What is the Author's Opinion?

January 11, 2010

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When you first read through a GMAT Reading Comprehension passage, you shouldn't pay too much attention to the details. This is doubly true if the details are particularly complicated, as in many science passages. You should focus elsewhere.

Look for the big picture. Understand the structure of the passage and the author's point of view. I've written a lot about RC structure; here's one place to start.

The author's opinion (or lack of one) is rarely difficult to find. While it seems easy, it's very important: It will be tested on at least one of the questions accompanying the passage. Sometimes the nature of the author's perspective will come up on every single question.

Often, the author is simply presenting research or offering another scholar's opinion. The lack of a point of view is just as important as the presence of one. When you recognize such a passage, it's easy to eliminate choices that characterize the passage as "defending a position" or "criticizing the methodology."

When the author does present some of his or her own opinions, be especially careful to note what is ascribed to whom. The author may be presenting his or her own views alongside those of an opponent. Almost without fail, some of the questions will test to see whether you understand which positions go with which scholars.

In this case, again, simply identifying that the author is presenting his or her own opinions will help you to eliminate some choices. On a main idea question, for instance, a choice such as "discusses the issue of..." will never be correct when the author holds a position.

Every passage is different, but no matter how long, complicated, or difficult it is, the author's opinion is something you can readily identify, and it will pay off handsomely when you approach the questions.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

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