One of the most important aspects of preparing for reading comprehension in the GRE is preliminary reading — that is, reading to be done before you start tackling GRE RC passages in order to prepare you for the challenges that those passages will throw up.
One challenge that you will face on Reading Comprehension passages is that they tend to be about unfamiliar topics and concepts; and talk about unfamiliar terms and fields. They use difficult phrasing and vocabulary, and complicated sentence structure. The only way to get used to the level of complexity you will find in GRE passages is to read widely.
Another challenge is the fact that reading passages on screen means that you may not be able to see the whole passage at a time, and may have to scroll up and down to read the rest of the passage. This is very different from reading on paper, where you can usually see the whole passage on screen at a glance. The fact that, when reading longer passages onscreen, you will not be able to see the whole of the passage at once makes comprehending the passage much more difficult.
Reading widely both on paper and onscreen will help you build up the skills that you need to meet the challenges presented by reading comprehension passages in the GRE. The reading material suggested here is arranged, and should be read, in the following order:
- General Reading on Paper
- General Reading on Screen
- Easy RC
Once you have completed the preparatory reading you can go on to actual GRE RC practice (see below):
- Medium-level GRE RC
- Hard GRE RC
- ETS Material
Going through the material in the order given will help you to get to the required competence in reading skills and tackling questions in easy stages.
General Reading on Paper — Newspaper Editorials
Newspaper editorials are short and have language that is fairly close to what you find in GRE RC passages in terms of both vocabulary and complexity of sentence structure. Unlike GRE passages, however, they deal with topics that are familiar and so can be easily understood. The familiarity of the subject matter will help you deal with, and get used to, the complex language and high-level vocabulary in GRE reading comprehension passages.
When you read, summarize the editorials (or any other articles, essays or passages that you read) as if explaining to a 5th Std. student. This will force you to be brief, clear and simple. If you can read and discuss editorials in groups of 2 or 3, then you can get greater clarity about the main idea of the editorial and how to present it. Apply this approach to all other passages that you read.
General Reading on Screen — Websites
As explained above, reading RC passages is more difficult when the passage is on the computer screen. To prepare for practice with reading onscreen which is required to take computer-based tests therefore, read websites like
Note: the articles on the websites mentioned above are very long so, if you are not used to reading very much, read only a little at a time — may be just 5–10 lines at a time. Gradually increase the amount you read (to 15 or 20 lines and over time to 30–40 lines) and increase your stamina.
Reading such articles will also expose you to a broad range of topics and to concepts and vocabulary outside the scope of your usual reading. Other useful sites include:
- sciencenews.org (good explanations of terms you may have forgotten in the children’s articles)
- the-scientist.com (life science)
Read these websites in conjunction with:
- dictionary.com — for explanations of unfamiliar words
- Wikipedia — for explanations of unfamiliar terms, concepts, fields, people etc. that you encounter in your reading.
Easy RC — TOEFL® Reading Comprehension Passages
TOEFL RC passages are easier than those in the GRE, but (unlike the editorials and websites) they contain Reading Comprehension questions. Since the passages and questions are easier than those in the GRE, TOEFL RC passages provide a good ‘warm up’ which will prepare you to move from articles and editorials to actual GRE RC passages.