Verbal > Reading Comprehension

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Reading Comprehension questions are designed to test abilities required to read and understand the kinds of prose commonly encountered in graduate school.

Those abilities include

  • Understanding the meaning of individual words
  • Understanding the meaning of individual sentences
  • Understanding the meaning of paragraphs and larger bodies of text
  • Distinguishing between minor and major points
  • Summarizing a passage
  • Drawing conclusions from the information provided
  • Reasoning from incomplete data, inferring missing information
  • Understanding the structure of a text, how the parts relate to one another
  • Identifying the author's perspective
  • Identifying the author's assumptions
  • Analyzing a text and reaching conclusions about it
  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses
  • Developing and considering alternative explanations

General Advice

Read and analyze the passage carefully before trying to answer any of the questions and pay attention to clues that help you understand less explicit aspects of the passage.

  • Try to distinguish main ideas from supporting ideas or evidence.
    • Try to distinguish ideas that the author is advancing from those he or she is merely reporting.
    • Similarly, try to distinguish ideas that the author is strongly committed to from those he or she advances as hypothetical or speculative.
    • Try to identify the main transitions from one idea to the next.
    • Try to identify the relationship between different ideas. For example:
      • Are they contrasting? Are they consistent?
      • Does one support the other?
      • Does one spell another out in greater detail?
      • Is one an application of another to a particular circumstance?
  • Read each question carefully and be certain that you understand exactly what is being asked.
  • Answer each question on the basis of the information provided in the passage and do not rely on outside knowledge.

Reading Comprehension Multiple-Choice Questions - Select One Answer Choice


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

Tips for Answering

  • Read all the answer choices before making your selection
  • Don't be misled by answer choices that are only partially true or only partially answer the question.
  • Pay attention to context.

Reading Comprehension Multiple-Choice Questions - Select One or More Answer Choices


These provide three answer choices and ask you to select all that are correct; one, two, or all three of the answer choices may be correct. To gain credit for these questions, you must select all the correct answers, and only those; there is no credit for partially correct answers. These questions are marked with square boxes beside the answer choices, not circles or ovals.

Tips for Answering

  • Evaluate each answer choice separately on its own merits
  • Make sure the answer choice you pick accurately and completely answers the question posed.
  • Do not be disturbed if you think all three answer choices are correct.

Reading Comprehension Questions - Select-in-Passage


The question asks you to click on the sentence in the passage that meets a certain description. To answer the question, choose one of the sentences and click on it; clicking anywhere on a sentence will highlight it. In longer passages, the question will usually apply to only one or two specified paragraphs, marked by an arrow (>); clicking on a sentence elsewhere in the passage will not highlight it.

Note - Because this type of question requires the use of the computer, it does not appear in the paper-based General Test. Similar multiple-choice questions are used in its place.

Tips for Answering

  • Be careful to evaluate each of the relevant sentences in the passage separately before selecting your answer.
  • Do not select a sentence if the description given in the question only partially applies.

Sample Question Set


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 without imitating it. 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 music, 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 high art for listeners steeped in rock rather than the classics.

Select only one answer choice:

Q1. The passage addresses which of the following issues related to Glass's use of popular elements in his classical compositions?


  1. How it is regarded by listeners who prefer rock to the classics
  2. How it has affected the commercial success of Glass's music
  3. Whether it has contributed to a revival of interest among other composers in using popular elements in their compositions
  4. Whether it has had a detrimental effect on Glass's reputation as a composer of classical music.
  5. Whether it has caused certain of Glass's works to be derivative in quality


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.

Answer Explanation: 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.


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

Q2. The passage suggests that Glass's work displays which of the following qualities?


  1. A return to the use of popular music in classical compositions
  2. An attempt to elevate rock music to an artistic status more closely approximating that of classical music
  3. A long-standing tendency to incorporate elements from two apparently disparate musical styles

Answer Explanation: 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.



Q3. Select the sentence that distinguishes two ways of integrating rock and classical music.

Answer Explanation: 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.


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