GMAT Reading Comprehension: Six Question Types

The verbal section of the GMAT mixes reading comprehension questions with critical reasoning questions and sentence correction questions. So you may correct grammatical errors in a few sentences and then come across a set of reading comprehension questions. About one-third of the 41 questions in the verbal section are reading questions. You will see a split screen with an article passage on the left and a question with five answer choices on the right.

Although every passage has more than one question, only one question pops up at a time. You read the passage (which contains about 350 words), click on the choice that best answers the question, and confirm your answer. As soon as you confirm your answer, another question pops up on the right side of the screen. The passage remains on the left.

There are mainly six different types of reading comprehension questions that are tested in GMAT. 

1. Main Idea Question

Main idea questions test your ability to capture the big picture. Main idea and supporting idea questions are the most common types of Reading Comprehension questions. These questions are often asked as first question after the reading passage. A question of this type could have the following wording:

  • Which one of the following most accurately summarizes the main point of the passage?
  • Which of the following statements most accurately captures the central idea of the passage?
  • Of the following titles, which would be most appropriate for the contents of this passage?
  • The passage can best be described as which of the following?

In most cases, the main idea will be expressed in one or two sentences in the first paragraph, although it is occasionally expressed in the final paragraph or, rarely, in an interior paragraph. Sometimes the main idea is never stated explicitly .

2. Supporting Idea Question

You will encounter a number of supporting idea questions on the test. Questions of this type focus on specific ideas or pieces of information presented in the passage. They require a more focused reading than main idea questions. The questions also measure your ability to differentiate ideas that are explicitly stated in a passage from ideas that are implied by the author but that are not explicitly stated. You may be asked about:

  • Facts cited in a passage
  • Specific content of arguments presented by the author in support of author's views
  • Descriptive details used to support or elaborate on the main idea

The answers to this type of question are always grounded in the text. They are often close paraphrases of statements made in the passage.

3. Inference Type Question

In contrast to supporting idea questions, inference questions deal with ideas that are not stated in the passage. Inference questions prompt you to make a logical jump from the statements expressed in the passage to a conclusion that should be true if the statements in the passage are all true. Inference questions might look like:

  • Based on the information given in the passage, it can be reasonably inferred that?
  • The author of the passage would be most likely to agree with which of the following statements?

The trick to inference questions is to stick closely to the wording of the passage and to keep your logic tight. The correct answer will require a logical hop, not a leap. Do not make unwarranted assumptions or use your own knowledge of the topic. What you need to do is read the section of the passage that the question asks about and then figure out which of the answer choices must be true if the statements in the passage are true.

4. Applying information to context outside passage

Like inference questions, applying information questions deal with topics that are not mentioned explicitly in the passage. This type of question asks you to take the information given in the passage and apply it logically to a context outside of the passage. An applying information question could look like:

  • Which of the following situations is most similar to the situation described in the paragraph?
  • Identify a hypothetical situation that is comparable to a situation presented in the passage?
  • Select an example that is similar to an example provided in the passage?

You should take the same approach to this type of question as you take with inference questions, except that you usually need to make a larger logical leap. These questions test your ability to recognize the structure of an argument or an idea, and then recognize the same structure in a different context.

5. Logical Structure

These questions examine your ability to analyze the structure of the passage and to determine what role specific components play in the whole. Logical structure questions may look like:

  • How a passage is constructed - for instance, does it define, compare or contrast, present a new idea, or refute an idea?
  • How the author persuades readers to accept his or her assertions?
  • The reason behind the author’s use of any particular supporting detail and to identify assumptions that the author is making

If you read strategically, you should have a good idea of how to answer a question like this after your initial quick reading of the passage. If you have a good idea of what the passage as a whole is about and what role each paragraph serves in the passage, you should be able to sort quickly through the answers to determine which answer best describes the structure of the passage.

6. Style and Tone

Style and tone questions ask about the expression of a passage and about the ideas in a passage that may be expressed through its diction. You may be asked to deduce the author’s attitude to an idea, a fact, or a situation from the words that he or she uses to describe it. You may also be asked to select a word that accurately describes the tone of a passage. For instance, the tone can be critical, questioning, objective, or enthusiastic.