This is a free sample lesson. Sign up for Magoosh to get access to over 200 video lessons.

Understanding Structure

Can't listen to audio right now? Turn on captions.

Transcript

In this lesson video, we are going to deal with the structure of a GMAT passage. Believe it or not, these GMAT passages are actually quite predictable, once you pick up on the structure. That is, most of them have the structure that I'm gonna talk about in this video. So let's first start off with the first paragraph. First paragraph of a GMAT passage is gonna consist of sentence or two, in which a topic or study is introduced.

Here, we have a study by O'Reilly, and it is exploring the voting patterns of African Americans in the Southern half of the United States in the first half of the century. That is the topic introduced. There is a little bit more though, oftentimes they're going to extend that. Because you can't just say, here's the topic, let's move on to the second paragraph.

You actually have to show that something is up for debate, or you have to describe, in more detail, exactly what these voting patterns are. In this case, we have the structure word, nonetheless. Nonetheless shows us. What follows it is going to become very important to the res of the passage, and that is scholarship has begun to challenge some of O'Reilly's assumptions.

So you can anticipate now that the second paragraph is going to, of course deal with what O'Reilly's findings were. How he displays some of the assumptions of his time. Or more importantly it's gonna focus also on how O'Reily's assumptions were challenged. And why this is so helpful is just from the first paragraph alone, you can anticipate what is going to come next.

Now let's return really quickly to this first paragraph. You'll notice that, a lot of it isn't that important, meaning you don't have to try to absorb every piece of information here, thinking everything is important. You're looking for 2 things. What is the topic or the study, and what is going to come in the subsequent paragraphs based on the last sentence of the paragraph, which is right here.

And of course we have what is often common as well to the first paragraph, a structure word. And that structure word isn't just any structure word. It is a structure word that shows contrast. The GMAT loves the word, however. However is one of their typical structure words, contrast structure words.

Here, we have the word, nonetheless. Other words include though, although, and even though. . There aren't really too many other ones that the GMAT uses, so just being aware that hey, there's that structure word and I better pay attention to what follows, makes understanding paragraphs like this one a lot easier, because now you're focusing.

On just a few lines, and you're able to move on confidently to the next paragraph knowing what's gonna happen. Now instead of moving on to the second paragraph of that passage, we're gonna try another passage. And this here is the first. Paragraph two, this new passage.

And what we have is again the introduction to the topic. The view that the brain is unable to regenerate was long ago overturned with the view that brain. The brain is plastic. Notice I skipped a lot of those words. And then weighed, that's what you want to be doing, not wholesale skipping them, jumping over, but skimming them 'til you get to that important part.

So after you read the sentence, you can say, how it's about how long ago there was a view that the brain wasn't plastic but now, there is this view that the brain is plastic. Now it's also important to note that they bring up words that are used in a different vein. Not the way we're used to, and when they do that, whether they're technical words or words that have a second meaning like plastic, they'll usually give you a definition, which is here, so this may be important to you as well, understanding what it means for the brain to be plastic.

What's more important, though, once you you understand that, is to notice the structure word however. However, again, is the contrasting structure word, so we know. That there's a contrast not necessarily with the author's view or an O'Reilly, meaning some researcher her she thinks, with these recent studies versus studies that had once over, overturned the notion that the brain wasn't plastic so now we have these recent studies that show what?

That the brain is even more plastic than thought. And so that's gonna be the focus of this passage. Of course, there is nothing very specific here, but we do have recent studies, and so we know that they're probably gonna describe recent studies in the following paragraph. Now, here, of course, we can see the important part.

I've highlighted, here, the definition. The view itself, and of course, there's the structure word. So you're ready to go into the next paragraph, which is describing a theory. Going back to the Oreiley passage, this would have describes what was Oreily's theory about voting patterns, what were his assumptions, what was he thinking. Here we're describing what the actual experiment, the research that was done, that shows that the brain is more plastic than thought.

So we have this long research, research, or experiment described here. We have a very long scary word, oligodendrocytes. But the point of this lesson video is to show you the structure, not to actually dissect the meaning of the paragraph. This is something we're gonna be doing in the very next video with this passage. And this passage is actually one that we're gonna use throughout the lessons.

There will be a couple of other passages in there as well, but this will be the main one. So don't feel that you have to pause this right now and read this and under, understand it. We will actually, again, go through each paragraph of this passage in the following video.

Speaking of paragraphs, we have here the third paragraph, which is Criticize theory/Make qualifications. Now, before I describe that. Let's talk about why I have here, second or third paragraph. The thing with the GMAT is you will get a variety of reading passages but they usually can be broken down into the short passages and the long passages.

Short passages are about 200 words, give or take 30 words. Long passages are 350 words or over. These long passages typically are made up of three, though sometimes two, paragraphs. The short passages, themselves, can sometimes be made up of two paragraphs as well.

Well. So, it does get a little bit confusing. But, the main point is, the sequence of events in the passage, where they're not their broken into exactly these paragraphs, is describe a topic, describe findings on that topic, and then describe objections or criticize those findings. So this will even come in sometimes the short passage, but it will be condensed.

The reason I'm focusing though on the long par, on the long passage in this video, is because the long passages are where your mind wanders the most. It's where there's the most detail, and therefore knowing the exact structure of these long passages. Is gonna help you most in understanding the content of those passages, as is the case here.

So typically the third paragraph will be criticize the theory, make qualifications. What does qualifications mean in this context? When you qualify something you limit the extent of it. Specifically, let's say, the author describes this experiment. Then the author says, while this experiment has many helpful findings, there are some things it doesn't do well.

So it's limiting the effect or the extent of the findings of the theory. Which, of course, is very similar to criticizing a theory. But sometimes the word criticize can be, imply something very strong, such as outright disagreeing and that's something that the GMAT clearly doesn't do. It disagrees somewhat and then usually provides evidence. So we're not, of course, read this entire paragraph.

In fact I've, I've cut it off. The main point of this video was to show you that there is a predictable structure. And that structure's gonna help you do a few things. What are those few things? Well, before we get there, let's quickly talk about multiple theories. Multiple theories are that sometimes you bring in another person's name.

Meaning that there is another researcher who disagreed with this researcher. What did that researcher think? And the author would usually weight in on. That other theory and then come to a conclusion at the end. So again, all of this is important to know and it's also important to know that multiple theories are more common in long passages, but you do see them now and again in the shorter passages.

So the take away from all of this is, knowing structure can help you focus on important details. Again remember the O'Reilly passage. How, or rather the O'Reilly paragraph, half of that we could simplify and focus on what is important. Likewise with the Brain passage we were able to focus on the structure where it however, knowing that what comes after the however is important.

What else can the knowing structure do? It can help you organize the information. You know where the information is, and it's easier to keep track of it in your head. So you know exactly what the paragraph talked about, and when you answer a question and have to go back to the passage, you know where to look for the information because oftentimes questions don't give you specific lines.

And then, finally, knowing structure will help you anticipate what's next. This means there aren't too many surprises. You know that aha! He's gonna introduce the theory, he's gonna describe the findings. And then there's gonna be an objection. Either the author's own or a multiple theory, meaning someone else's objection.

And then sometimes the author will weigh in on that. And again, this will help you with organizing the information, and focusing on the important details.

Read full transcript