GRE Reading Comprehension: Red Light, Green Light
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,
Other mathematicians have reservations about…
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.