The New GRE – Sentence Highlighting

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Everyone knows highlighting is a good tool to make study sessions more effective, but now we have to do it on the actual test? What?

One new question type on the new (revised) GRE is called sentence highlighting. That’s not really an “official” name, but it does describe what you have to do to answer the question. Sentence highlighting questions are a new type of question used to assess your reading comprehension abilities.

We’re all familiar with the standard multiple choice reading comprehension question – you’re given a passage (about the most boring topic in the world, usually), pick the correct answer from four or five choices. By this point in your life, whatever your background, you’ve probably had to do what feels like millions of them; if you’ve ever taken a test preparation course like Test Masters, then you also probably know that the basic tenet to answering these questions is “justify your answer with evidence directly from the text!” If you can’t find a sentence in the passage that supports your answer, then it can’t be right.

Well the ETS has decided to take this concept to a literal level – find a sentence in the passage that answers the question and highlight it.

Let’s look at an example:

Recently some scientists have concluded that meteorites found on Earth and long believed to have a Martian origin might actually have been blasted free of Mars’s gravity by the impact on Mars of other meteorites. This conclusion has led to another question: whether meteorite impacts on Earth have similarly driven rocks from this planet to Mars.

According to astronomer S.A. Phinney, kicking a rock hard enough to free it from Earth’s gravity would require a meteorite capable of making a crater more than 60 miles across. Moreover, even if Earth rocks were freed by meteorite impact, Mars’s orbit is much larger than earth’s so Phinney estimates that the probability of these rocks hitting Mars is about one-tenth as great as that of Mars’s rocks hitting Earth. To demonstrate this estimate, Phinney used a computer to calculate where 1,000 hypothetical particles would go if ejected from Earth in random directions. He found that 17 of the 1,000 particles would hit Mars.

Select the sentence that explains how meteorites found on Earth might have come from Mars.

The very first sentence of the passage explains that “meteorites found on Earth…might actually have been blasted free of Mars’s gravity by the impact on Mars of other meteorites.” Therefore, the answer is the first sentence; we would navigate our mouse over to this sentence and click on the sentence (any part of it) to highlight it, and then submit our answer.

Since the GRE is a computerized exam, you don’t actually have to bring a highlighter to the testing center. All you have to do is click on (any part of) the sentence that contains your answer and it will automatically highlight the whole sentence. The whole idea seems somewhat unusual at first, but it really is no different from the reading comprehension questions that you’re used to. Just like with multiple choice questions, you simply need to find the sentence in the passage that directly answers the question – except now you literally have to go and do it!

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