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“GMAT Reading Comprehension: ‘Everything Except…’”

Focus on this difficult question type

One common question on GMAT Reading Comprehension is something along the lines: “In this passage, the author argues all of the following EXCEPT that . . .” What strategy can we use to take on this frequent and difficult question?

Think as the test-maker thinks

Think about the folks who write the GMAT.  When they write a question that says, “The passage said all of the following EXCEPT . . .”, what kinds of answer choices do they have to have?  Four of the answers have to be clearly and unambiguously in the passage; these four have to be anchored with direct textual references.  For those four, the four that are not the answer to the question, you will be able to find clear evidence in black-and-white that the passage does talk about it.

Patterns of correct answers

The answer choice that is the correct answer will be something that doesn’t appear in the passage exactly like that —- but, it will resemble the other answers, insofar as it frequently will use keywords and jargon from the passage.

One favorite pattern is to scramble the words from one part of the passage so that they say something that not related to, or even contradictory to, what the passage said.  For example, in a passage about tin production in Brazil and copper production in Chile, it would be easy for “not in the passage” to swap things around, making a statement about tin from Chile or copper from Brazil, Brazil’s tin sales to Chile, Chile’s copper sales to Brazil, etc. etc.

Another favorite trick it to take a sentiment from the passage and make it more extreme.  Extreme is never right on GMAT Reading Comprehension: everything is about moderating, balancing, considering all points of view.  For example, consider a passage in which the author pointed out some of the advantages of the Dvorak keyboard over the traditional QWERTY keyboard.  It would be too extreme, and therefore a good “not in the passage” answer, to say that the author suggested “that the Dvorak keyboard is clearly the best keyboard layout available today.”

Keep these strategies in mind, and soon you will be dealing with these questions with everything EXCEPT difficulty.

Here’s a free practice question of this genre: http://gmat.magoosh.com/questions/279

This post was written by Mike McGarry, GMAT expert at Magoosh, and originally posted here.

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