiction material.

  12. Salil Chawla August 12, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    Hi Chris!

    I have been practicing reading comprehensions for quite sometime now. Although I get most of the questions right, I still haven’t achieved a 100% hit rate. My area of concern here are those passages that are related to discussions about economic or political models, many of which result in opinion-based questions. How should I proceed in such passages?


  13. Ashri July 12, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    hi Chris, i am not a native, rarely read fiction but an avid to scholarly papers (but only in my related field). I have difficulty in indentifying sarcasm. The other is my writing was only 3.3 (but I had TOEFL writting section 26, i think this was pretty good). Ive already done tons of exercise. What is your advice?

  14. Sunny_K April 17, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    Hi Chris,

    My question pertains to the analyzing and reviewing aspect. Like you mentioned, I think its important to redo passages and figure out exactly what I’m doing wrong instead of doing more and more passages.

    So I redid passages which I got wrong by writing notes as to what I inferred from the answer options. About 50% of these were reading errors which i got right on the second attempt. However, when I compared the other 50% answers that I got wrong AGAIN, most of my notes for the correct option said (outside the scope of passage) or (incorrect assumption) – which basically means i can’t get my head around these passages anyway!

    This has given me immense cause for worry, with my GRE just a couple of weeks away. Please advise as to what I should be doing for the remainder of the period..

    Many thanks!

  15. Kailash October 3, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I am Kailash. I have been practicing from Magoosh since September 1st. I have noticed that whenever I speed up I end up getting incorrect answers. But at the same time I am extremely slow whenever I get things right. For eg. 10 reading comprehension questions took me 35 minutes in a stretch and I got 8 correct. This included both long and short passages. Now to increase my speed w/o losing accuracy should I practice more on GRE RCs or should I try reading articles with a time target ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      Hi Kailash,

      To improve on speed, you might have to improve on retention first. What I mean is to speed up your reading you have to practice picking up on understanding more of the passage your first time around. One way to do so is to make a quiz summary in your head after each paragraph. As you read, anticipate what is going to come next and make note of any salient points. Next, when you go through the questions, practice on thinking about the answer in your own words before you try to answer the question. Many students spend too much time being confused by the answer choices because they haven’t sufficiently thought the question through.

      Basically, my guess is that is why you are taking a long time on the passages. Reading articles should help with your read speed, but it is important that you make mini-summaries of them as you go along.

      Hope that helps!

  16. Asa August 2, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    Hi there Chris,

    I’m an avid reader since childhood, subscribe to Harvard Business Review, the New Yorker, New Scientist since decades, and have a medical degree. Reading comprehension (RC) clearly is – as you state in this blog post – more about “figuring out the game” than actually understanding the text. I get irritated and a bit obnoxious as I think they’re often extremely illogical and can argue as to why another answer is just as correct. (I’d like to test GRE-test-makers, and people like you on blind RC’s…) Anyway, I do realize there is “ETS-GRE-logic” to the RC. I just received a 5,5 on the essays and a V 162, and I KNOW that the points I missed on the verbal section was from the RCs. Thus I’m now focusing on these.

    In your text- and video explanations it would be really helpful if you could give more generalized/logical explanations as to why one answer is more correct than the other and not just repeat what one can get from reading the text. I’m having a hard time finding practice material for RC that a) gives the core of the “right” thinking b) doesn’t take too much of my time; less is more…!

    Thanks in advance.

    Kind regards,

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele October 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Asa,

      Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. We are deluged with comments, and for some reason your well-written/thoughtful comment got lost in the mix. Even though it has been two months, I do want to get back to you.

      As you mentioned, there is a “game” involved, and it is important to master that game. I usually tell my highly intelligent SAT students–the one’s who come up with a brilliant defense of why their wrong answer is right–is that they should try to look at the right answer and see what makes it right–and not just right but unassailably right. Often times, they don’t debate the validity of the right answer, but believe there wrong answer is equally legitimate. It is finding that little “rotten spot to the fruit” as I put it that makes that answer incorrect. By learning the “game”, i.e., what makes a right answer right and a wrong (though often very tempting) answer wrong, is the key.

      Going forward, I will try to make sure that each answer choice has a better “big picture” reason for being wrong. I want to make sure that there aren’t any debatable answer choices (which is a challenge–but our excellent support team is always there to help).

      Hope that helps, and again, sorry your comment got lost in the shuffle 🙂

      • Vicky December 28, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

        I agree with Asa. I am studying why the right answers are “right” and why the wrong answers are “wrong.” And the explanations often contradict one another. There isn’t consistency. The test makers change their mind on what constitutes a right or wrong answer from passage to passage. There is so much room for interpretation. Some of the passages I wrote honors theses on in college and still got wrong. I don’t have a comprehension problem. I comprehend what the author is saying. I don’t get the logic the test makers are using to decipher the passage. Their logic changes. If it were consistent, I could figure it out with practice.

  17. shuca October 12, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for your helpful tips on how to improve on GRE Reading Comprehension!! RC section scares me a lot; I am a non-native speaker and I bet the improvements will show even more slowly than it would for native speakers. I am doing the best I can to prepare for it by memorizing vocabulary and reading some passages for 10-20 minutes every day, but I feel like not growing up using this language will still put me behind a lot of other test-takers.

    Anyhow, I have a question about how to best utilize practice tests. As you said above, I think re-doing passages is important, but I’m wondering how I should tackle the reading the first time around. I know for a fact that I will encounter A LOT of words in the passage that I do not understand. If the vocabulary is hindering my comprehension so much that I am not even able to grasp the general idea of what the passage is about, should I go ahead and look up words in the passage before tackling the questions? (And when I say “tackling the questions”, I mean “reading the questions but not reading the answer choices yet”, as I see in so many places it is suggested that test-takers try to come up with their answers first so they are not tricked by ETS.) Or should I try to refrain from looking up too many words, and use that opportunity to improve my skill of guessing words meanings in context? After all, latter option will be closer to the situation I will find myself in on the actual test day (i.e. me without access to dictionaries and completely lost as to what the passages are about) so I feel like I should be mocking that situation when I take the practice test. But I also feel like there is no point of answering the questions if I have no idea what the passage means.

    What do you think? I see both pros and cons in either approach, and I am unable to decide which one I should go with. I also have the same question about answer choices too – should I look up the vocabulary if I see too many words in answer choices that I do not know, or should I try to guess on the first try?

    I would appreciate it if you could tell me what you think might be a better strategy when using a practice test (as a non-native speaker of English). Like I said, my question here concerns the time I’m taking the test for the first time – if I’m redoing the passages or trying to find out why my answers were wrong, I think it’s more important that I have a better understanding of the passages, therefore I feel that using dictionaries then will be almost necessary.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

      Hi Shuca,

      That is an excellent question! And I get your frustration with difficult words in the passages. This is what I propose: on actual ETS material (because there is so little of it) do not look up words, but approach these tests (there are four of them) as you would the real test.

      For other practice material, Barron’s, Magoosh, MGRE, etc., do a mix of looking up words the first time you see a passage, and approaching the passage the way you would test day. You may also want to reserve the latter method for the passages that are not overly difficult (read: vocab dense).

      This way your brain will be prepared for most of what you’ll test day; by doing ETS material, without a dictionary, you will be able to learn how to get through a passage with limited comprehension.

      Hope that helps!

  18. Prabhanjan October 6, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Chris i read all the strategies from most of the book out there but i seem to really stumped as i’m getting only 60 to 70 % question right while practising RC. i don’t know what do to can u please offer me some advise ?. i have been Practising from following resources daily
    Gre offical guide
    Gmat and Lsat for Critical Reading (only)

    Well i’m a avid reader of book since childhood. can u please help me in anyway ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

      Hi Prabhanjan,

      As the post mentioned, it is important to review your mistakes. Understanding why you missed a question can help you in the future. So the resource you are using is great. But it is how you use it. If all you are doing is answering questions, tallying the number wrong, and moving on to the next passage, you are missing a valuable step in the process: Reviewing and analyzing your mistakes.

      Hope that helps!

      • Prabhanjan October 16, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

        Hi Chris

        Well thanks for ur help it has helped me a lot , i just wanted to ask u whether solving Gmat OG will help improve my GRE RC or are they completely different ?

        • Chris Lele
          Chris October 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

          Glad I could be of help :).

          As for the GMAT OG some of the passages, esp. the science ones, overlap well with the GRE. So definitely practice using the OG as well!

  19. Jung September 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    I first want to say thank you (to Chris and other staffs as well) for your solicitous replies on comments. I am actually getting helped by reading the contents in blogs and the comments made by other people.
    To introduce myself, I am an undergraduate senior preparing for Ph.D degree for Economics, and I am studying GRE these days. I am taking GRE on Oct. 5th and Nov. 9th, and I really want to get a safe score so that I would be accepted at least one of many schools that I am planning to apply.
    I don’t know if it is an appropriate question to post up in this blog, but I was wondering what could be a minimum score for verbal and writing for a student like me.
    Thank you so much for reading this comment, and have a good weekend!


    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette September 24, 2012 at 11:17 am #

      Hi, Jung

      I think this post might help you out! 🙂


      • JungHwan Kim September 24, 2012 at 11:35 am #

        Thank you Margarette!!!!

      • SG June 18, 2019 at 9:11 pm #

        I have subscribed for the magoosh GRE and my exam is in August. I am literally very week at verbal. For around 10 questions I am hardly scoring 1-2. I am even week at RC. It is lowering my confidence level on GRE sometimes I even get so frustrated.
        Please help me, how to improve my RC and verbal. I am not getting where my mistakes are.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 20, 2019 at 7:11 pm #

          Hi Sushma!

          I noticed that you were a GRE Premium student. 🙂 Because of this, I’ve forwarded your question to our team of test prep experts.

          You’ll get a response in a different message in about 24-48 hours.

  20. Mehedi September 21, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Hello Chris,

    Can you suggest me any books for Reading comprehension for practice??? It will be really helpful for me.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris October 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      The MGRE books are helpful in terms of providing a strategy. You may also want to look at Princeton Review for strategies. See which one works better for you. For sources for practice questions, MGRE is okay; PR far too easy. It is best to use official materials: ETS 2nd edition.

      Hope that helps you get started :).

  21. shuddha September 17, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Thank you so much chris for your invaluable advise.Yes,undoubtedly RC is the toughest of all and obviously requires high amount of motivation and perseverance to get success.Really I am still suffering with my poor reading speed on the PC and dont know how to improve dramatically since my exam is on November 21th.I am becoming frustrated but try with my best effort to keep improving.Any helpful advise how to cope up with the speed is highly appreciated:)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris September 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

      As much as possible try to decode the meaning of the sentences as you read. So don’t just string words together. By building meaning, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, you’ll be able to package the in coming flow of information better. One temptation many in your situation can fall prey to is trying to string words together faster. Doing this will only compromise your overall understanding of the passage.

      Hope that makes sense :).

      • Prafulla September 20, 2012 at 8:26 am #

        Your ideas are really simple, especially the sentence equivalence and completion section.
        In RCs however, I know that I get all (or most) of my answers right when I spend an extra 3-4 minutes understanding 120 line passages.
        Doing the same in under 3 minutes is still a huge challenge for me.
        Any suggestions?

        • Chris Lele
          Chris October 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

          There are few ways that you could improve.

          1) Increase reading speed

          2) Retain more of the passage

          I think most people would opt to focus on number 1. I, however, think that 2) is more practical. The idea is you process/take in more of what you are reading so that you spend less time fumbling with questions/groping about the passage. To become better at active reading come up with mental summaries (you do not need to write this down) of the passage as soon as you are done reading. You should highlight some general points the passage made, as well as specific details that you think are important to the author’s point. Finally, when you get to the questions anticipate a response before diving into the answer choices.

          This post helps elaborate some of these concepts:

    • Andou September 20, 2012 at 8:26 am #

      Hi, Chris! Thank you very much for these inestimable posts. As I’ve already written to someone else at Magoosh, your site is a revelation to me. Unfortunately, a tardy epiphany, as my GRE day is impending and I’ve been riding abreast with some infelicitous troika-prepping stuff provided by a giant with feet of clay…

      I wonder whether you could also give us some insightful tips regarding the connection between two sentences. It might sound ludicrous, but in my standpoint these ones pop up as one of the most arcane questions in the Verbal section. I get swamped almost every time, struggling to figure out which answer choice best fits.

      Thank you.

      • Chris Lele
        Chris October 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

        Hi Andou,

        I would definitely like to help – and I surely would not want to have clay feet (be I colossus or otherwise :)). Alas, I’m not quite sure if you are asking about the argument paragraphs in which two sentences are bolded, or if you are asking about Text Completions with multiple blanks.

        Let me know, and I’ll try to provide some felicitous feedback :).

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