Prepping for the GRE’s Test of Your Reading Comprehension

Use Your Own Words

The greatest weapons you have against the GRE are your own words. You are probably wondering how that could possibly be, or perhaps snidely thinking, “Yes, I have some choice words for the GRE.” But when you consistently phrase the passage and the questions in your own words, you engage yourself in the passage and are less likely to fall for the traps in the answer choices.

But using your own words is a skill that doesn’t come naturally. Indeed, it is easy to lapse into the default mode of scanning the passage and then diving into the questions, taking little notice of the question itself and heading straight to the answers. If you notice yourself falling prey to the default mode, stop yourself. Instead, use your own words in the following manner:

Break Down the Passage

After you have finished reading the passage, you should be able to, yep you guessed, describe your passage in your own words. You do not have to be able to cough up every bit, but summarizing the main thrust of the passage using your own language will make it easier for you to navigate the passage. You will also be better prepared for the next step…

Answer the Question

Many are tempted to read the answer choices as soon as they have finished reading the question. After all, the answer is one of the five choices below. By giving into this temptation, you let the test writers trick you. Yes, that is their goal – to see if they can corrupt your interpretation of the passage with one of their many traps. For instance, you may find yourself looking for words in the passage that are similar to those found in an answer choice.

By answering the question in your own words, however, you are forced to go back to the passage and answer the question yourself. While this many sound time-consuming, once you’ve found the relevant part of the passage and put the answer into your own words, the process of matching our answer with one of the answer choices far faster.


By breaking down the passage in your own words and answering the question in your own words, you will comprehend the passage at a deeper level and, hopefully, not let the GRE’s traps ensnare you.

This post was written by Chris Lele, GRE and GMAT Expert at Magoosh Test Prep. Magoosh offers hundreds of practice questions and video lessons, as well as free resources and tips on how to master the GRE and GMAT. Read our Reading Comprehension page to learn more strategies for tough passages on the new GRE.