Reading Comprehension (RC) Strategy: Attacking the Passage

I hereby present the first point of my RC technique-

CHOOSE YOUR RC PASSAGE:This is the most important point in the verbal section. Don’t attempt every RC passage. Verbal section is like any other section- you need to select questions that you are going to answer. Remember that it takes 10 minutes on average to answer an RC passage completely. Attempting a tough RC passage consumes more time than you take for an average RC passage, makes you unsure of your answers, leaves you unsettled and nervous about the paper. It even tires you out mentally and increases the panic situation. The best strategy is to give a brief glance to each RC passage, and then select the ones you are going to attempt. Make a firm resolve that you will NOT look at the passages that you have excluded. How do you select a passage? I have only one criterion- I select passages that are easier to read. Different people will find different passages easier to read depending on their backgrounds.

START SLOOOWWWLYYY:Most students start with an RC passage with a timer in their heads. Therefore, they try to hit the ground running. They want to finish the first paragraph as soon as they can, then move on to the second paragraph and finish it quickly… and so on. In the process, they lose track of the main idea of the passage, tone of the author, the structure of the passage etc. By the time they reach halfway through the passage, they lose track of the argument and get confused. These students do not understand that the most important part of a passage is the first paragraph. The first paragraph introduces the topic and the main idea of the passage, and very often states the author’s position on it. Start with the first paragraph SLOWLY! Do not move on to the second paragraph until you have understood the first one completely.
FORM AN OPINION AND TAKE A STAND: Do you realize how passively you absorb every line of a passage that was written by some highly opinionated jerk? Do you ever question whether the author of the passage is talking sense or feeding you crap? You become a punching bag whom someone is hitting with his ideas. For a change, why not start questioning the content of the passage? Why not start forming opinions about every paragraph in the passage and start taking sides? Trying to judge every paragraph will have the following effect:
In order to form an opinion, you will be forced to read the contents of a passage very minutely.
You will become aware of the logical points the author is trying to put across to convince you.
You will be forced to paraphrase every paragraph and summarize what the author is trying to say.
You will become a highly active reader, become interested in the passage and be able to maintain your focus throughout the passage.
CONNECT THE DOTS: While moving from one paragraph to another, be VERY aware of the logical flow of the passage. Be conscious about how the passage is structured. At any point in the passage, you should be able to say, ‘the author started from X, then moved to Y, then discussed Z to prove his point, then discussed some points against Z’…and connect every part of the passage with the previous parts. Practice this technique again and again until it becomes a habit with you.
GO BACK TO THE PASSAGE TO ANSWER EVERY QUESTION: Many errors in RC passages happen because a student facing crunch of time marks answers relying on his memory of the passage. He marks the options which he thinks are “similar to something he read in the passage.” Don’t do it. The person who made the test is counting on you to do that and he has deliberately put similar sounding options in the questions. Go back to the passage and check out every option. Yes. EVERY option. Let’s say that you are somewhat shaky about option b and even after checking the passage feel that it is probably right. But if you keep checking out the options you might find that option d is better than option b. So check every thing out. Be a suspicious bastard.

In the end, realize that practicing these techniques will save you more time during your exam than will any other technique.

The best advice I got was from a fellow test taker- “RC is similar to cheating. All the information is given in the passage. You just have to copy it from there.”
And I kept cheating. I kept reading the passage completely.



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