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How to Read Faster: GMAT Reading Comprehension

GMAT Speed ReadingWith world war II, 9-5 jobs emerged. Documentation became an integral part of an office job. Reading through hundreds of documents, and filtering the must have from the routine was one skill that Employers treasured. That is when in late 1950s, Evelyn Wood coined the term "speed reading". A researcher and a schoolteacher, Mrs. Wood was fascinated by the difference in reading speed of equally qualified professionals. In an act of desperately finishing a book, she used the sweeping motion of her hand to read chunks of sentences. This technique later became the basis for “Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Dynamics.”

While preparing for GMAT, Students are apprehensive about using speed-reading courses citing lack of evidence in comprehension. The worry is qualified as aggressive reading in place of speed-reading can decrease comprehension. Skimming Techniques help you answer ‘title of the passage’ question but is ineffective in details question and inference questions in some cases. A combination of speed-reading and comprehensive reading is the solution.

Before you start adopting a technique:

1) Pick dense reading material

GMAT reading comprehension passages are about ecology, historical events, policy decisions or one of the latest research papers from Scientific Journal. Test creators ensures that you have limited or no knowledge of the reading material. This forces you to depend on the passage for information.

2) Measure your performance

After you have picked up a dense reading material, it is time to measure your reading speed. The most common metric is words per minute, but that limits your ability to measure when you are slowing down. A better approach would be to divide the passage into paragraphs, and measure the reading speed of each paragraph. The traditional words per minute metric can be used for each paragraph.

3) Set Baseline

After you have set a baseline for your reading speed, note down the metric for each context.

Words per Minute – Introduction
Words per Minute – Details
Words per Minute – Full Passage
Words per Minute – Type of Passage (Science, Astronomy, Social Science, Politics, History)
Once you are aware where you are slowing down, improvements can be made by systematically reading and attempting denser subject matters in the same weaker topics.

GMAT Speed Reading Techniques


Stop Sub-vocalization


If you are reading the words in your mind or whispering the passage as you read, speed and comprehension are likely to go down. Changing a learned behavior takes time. With just 2-3 months for GMAT preparation, breaking this pattern requires drastic changes. A common technique to break this habit is repeating an unrelated sentence loudly as you read the passage. Let’s use “I will master GMAT RC”. This repetition serves two purposes. It acts as an affirmative command, and blocks our sub-conscious from reading the words in our mind. Initially, the speed will be low but our goal is changing sub-vocalization. With 3-10 passages, the behavior will alter.

Z-Method


Reading line by line limits your speed reading capacity. You will not lose any comprehension if you follow a z-pattern. Initially, the Z-style reading would seem confusing but with just 3-5 passages, the new style will become second nature. What Z-Style reading does is combining three lines and taking the gist of the “word chunk.” Instead of sequentially tracing the flow of ideas line by line, this sweeping motion captures more than what traditional eye scan can.
Regress if Necessary

Although speed reading experts have discouraged readers from reading words and sentences already read, research by Elizabeth R. Schotter, Randy Tran, and Keith Rayner from UCSD Department of Psychology has proved that regressing improves comprehension. By knowing that speed-reading allows for regression, pressure to retain the meaning of each sentence decreases, and focus is shifted on understanding context, intent of the author, and evidence presented for formulating an opinion.

Skimming

Don’t use skimming while reading the passage for the first time. Use them when the question is about finding a detail embedded in a paragraph or what the author means by the “sentence” or a line number.

Scanning


Scanning like skimming results in reduced comprehension. Use it for questions about main idea, author’s biases, assumptions, and paragraph structure. No matter which speed reading technique you use, not all of them will work for you. Choose techniques and practice on easier to tougher reading comprehension passages before shortlisting the ones for your final GMAT exam.


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The above post is an Excerpt from Essential GMAT Reading Comprehension Guide. Download it here

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