Reading Comprehension Techniques for the GMAT

Instructor: Joe Ricker

Joe has a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Success in life is often determined by your ability to take an exam. The techniques for reading comprehension in this lesson are simple and will increase your chances of success on the GMAT.

It's a Matter of Understanding

The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is used by MBA programs across the country to measure the potential success of program applicants. Each reading passage on the GMAT will take from one to four minutes to read, and will be followed up by questions designed to evaluate your comprehension. Students who graduate MBA programs go into business administration fields, so your ability to understand what you read is crucial to being an effective leader. There are four basic techniques (Four Ps) that you can use to get the best score possible on the reading comprehension section of the GMAT:

  • Prediction
  • Purpose
  • Pace
  • Practice


Prediction is simply having some familiarity with the types of questions you'll be asked after each reading passage on the GMAT. Knowing the types of question that you might encounter helps you to focus on the material to get the most out of what you read. Questions on the GMAT will come in six different forms:

  • Main idea questions - Main idea questions are the most common in each reading section and ask you to answer a general question on what the material was about. Typically, you find that information at the beginning of each passage.
  • Supporting details questions - These questions ask you about supporting details, which are the facts and information used by the author to support the main idea of the passage.
  • Inference questions - Inferences are suggested ideas that the author would agree with based on the passage you've read. These types of questions ask you to take the information in each passage and determine if the author would agree with an idea related to the main idea of the passage.
  • Comparison questions - Comparison questions come in the form of analogies. They ask you to apply the information from the passage to a new concept that you didn't encounter in the reading.
  • Contrast questions - Contrast questions are similar to inference questions, but focus on the author's logic within the passage. They ask you about the different ideas in the passage that the author might agree or disagree with, or if the author supports ideas that were not traditionally accepted.
  • Perspective - Perspective questions refer to the author's feelings about the material in the passage. Was the author critical or biased? What did the author seem to feel about the material?

Being able to predict the types of questions you might be asked also helps direct your note-taking, which can be very useful to reading comprehension.


Like most standardized tests, the GMAT is a series of timed sections. Reading with a purpose is essential to make the most economical use of your time. Knowledge of the types of questions the GMAT will ask you helps you prepare for the test; however, when you begin each reading passage, the first question is next to the passage. Before you begin to read the passage, read that question first. This gives you an insight into the information that you're looking for in the passage. In other words, it gives you a specific purpose for your reading. The GMAT will only show you one question at a time, but knowing that first question gives you a slight advantage for the time you'll spend answering subsequent questions.

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