I need help with GRE RC main idea / primary purpose questions.

Those sorts of questions, which require you to understand the "big picture" of a passage, can definitely be tricky! You know you've encountered one when you see one of these phrases in the text of the question: 

  • “The author’s primary purpose in this passage is . . .”
  • “The passage is mainly concerned with . . .”
  • “The best title for this passage would be . . .”
  • “The author’s discussion of … is primarily intended to explain . . .”
  • “Which of the following most completely and accurately describes the passage . . .”

Kevin discusses how to solve main idea questions in this excellent GRE blog post. He recommends a strategy that is pretty similar to the RAMA method we discuss in our article about GRE reading comprehension strategies. RAMA stands for:

  1. Re-phrase the question in your own words. This will help you understand what information you're looking for in the passage, which can making finding the correct answer a lot easier. 
  2. Anticipate the answer. Looking at the passage and finding an answer to the question before you look at the answer choices can prevent you from falling prey to "trap answers." 
  3. Match the answer. Once you know what you're looking for, try to find the option in the answer bank that most closely matches it. 
  4. Be aware of wrong answer choices. Knowing some of the most common types of wrong answers to these questions will help prevent you from picking those wrong answers on the test! 

I hope you find these resources helpful. Happy studying! 


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