GRE Resources

Logical Structure

Logical Structure

Logical Structure questions test you on your awareness of the logical structure of the passage. Now, this may be about the structure of the passage as a whole and how every point made follows from the previous one, or it may be about the functional contribution of each paragraph in the passage and how that contribution largely holds up the bigger picture of the passage.

Some common questions that come under this question type are:

  • The main function of the second paragraph of this passage is to
  • The author uses the adjective ‘a’ in line ‘b’ to express that
  • Which of the following best describes the relation of the third paragraph to the passage as a whole?

The questions that ask about the structure of the passage as a whole tend to have the following wording:

  • Does the author present her own new idea?
  • Does the author contrast two ideas, evenhandedly showing the strengths and weaknesses of both?
  • Does the author sharply criticize a particular position or perspective?

Occasionally, this question type may also be phrased as: “What would be the best title for this passage?”

In this case, the notes you will have made in regard with the main idea of the passage and the summaries of each paragraph (this is highly advisable at the very beginning), will help you a great deal in arriving at the answer.

While tackling this question type, another useful strategy that may come handy would be to follow “logical direction” words such as “moreover”, “although”, “ironically”, “but”, etc. When you start to notice these words and how they are guiding the passage, you will get a clearer picture of how they shape the paragraph, and ultimately guide the author’s stance or conclusion. Not only will this help you understand the passage’s logical direction, it will also help you develop an intuitive sense of how, why and to what logical end the passage was structured the way it was.

A very good tool to use here is an RC map, which is essentially a piece of reference paper containing only a few words (or a few diagrams, if you’re a visual learner) that effectively sum up each passage in a way that ultimately keeps ready by your side a simple story depicting the flow of ideas in the passage. It is essentially the understanding of this flow that ultimately helps you answer questions about the logical or structural flow of the passage. Remember that there are time constraints involved in the test, so there is no need to become too creative when making this map. The basic use of shorthand or even your own secret codes or squiggly figures should work out just as well.

While making this map, it is also useful to remember that every sentence in the passage is either one where the author expresses opinion or one where the author presents data.So when you read a passage for the first time it is important to understand the general feel of the opinions and understand the general direction of the passage, but it isn’t as important at that moment to minutely remember the actual data. Hence, those minutes can easily be skimmed over when making the map, or when analyzing passage structure. All you have to do is jot down the structural essentials and the simple story.



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