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Many GMAT test-takers find this to be one of the least favorite areas in the GMAT EXAM; however, it is entirely possible to score well in this kind of question with a little practice. This article suggests some tactics that, if well applied, might just be what you need to attain that high-end GMAT score you are targeting.
Assume that one or two of the four assumed passages per verbal section are going to be these denser reading comprehension passages. Usually, it involves one long paragraph about a technically specific topic that you are probably not familiar with.
They are potentially reading comprehension-style content. They could also be integrated reasoning, multi-source content, or two-part analysis questions. Remember that in the verbal reasoning section, you may not want to skip these to save time because you may end up missing two, three, or even four questions in a row. The same applies if it is integrated reasoning or multi-source content. However, if it is a two-part analysis, you may have a little more flexibility since you can decide to guess and move on in order to maintain pace, knowing that it will only affect that one two-part analysis question.
Read carefully and slowly to ensure that you comprehend the content. You cannot rush through it, you must engage with the passage through a dense reading comprehension mapping that this article outlines.
When working on this kind of question, and in general any reading comprehension passages and, to a degree, critical reasoning note-taking processes, consider using the online whiteboard textbox. This will facilitate sentence-by-sentence passage mapping. The online whiteboard textbox may not be very useful for the quantitative reasoning section or process elimination; however, on the at-home exam administration, the online whiteboard may come in handy. typing in notes may be faster than handwriting on a physical whiteboard or any other kind of whiteboard.
Use initials or shorthand to simplify unfamiliar jargon or acronyms. You could use a “variable”, for instance, to represent long numbering nomenclature. Don’t even waste time trying to pronounce difficult, long, scientific names mentally. Use initials and shorthand and save yourself some very valuable time.
Synthesize the information as you go and note the location of your subject to better answer subsequent questions. Mapping does not only help you engage with the passage; it also tells you where to go back and get information. When you refer to your notes, you can easily pinpoint exactly where to locate a given subject matter for the purpose of answering a particular question.
Given its rugged coastline and dearth of safe boat landings, ancient foraging on Anacapa Island must have been relatively challenging. Today, fresh water is found only in an isolated spring with no perennial running water on any of the island segments. As a result, vegetation is currently dominated by coastal bluff scrubs and coastal sage scrubs, with trees and shrubs limited primarily to two protected gullies on the northern slopes of west Anacapa and at Shepherd’s landing on Middle Anacapa. California sea lions and harbor seals are commonly seen in the waters and rocks around the island. Still, the absence of an extensive beach, except at Frenchy’s Cove on West Anacapa, limits the area for pinnipeds to haul out. The rocky coasts of Anacapa support rich rocky intertidal and kelp forest ecosystems, and the island is more exposed to the warm, southerly waters of the California countercurrent than some of the other northern Channel Islands. The steep slopes of the island likely made it difficult for people to bring marine resources to sites on the top of the island, although access may have been easier in the past. Anacapa Island hosts enormous colonies of nesting birds, especially western gulls(Larus occidentalis) and brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), the latter of which use Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands as a primary nesting area along the west coast of the United States.
We will summarize a sentence at a time. S1 represents sentence 1.
“Dearth ” as used in this sentence, means “no safe”. It is best that you use your term in the summary. If you don’t know the meaning, just don’t worry about it; just note that we are talking about boat landings.
Instead of writing “coastal bluff scrubs and coastal sage scrubs”, we simply write “CBS and CSS”.
There is a lot of other information in the sentence, and yet the basic communication here is the lack of beaches for sea lions and seals to rest on. It may not be necessary to concern yourself with the details or even the meaning of a word like Pinnipeds if you don’t know its meaning, even though you can make out the meaning from the context.
You may include or not the talk about the water, but you probably will remember where it is anyway. Remember, as we go further, your summary notes are likely to get shorter as you get better acquainted with the passage.
The scientific names are not important, and you can use initials to represent the names of the birds and other nouns in the sentence.
We will now use this map to answer questions from the passage. There is only so much room on the screen, and the map is probably going to disappear, but for the simple reason that we went through the passage so deliberately, we are probably going to remember where everything is.
According to the passage, each of the following can be presently found on Anacapa Island EXCEPT:
We are looking for what presently cannot be found on Anacapa Island. From our passage map, we remember sea lions and harbor seals mentioned in sentence 4, underlined in the passage. We can hold choice C for now. Fresh water is mentioned in sentence 3, also underlined. Nesting birds(pelicans) are said to be on the island, sentence 7. By the process of elimination, our correct answer is choice C. But we can still read it back into the passage just to confirm that there are indeed no protected harbors on the island. “Given its rugged coastline and dearth of safe boat landings”. Be on the lookout for unfamiliar paraphrasing meant to confuse you. Elimination is a good safeguard to protect yourself against any confusion that may result from such paraphrases.
Prediction: give a location where sea lions and harbor seals can ‘haul out’’
The reference to Frenchy’s Cove is most likely intended to
“Intended to” means we are looking for the reason why it is there. We can get where Frenchy’s Cove is mentioned from the passage map, so hopefully, there won’t be much need to go back to the passage.
Prediction: Dominated by CBS and CSS
With which of the following statements regarding the vegetation of Anacapa Island would the author most likely agree?
We have to go back to the passage and find the term vegetation. Then we will read around it, at least a sentence above and a sentence below. The passage map will also help determine how much you are required to read.
Today, fresh water is found only in an isolated spring with perennial running water on any of the island segments. As a result, vegetation is currently dominated by coastal bluff scrubs and coastal sage scrubs, with trees and shrubs limited primarily to two protected gullies on the northern slopes of west Anacapaand at Shepherd’s landing on Middle Anacapa.
Scuba-based observations and experiments helped promote the idea that positive interactions among species play key roles in the maintenance of biodiversity of facilitating the persistence of habitats created by foundation species, which are now often called physical ecosystem engineers.
This critical role was demonstrated for Panamanian coral reefs in the early 1970s by elegant experiments following Peter Glynn’s observations that Trapezia crabs and Alpheus snapping shrimp living within branching pocillopora coral colonies prevented the crown of thorns starfish Acanthaster planci from feeding on the corals. Pocilloporid colonies where protective symbionts were experimentally removed suffered higher rates of destruction by A. planci, and coral diversity was higher where the crown of thorns starfish was prevented from foraging.
Another example of positive interactions affecting foundation species, and ultimately, species diversity, comes from the Caribbean fore-reef slope.
It was hypothesized that sponges enhance the persistence of foliaceous corals on the steep forereef slope by binding the corals to the reef frame.
Corals fell off the slope on manipulated reefs where divers removed the sponges from the coral interstices, resulting in elevated coral mortality. Later work in similar habitats showed that the underside of foliaceous corals supports an exceptionally high diversity of epifaunal invertebrates. Thus, the positive effect of sponges on foliaceous corals enhances community-wide biodiversity.
Which of the following would be most analogous to the ‘elegant experiments’’ mentioned in the passage?
Here is another dense reading comprehension passage and a question. If this is the first question, then you need to decide if you want to read this specifically for the term referenced “elegant experiments,” or do you want to engage with the whole passage? We can see from the way it is constructed that this is a rather dense and technical passage. For the purposes of this article, let us engage with the whole passage.
S1) Scuba observations and experiments promote the idea that species interactions are key to maintaining biodiversity.
S2) For Panamanian coral reefs, experiments following P.Gs observed that some organisms stopped starfish from feeding on the corals.
S3) Experiments showed that removing the organisms hurt reefs. Biodiversity was higher when starfish stopped feeding.
S4) Introduces another experiment showing species interaction improves the biodiversity of reefs.
S5) Intro the hypothesis that sponges enhance reef
S6) If sponges are removed, reef mortality increases.
S7) Later work showed high biodiversity on the underside of the corals
S8) Sponges lead to enhanced biodiversity for reefs in total
Remember to use initials and shorthand in the way that suits you. This can be quite a long process, and often, the exam introduces difficulty by giving you more things to do. It will probably take you three to five minutes to break all this down and type it out, so you have to decide if it is a worthy effort. Remember also that there could be three or four questions here, and you can use this information for the subsequent questions.
For the above question, we know our experiments are in sentences 4 – 7, where they removed the sponges or returned them and saw what happened. S3 is another experiment that involved the starfish. So basically, we are looking for something that would match the idea, where something is removed or introduced, and then observations are made.
Answer choice A is way too broad and does not match what we read, so can eliminate it. “Longitudinal means “it goes on for a long time.” But if you don’t know what it means, just focus on “entire order”. These experiments were pretty specific, and it automatically rules out choice A.
Choice B is a reversal. The experiments were not done outside of their natural habitat but rather inside. So we can eliminate this.
Answer choice C is also a reversal. The experiments were not conducted in a laboratory but in the field.
Choice D seems closer but is again another reversal since no artificial coral reefs were built. The experiments were conducted outside, in nature.
E is very similar. It only changes sponges and starfish for seahorses and clearly matches what we would expect from the experiments.
One of the tactics that the exam likes to use, they will put the main idea question at the end of these denser passages.
Which of the following best describes the structure of the passage?
We basically have all of it set up here in our passage map so we can go straight to elimination.
Answer choice A sounds pretty accurate. Yes, a claim was made, and several examples are provided in support.
A theory is given, true, and evidence is provided for but not against it. So choice B is incorrect and can be eliminated.
For choice C, we don’t really know that a new scientific method was introduced.
No hypothesis has been refuted. All evidence provided is in support, so choice D is eliminated.
The experiment is not described; the theory is. Answer choice is also eliminated. We can confidently select answer choice A.
This example illustrates how you can move more quickly through these questions once you have a good sentence-by-sentence passage map. This may not be your favorite thing to do, but try applying this kind of passage map to work through some practice passages and improve your performance on this relatively difficult aspect of the verbal section of the GMAT.
Remember the more you practice the more you become confident in handling questions in the verbal section of your GMAT exams. On that note, spare some time to take advantage of the GMAT study resources available on our sites to keep yourself on track.
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