GRE Reading Comprehension - Title, tone, and tactics

Questions that ask you to provide a title for the passage, to ascertain the tone of the author, and to predict what type of tactics are used to convey a meaning, all require you to assume the role of the author. In order to do that, you'll need to read the passage carefully and pick up on key words and specific writing styles -- only then will you be able to ascertain whether the author is frustrated, annoyed, perplexed, supportive, etc., and from that information you'll be able to quickly predict what the author might say next and what an appropriate title may be.

  • For questions that ask you to provide a valid title of a reading passage, be sure to look at the passage as a whole. Most importantly, don't choose an answer choice just because it reiterates a single fact explicitly stated in the passage. A title is meant to encompass the entire meaning of a reading passage, and not just a single point.
  • For questions that specifically ask you to infer the tone of the passage, look for key words which may suggest the specific mood, emotion, values, etc. of the author. Most often several key words will be dispersed within a reading passage, and taken as a whole, such key words are a good indication of the tone of the author. For example, words such as vilify, hate, object, reject, etc., are all negative verbs, and so convey a negative tone on behalf of the author. Words such as support, rejoice, entice, grant, etc., are all positive words, and so convey a positive tone on behalf of the author.
  • For questions that ask about the tactics that the author may be using, again look for key words. If a passage strongly criticizes a certain point-of-view, then you should notice that prominent negative words are dispersed throughout the passage. If an author provides supporting evidence in favor of a hypothesis, then such support is likewise a tactic and should be duly noticed.

In all, title, tone, and tactics questions require you to assume the role of the author and to experience what he or she may have felt or wanted to convey when writing the passage. Pick up on key words and note how they help form the passage, and along with tone and style, such reading comprehension questions should be relatively straight forward.