GRE Reading Comprehension

You are probably already familiar with Reading comprehension (RC) from other standardized tests. You are given a passage to read, and you are asked questions about the substance and structure of the passage.
The GRE makes Reading comprehension difficult in several ways:
The content is demanding. Passages focus on specific and often unfamiliar topics in physical science (physics, astronomy, geology, chemistry), biological science (biology, ecology), social science, history and other humanities (literature, art and music).
You have to read quickly. You should only take at most three minutes to read a passage and understand it.

Short GRE reading comprehensions versus long GRE reading comprehensios

Short and Long passages are quite similar in both their overall content and their associated question types. However, there are a few important differences between the two:

Length:Long passages are not just slightly longer than short passages. They are significantly longer. A long passage can be as much as three times as long as a short passage.

Number of questions: Again, long passages will generally, but not always, have four associated questions. Short passages will usually have between one and three.

Complexity of argument: Because long passages tend to be 3-4 paragraphs, it is possible to create complex arguments. It is possible to begin by positing an old theory, then twisting to reveal a new theory, then twisting again to present problems with the new theory. Your outline for long passages should reflect this increased complexity. In a 1-2 paragraph short passage, there is usually only room for one twist.

Components of GRE reading comprehensions

Any reading comprehension passage has four possible components:
1) The point
2) Background
3) Support
4) Implications

The point:

The point is the most important message of the passage. You can also relate the point to the Content/Judgement framework. The point contains the most important judgement made by the author about the central content of the passage. Thus, a crucial task for you as a reader is to find the point!
The way to find the point is to ask, “What is the most important message that the author is trying to convey in this passage?” Occasionally, the point is at the very beginning of the passage; often, the first paragraph sets up a situation and the second paragraph contains a “twist” that constitutes the point.
The point may be any kind of important message, but across sample passages, there are a few common varieties that sometimes overlap:
a) Resolution: resolves an issue or a problem
b) Answer: answers a question (similar to Resolution)
c) New Idea: describes a surprising new idea, theory, or research result
4) Reason: explains an observation

During the GRE, you will not have to classify the point as one of the preceding types. Rather, this list is meant to help you identify and understand the point as you read a variety of passages.
Simply looking for the point as you read will make you a more active reader. You will find that your comprehension of each passage will improve as a result.

Background, Support, and Implications

1) The Background is information you need to understand the point. The context and the basic facts about the topic are given in the Background. This component may be brief.

2) The support consists of assertions and opinions for the point. The support might include concessions to the other side of the argument. This component is always present and often constitutes a substantial portion of the passage.

3) The implications result from the point. In other words, the author now assumes that you are convinced of the point and so begins to enumerate the consequences. Implications are not always present, but when they are, they tend to be important.

Principle of active and efficient reading

Engage with the passage:

Try to engage emotionally by saying to yourself that you really like the passage or if passage is abominable for you do not let yourself be pushed around by the passage. Believe that you have to just own it.
Just like a recruiter of a company has two tasks (1) to let in all the talented, important people and (2) to keep out all the people who will not contribute. As you read the passage, you have to act like a selective recruiter. You have to let the important parts into your working memory, but you also have to skim over the unimportant parts, so that you do not distract yourself with every last detail.

Look for the Simple Story:

Look for the simple story and make small notes while reading: Every GRE passage has a simple story-the gist or core meaning of the passage. You must find this simple story on the first read-through.
Look for content and judgement: The parts of a simple story can generally be classified as Content or Judgement, as follows:

Content: the scientific, historical, or artistic subject matter of the passage
a) Causes (effects, evidence, logical results)
b) Processes (steps, means, ends)
c) Categories (examples, generalities)

Judgement: what the author and any other people believe about the content
a) Theories and Hypotheses
b) Evaluations and Opinions
c) Comparisons and Contrasts
d) Advantages and Disadvantages

Reminder: Don’ t forget the twist. Even as you look for the simple story, realize that, on the GRE, there will often be some important qualifications or contrasts- a key twist or two in the road. After all, such twists help the GRE ask difficult questions. Be ready to incorporate a key twist or even two in your simple story.

How to make notes of a short passage?

When the passage is unfriendly, you should not just read it! You should make use of writing. Identifying and writing down key elements of the passage will force you to read actively as opposed to passively.
When you encounter a short passage, create a Headline List of every paragraph during your first reading. It promotes a fast first reading of a passage that still gives you enough time to answer questions.
The creation of your Headline List has several key elements:
Your Headline list should summarize or indicate the main idea of each paragraph.
Most paragraphs have one topic sentence. Generally, the topic sentence is the first or second sentence, although it can also be a combination of the two. Read the first sentence or two of the first paragraph. Identify the topic sentence and summarize it concisely on your rough paper in the form of a headline. If you cannot identify a topic sentence, then your headline should summarize the main idea or purpose of the paragraph in your own words.
Read the rest of the paragraph with an eye for big surprises and results.
As you read the rest of the paragraph, briefly summarize anything else that is very important or surprising in the paragraph. You may not add anything to the original notes if the entire paragraph fits neatly within the scope of that topic sentence.
If there is second paragraph, follow the same process.
Each paragraph may introduce a whole new idea. Therefore, your approach to any second paragraph should be the same as with the first paragraph.
Once you have finished the passage, identify the passage’ s Point.
After you have finished reading the passage and creating the Headline List, make sure you know what the point of the passage is. If it is not in your Headline List already, be sure to add it. Now proceed to the first question.

How to make notes of a long passage?

When the passage is unfriendly (as, in fact, the majority of long passages are likely to be), you need to know what to read and what not to read, and you need a robust note-making process, in order to get through the passage actively, rapidly and effectively.
The creation of your notes has several key elements:
1) The first paragraph of a long passage sets the basic context and give shape to the text. As such, you will start out reading more slowly and carefully.
As a result, take a little more time to summarize the first paragraph, making sure that you thoroughly understand the main idea as well as any big surprises or contrasting ideas.
You must decide how frequently you stop to take notes: after each sentence, after a couple of sentences, or after the entire paragraph. Base your decision on how well you are grasping the content and purpose of the text, as well as the length of the paragraph at issue. The more difficult the passage, the more frequently you should stop to process what you have read.
2) Note the main point of each remaining paragraph. As you get further into a long passage, you will be able to pick up speed and pay less attention to detail. Continue to read for main ideas and contrasts or surprises; save the detail for later.
Pay special attention to the first one or two sentences of the paragraph; this is where you will discover the purpose of the paragraph. Once you have grasped that purpose, read the remaining sentences quickly.
Be on the lookout for big surprises or important results. Sometimes, the GRE buries such surprises or results within the body of a later paragraph, and you don’ t want to miss these!
3) Once you have finished the passage, identify the point. In a long passage, you will most likely encounter the point during the first paragraph, as the vast majority of long passages reference the main idea right at the beginning. You can’ t be 100% sure, though, until you have finished reading the passage. When you are at the end, make sure that you have noted the point before you start looking at any answer choices.

Link to what you already know:

When you read words on a page, they typically activate preexisting knowledge in your head. This is a crucial part of comprehending what you are reading.
Actively imagine what the words are referring to. Re-explain the original text to yourself. Visualize what it represents. Indulge in simplifications, even stereotypes. Make up examples and use any other mental handles that you can.

Unpack the Beginning:

You must understand the first few sentences of every passage, because they supply critical context for the entire passage. If you do not grasp these sentences at first. You should take more time with them right away, or you can read a little further, gather more context and come back to re-acquire those initial sentences later.

To unpack an academic-style sentence, turn it into a few simple sentences that express essentially the same meaning.
Consider this example opening of a passage:
In a diachronic investigation of possible behavioral changes resulting from accidental exposure in early childhood to environmental lead dust, two sample groups were tracked over decades.

The steps to unpacking a complex sentence are as follows:

1) Grab a concrete noun first: Pick something that you can touch and that causes other things to happen. Do not necessarily pick something at the start of the sentence. A good candidate is lead dust. The first sentence could simply be this: There was lead dust in various environments.

2) Turn actions back into verbs: In academic language, verbs are often made into noun or adjective phrases. Re-create the verbs. Also, feel free to start with There is or There was. For instance, exposure becomes were exposed; behavioral becomes behaved.

3) Put only one simple thought in a sentence, such as There was lead dust in various environments.

4) Link each subsequent sentence to the previous one, using this or these. For instance, This resulted in…… This process mimics speech, which is usually easy to understand. So the second sentence could read, Young children in these environments were exposed to this dust by accident.

5) Simplify or “quote off” details. If a jargon word is used in an important way, put quotes around it. Think to yourself “……Whatever what means……” and keep going. If the term is necessary, you will figure it out from context later. For instance, the term “diachronic” needs a pair of quotes, so that you do not focus on it. You might even think of it just as “d-something.” Incidentally the word “diachronic” means “happening over time” in certain critical settings.

The final list of a few simple sentences could come out this way:

1) There was lead dust in various environments.
2) Young children in these environments were exposed to this dust by accident.
3) This exposure may have changed how the children behaved.
4) This whole matter was investigated.
5) In this investigation, two sample groups were tracked over time.

Link to what you have just read:

As you read further, continue to ask yourself about the meaning and purpose of what you are reading. What does this sentence mean in relation to everything else I have read? Why is this sentence here? What function does it serve in relation to the previous text?

What kinds of relationships can a sentence have to the previous text? In general, you should think about these possibilities:

1) Is the new sentence expected or surprising?
2) Does it support or oppose earlier material?
3) Does it answer or ask a question?

Pay attention to signals:

Various language signals can help you link new material to text you have already read.

RelationshipSignal
Focus attentionAs For; Regarding; In reference to
Add to previous pointFurthermore; Moreover; In addition; As well as; Also; Likewise; Too
Provide contrastOn one hand/On the other hand; While; Rather; Instead; In contrast; Alternatively
Provide conceding contrast
(author unwillingly agrees)
Granted; It is true that; Certainly: admittedly; Despite; Although
Provide emphatic contrast
(author asserts own position)
But; However; Even so; All the same; Still; That said; Nevertheless; Nonetheless; Yet; Otherwise: Despite
Dismiss previous pointIn any event; In any case
Point out similarityLikewise; In the same way
Structure the discussionFirst, Second, etc.; To begin with; Next; Finally; Again;
Give exampleFor example; In particular; For instance
GeneralizeIn general; To a great extent; Broadly speaking
Sum up, Perhaps with exceptionIn conclusion; In brief; Overall; Except for; Besides
Indicate logical resultTherefore, Thus; As a result; So; Accordingly; Hence
Indicate logical causeBecause; Since; As; Resulting from
Restate for clarityIn other words; That is; Namely; So to speak
Hedge or Soften positionApparently; At least; Can, Could, May, Might, Should; Possibly; Likely
Strengthen positionAfter all; Have to; Always, Never etc
Introduce surpriseActually; In fact; Indeed; Yet; Surprisingly
Reveal author’ s attitudeFortunately; Unfortunately; Other adverbs; So-called

Pick up the pace:

As you read the passage, go faster after the first few sentences. Do not get lost in details later on in the passage. Do not try to master every bit of content. You must read the whole passage- but keep later parts at arm’ s length.
Only pay close attention to the following elements later on in a long passage:
1) Beginnings of paragraphs. The first or second sentence often functions as a topic sentence, indicating the content and/or purpose of the paragraph.
2) Big surprises or changes in direction.
3) Big results, answers, or payoffs.
Do not skip the later text entirely. You must pass your eyes over it and extract some meaning, so that if you are asked a specific question, you remember that you saw something about that particular point. Moreover, those big surprises and results can be buried in the middle of paragraphs.

GRE reading comprehension strategies

GRE Reading comprehension questions come in a variety of forms, but they can be placed into two major categories:
1) General questions
2) Specific questions

General questions: deal with the main idea, purpose, or structure of a passage. Typical General questions are phrased as follows:

The primary purpose of the passage is…………?
The author is chiefly concerned with……………?
A good title for the passage would be………….?
The passage as a whole can best be characterized as which of the following?

Specific questions: Specific questions deal with details, inferences, assumptions, and arguments. Typical Specific questions are phrased as follows:
According to the passage…………………….?
It can be inferred from the passage that……?
All of the following statements are supported by the passage EXCEPT…….?
Which of the following would weaken the assertion in the passage………….?

Strategy for general questions

Your understanding of the passage gained through your initial read-through provides the key to answering General questions. You should be able to answer general questions without having to reread the entire passage. In fact, rereading the entire passage can actually be distracting. An incorrect answer choice may pertain only to a detail in a body paragraph. As you reread, you might spot that attractive detail and choose the wrong answer. So, instead of rereading, first articulate the point or answer of general question to yourself in your own words. Then, dive right into the answer choices and start eliminating.
Occasionally, you may find yourself stuck between two answer choices on a General question. If this is the case, use a scoring system to determine which answer choice relates to more paragraphs in the passage. Assign the answer choice two points if it relates to the first paragraph. Give one more point for each additional related paragraph. The answer choice with more points is usually the correct one. In the event of a tie, select the answer choice that pertains to the first paragraph over any choices that do not.

Strategy for specific questions

Identify the key words in the question and go back to the passage and find those key words: For answering a specific question, read the question and focus on the key words you are most likely to find in the passage. Then, look back over the passage to find those key words. Use your notes as a search tool, if necessary. Do not look at the answer choices. Four out of five of them are meant to mislead you.

Find one or two proof sentences to defend the correct answer choice. Boil them down into your mantra: Once you find the key words, reread the surrounding sentence or sentences to answer the question. Do not look at the answer choices until you boil down the relevant sentence or sentences into a “mantra.” Then you can bring back that mantra and hold it in your head as you scan the five answer choices, eliminating the four lies and matching your mantra to the truth.
If you cannot develop a mantra, then you know the question is hard. There is a good chance that you will need to guess; eliminate any answers you can, then pick one and move on.

Strategy for all reading comprehension questions

Justify every word in the answer choice:

In the correct answer choice, every word must be completely true and within the scope of the passage. If you cannot justify every word in the answer choice, eliminate it. For example, consider the answer choices below:
(A) The colonists resented the king for taxing them without representation.
(B) England’ s policy of taxation without representation caused resentment among the colonists.
The difference in these two answer choices lies in the word king versus the word England. Although this seems like a small difference, it is the key to eliminating one of these answer choices. If the passage does not mention the king when it discusses the colonists’ resentment, then the word king cannot be justified, and the answer choice should be eliminated.

Justify extreme words:

Extreme words, such as all and never, tend to broaden the scope of an answer choice too much or make it too extreme.The GRE prefers moderate language and ideas. Eliminate answer choices that go too far. Of course, occasionally you are justified in picking an extreme choice, but the passage must fully corroborate you.

Infer as little as possible:

Many Reading comprehension questions ask you to infer something from the passage. In general, you should infer so little that the inference seems obvious. If an answer choice answers the question and can be confirmed by language in the passage, it will be the correct one. Conversely, you should eliminate answer choices that require any logical stretch or leap. When you read The passage suggests ……… or The passage implies………, you should rephrase that language: The passage states just a little differently ..………. You must be able to prove the answer, just as if the question asked you to look it up in the passage.

Preview the question:

Before reading the passage, quickly click through to see how many questions are associated with the passage, and then go back to the first question. Before reading the passage, read the first question. Previewing the first question will give you a good sense for what you can expect in the passage. To review: first check the number of questions associated with the passage, then preview the first question, then read the passage.

GRE Reading Comprehension

Question Type Analysis

With General questions, you dive right into eliminating answer choices, but with Specific questions, you go back to the passage and find proof sentences before looking at the answer choices.

You may be able to identify several common sub-types as described below. Whenever you are able to do so, you’ ll be in a better position to answer the question- though note that you should n’ t devote extra time simply to identify the sub-type. Several sub-types are following:-

1) Main idea based question:

Asks you about the main idea of the passage. This question type is always General.

Typical Wording:

“The author is primarily concerned with……….”

“Which of the following best states the author’ s main point?”

“Which of the following would be the most appropriate title for the passage?”

2) Lookup Detail

Asks you for a detail that you can look up right in the passage. This question type is always Specific.

Typical wordings:

“According to the passage, X resulted primarily from which of the following……..”

“According to the passage, as the process of X continues, all of the following may occur                                         EXCEPT”

“According to the passage, person X indicates that all of the following were true of Y EXCEPT”

“The author provides information that would answer which of the following questions?”

Notice that Lookup Detail questions can be made harder with “EXCEPT.” With an EXCEPT variation, you have to find the one answer that is n’’ t true. The primary way to do so is by process of elimination: knock out the four answer choices that are true according to the passage.

3) Infer about Facts

Asks you to make a clear, unshakable deduction about facts presented in the passage. This deduction should be almost mathematical or dictionary-like in nature. For instance, if the passage tells you that there is less calcium in water than in milk, then you can infer that there is more calcium in milk than in water. This question type is always Specific.

Typical wordings:

“It can be inferred from the passage that slower X than those discussed in the passage……”

“The author implies that a major element of X is…..”

“Which of the following statements concerning X is most directly suggested in the passage?”

“The quality of X described in lines 10-15 is most clearly an example of …..”

“The passage supports which of the following statements about X?”

4) Infer about Opinions

Asks you to make a clear, unshakable deduction about an opinion or attitude. This opinion or attitude may be of someone referred to in the passage, or it may be of the author himself or herself. This question type is usually Specific, but occasionally it might be General.

Typical wordings:

“The author’s attitude toward X, as discussed in the passage, is best described as…………..” [answer choices are adjectives]

“In the first paragraph of the passage, the author’ s attitude toward X can best be described as ………..”

“It can be inferred from the passage that person X chose Y because X believed that ………”

“It can be inferred from the passage that the author believes which of the following about X?”

 

5) Author’ s Purpose

Asks you why or for what purpose the author has written something or constructed the passage in a certain way. These questions address the role, structure, and function of particular words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and even the passage as a whole.

Typical wordings:

“The author refers to X (line 45) primarily in order to……”

“Which of the following phrases best expresses the sense of word X as it is used in lines 20-21 of the passage?”

6) Minor Types

You may be asked to Extrapolate the Content of the passage (e.g., “what would be the best sentence to add onto the end of the passage”) or to evaluate what would most strengthen or Weaken a claim (e.g., “Which of the following pieces of evidence would most strengthen the claim made in lines 13-15?”). These questions are almost always Specific.

Differences Among question formats

Long and short passage questions can be presented in one of three formats: Select one, Select One or More, and Select in Passage. Select One is the standard, 5-answer multiple choice question for which you pick one answer. The other two types have some intricacies to keep in mind:

  1. Select One or More

It is unlikely that you’ ll be asked structural questions (main idea, author’ s purpose), because questions like that could really only have one answer. Instead, expect to see mostly Inference questions, though they can be either specific or general. Select-One-Or-More questions are a bit like three Inference questions in one. Because each of the answer choices can be correct, all three have to be considered in isolation.

  1. Select in Passage

These questions can only be specific (as they must relate to only one sentence in the passage), and they can be deceptively difficult. Remember that the correct answer needs to be relevant to every aspect of the question, but that the correct sentence is allowed to do or say more than just what the question Demands. Don’ t ignore a sentence if part of it seems out of scope. If it contains the details requested by  the prompt, it does n’ t matter what else is discussed within it.

The rest of this chapter will review two passages (one short and one long passage). Try to answer each question in the appropriate amount of time (between 45-60 seconds) before you read the accompanying explanation.

Model Short Passage

Model Short Passage

Insect behavior generally appears to be explicable in terms of unconscious, inflexible stimulus-response mechanisms. For instance, a female sphex wasp leaves her egg sealed in a burrow sealed in a burrow alongside a paralyzed grasshopper, which her larvae can eat upon hatching. Before she deposits the grasshopper in the burrow, she inspects the burrow; if the inspection reveals no problems, she drags the grasshopper inside by its antennae. As thoughtful as this behavior appears, it reveals its mechanistic character upon interference. Darwin discovered that prior removal of the grasshopper’ s antennae prevents the wasp from depositing the grasshopper, even though the legs or ovipositor could also serve as handles. Likewise, Fabre moved the grasshopper a few centimeters away from the burrow’ s mouth

while the wasp was inside inspecting. The wasp returned the grasshopper to the edge of the burrow and then began a new inspection. Fabre performed this disruptive maneuver forty times;; the wasp’ s response never changed.

Take notes on a separate piece of paper.

1) The primary purpose of the passage is to __________.

a) prove, based on examples, that insects lack consciousness.

b) argue that insects are unique in their dependence on rigid routines.

c) analyze the maternal behavior of wasps.

d) compare and contrast the work of Darwin and Fabre

e) argue that insect behavior relies on rigid routines which appear to be unconscious

This is a General question (subtype: Main Idea), so answer the question using the understanding of the passage that you gained through creating your notes. In this case, the Point is contained in the first sentence: insect behavior is unconscious and inflexible. The remaining text gives examples of rigid insect behavior.

You can eliminate answer choice (A) based upon the topic sentence of the paragraph. The passage does not claim to prove that insects lack consciousness; it merely suggests, rather tentatively, that insect behavior appears to be explicable in terms of unconscious mechanisms. The word prove is too extreme in answer choice (A). [One Word Wrong]

Answer choice (B) reflects the language of the passage in that the passage does indicate that insects depend on rigid routines. However, it does not address the question of whether there are any other animals that depend on such routines, as is stated in answer choice (B). The passage makes no claim about whether or not insects are unique in this respect. Remember that every word in an answer choice must be justified from the text. [Out of Scope]

The sphex wasp’ s maternal behavior is used as an example to illustrate a more general idea; this behavior is not itself the Point of the passage. Eliminate answer (C). [True but irrelevant]

Fabre and Darwin are simply mentioned as sources for some of the information on wasps. Moreover, their results are not contrasted; rather, their experiments are both cited as evidence to support the Point. Answer choice (D) is incorrect. [Out of Scope]

(E) CORRECT. The passage begins with a topic sentence that announces the author’ s Point. The Point has two parts, as this answer choice correctly indicates: (1) insect behavior relies on rigid routines, and (2) these routines appear to be unconscious. The topic sentence does not use the term rigid routine, but it conveys the idea of rigidity by describing insect behavior as inflexible. The concept of routine is introduced later in the passage.

As is typical on the GRE, the correct answer choice avoids restating the passage. Instead, this choice uses synonyms (e.g., rigid instead of inflexible).

 

2) The author mentions the work of Darwin and Fabre in order to

a) provide experimental evidence of the inflexibility of one kind of insect behavior

b) contradict the conventional wisdom about “typical” wasp behavior

c) illustrate the strength of the wasp’ s maternal affection

d) explore the logical implications of the thesis articulated earlier

e) highlight historical changes in the conduction of scientific research

Questions that ask about the purpose of a reference are Specific questions (subtype: Author’ s Purpose). Go back to the passage to determine why this work was included, although you may be able to use your notes. In fact, you may even have jotted something like the following:

D: wasp won’ t drag g. w/o anten.

F: similar evid

The sentences on Darwin and Fabre describe experiments that are used as examples of inflexible insect behavior. This concept is mirrored closely in answer choice (A), the correct answer.

Review all answer choices, just in case.

The passage does not mention any challenge to a conventional view; for all you know, the passage simply states the mainstream scientific position on insect behavior. Eliminate answer (B). [Out of Scope]

For answer choice (C), it might be tempting to infer that the wasp’ s persistence is caused by maternal affection. This inference is questionable, however, because the passage states that insect behavior is determined by mechanistic routines that appear to be unemotional in nature. Always avoid picking an answer choice that depends on a debatable inference, because the correct answer should not stray far from what is directly stated in the text. [Out of Scope]

Choice (D) is incorrect because Darwin’ s and Fabre’ s experiments do not explore the logical implications of the idea that insect behavior is inflexible. Rather, the experiments are presented as evidence of inflexibility. [Direct Contradiction]

Answer choice (E) goes beyond the scope of the passage. The paragraph mentions work by two scientists, but it does not tell you whether any differences in their methods were part of a historical change in the conduction of scientific research. [Out of Scope]

Answer choice (E) goes beyond the scope of the passage. The paragraph mentions work by two scientists, but it does not tell you whether any differences in their methods were part of a historical change in the conduction of scientific research. [Out of Scope]

 

3) Which of the following hypothetical variations in the experiments described in the passage would most weaken the primary claim of the passage?

a) Darwin removes the ovipositor, a small appendage, instead of the antennae; the wasp fails to deposit the grasshopper in the burrow.

b) Darwin restrains the grasshopper while the wasp attempts to drag it by its antennae, which subsequently break off; although Darwin then releases the grasshopper, the wasp ignores it.

c) Fabre moves the grasshopper several meters away during the wasp’ s inspection; the wasp takes significant time to retrieve the grasshopper, then re-inspects the burrow.

d) Fabre repeatedly varies the exact position near the burrow to which he moves the grasshopper, causing the wasp to adjust its retrieval path slightly before re-inspecting the burrow.

e) Fabre replaces the grasshopper with a paralyzed praying mantis, a rather different insect that the wasp inspects and then deposits in the burrow.

This is a Specific (subtype: Weaken) that requires you to interpret the hypothetical effect of variations in the experiments described in the passage.

Because the question asks which variation would most weaken the primary claim, review that primary claim: insect behavior can be explained by unconscious, inflexible behaviors. To weaken this claim, you would need evidence that the insect can act in a flexible way, adapting or changing its behavior in some way.

Further, the question talks about variations in the experiment (described in the passage), so review the two experiments. Darwin interrupts the wasp’ s standard behavior by removing the antennae, even though the wasp could have adapted by using something else to drag the grasshopper. Fabre interrupts the process by moving the grasshopper a short distance away; because the grasshopper is no longer in the “right” spot, the wasp begins the inspection process all over again.

Answer choice (A) depicts a situation in which Darwin removes the small ovipositor appendage instead of the antennae. This removal disturbs the wasp enough to prevent it from using the grasshopper, although the slightness of the change is implied by the term “small appendage,” and thus you can assume that the grasshopper would still be appropriate for the wasp’ s purpose (feed the larvae). This result actually strengthens the primary claim. [Direct Contradiction]

In answer choice (B), the wasp and darwin get into a tug of war, during which the wasp winds up breaking off the antennae and then abandoning the grasshopper, even though the later became available once Darwin released it. In essence, this choice is similar to the real experiment Darwin conducted: in both cases, the wasp rejects a grasshopper lacking antennae; therefore, this choice also strengthens the primary claim. [Direct Contradiction]

In answer choice (C), the wasp re-inspects the burrow only after a long delay, because the grasshopper has been moved several meters away. Thus, the re-inspection might be seen as a result either of an inflexible behavior (“inspect after bringing the grasshopper to the burrow”) or of a flexible, conscious decision process (“since I have been absent from the burrow for a while, I’d better check it again”). This choice is tricky, since flexibility now enters the picture. However, choice (C) does not rule out the inflexible mechanism or create any preference one way or the other, so it does not attack the primary claim itself, which is still permitted. At most, you can say that this choice provides ambiguous evidence, and so does not really strengthen or weaken the primary claim. As much, this choice is “Out of Scope,” because it does not provide definitive evidence one way or the other. [Out of Scope]

Answer choice (D) is similar to (B) in that it describes a variation that is n’ t really a change. In the real experiment, Fabre moved the grasshopper 10 centimeters. In this choice, Fabre varies the exact position, causing the wasp to change its path slightly. In both cases, the wasp continues to be inflexible and re-inspect the burrow because the grasshopper is not where the wasp expected it to be.

In answer choice (E), the wasp is confronted with a significantly changed situation (praying mantis instead of grasshopper). The wasp inspects the new insect, which is described as rather different, and then deposits it in the burrow anyway. This indicates that the wasp is able to accept a significant difference and, after inspection, proceed with the original plan anyway; in other words, the wasp demonstrates substantial flexibility, especially in comparison to how it acts in the real experiments. The correct answer is (E).

 

4) The passage supports which of the following statements about insect behavior?

A) Reptiles such as snakes behave more flexibly than do insects.

B) Insects such as honeybees can always be expected to behave inflexibly.

C) Many species of insects leave eggs alongside living but paralyzed food sources.

D) Stimulus-response mechanisms in insects have evolved because, under ordinary circumstances, they help insects to survive.

E) More than one species of insect displays inflexible, routine behaviors.

This is a difficult specific question (subtype: Lookup Detail). The keywords insect behavior indicate the topic of the passage; they could plausibly refer to almost anything mentioned. Change tactics and start with the answer choices. Each answer choice gives you additional key words; use these to look up the reference for each answer choice and determine whether the choice is justified.

The key to finding the correct answer is to focus on what is started explicitly in the passage, and to examine whether each answer choice goes beyond what can be supported by the passage. Again, justify every word in the answer choice that you select.

Answer choice (A) mentions reptiles and snakes. Since the passage never mentions either of these, eliminate this choice. This is the case even though one could argue that the passage draws an implicit contrast between insect inflexibility and the more flexible behavior of some other creatures. Discard any answer choice that goes too far beyond the passage. [Out of Scope]

Answer choice (B) is a great example of a tempting GRE answer choice. Honeybees are insects, and the passage does claim that insect behavior tends to be inflexible. However, the passage does not say that every single species of insect behaves inflexibly; perhaps honeybees are an exception. Further, this answer choice states that honeybees always behave inflexibly, whereas the author states that insect behavior often reveals a stereotyped, inflexible quality. The extreme word always cannot be justified in this answer choice. [One Word Wrong]

Answer choice (C) seems plausible. The sphex wasp is probably not the only species of insect that provides its young with paralyzed prey. However, the word Many is not justified in the passage. You do not know the behavior of any other insect in this regard. Through the use of the word Many, answer choice (C) goes too far beyond the passage. [One Word Wrong]

The passage never explicitly mentions evolution, nor does it make any statement about why insects  have stimulus-response mechanisms. Answer choice (D) also requires drawing inferences from beyond the text of the passage. [Out of Scope]

The first sentence of the passage indicates that Insect behavior generally appears to be explicable in terms of unconscious stimulus-response mechanisms and often reveals a stereotyped, inflexible quality. The passage goes on to describe the case of sphex wasps as a classic example. Thus, the passage clearly indicates that the case of sphex wasps is not completely unique; that is, there must be more than one species of insect that exhibits inflexible behavior. Note that more than one can be justified by the passage in a way that a more extreme term such as most or all cannot be. Answer choice (E) is correct.

 

5 Based on the passage, which of the following would prove a similar point to that promoted by the author? Indicate all that apply.

A) In a similar experiment, the paralyzed grasshopper was replaced with another, equally nutritive insect, and the wasp did not drag it into the burrow.

B) In a similar experiment with a bird, the bird was shown to act in the exact same manner as the wasp..

C) In a similar experiment with a different wasp, the wasp dragged the grasshopper into the burrow by its ovipositor.

This is another difficult specific question, presented in a select-One-or-More multiple-choice format. Consider each answer choice on its own. Start by reminding yourself of the main point: insects exhibit inflexible behaviors.

(A) CORRECT. In this case, the wasp would have access to an insect that could provide just as much nutrition for her larvae as the grasshopper. The rational, conscious response would be to drag the new insect into the burrow in place of the grasshopper. The decision not to drag the insect into the burrow would imply that the wasp is not being rational or logical, but obeying inflexible stimulus-response mechanisms, which require the insect to be a grasshopper.

(B) While at first glance this answer may seem tempting, as it describes an animal acting in the “exact same manner as the wasp,” the passage is very specifically about insect behavior. Birds do not fit into that category. [One Word Wrong]

(C) You’ ve read that the wasp only drags the grasshopper in by its antennae, and if those antennae are removed, it will not drag it into the burrow at all. If a wasp were to deviate from her typical process, dragging the grasshopper in by something other than its antennae, she would be changing her response in reaction to circumstances, meaning her responses were not inflexible. This is actually the opposite of the point you want to make. [Direct Contradiction.]

The only correct answer is (A).

6 Select the sentence that names the mechanism by which a seemingly conscious behavior can be proven autonomic?

This is a Select-in-Passage question, which by definition has to be specific. Don’ t be afraid of complex language on the GRE. Often the meaning of difficult words can be inferred from the context. In this case, even if you did n’ t know what the word “autonomic” meant, you could use context. It is being contrasted with “conscious behavior,” so it likely means the opposite of that (unconscious behavior). So now you’ re looking for the sentence that names the mechanism used to prove that a seemingly conscious behavior was actually unconscious.

The fourth sentence says: As thoughtful as this behavior appears, it reveals its mechanistic character upon interference. The mechanism at issue has been named: “interference.” While many of the following sentences give examples of interference, the mechanism is only named in this sentence. Always be careful to read the question very carefully. It would be easy to pick one of the example sentences later in the paragraph if you did n’ t notice the use of the word “names” in the question.

Now reread the Model Long Passage and take your own notes. On the pages that follow, try to answer each question in the appropriate amount of time () before you read the accompanying explanation.

 

Model Long Passage

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a controversial psychiatric treatment involving the induction of a seizure in a patient via the passage of electricity through the brain. While beneficial effects of electrically induced seizures are evident and predictable in most patients, a unified mechanism of action has not yet been established and remains the subject of numerous investigations. According to most, though not all, published studies, ECT has been shown to be effective against several conditions, such as severe depression, mania, and some acute psychotic states, that are resistant to other treatments, although, like many other medical procedures, ECT has its risks.

Since the inception of ECT in 1938, the public has held a strongly negative conception of the procedure. Initially, doctors employed unmodified ECT. Patients were rendered instantly unconscious by the electrical current, but the strength of the muscle contractions from induced, uncontrolled motor seizures often led to compression fractures of the spine or damage to the teeth. In addition to the effect this physical trauma had on public sentiment , graphic examples of abuse were documented in nonfiction or loosely fictional books and movies, such as Ken Kesey’ s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’ s Nest, which portrayed ECT as punitive, cruel, overused and violative of patients’ legal rights. Indeed, the alternative term “electroshock” has a negative connotation, tainted by these depictions in the media.

In comparison with its earlier incarnation, modern ECT is virtually unrecognizable. The treatment is modified by the muscle relaxant succinylcholine, which renders muscle contractions virtually nonexistent. Additionally, patients are given a general anesthetic. Thus, the patient is asleep and fully unaware during the procedure, and the only outward sign of a seizure may be the rhythmic movement of the patient’ s hand or foot. ECT is generally used in severely depressed patients for whom psychotherapy and medication prove ineffective. It may also be considered when there is an imminent risk of suicide, since antidepressants often require several weeks to show results. Exactly how ECT exerts its influence on behavior is not known, but repeated applications affect several important neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, nor-epinephrine, and dopamine.

The consensus view of the scientific and medical community is that ECT has been proven effective, but the procedure remains controversial. Though decades-old studies showing brain cell death have been refuted in recent research, many patients do report retrograde amnesia (of events prior to treatment) and/or anterograde amnesia (of events during or shortly after treatment). Patients have also reported that their short-term memories continue to be affected for months after ECT, though some doctors argue that this memory malfunction may reflect the type of amnesia sometimes associated with severe depression. A recent neuropsychological study at Duke University documents a significant decline in performance on memory tests, ironically accompanied at times by self-reports of improved memory function; however, the researchers recommended only that these potential detriments be weighed against the potential benefits of ECT in any particular case.

  1. The passage is primarly concered with

(A) recommending a provocative medical practice
(B) explaining a controversial medical treatment
(C) arguing for further testing of a certain medical approach
(D) summarizing recent research concerning a particular medical procedure
(E) relating the public concern toward a particular medical therapy

This is a General question (subtype: Main Idea). It asks for the primary purpose of the passage, al-though the question is worded slightly differently.

The answer should reflect your understanding of the Point. As you noted before. the Passage in the topic sentence of the fourth paragraph: The consensus view… is that ECT has been proven effective , but it is not without controversy. ‘This Point is neutral and balanced; it is not advocating either the adoption of or the elimination of ECT.

Answer choice (A) states that the author recommends ECT. The passage addresses ECT in an objective manner; the author does not attempt to say that ECT should be used. Answer choice (A) is incorrect … [One Word Wrong)

Answer choice (B) is correct. The primary purpose of the passage is to explain ECT. This includes briefly discussing both its purpose and the reasons why it has generated such controversy,
Continue to rule out other answer choices, just to be safe.

Answer choice (C) describes a need for further testing; this need is never mentioned in the passage You might think that the passage implies this need, since you do not know exactly how exerts its effects , for instance. However, the primary concern of the passage will not be implied; it a will be asserted. Answer choice (C) is incorrect. (Out of Scope]

Although recent research concerning a particular side effect of ECT is mentioned in the final para-graph, this is not the primary purpose of the passage. This answer choice is too specific; it does not relate to the content of the passage as a whole. Using the scoring system strategy, you would give thus answer choice only one point, since it relates to the final paragraph. In contrast, correct answer choice (B) would he assigned 5 points since it relates to the first paragraph (2 points) and each the subsequent 3 paragraphs (1 point each). Answer choice (D) is incorrect. [True but irrelevant]

The passage does state that RA’ is a controversial procedure that the public views in a negative manner; however, the passage only focuses on public concerts over the procedure in the second paragraph. This answer choice does not encompass the majority of the passage. Thus, answer choice (E) is also incorrect. [True but Irrelevant]

2) which of the following is NOT cited in the passage or current or historical critisim of ECT?
a. ECT causes the death of brain cells
b. ECT has been used to punish certain individuals
c. seizures during ECT can cause bodily harm
d. short term memory loss results from ECT
e. repeated application of ECT affect several neurotransmitters in the brain

This Specific question (subtype: Lookup Detail) asks you which criticism of ECT is not cited In the passage. A methodical process of elimination is the best approach to answer a NOT or EXCEPT question. Use your notes to help determine which paragraphs are likely to contain the necessary details. Because the question asks about criticisms of ECT, concentrate on the second and fourth paragraphs; which discuss, respectively, historical and current criticisms. Then eliminate each answer choice as soon as you prove that it is cited as a criticism of ECT.
The second sentence of the last paragraph indicates that the death of brain cells was the basis for a historical criticism of ECT. Although the research was recently refuted, brain cell death was once a criticism of the procedure. Answer choice (A) can be ruled out.

According to the second-to-last sentence of the second paragraph, ECT has been documented in nonfiction or loosely fictional books and movies. In other words, these abuses actually happened. Moreover, these abuses have been documented as punitive; that is, ECT has been used to punish people. Thus, answer choice (B) can be eliminated.

The second and third sentences of the second paragraph explicitly and prominently mentions the bodily harm caused by seizures during unmodified ECT. Answer choice (C) is clearly incorrect.

The final paragraph also cites short-term memory loss as a major reason that ECT, in its current modified form, still generates controversy. Thus, answer choice (D) is incorrect.

The end of the third paragraph specifically states that repeated applications [of ECT] affect several neurotransmitters in the brain. However, this statement is offered in a neutral way, not as a criticism of ECT, but simply as additional information about the procedure. You might suppose that this effect is negative, but the text itself does not apply a judgment one way or the other. If anything, paragraph three is generally positive. Answer choice (E) is the only answer choice that is not cited as a past or current criticism of ECT. Therefore, answer choice (E) is the correct answer.

With a NOT or EXCEPT question, it is often easier to eliminate incorrect answer choices than to identify the correct answer choice directly. Also, the GRE has a slight but significant tendency to make the correct answer (D) or (E) on EXCEPT questions, to force you to read all of the answer choices. Thus, for this sort of question, you may want to start with the last answer choice and work your way up.

3) The passage suggests that the author regards ECT with
(A) conditional support
(B) academic objectivity
(C) mild advocacy
(D) unreserved criticism
(E) increasing acceptance

This is a General question (subtype: Infer About Opinions). Although you can often answer an Attitude question using only your general understanding of the passage, you should still closely examine the specific words the author uses to convey information. Here, the author presents evidence both for and against the efficacy and safety of ECT; he or she does not clearly lean toward or against more widespread adoption of the treatment. When presenting criticisms of ECT, the author does so in a manner that does not indicate a clear bias. The correct answer will reflect this balance.

Also, note that when answer choices are only two words long, the wrong answers will he wrong by just one or two words! Thus, all the incorrect answers below are One Word Wrong.

Answer choice (A) is incorrect, as the author’s attitude does not indicate support for ECT. Moreover. there are no clear conditions placed upon any support by the author.

Answer choice (B) is the correct answer. The attitude of the author as expressed in the passage is impartial and objective. The passage explains and discusses ECT in an unbiased, academic manner. Continue to examine the remaining answer choices.

Answer choice (C) is incorrect, as the tone of the passage does not suggest even mild advocacy on the part of the author. Though the author admits the proven efficacy of ECT, this admission is counterbalanced by accounts of criticisms and controversy surrounding the treatment. The tone of the passage is neither for nor against ECT.

Answer choice (D) is incorrect, as the language is too extreme. The tone of the passage is not unreserved, and the author is not clearly critical in his or her stance toward ECT.

Answer choice (E) is also not an accurate representation of the attitude of the author. It may be the case that ECT has achieved growing acceptance since its inception, but this reflects the popular or medical perception, not that of the author.

4)  Which of the following statements can be inferred from the third paragraph?
(A) Greater amounts of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine seem to reduce symptoms of diseases.
(B) ECT is never used prior to attempting psychotherapy or medication.
(C) Succinylcholine completely immobilizes the patient’ s body.
(D) ECT often works faster than antidepressants.
(E) One ECT treatment is often sufficient to reduce symptoms of depression significantly.

This is a Specific (subtype: Infer About Facts). The answer to an Inference question must be directly supported by evidence from the text. As always, be sure to pay particular attention to the precise words used in the answer choices and how they relate to the information presented in the passage.

For answer choice (A), the third paragraph specifically states that ECT affects these particular neurotransmitters. However, no information is provided to suggest how these neurotransmitters are affected. Since the passages does not indicate an increase in these neurotransmitters, this cannot be the best answer. [Out of Scope]

The third paragraph states: ECT is generally used in severely depressed patients for whom psychotherapy and medication prove ineffective. This does not mean that ECT is never used before these other therapies. Answer choice (B) is too extreme to be the correct answer. [One Word Wrong]

According to the third paragraph, succinylcholine renders muscle contractions virtually nonexistent, rather than completely nonexistent. Moreover, the passage states that a patient’ s hand or foot may rhythmically move during ECT. Thus, the patient’ s body is not completely immobilized. Eliminate answer choice (C). [Direct Contradiction]

The paragraph also states that ECT may be used when there is an imminent risk of suicide, since antidepressants often take several weeks to work effectively. The conjuction since indicates that the length of time ECT takes to work is being contrasted with that of antidepressants. That is, it is implied that ECT often works faster than antidepressants. Answer choice (D) is correct.

The final sentence of the third paragraph states that repeated applications of ECT affect several neurotransmitters. However, you are told nothing about how many treatments are needed to achieve results of any kind. Answer choice (E) is incorrect. [Out of Scope]

5. According to the passage, which of the following statements is true?

(A) Most severely depressed individuals have suicidal thoughts.

(B) The general public was unaware of the bodily harm caused by unmodified ECT.

(C) Research into the side effects of ECT has only recently begun.

(D) ECT does not benefit individuals with anxiety disorders.

(E) Patients undergoing ECT today are unconscious throughout the procedure.

This is a difficult Specific question (subtype: Lookup Detail) that does not indicate a particular part f the passage in the question stem. Thus, you have to use key words from the answer choices, look up proof sentences, and eliminate choices one by one. Use your notes to locate the important information in the passage, and then eliminate an answer choice as soon as you prove that it is not cited in the passage as true.

Answer choice (A) includes the key words severely depressed and suicidal, which lead you to the third paragraph of the passage. This paragraph indicates that ECT is considered as a treatment option when there is an imminent risk of suicide. However, nothing in the passage indicates the percentage (or number) of severely depressed individuals who have suicidal thoughts. The use of the word Most is unjustified. Answer choice (A) can be eliminated. [One Word Wrong]

Answer choice (B) includes the key words bodily harm and unmodified ECT, which lead you to the second paragraph (which gives examples of the bodily harm caused by ECT in some cases). This paragraph describes ways in which the public was aware of the bodily harm caused by unmodified ECT. This knowledge influenced the general public’s strongly negative conception of the procedure. Answer choice (B) is incorrect. [Direct Contradiction]

In answer choice (C), the key words only recently prompt you to look for time references. The second sentence of the final paragraph cites decades-old studies of ECT. Thus, research has not begun only recently. Answer choice (C) should be ruled out. [Direct Contradiction]

The first paragraph states that ECT is effective against severe depression, some acute psychotic states, and mania. This does not necessarily mean that ECT is ineffective for anxiety disorders. With an “according to the passage” question, the correct answer must be provable by the passage text. Answer choice (D) is not shown by the passage to be true. [Out of Scope]

The third paragraph explains that, for modern. ECT, patients are given a general anesthetic and the Patient is asleep and fully unaware during the procedure. Thus, ECT patients today are unconscious while undergoing the procedure. Answer choice (E) is correct.

6. According to the passage, which of the following is true of the general population’ s opinion of ECT? Indicate all that apply.
(A) It has improved in the years since the treatment was first introduced.
(B) It has been affected by artistic representations of the treatment.
(C) It has likely had an effect on the terminology that proponents of ECT might use to describe the treatment.

This is a difficult Specific question presented in a Select-One-or-format. The question is about the general population’ s opinion of ECT, which is discussed primarily in the second paragraph.

(A) While the fourth paragraph states: the consensus view of the scientific and medical community is that ECT has been proven effective, you are never told that the general public has come to the same conclusion. The first sentence of the critical second paragraph states: since the inception of ECT in 1938, the public has held a strongly negative conception of the procedure. Nowhere does the passage state that this general opinion has improved, in spite of the fact that the process has grown far less violent and traumatic over the years.

(B) CORRECT. In the second paragraph, you are told that Ken Kesey’ s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’ s Nest affected public sentiment by providing graphic example of abuse. This film can be described as an “artistic representation” of ECT, and so this answer is correct.

(C) CORRECT. The final sentence of the second paragraph says: the alternative term “electroshock” has a negative connotation. This means that proponents of ECT would be unlikely to use the term, because it would summon up the negative feelings people have about the term. They would be more likely to call it ECT.

 

7. In the final two paragraphs, select a sentence that describes two possible causes of a given phenomenon.

This specific question of the Select-in-passage variety is very difficult because it fails to reference any individuals detail of the passage. It does indicate that you need to look in the final two paragraphs, at the least. The third paragraph explains the factual science behind the current state of ECT, so start with the fourth paragraph (but be prepared to go to the third if you don’ t find anything in the fourth).
The third sentence of the final paragraph says: Patients have also reported that their short-term memories continue to be affected for months after ECT, though some doctors argue that this memory malfunction may reflect the type of amnesia sometimes associated with severe depression. This sentence gives two possible explanations for the phenomenon of short-term amnesia: either ECT or the depression that the ECT was intended to cure.

GRE Reading Comprehension Problem Set

Historians have long recognized the traditional Japanese sword, or nihonto, as one of the finest cutting weapons ever produced, but it has even been considered a spiritual entity. The adage “the sword is the soul of the samurai” reflects the sword’ s psychic importance, not only to its wielder, but also to its creator, The master smith. Not classically regarded as artists, master smiths nevertheless exerted great care in the process of creating swords, no two of which were ever forged exactly the same way. Over hundreds of hours, two types of steel were repeatedly heated, hammered, and folded together into thousands of imperceptible layers, yielding both a razor-sharp, durable edge and a flexible, shock-absorbing blade. Commonly, though optionally, the smith physically signed the blade; moreover, each smith’ s secret forging techniques left an idiosyncratic structural signature. Each unique finished product reflected the smith’ s personal honor and devotion to craft, and today, the Japanese sword is valued as much for its artistic merit as for its historical significance.

 

  1. The primary purpose of the passage is to

(A) Challenge the observation that the Japanese sword is highly admired by historians

(B) introduce new information about the forging of Japanese swords.

(C) identify the Japanese sword as an ephemeral work of art

(D) argue that Japanese sword makers were motivated by honor

(E) explain the value attributed to the Japanese sword

 

2) Each of the following is mentioned in the passage EXCEPT

(A) every Japanese sword has a unique structure that can be traced back to a special forging process.

(B) master smiths kept their forging methodologies secret

(C) the Japanese sword was considered by some to have a spiritual quality

(D) master smiths are now considered artists by major historians

(E) the Japanese sword is considered both a work of art and a historical artifact

 

 

3) The author is most likely to agree with which of the following observations?

(A) The Japanese sword is the most important handheld weapon in history.

(B) The skill of the samurai is what made the Japanese sword so special.

(C) If a sword had a physical signature, other swords could be attributed to that sword’ s creator.

(D) Master smiths were more concerned about the artistic merit of their blades than about the blades’ practical qualities.

(E) The Japanese sword has more historical importance than artistic importance.

 

4) Which of the following can be inferred about the term “structural signature” in this passage?

(A) It indicates the inscription that the smith places on the blade during the forging process.

(B) It implies the particular characteristics of a blade created by a smith’ s unique forging process.

(C) It suggests that each blade can be traced back to a known master smith.

(D) It reflects the soul of the samurai who wielded the sword.

(E) It refers to the unique curved shape of the blade.

 

5) The author most likely describes the forging process in order to

(A) present an explanation for a change in perception

(B) determine the historical significance of Japanese swords

(C) explain why each Japanese sword is unique

(D) compare Japanese master smiths to classical artists

(E) review the complete process of making a Japanese sword

6) Select the sentence in the passage that best indicates that the author believes traditional Japanese swords are works of art.

7) Which of the following statements about Japanese swords is supported by the passage?

Indicate all that apply.

(A) There is a way to determine the creator of a given sword other than his signature on the blade.

(B) They have been viewed in terms other than the purely material.

(C) They have not always received the artistic recognition that they deserve.

Ans 1)To identify the primary purpose of the passage, examine the passage as a whole. Avoid answer choices that address only limited sections of the passage. The point of the passage (the Japanese sword has been considered not just a fine weapon but a spiritual entity) is clearly established in the first two sentences; the purpose of the passage is to explain and support that point.

A) The passage does not call into question the admiration that historians have for the Japanese sword.

B) The middle of the passage discusses forging techniques, but none of the information is presented as new. Moreover, these forging techniques are not the overall focus of the passage.

C)”Ephemeral” means short lived. The Japanese sword is not identified as an ephemeral (or short lived)work of art in the passage.

D) Japanese sword makers were indeed motivated by honor, at least in part, according to the last sentence, but this is not the overall purpose of the passage, much of which describes the Japanese sword’ s physical properties and reasons for its importance.

E) CORRECT. The passage as a whole describes the immense value of the Japanese sword to both the samurai (the sword’ s owner) and the smith (its maker). The saying the sword is the soul of the samurai is referenced early to indicate its importance. Later portions of the passage detail the tremendous effort that is put into each sword, reflecting the importance of each one.

 

Ans 2) For an EXCEPT question (almost always a Specific question), use the process of elimination to cross out those details mentioned in the passage.

A) In the passage this unique signature is referred to as a structural signature in the fifth sentence.

B) The fifth sentence mentions the secret forging techniques used by each smith.

C) The first sentence indicates that the traditional Japanese sword ….has even been considered a spiritual entity.

D) CORRECT. The time and effort master smiths devote to making a sword is discussed, and the passage does indicate that the Japanese sword is valued for its artistic merit. However, the passage does not sate that major historians consider master smiths themselves to be artists. Major historians are not referenced in the passage. Moreover, who values the Japanese sword for its artistic merit is not mentioned.

E) In the last sentence, the passage indicates that the Japanese sword is valued as much for its artistic merit as for its historical significance.

Ans 3) When looking for statements with which the author could agree, be sure to avoid extreme words and positions that go beyond the author’ s statement in the passage. This question requires attention to both the general Point of the passage and specific details throughout.

A) The opening sentence says: Historians have long recognized the traditional Japanese sword…..as one of the finest cutting weapons ever produced; however, there is no indication that the Japanese sword is the most important handheld weapon in history.

B) This passage does not discuss the skill of the samurai warrior.

C) CORRECT. According to the passage, every master smith had a structural signature due to his own secret forging process. Therefore, if a physical signature is present on a blade, that blade’ s structural signature could then be associated with a master smith, whose master status implies the creation of numerous swords.

D) The passage mentions that each sword reflected the smith’ s personal honor and devotion to craft; however, there is no claim that master smiths emphasized their swords’ artistic merit at the expense of practical qualities.

E) The final sentence indicates that the sword is valued as much for its artistic merit as for its historical significance. According to the passage, the two attributes are essentially equally valued; the Japanese sword is not more valued for the historical aspect.

Ans 4) The author states that each smith’ s secret forging techniques left an idiosyncratic structural signature. The words idiosyncratic and signature imply the uniqueness of the smith’ s process. Be careful not to infer any additional information, particularly when the question refers to a specific sentence or phrase.

A) In the passage, such an inscription is referred to as a physical signature, not a structural signature.

B) CORRECT. Note that the proof sentence indicates that each smith had his own process, and so the “structural signature” was unique to each smith (not necessarily to each individual blade).

C) This statement seems unreasonable. However, the passage does not say whether all master smiths are currently known. Certain swords with a structural signature may be of unknown origin.

D) The second sentence mentions the saying the sword is the soul of the samurai, but you are not told that the structural signature was the aspect of the sword reflecting the soul of the samurai who wielded it. The second paragraph explains that the sword reflected the smith’ s personal honor and devotion to craft. This satement, however, does not justify the claim that the structural signature itself reflects the soul of the samurai who wielded it.

E) The passage does not discuss the shape of any japanese blade.

Ans 5) To determine the function(s) of any part of a passage, pay attention to the emphasized content of that part, in particular any reiterated points, and to the relationship that part has to other portions that part has to other portions of the passage. In this case, the description of the forging process extends the idea introduced earlier that the Japanese sword is reverred.

A)The final sentence mentions that Japanese swords are now appreciated more for their artistic merit, but no explanation as to why is provided.

B) The term historical significance closes the passage, but the description of the forging process fails to explain or outline that significance.

C) CORRECT. The description of the forging process underscores the uniqueness of individual Japanese sword. One sentence mentions that no two[swords] were ever forged in exactly the same way. Later, structural signature and unique finished product reinforce this point.

D) The passage explains that master smiths were not considered artists in the classical sense, and then goes on to point out the painstaking creation of each sword. This implicitly draws a parallel between the creation of the sword and classical artistry. However, the passage does not actually describe or discuss classical artists, nor does it set forth criteria for classical artists. There is no actual comparison to classical artists, despite the mention of artistic merit. This answer choice goes too far beyond the passage.

Ans 6) The passage first mentions the idea of art in the third sentence, but indicates that master smiths were not regarded as artists. After describing the meticulous forging process, the last sentence indicates that each sword is unique and is valued for its artistic merit. The last sentence, then, best indicates that the author would consider these swords works of art.

Ans 7) (A), (B) and (C): This is a General question of the Select-one-or-More variety. Tackle each answer choice as its own question.

(A) CORRECT. The second-to-last sentence says that “each smith’ s secret forging techniques left an idiosyncratic structural signature.” This structural signature, then, could possibly be used to determine the creator of a given sword, even in the absence of a physical signature.

(B) CORRECT. The first sentence tells you that the Japanese sword”has been considered a spiritual entity.” In other words, it has been viewed in terms other than the strictly material.

(C) CORRECT. The last sentence tells you that “today, the Japanese sword is valued as much for its artistic merit as for its historical significance” Earlier in the passage, however, you were told that master smiths were “not classically regarded as artists.” This means that those smiths viewed as artists today did not always receive the same recognition and neither did the swords they made

GRE Argument Structure Passages

Reading Comprehension also contain another type of passage: Argument structure Passages (ASPs).

Expect to see about 1-3 ASPs per section; each passage will be accompanied by a single question.

ASPs on the GRE involve reading brief arguments (each argument is generally one to three sentences long) and answering questions relating to those arguments. These arguments are made up of premises, counter-premises, assumptions, and conclusion. Some arguments will also contain background information or context; this information helps you to understand the topic under discussion but is not actually part of the argument itself.

The main point of the argument is the conclusion. Conclusions are in the form of an opinion or a claim; they are not pure facts. Most arguments contain conclusions, but not all of them.

Premises provide support for the argument’ s conclusion. They may be facts, opinions, or claims. If they are opinions or claims, they will not be the overall claim the author is making; rather, they will be some immediate claim the author is using to support the overall claim (conclusion).

Counterpremises undermine or go against the conclusion. Occasionally an argument will present both sides of an argument, with evidence to support both. Therefore, some of the provided evidence will be used as premises and some as counterpremises (supporting a kind of counterconclusion).

Assumptions are unstated pieces of information that the argument requires to function.

Here’ s a simple example to illustrate:

While the plot of the movie was compelling, the acting was atrocious. Thus, the movie will not win an Oscar.

Conclusion: Thus, the movie will not win an Oscar.
Supporting premise: The acting was atrocious.
Counterpremise: The plot of the movie was compelling.
Assumption: Atrocious acting prevents a movie from winning an Oscar (any kind of Oscar!).

Four-Step Process

You’ll use a four-step process for every ASP you encounter:
Step 1: Identify the question type.
Step 2: Deconstruct the argument.
Step 3: State the goal.
Step 4: Work from wrong to right.
An overview is below; later, you’ ll go through the process in detail for each question type.

Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The vast majority of question stems will allow you to categorize a question, which will direct everything else you do. However, if the question type is difficult to identify, do not dwell on the issue. Go ahead to the next step; afterwards, you can re-examine the question.

Step 2: Deconstruct the arguments
The question type will help you anticipate what to expect from the argument. For example, some types do have conclusions and others don’t; after you’ ve identified the question type, you’ ll know whether to look for a conclusion when reading the argument. You’ ll also take light notes during this stage.

Step 3: State the Goal
You’ ll have a particular goal that you’ re trying to accomplish for each question type. For example, on Strengthen questions, the goal is to find the answer that makes the conclusion at least a little more likely to be true or valid. This step only takes about 3-5 seconds, but don’ t skip it! Make sure that you have a clear idea of your goal before you move to the final step.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right
As on any RC question, process of elimination rules the day. As a general rule, cross definite wrong answers off first and then compare any remaining tempting answers. Certain question types have common traps in the wrong answers; it’ s important to be familiar with those before test day.

Taking Notes

When doing Argument Structure Passages, you are going to take some light notes as you do for regular Reading Comprehension passages. These notes are going to be even more abbreviated, though, and are going to focus on the flow of information. What leads to what?

There are any number of ways to take notes; a few ideas are presented below and you can choose what you think would work best for your brain.

You already know that arguments contain different pieces of information: a conclusion, premises, and so on. Your two main goals are to:
1) Classify each piece of information.
2) Understand how the different pieces of information fit together.

While attempting Argument Structure Passages, you are supposed to read the entire argument first and then jot down notes.

First, draw a Table on your scratch paper. Make it asymmetrical, leaving more room on the left side, which will be the “pro” side. In most arguments, you will have very little “con” side (to the right).

Step 1.

Second, read the argument and look for the conclusion. Once you find the conclusion, write it in the first raw of the table, abbreviating heavily.

Step 2.

Conclusion

Third, add the rest of the argument information to the diagram. Write anything that supports the conclusion on the left column of the table (“Pro” or “Premise”), and write anything that goes against the conclusion on the right column of the Table (“Con” or “Counter premise”).
Finally, if you happened to think of any assumptions while reading, place them in brackets somewhere below the T.

Conclusion
-Pro-Con
-Pro
-[Assumption]

Here’ s how the original argument might look in T-diagram form:

Environmentalist: The national energy commission’ s current plan calls for the construction of six new nuclear power plants during the next decade. The commission argues that these plants are extremely safe and will have minimal environmental impact on their surrounding communities. However, all six nuclear power plants will be located far from densely populated areas. Clearly, the government is tacitly admitting that these plants do pose a serious health risk to humans.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the environmentalist’ s claim of an unspoken government admission?

plnts increases hlth riskPlants safe, less environmental impact,
plnts far frm pop areas
[no other reason for distance?]

There is more than one way to write something down; use what works best for you.

There are many different ways someone might choose to take notes. You are n’ t obligated to follow one particular method; you can develop your own as long as you are accomplishing three goals:
1) If the argument does contain a conclusion, then you do need to find and note it. The conclusion (when present) is the most important part of the argument.
2) If the argument contains any kind of “flow” of information (e.g., one thing leads to another or one thing goes against another), then you definitely want to take note of how that information fits together.
3) You need simple and consistent ways to note important information. You don’ t need to designate the conclusion with a C, but you do need to designate the conclusion the same way every time. You don’ t want to spend time thinking about how to write something down or wondering what one of your abbreviations means.
If your note-taking style accomplishes those three goals at a minimum, then your process is good.

Strategies for all question types

Boundary Words in the argument:

For any question, it is helpful to focus your attention on the boundary words and phrases provided in the argument. These words and phrases narrow the scope of a premise. For example:

Premise: The percentage of literate adults has increased.

The boundary word “percentage” limits the scope of the premise. It restricts the meaning to percentage only, as opposed to the actual number of literate adults. For all you know, the actual number went down. The boundary word”adults” also limits the scope of the premise. It restricts the meaning to adults only, as opposed to the total population, or children.

Extreme words in the Argument

Another general strategy for all ASP questions involves extreme words and phrases in the body of the argument. Extreme words, such as “always,” “never,” “all,” and “none,” are the opposite of boundary words- they make the argument very broad or far-reaching.
Using extreme words opens up an argument unreasonably, making it very susceptible to strengthening or weakening. For example:

Conclusion: Sugar is never healthy for anyone trying to lose weight.

The extreme word “never” unreasonably opens up this argument, placing no limitation on the claim that sugar is unhealthy. A more moderate conclusion would argue that sugar is often unhealthy, or that excessive sugar is unhealthy.

Boundary Words in the Answer Choices

Boundary words in the answers are just as important as boundary words in the body of the argument, though for a different reason. A correct answer choice must be 100% correct.
When you see boundary words in an answer choice, ask yourself, “What is the most extreme example I can think of that would still fit the wording of this answer choice?” Then, using the conclusion and the question asked, see whether your extreme example allows you to eliminate that answer choice.
For example, an answer choice might say:

(D) Some teachers leave the profession entirely within three years of beginning their teaching careers.

You might choose to address one of two different boundaries here. The word “some” refers to some number of teachers but does not specify the size of the group. The phrase “within three years” refers to a period of time but does not specify the exact length of time.

If you choose to address the word “some,” you could say that 1% of teachers leave within three years, or that 99% of teachers do so. Either way, the statistics still fit the criterion that some teachers do this. Suppose the conclusion asserted that new teacher turnover is having a major impact on the industry. If only 1% of new teachers leave within three years, then new teacher turnover will probably not have much of an impact.

Question Types

Question TypesExampleHow to recognize
Strengthen the ConclusionWhich of the following, if true, most strongly supports the scientists’ hypothesis?In the question stem: Strengthen, support, or similar

Will often (but not always) include the words “if true”
Weaken the conclusionWhich of the following, if true, most seriously undermines the mayor’ s claim?In the question stem: Weaken, undermine, or similar

May ask what supports the idea that something will not be successful

Will often (but not always) include the words “if true”
Analyze the Argument StructureIn the argument above, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?In the question stem: role or similar

In the argument: boldface font
Draw a Conclusion (Inference)Which of the following conclusions can best be drawn from the information above?In the question stem: Conclusion, assertion, infer or similar
Resolve a ParadoxWhich of the following pieces of evidence, if true, would provide the best explanation for the discrepancy?In the question stem: Paradox, discrepancy, resolve or similar.
The GRE may make a question a bit more

The GRE may make a question a bit more complex by structuring it as a “Fill-in-the-Blank” question. This is not a new type of question; it is a disguised version of one of the question types listed above.

Once you recognize that a “Fill-in-the-Blank” question is of a certain type, you can use the standard strategies associated with that type.

Let’ s look at each question type in more detail.

Strengthen the Conclusion

On Strengthen questions, your goal is to find an answer that makes the conclusion a little more likely to be valid. The conclusion likely won’ t be made perfect- just somewhat better than it was before.

Step 1: Identify the question type

Strengthen the conclusion questions ask you to provide additional support for a given conclusion. The question stem may appear in a number of forms:

  • Which of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument above?
  • Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the scientist’ s hypothesis?
  • Which of the following provides the strongest reason to expect that the plan will be successful?
  • Shuai will win the tournament because _______.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

Strengthen arguments will always contain conclusions; because your task is to strengthen the conclusion, your first task is to find that conclusion. Also take note of the premises offered to support the conclusion and think about the gaps in the argument. What is the author assuming must be true in order to draw that particular conclusion?

For example, consider this sort argument:

Shuai is the number one tennis player in the country. She lost in the final match of last year’ s national tennis championship, but she will win the tournament this year because_______.

What is the author assuming in drawing this conclusion? Shuai is the number one player, which sounds great, but she did lose last year. The author is assuming that there is some reason that Shuai will have a better chance this year. Perhaps she was n’ t the top-ranked player last year. Perhaps the player who beat her last year has retired. Perhaps Shuai has gotten better than the player who beat her last year. Who knows? The correct answer will provide some reason to support the idea that Shuai will win this yaer (though the answer won’ t absolutely guarantee that Shua will win).

Step 3: State the Goal

For strengthen questions, the correct answer will be a new piece of information that will make the conclusion at least a little more likely to be valid or true. It could be inserted into the argument as a new premise supporting the conclusion.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

Use an S-W-Slash chart to categorize and eliminate answer choices.

If you have more than one S, compare the answer choices. Only one choice will strengthen the conclusion in the end, so see whether you mistakenly labeled something an S when it should have been labeled something else. If they both still look good, then try to decide which one supports the conclusion more strongly.

Here’ s an example (real test questions will have five answer choices):

At QuestCorp, many employees have quit recently and taken jobs with a competitor. Shortly before the employees quit, QuestCorp lost its largest client. Clearly, the employees were no longer confident in QuestCorp’ s long-term viability.

Which of the following, if true, most strengthens the claim that concerns about QuestCorp’ s viability caused the employees to quit?

  • Employees at QuestCorp’ s main competitor recently received a large and well-publicized raise.
  • QuestCorp’ s largest client accounted for 40% of sales and nearly 60% of the company’ s profits.
  • Many prospectives hires who have interviewed with QuestCorp ultimately accepted jobs with other companies.

Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The “most strengthens”  and “if true” language indicate that this is a Strengthen the Conclusion question.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

The question stem provides the conclusion: concerns about Q’ s viability caused employees to quit. One set of notes might look like this:

+ Q lost client, then E quit, went to compet

(concl) E lost conf in Q viab

Step 3: State the Goal

The author assumes that the employees were n’ t quitting for some other reason. One way to strengthen the argument would be to show that there was some significant negative consequence because the largest client left.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

Use an S-W-slash chart to categorize and eliminate answer choices.

  1. Weaken or slash. If the competitor is offering more money, then perhaps that’ s why the employees switched companies; if so, this choice weakens the argument. Note that this choice does n’ t actually say that the competitor is now paying more money than QuestCorp, so perhaps this information is irrelevant. Either way, this choice does not strengthen the argument.
  2. The largest client accounted for a very large percentage of both sales and profits. This piece of information does strengthen the idea that some employees may have lost confidence in QuestCorp’ s long-term viability.
  3. The argument concludes something about QuestCorp employees, not people who interviewed with QuestCorp but ultimately accepted a job elsewhere.

Answer choice (B) is correct.

 

Weaken the Conclusion

Weaken the Conclusion are exactly like Strengthen the Conclusion questions in every way except the obvious (they want you to weaken instead of strengthen!).

Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The question stem may appear in a number of forms:

  • Which of the following, if true, most seriously weaken the argument?
  • Which of the following, if true, could present the most serious disadvantage of XYZ corporation’ s new marketing initiative?
  • Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the view that the drug treatment program will not be successful?

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

Weaken arguments will always contain conclusions; because your task is to weaken the conclusion, your fast task is to find that conclusion. Also take note of the premises offered to support the conclusion and think about the gaps in the argument. What is the author assuming must be true in order to draw that particular conclusion?

You may or may not be able to brainstorm any assumptions made by the author; it’ s worth spending about 15 to 20 seconds to try. For example, consider this short argument (the same one you saw in the Strengthen section above):

Shuai is the number one tennis player in the country. She lost in the final match of last year’ s national tennis championship, but she will win the tournament this year. Which of the following, if true, most undermines the author’ s claim?

What is the author assuming in drawing this conclusion? Shuai is the number one player, which sounds great, but she did lose last year. The author is assuming that there is some reason that Shuai will have a better chance this year.

The correct answer will provide some reason to weaken the idea that Shuai will win this year (though the answer won’ t absolutely guarantee that Shuai will lose). Perhaps the same player who beat her last year will be in the tournament again this year. Perhaps another player, who has beaten Shuai recently, will be playing in the tournament. Perhaps Shuai will be injured or sick.

Step 3: State the Goal

For weaken question, the correct answer will be a new piece of information that will make the conclusion at least a little less likely to be valid or true. If it were inserted into the argument, the conclusion would be doubtful.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

Use an S-W-Slash Chart to keep track of answers and eliminate answer choice one by one.

If you have more than one W, compare the answer choices. Only one choice will weaken the conclusion in the end, so see whether you mistakenly labeled something a W when it should have been labeled something else. If they both still look good, then try to decide which one weakens the conclusion the most.

Here’ s an example:

The national infrastructure for airport runways and air traffic control requires immediate expansion to accommodate the increase in private, smaller planes. To help fund this expansion, the Federal Aviation Authority (the FAA) has proposed a fee for all air travelers. However, this fee would be unfair, as it would impose costs on all travelers to benefit only the few who utilize the new private planes.

Which of the following, if true, would cast the most doubt on the claim that the proposed fee would be unfair?

  • The existing national airport infrastructure benefits all air travelers.
  • The fee, if imposed, will have a negligible effect on the overall volume of air travel.
  • The expansion would reduce the number of delayed flights resulting from small private planes congesting runways.
  • Travelers who use small private planes are almost uniformly wealthy or traveling on business.
  • A substantial fee would need to be imposed in order to pay for the expansion costs.

Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The “cast the most doubt” and “if true” language indicate that this is a Weaken the Conclusion question.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

The question stem indicates the conclusion: the proposed fee would be unfair. One set of notes might look like this:

Fee unfair
Cost for all,

Benefits only

For priv planes

Step 3: State the Goal

The author assumes that the benefits will apply only to those flying in the private plans. One way to weaken the argument would be to show that there was some benefit for a great group, or perhaps for all of the people who would be paying the fee.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

Use an S-W-slash chart to categorize and eliminate answer choices.

(A) The argument concerns a fee needed in order to expand the existing infrastructure. The status of the existing infrastructure is irrelevant to the argument.

(B) A negligible impact is a very small impact. The fee, though, is intended to be used for infrastructure expansion. The argument makes no claim about what will happen with the overall volume of air travel.

(C) This choice offers a benefit for all air travelers: if the expansion can reduce congestion, and therefore the number of delayed flights in general, then others besides the private plane travelers will benefit from the fee.

(D) The wealth or employment status of the passengers does not address whether the fee benefits just these passengers versus all of the passengers.

(E) Strengthen or slash. The amount of the fee does not address whether the fee is unfair. If anything, you might argue that a very high fee is even more unfair, in which case this choice would strengthen the argument, not weaken it.

Answer choice (C) is the correct answer.

Analyze the Argument Structure

Analyze the Argument Structure questions ask you to describe the role of a part or parts of the argument; these portions will be shown in bold font. Annoyingly, the arguments tend to be complex, often with an argument/counterargument structure. Be prepared with guessing strategies (discussed below).

Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The question type will be immediately apparent because of the boldface font in portions of the argument. The question will typically ask what “role” the bold portions play in the overall argument.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

The boldface portions can play one of three primary roles:

1 (C): The statement in boldface is the author’ s conclusion.

2 (S): The statement in boldface is a premise that supports the author’ s conclusion.

3 (W): The statement in boldface is something else (usually weakens the conclusion, but not always).

Find the author’ s conclusion, then classify each statement according too the categories C, S, or W. These arguments tend to be longer than average; note that you do not need to categorize the entire argument, just the two statements in bold font. Do not go to the answer choices until you have found the conclusion and categorized the statements!

Step 3: State the Goal

Your Goal is to categorize the boldface statements and then to find an answer choice that matches your categorization. Note also whether the boldface statements are on the same side of the fence (categories 1 and 2) or on opposite sides of the fence (1 versus 3 or 2 versus 3).

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

The wrong answer will provide descriptions of the wrong combination of categories. For example, you might decide that the first boldface is a C while the second is an S. One wrong answer might describe the combination C, W (in that order). Another might describe the combination W, C. Both would be wrong if you are looking for the combination C, S.

Here is an example

Mathematician: Recently, Zubin Ghosh made headlines when he was recognized to have solved the Hilbert Conjecture, postulated a hundred years ago. Ghosh posted his work on the Internet rather than submit it to established journals. In fact, he has no job, let alone a university position; he lives alone and has refused all acclaim. In reporting on Ghosh, the press unfortunately has reinforced the popular view that mathematicians are antisocial loners. But mathematicians clearly form a tightly knit community, frequently collaborating on important efforts; indeed, teams of researchers are working together to extend Ghosh’ s findings.

In the argument above, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?

  1. The first is an observation the author makes to illustrate a social pattern; the second is a generalization of that pattern.
  2. The first is evidence in favor of the popular view expressed in the argument; the second is a brief restatement of that view.
  3. The first is an example of a generalization that the author contradicts; the second is a reiteration of that generalization.
  4. The first is a counterexample to a generalization that the author asserts; the second is that generalization.
  5. The first is a judgment that counters the primary assertion expressed in the argument; the second is a circumstance on which that judgment is based.

Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The boldface font in the argument and the word “role” in the question stem indicate that this is an Analyze the Argument Structure question.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

The author’ s conclusion is that mathematicians actually form a tightly knit community. The counterargument is that mathematicians are antisocial loners. Now, label each statement as either Conclusion (C), Support (S), or Weaken/Something Else (W).

The first boldface represents an example that supports the counterargument; label this statement W. The second boldface represents the author’ s conclusion, C.

Step 3: State the Goal

You’ re looking for an answer that describes the first statement as a W and the second statement as a C. Note that these two statements are on opposite sides of the fence (the first goes with the counterargument and the second goes with the author’ s argument).

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

(A) This answer says that the author uses the first statement to illustrate a pattern. On the contrary, the author believes that the pattern described by the counterargument is not valid. Eliminate answer (A).

(B) The first portion of this answer is accurate: the first statement does support the popular view, which goes against the view held by the author. The second half of this answer, though, is inaccurate. The second statement does not restate the popular view; rather, it provides the author’ s opposing view. Eliminate answer (B).

(C) The first portion of this answer is accurate: the first statement does support an idea that the author contradicts. The second statement, is not “that generalization,” or the popular view. Rather, the second statement reflects the author’ s opposing point of view. Eliminate answer (C).

Note that answers (A), (B) and (C) all describes the two statements as being on the same side of the fence. That’ s not what you want! You’ re looking for the two statements to be on opposite side of the fence.

(D) CORRECT. The author does assert something and the first statement does go against that assertion; the first half of this answer is accurate. The second half of this choice refers to “that generalization,” or the generalization that the author asserts. The author asserts his own conclusion, so the second half of this answer is also accurate. Leave this answer in.

(E) The first does counter the author’ s assertion, or conclusion, though note that this answer choice describes the first statement as a “judgment.” It is not a judgment; rather, it’ s a fact or example. The second half of the choice says that the second boldface statement is based on the first statement; in fact, the second statement goes against the first one. Eliminate answer (E).

The correct answer is (D).

Draw a Conclusion (Inference)

Draw a Conclusion questions are very similar to Inference questions for regular Reading Comprehension passages. You need to find the answer that logically follows, or must be true, based upon the information given in the argument.

It’ s critical to make a distinction between conclusions given in an argument and conclusions (or inferences) given in answer choices. When an ASP provides a conclusion for you in the argument itself, that conclusion is pretty faulty. It’s an arguable statement, or claim, that is only partially supported by the premises of the argument, and you can find lots of gaps in the argument.

By contrast, if you are asked to draw a conclusion or to infer something yourself, that conclusion must be able to be proven from the given premises. The conclusion should not require you to make any additional assumptions at all, even tiny ones. The correct answer to a Draw a Conclusion question is not a claim or an arguable statement. Rather, the correct answer must be true based directly and only upon the information given in the argument.

Step 1: Identify the Question Type.

The question stem may appear in a number of forms:

  • If the statement above are true, which of the following must be true?
  • Which of the following conclusions can best be drawn from the information above?
  • The statement above, if true, best support which of the following assertion?
  • Which of the following can properly be inferred from the statement above?
  • (A full argument) Students typically study five days a weak. Therefore, _______.

The last is an example of a Fill-in-the-Blank format. The word “therefore” signals that the correct answer is the conclusion of the argument.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

Draw a Conclusion questions do not contain a conclusion in the argument. The argument will contain only premises and these premises will be primarily factual (though some might be more on the opinion or claim side). As with the other question types, jot down some light notes. if you can brainstorm any possible conclusions, do so-but remember that you might not think of actually what the correct answer will say.

Consider the following simplified example:

Samantha and Isabel are the only two people in the dining room. They are both women.

What can be safely inferred from these facts? That is, what absolutely must be true as a result?

Must be true: There are no men in the dining room.

This conclusion may not seem very meaningful or important in a real-world sense, but this is what the correct answer to a Draw a Conclusion is like. Avoid grand conclusions in these problems. A correct answer might simply restate one or more of the premises, using synonyms. Alternatively, a correct answer might be a mathematical or logical deduction.

Step 3: State the Goal

You need to find the answer choice that must be true given some or all of the information found in the argument. (Note that the correct answer is not required to use all of the given information.)

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

Eliminate any answers that require additional assumptions or outside information in order to be true. The wrong answers will all include something that does n’ t have to be true.

Consider the following example:

In certain congested urban areas, commuters who use public transportation options, such as trains and subways, spend approximately 25 percent less time in transit, on average, to reach their destinations than commuters who travel by car. Even individuals who drive their entire commute in carpool lanes, which are typically the least congested sections of roadways, still spend more time, on average, than commuters who use trains and subways.

The statement above, if true, best support which of the following assertions about commuting in the congested urban areas mentioned above?

(A) Waiting in traffic accounts for approximately 25 percent of the commuting time for individuals who drive to their destinations.

(B) Walking between a subway or train station and one’ s final destinations does not, on a average, take longer than walking between one’ s car and one’ s final destination.

(C) Using carpool lanes does not, on average, reduce driving time by more than 25 percent.

(D) Individuals who commute via public buses spend approximately 25 percent more time in transit than those who commute using public trains or subways.

(E) Subways and trains are available in the majority of congested urban areas.

Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The word “assertion” coupled with the fact that the assertion is in the answer choices indicates that this is a Draw a Conclusion/Inference question.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

One set of notes might look like this:

 

Pub trans (trn, sub): ~25% < t than ppl using car

Even true for carpool

 

Step 3: State the Goal

You’ re looking for something that must be true using at least some of the presented information. It might be tempting to conclude that people “should” use public transportation-but note that this does n’ t have to be true. Don’ t introduce opinions or real-world logic.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

(A) While waiting in traffic probably does account for some of the commuting time, there’ s no reason why it must account for approximately 25% of that time. This might be an appropriate for a Strengthen question. But not for an Inference question. Eliminate answer (A).

(B) Careful! This one is tempting initially because it might cause someone to think, “Oh, wait, did they account for the time it takes to get from the subway to work or your house? Maybe this is it!” The difficulty here is that this length of time does not have to be similar to the length of time it takes to walk from the car to the final destination. The argument compares the overall commute time, not the time for smaller pieces of the commute. Eliminate answer (B).

(C) The argument does mention that “even” when someone uses a carpool lane, which should save time, it’ s still faster to take public transportation. Given that info, if public transportation also takes about 25% less time than using a car, then it actually must be the case that using a carpool lane does not (on average) save more than 25% of car commuting time. If it did, then carpooling might actually be faster than taking public transportation. Leave this answer in.

(D) The argument does not make a comparison between different forms of public transportation. Rather, it compares all of public transportation to all commuting by car. Eliminate answer (D).

(E) Tricky! Again, this one might make someone think, “Oh, they’ re assuming that public transportation is actually available!” Note first that this argument is assuming nothing at all-it does not contain a conclusion and, by definition, only arguments containing conclusions also have assumptions. Next, the argument provides actual data for areas that do have public transportation, so that’ s the only concern. Finally, the argument never specifies that these areas must have subways and trains, specifically (buses are also public transportation), nor does it specify that a “majority” of these areas have public transportation. In fact, the argument refers only to “certain congested urban areas.”

The correct answer is (C). Note that the correct answer addressed only one narrow part of the situation. It did not assume anything or go at all beyond the scope of the information given in the argument.

Problem Set

Use the four-step process taught for all ASPs, as well as any specific techniques recommended for that question type (e.g., the S-W-Slash chart). Consider all five answer choices before you make your final decision!

1. John was flying from San Francisco to New York with a connecting flight in Chicago on the same airline. Chicago’ s airport is one of the largest in the world, consisting of several small stand-alone terminals connected by trams. John’ s plane arrived on time. John was positive he would make his connecting flight 30 minutes later because________.

Which of the following most logically completes the argument above?

  1. John’ s airline is known for always being on time.
  2. A number of other passengers on John’ s first flight were also scheduled to take John’ s connecting flight.
  3. At the airport in Chicago, airlines always fly into and out of the same terminal
  4. John knew there was another flight to New York scheduled for one hour after the connecting flight he was scheduled to take.
  5. The airline generally closes tho doors of a particular flight 10 minutes before it is scheduled to take off.

2. Media Critic: Network executives have alleged television viewership is decreasing due to the availability of television programs on other platforms, such as the internet, video-on-demand, and mobile devices. These executives claim that declining viewership will cause advertising revenue to fall so far that networks will be unable to spend the large sums necessary to produce programs of the quality now available. That development, in turn, will lead to a dearth of programming for the very devices that cannibalized television’ s audience. However, technology executives point to research that indicates that users of these platforms increase the number of hours per week that they watch television because they are exposed to new programs and promotional spots through these alternate platforms. This analysis demonstrates that networks can actually increase their revenue through higher advertising rates, due to larger audiences lured to television through other media.

The portions in boldface play which of the following roles in the media critic’ s argument?

  1. The first is an inevitable trend that weighs against the critic’ s claim; the second is that claim.
  2. The first is a prediction that is challenged by the argument; the second is a finding upon which the argument depends.
  3. The first clarifies the reasoning behind the critic’ s claim; the second demonstrates why that claim is flawed.
  4. The first acknowledge a position that the technology executives accept as true; the second is a consequence of that position.
  5. The first opposes the critic’ s claim through an analogy; the second outlines a scenario in which that claim will not hold.

Solutions

The solution key sometimes shows sample notes to illustrate how they might look and to help you brainstorm abbreviations and other note-taking methods.

Ans 1) Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The blank in this Fill-in-the-Blank question is preceded by the word because, most commonly signaling a Strengthen question, but you’ ll need to read the argument to be sure. The beginning of that sentence contains the conclusion, so this is indeed a Strengthen question.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

The Chicago airport is busy and very large, consisting of several small stand-alone terminals. Despite this, John thinks he will make his connecting flight.

Step 3: State the Goal

The correct answer choice will make it a little more likely that John’ s conclusion is valid. The information needs to support the idea that he will make the connecting flight despite the size of the airport.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

(A) This is a general observation about the timelines of John’ s airline, but it does not provide any new information- the argument already states that John’ s particular flight arrived on time. The fact that his connecting flight will probably depart on time might even weaken the argument.

(B) Airlines have been known to delay flights in order to ensure that a large number of passengers can make the connection, but you should not have to make an additional assumption in order to say that this choice strengthens the given conclusion.

(C) CORRECT. Strengthen. John will not have to take a tram to another terminal in order to reach his connecting flight. The premises describe the individual terminals as “small.” If he can walk to his next flight in a small terminal, then 30 minutes is likely enough time to make the connection.

(D) This choice is out of scope. The argument concludes that John will make his current flight; the following flight has no bearing on John’ s ability to catch the flight on which he is currently booked.

(E) Slash/ Weaken. If anything, this choice weakens the idea that John will catch the connecting flight by shortening the length of time he has to get to the second flight’ s gate. He now has only 20 minutes, not 30.

Ans 2) Step 1: Identify the Question Type

The boldface font indicates that this is an Analyze the Argument question. Note that the question stem references the “media critic’ s argument”-this is the conclusion you want.

Step 2: Deconstruct the argument

The first three sentences describe the network executive’ s argument: alternate viewing platforms will cause fewer people to watch TV, resulting in lower advertising revenues. The networks then won’ t have enough money to continue producing high-quality programming, so everyone will lose, even the people who are watching on alternative viewing platforms.

The fourth sentence begins with the word “.however” The argument goes on to indicate that technology executives have research that contradicts the network executives’ view. The media critic then concludes that the networks can actually increase their advertising revenues.

The first boldface portion opposes this position by predicting smaller audiences; label it W. The second boldface lends support to the critic’ s conclusion by citing evidence that alternate media platforms lead their users to watch more television; label this one S.

Step 3: State the Goal

The correct answer will first describe a W and then a S.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

(A) The first boldface statement does weigh against the critic’ s claim, but it is a prediction, rather than an inevitable trend. The second boldface statement is a premise supporting the claim; it is not the conclusion itself.

(B) CORRECT. The critic’ s conclusion about a potential increase in network revenue is contrary to the first boldface statement’ s prediction about shrinking audiences and falling revenue. Also, the critic’ s argument also depend upon the second boldface statement’ s assertion that users of alternate devices will actually watch more hours of television.

(C) The first boldface statement opposes the critic’ s claim, rather than clarifies it. The second boldface statement is used to support the critic’ s claim; it does not indicate that the critic’ s claim is flawed.

(D) The argument does not indicate whether the technology executives accept or deny the prediction of the network executives. (Given, though, that the technology executives think that people will watch more television, not less, it does n’ t seem likely that the technology executives will agree with the network executives.) The second boldface statement contradicts the first one; it does not follow as a consequence.

(E) The first boldface statement offers a prediction, not an analogy. The second boldface statement is in agreement with, not in opposition to, the critic’ s claim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRE verbal reasoning format

GRE Verbal reasoning format

 

The GRE Verbal Reasoning measure contains three types of questions:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Text Completion
  • Sentence Equivalence

Reading comprehension multiple-choice questions:

Select One Answer Choice

Description: These are the traditional multiple-choice questions with five answer choices of which you must select one.

Strategy Tip:

Read all the answer choices before making your selection, even if you think you know what the answer is in advance. Don’ t be misled by answer choices that are only partially true or only partially answer the question. The correct answer is the one that most accurately and most completely answers the question posed.

Pay attention to context. When the question asks about the meaning of a word in the passage, be sure that the answer choice you select correctly represents the way the word is being used in the passage. Many words have quite different meanings in different contexts.

Select One or More Answer Choices

Description: For the question type “Select One or More Answer Choices,” you are given three statements about a passage and asked to “indicate all that apply”. Either one, two, or all three can be correct (there is no “none of above” option). There is no partial credit; you must indicate all of the correct choices and none of the incorrect choices.

Strategy Tip: On “Select One or More Answer Choices,” don’ t let your brain be tricked into telling you, “Well, if two of them have been right so far, the other one must be wrong,” or any other arbitrary idea about how many of the choices should be correct. Make sure to consider each choice independently! You cannot use “process of elimination” in the same way as you do on normal multiple-choice questions.

Select-in-Passage

Description: For the question type “Select-in-passage,” you are given an assignment such as “Select the sentence in the passage that explains why the experiment’ s results were discovered to be invalid”. Clicking anywhere on the sentence in the passage will highlight it. (As with any GRE question, you will have to click “Confirm” to submit your answer, so don’ t worry about accidentally selecting the wrong sentence due to a slip of the mouse.)

Strategy Tip: On “Select-in-Passage,” if the passage is short, consider numbering each sentence (i.e., writing 1 2 3 4 on your paper) and crossing off each choice as you determine that it is n’ t the answer. If the passage is long, you might write a number for each paragraph (1,2,3), and tick off each number as you determine that the correct sentence is not located in that paragraph.

Questions 1 to 3 is based on the following reading passage.

Reviving the practice of using elements of popular music in classical composition an approach that had been in hibernation in the United States during the 1960s, composer Philip Glass (born 1937) embraced the ethos of popular music in his compositions. Glass based two symphonies on music by rock musicians David Bowie and Brian Eno, but the symphonies’ sound is distinctively his. Popular elements do not appear out of place in Glass’ s classical musical, which from its early days has shared certain harmonies and rhythms with rock music. Yet this use of popular elements has not made Glass a composer of popular music. His music is not a version of popular music packaged to attract classical listeners; it is not a version of popular music packaged to attract classical listeners; it is high art for listeners steeped in rock rather than the classics.

Select only one answer choice

  1. The passage addresses which of the following issues related to Glass’ s use of popular elements in his classical compositions?
  2. How it is regarded by listeners who prefer rock to the classics.
  3. How it has affected the commercial success of Glass’ s music.
  4. Whether it has contributed to a revival of interest among other

Consider each of the three choices separately and select all that apply

  1. The passage suggests that Glass’ s work displays which of the following qualities?
  2. A return to the use of popular music in classical compositions.
  3. An attempt to elevate rock music to an artistic status more closely approximating that of classical music
  4. A long-standing tendency to incorporate elements from two apparently disparate musical styles.
  5. Select the sentence that distinguishes two ways of integrating rock and classical music.

Explanation

The passage describes in general terms how Philip Glass uses popular music in his classical compositions and explores how Glass can do this without being imitative. Note that there are no opposing views discussed; the author is simply presenting his or her views.

Answer1: One of the important points that the passage makes is that when Glass uses popular elements in his music, the result is very much his own creation (it is “distinctively his”). In other words, the music is far from being derivative. Thus one issue that the passage addresses is the one referred to in answer Choice E—it answers it in the negative. The passage does not discuss the impact of Glass’ s use of popular elements on listeners, on the commercial success of his music, on other composers, nor on Glass’ s reputation, so none of Choices A through D is correct.

The correct answer is Choice E.

Answer2: To answer this question, it is important to assess each answer choice independently. Since the passage says that Glass revived the use of popular music in classical compositions, answer Choice A is clearly correct. On the other hand, the passage also denies that Glass composes popular music or packages it in a way to elevate its status, so answer Choice B is incorrect. Finally, since Glass’ s style has always mixed elements of rock with classical elements, Choice C is correct.

Thus, the correct answer is Choice A and Choice C.

Answer 3: Almost every sentence in the passage refers to incorporating rock music in classical compositions, but only the last sentence distinguishes two ways of doing so. It distinguishes between writing rock music in a way that will make it attractive to classical listeners and writing classical music that will be attractive to listeners familiar with rock.

Thus the correct answer is the last sentence of the passage.

Verbal: Text completion questions

Text completions can consist of 1-5 sentences with 1-3 blanks. When Text completions have two or three blanks, you will select words or short phrases for those blanks independently. There is no partial credit; you must make every selection correctly.

Strategy Tip:

  • Read the passage to get an overall sense of it.
  • Identify words or phrases that seem particularly significant, either because they emphasize the structure of the passage (words like although or moreover) or because they are central to understanding what the passage is about.
  • Think up your own words for the blanks. Try to fill in the blanks with words or phrases that seem to you to fit and then see if similar words are offered among the answer choices.
  • Double-check your answers. When you have made your selection for each blank. Check to make sure that the passage is logically, grammatically, and stylistically coherent.

Sample Questions

Q 1) In parts of the Arctic, the land grades into the landfast ice so ______ that you can walk off the coast and not know you are over the hidden sea.

  1. Permanently
  2. Imperceptibly
  3. Irregularly
  4. Precariously
  5. Relentlessly

Ans) “Relentlessly” means less severely or less harshly. “Precariously” means not safely or dangerously. “Imperceptibly” means impossible to see or notice.

The word that fills the blank has to characterize how the land grades into the ice in a way that explains how you can walk off the coast and over the sea without knowing it. The word that does that is “imperceptibly”; if the land grades imperceptibly into the ice, you might well not know that you had left the land.

Q 2) Leaders are not always expected to (i)_________ the same rules as are those they lead; leaders are often looked up to for a surety and presumption that would be viewed as (ii)__________ in most others.

a)Decree                    (d) Hubris

b) Proscribe               (e) Avarice

c) Conform to             (f) Anachronism

Ans) “Decree” means an official order. “Proscribe” means to make something illegal. “Hubris” means exaggerated pride or self-confidence. “Avarice” means a strong desire to have or get money. “Anachronism” means something (such as a word or an event) that is mistakenly placed with respect to time.

In the first blank, you need a word similar to “follow.” In the second blank, you need a word similar to “arrogance.” The correct answers are conform to and hubris.

Q 3) It is refreshing to read a book about our planet by an author who does not allow facts to be (i)______ by politics; well aware of the political disputes about the effects of human activities on climate and biodiversity, this author does not permit them to (ii)_________ his comprehensive description of what we know about our biosphere. He emphasizes the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the (iii)_______, calling attention to the many aspects of planetary evolution that must be better understood before we can accurately diagnose the condition of our planet.

a) Overshadowed d) Enhance            g) Plausibility of our hypotheses

b) Invalidated        e) Obscure             h) Certainty of our entitlement

c) Illuminated         f) Underscore        i) Superficiality of our theories

Ans) The overall tone of the passage is clearly complimentary. To understand what the author of the book is being complimented on, it is useful to focus on the second blank. Here, we must determine what word would indicate something that the author is praised for not permitting. The only answer choice that fits the case is “obscure,” since enhancing and underscoring are generally good things to do, not things one should refrain from doing. Choosing “obscure” clarifies the choice for the first blank; the only choice that fits well with “obscure” is “overshadowed.” Notice that trying to fill blank (i) without filling blank (ii) first is very hard-each choice has at least some initial plausibility. Since the third blank requires a phrase that matches “enormous gaps” and “sparseness of our observations,” the best choice is “superficiality of our theories.”

Thus the correct answer is overshadowed (Choice A), Obscure (Choice E), and superficiality of our theories (Choice I).

Verbal: Sentence equivalence questions

For this question type, you are given one sentence with a single blank. There are six answer choices, and you are asked to pick two choices that fit the blank and are similar in meaning.

No partial credit is given on Sentence Equivalence; both correct answers must be selected and no incorrect answers may be selected.

Here is a sample set of answer choices:

  1. Tractable
  2. Taciturn
  3. Arbitrary
  4. Tantamount
  5. Reticent
  6. Amenable

Tractable and amenable (tractable, amenable people will do whatever you want them to do) are similar in meaning. Taciturn and Reticent (both mean “not talkative”) also form a pair. Arbitrary (based on one’ s own will) and tantamount (equivalent) are not similar in meaning and therefore cannot be a pair. Therefore, the only possible correct answer pairs are (A) and (F), and (B) and (E). Now, you have to choose one-word group out of two.

The question is deliberately omitted here in order to illustrate how much you can do with the choices alone, if you have studied vocabulary sufficiently. “Learn words in groups” is a tip given by all GRE trainers especially to attempt sentence equivalence questions. Considering this, on our blog we have written forty-five chapters on GRE vocabulary using word groups to enhance vocabulary of students so that they can answer sentence equivalence questions comfortably.

Strategy tip: Analyze answer choices first and form possible word groups. If there is the only one-word group you can easily answer the question. If there are two or three-word groups, analyze the sentence- read for a textual clue that tells you what type of word must go in the blank. Then choose a suitable word group.

Sample Questions

Q 1) While athletes usually expect to achieve their greatest feats in their teens or twenties, opera singers don’ t reach the ________ of their vocal powers until middle age.

  1. Harmony
  2. Zenith
  3. Acme
  4. Terminus
  5. Nadir
  6. Cessation

Ans) “Acme” means the highest point of something. “Zenith” means successful period or highest point. “Nadir” means lowest point of something. “Terminus” means end of something. “Cessation” means stopping of some action. “Harmony” means pleasing combination of different musical notes. “Zenith” and “Acme” form a pair. “Terminus” and “Cessation” also form a pair.

Now, analyze the sentence. We need a word similar in meaning to “greatest feats”. Therefore, correct answer choices are (B) and (C).

 

Most Popular Resources

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