Aug
29
2012

# GRE Reading Comprehension: Red Light, Green Light

Last week, I introduced a very challenging GRE passage about fractals. Be sure to begin at that blog entry for context, then continue here for the rest of the story.

In this example, the colon after self-similarity acts as a “green light” keyword — “Don’t worry about this!” it tells you, giving you rein to drive on by. Here’s another example from the end of the passage:

Enthusiastic practitioners in the field of fractal geometry consider it a new language…

What’s the rest of the sentence going to give you? The “enthusiastic practitioners’” point of view. And is that important? Yes – different points of view are extremely important. Fortunately, the word “enthusiastic” tells you everything you need to know — these guys love fractal geometry. This keyword acts as a yellow light — you can keep driving, but keep your eyes peeled in case the point of view shifts. The next sentence begins,

They anticipate that fractal geometry’s significance…

Who’s this? The word “they” signals that it’s still the eager guys. So, don’t worry about this sentence. The next one begins,

Whoa — okay, there’s our first red light. The author has raised a different point of view — and these people aren’t nearly as excited about fractal geometry as the first group. So, pay attention: what’s the source of the disagreement?

Other mathematicians have reservations about the fractal geometers’ preoccupation with computer-generated graphic images and their lack of interest in theory.

Aha — so the Eager Beavers of the first group love fractal geometry and think it’s great, while the Surly Smurfs of the second group think that the people doing fractal geometry are too distracted with pretty pictures to do actual math. This is important to understand, because clashing points of view are always important in a passage, so here is where you need to slow down and pay attention.

Of course, colons and points of view aren’t the only traffic light keywords you’ll encounter on the GRE. Still, every passage constantly flashes lights at you, telling you to either breeze along, slow down, or stop and pay attention — look for these signals and your GRE reading comprehension speed will increase, not because you’re reading more quickly but because you’re reading more intelligently.

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#### About the Author: Boris Dvorkin

After picking up degrees in English and computer science from Case Western, Boris Dvorkin worked for six unfortunate months as a computer programmer before finding a home at Kaplan in May 2008. He is now a full-time GRE faculty member on-site and online, and he's worked on Kaplan's curriculum for the recent GRE revision. Boris was named Kaplan's Teacher of the Year for 2010. When he's not gushing about standardized test trivia, Boris enjoys playing obscure strategy board games, and is the proud owner of no less than three different board games about Portuguese spice merchants.

• Raghav

Got only 8 Days and the countdown has begun…….confident for Quants but no practice in Verbal….cudn’t learn a single word from the wordlist due to time constraints ……..very much nervous…….how should I utilize these 8 Days……..quite overwhelmed u see….help

• Boris Dvorkin

Raghav, you are putting way too much pressure on yourself! It’s the GRE. Nobody’s dying. Postpone your test and study properly before you take it.

Lots of students ask, “I only have X days. What should I do?” Well, if X days were sufficient for proper study, then we’d only tell students to allow X days in the first place. The GRE takes a lot of time and dedication to master; I’d be fooling you if I claimed that I had any magical advice that would magically let you do in 8 days what it takes a typical GRE students months to accomplish.

Bottom line: postpone Test Day and give yourself the time you need!

• Alice

That was really useful, thank you!

• Boris Dvorkin

Alice, I’m so glad you liked it! Thanks for letting us know.