A Guide to the GRE/Introduction to GRE Reading

There is no secret, trick, or formula to GRE reading passages other than to read them steadily and carefully, and to practice reading them.

Read word-by-word, sentence by sentence, understanding each concept and connecting it to the others.

Reading questions will typically ask for the meaning or purpose of a word or phrase, or of the passage itself. They may also ask to apply a concept discussed in the passage, or what must be true based on the passage. Sometimes questions will have three choices with more than one potential correct answer - this will be clearly indicated.

Economists frequently elaborate upon the imbalance that occurs when two previously isolated markets are suddenly connected, allowing a new flow of goods 5 or services from a market in which they were in greater abundance, to one in which they are less plentiful - to the disruption of current economic activities there. Perhaps nothing from history more explicitly 10 illustrates this concept than the trans- Saharan gold trade initiated by the Kingdom of Mali under Mansa Musa. Trade across the vast desert had occurred since ancient times, as 15 documented in chronicles of caravans in the Nile Valley. However, Musa's expansion of trade routes to the Mediterranean coastline and ultimately the Middle East and Europe were an 20 unprecedented achievement in global trade for their time, and their impact on previously insular economies cannot be understated. The inflow of gold from Africa's “Gold Coast” was particularly 25 tumultuous in economies such as that of Egypt, where gold was a standard unit of currency. The new trade expansion may have paved the way for further developments in commerce between 30 distant parts of the world which ultimately manifested in the voyages of Da Gamma and Columbus. Look for the “hard words” such as subjects and verbs in passages such as the one to the left.

Be ready to refer back to particular lines of the passage

The GRE frequently points to a concept by its particular line; thus, keep track of these lines.


Read the passage to the left and try answering the following questions.

1. Based on the passage, what is the relationship between the Kingdom of Mali and Mansa Musa, and the economic concept discussed in lines 1-7?

2. Describe the effect that gold trade had on places such as Egypt, based on the passage.

3. Why does the author of the passage mention Da Gamma and Columbus (line 32)?

Answers to Practice Questions

1. The author mentions Mali and Mansa Musa as an example of the concept stated in the first sentence. “Mali” is a place in Africa which was a kingdom many years ago. Mansa Musa was a king of Mali. The GRE will frequently mention things of this sort and not explain what they are, expecting the reader to infer or guess at its passage topics.

 The concept mentioned is that sometimes two economies are linked, and sometimes a good is more plentiful in one than the other.  This means that the economies may be disrupted.  The author explains that this is what happened when gold from Mali was traded across the Sahara to Egypt and other locations.

2. According to the author, the influx of gold from Mali and the “Gold Coast” upset the economy in Egypt particularly severely because gold was used as a unit of currency. With a new oversupply of gold, the economy was disrupted.

3. Da Gamma and Columbus were explorers. (Da Gamma was the first European to sail to India). The author mentions them because the author thinks it is possible that the trans-Saharan trade under Mansa Musa inspired future developments in trade, and may have led to merchants and rulers commissioning Da Gamma and Columbus and their voyages.