GMAT Insight: Reading Comp vs. Reading Comp


With the recent release of the new Official Guide for GMAT Review, 13th Edition and the impending release of a new version of GMATPrep, we thought we’d shed some light on a particularly key distinction between the two kinds of practice material: paper vs. computer.

On the surface the distinction between these two kinds of practice would appear to be self-evident, and to a large extent it is. What isn’t so clear is the potential value of each. With the value of each in mind, one place that most clearly illuminates the difference is with Reading Comprehension.

Reading Comprehension (RC) practice of the kind you’ll find in The Official Guide for GMAT Review (and in many respects the hard copy practice material available from a host of preparation and educational companies, Bell Curves included), does not necessarily give you the most accurate reflection of the testing environment. It is not to say that this practice material isn’t valuable – it is – but that material must be used in the right way. Consider this snapshot of a practice question from the Official Guide 10th Edition:

The question relies on a “line reference,” whereas a question on GMATPrep (or the official GMAT) will use a highlighted text feature that indicates the relevant parts of the passage instead of using the line reference as Question 44 above does.

This may seem inconsequential, but it speaks to a few valuable testing and preparation keys.

1) Comfort breeds success – This applies not just to Reading Comprehension, but to every facet of the GMAT. If the only practice you’ve had is with hard copy materials, the first time you see a RC question that involves text-highlighting, your concentration may be broken and you’ll need to take more time to process the task in the different format.

2) Looking Up vs. Looking down – Along similar lines, computer-based practice requires you to manage questions in the same way you would on the real test, splitting your time between the screen and the scratch paper (especially in math) you’re using. Paper practice allows you to focus on the same plane for the entirety of the question, which is simply more manageable.

3) Balance Your Prep – The materials that matter most, those officially licensed and retired questions straight from GMAC, are predominantly available in hard copy form (with 1500+ questions available amongst the three Official Guides for GMAT Review). That being said, the new GMATPrep allows for multiple-retakes before exhausting the question pool. Moreover,  on the Quantitative side GMAC also offers GMATFocus, which is a web-based diagnostic tool. And Bell Curves (and many other preparation companies) offers extensive online practice, which provide great targeted computer-based practice.

The bottom line is that however old school you might feel in holding near and dear to “books”, if you rely only – or even primarily – on them, you’re likely hamstringing your preparation, and thereby your potential for improvement.

For more on how Bell Curves could help you improve your preparation, visit us at gmat.bellcurves.com. Sign up for a free Bell Curves demo account to practice with computer-based materials. Join us for a GMAT Sample Class to experience our fantastic teachers, materials, and approaches to the GMAT, and see firsthand how Bell Curves could help you Get Ahead of the Curve today!

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