All too often, GRE students satisfy themselves with an “impressionistic” sense of the beginning of a pas-sage. However, forming an impression is not the same as comprehending the passage. Given the impor-tance of the initial sentences, you should make sure you grasp 100% of the beginning of any passage (evenif you only grasp 40% of the end). That is far better than comprehending 70% of the text throughout. Complicating matters, the GRE often opens passages with long, opaque sentences. How do you make sureyou understand them, either now or later? The process of concretizing can help. You can also use theunpackingtechnique. Academic language is often dense with long noun phrases formed out of simple sen-tences. To unpack an academic-style sentence, turn it into a few simple sentencesthat express essentiallythe same meaning. In general, you should NOT write this unpacking out (except as an exercise) or apply it throughout thepassage. Like concretizing, unpacking is a powerful tool to smash open resistant language, especially at thestart of the passage. Use this technique judiciously.The steps to unpacking a complex sentence are as follows:1. Grab a concrete noun first.Pick something that you can touch and that causes other things to happen.Do not necessarily pick something at the start of the sentence. 2. Turn actions back into verbs.In academic language, verbs are often made into noun or adjective phras-es. Re-create the verbs. Also, feel free to start with There isor There was.3. Put only ONE simple thought in a sentence.One subject, one verb.4. Link each subsequent sentence to the previous one, using this or these.For instance, This resultedin…This process mimics speech, which is usually easy to understand.5. Simplify or “quote off” details.If a jargon word is used in an important way, put quotes around it.Think to yourself “…whatever that means…” and keep going. If the term is necessary, you will figure it outfrom context later.Consider this example opening of a passage:In a diachronic investigation of possible behavioral changes resulting from accidental exposurein early childhood to environmental lead dust, two sample groups were tracked over decades.
INTRODUCTION TO PRINCIPLES 19ManhattanGREPrepChapter 1the new standard*1. Grab a concrete noun first, especially a cause. A good candidate is lead dust. The first sentence couldsimply be this: There was lead dust in various environments.2. Turn other parts of speech, such as action nouns and adjectives, back into verbs. For instance, exposurebecomes were exposed. Behavioralbecomes behaved.3. Put only one thought in a sentence, such as There was lead dust in various environments.4. Link each sentence to the previous with this/these.So the second sentence could read Young children intheseenvironments were exposed to this dust by accident.