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Reading Comprehension - Time Management

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12 Oct 2011, 12:13
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Hi GMAT Experts,

I was told that there would be on average 3 short passages and 1 long passage on the official GMAT. And each passage would have 3 or 4 questions. I should average 6/8 minutes per passage (including reading the passage and answer the questions). I realize the reading comprehension practice in OG 12 sometimes have short passages that have 6-7 questions. How much time should I expect myself to spend on each passage in this case? I have been timing myself while I do the RC practice in OG 12. I'm wondering if I can estimate the amount of time I should spend on each passage (including reading and answering questions) at this rate - 2 min / question regardless of long or short passages.

For instance if it's a short passage having 3 questions - I should roughly spend 6 minutes in total. If it's a long passage having 6 questions - I should roughly spend 12 minutes in total.

I appreciate any insights you may have on this. Thanks for your help in advance.
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Re: Reading Comprehension - Time Management [#permalink]

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13 Oct 2011, 11:26
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Start by taking a look at the length of the passage. If it's greater than 40 lines, consider it a long passage. Otherwise, consider it a short passage.

Now, select 3 questions if it is a short passage and 4 if it is a long passage. You can simply do every other problem, or you can select one general question, one inference question, one specific detail question, etc. Give yourself a total of 6 minutes to read a short passage and answer the questions (8 minutes for long). Don't do the rest of the problems now, because they will not give you a realistic, GMAT-like experience. On the real exam, you have to get a quick feel for the passage and move on. If you do 7 problems in a row, by the time you get to the end you will be *very* familiar with the material. If you want to do those additional problems, save them for another day.

You may find that you need to adjust these times a bit. Some people naturally read a bit slower or faster, and many students find that they have a harder time with certain types of passages. So if your weakness is complicated science passages, for instance, you might give yourself an additional minute to read a long passage. Spread over 4 questions, that only translates to an additional :15 per question. That investment is certainly worth it if it improves your accuracy.
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Re: Reading Comprehension - Time Management [#permalink]

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04 Jan 2012, 05:20
So what's the exact time you should spend per passage and per individual questions? Some people say it's 3-4 minutes per passage and up to 90 seconds per question, others say it's 2-3 minutes per passage and at most 60 seconds per question. But what if the passage is very long and subsequent questions easy; or the passage is short, and some questions are very difficult and others are very easy. In other words, you don't know in advance the difficulty level of the questions.

Also, for example, if you have one passage and 10 questions, time per questions will be less obviously because some questions you will answer quickly and some will take more time. Also, as you've pointed out, the more questions you answer, the better you'll familiarize yourself with the passage.
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Re: Reading Comprehension - Time Management [#permalink]

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04 Jan 2012, 22:17
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I generally recommend a fairly even time split between passage and questions. So for a short passage, that would be 3 minutes to read and 3 minutes for the questions, and for a long passage it would be 4 & 4. (There will never be 10 questions, so this isn't an issue.) This doesn't necessarily mean 1 minute per question. Some general questions, for instance, can be answered fairly easily in 30 seconds or less.

How long *you* take will depend on a few factors. How fast of a reader are you? How comfortable are you with the material in this particular passage? What kind of note-taking are you doing? In general, an extra minute or so is fine if it increases your understanding of the passage--you may well earn that minute back by tackling the questions faster & more easily. However, don't get bogged down trying to understand all of the details of the passage. Your goal should be to come out of the reading with two things established:

1) What is the point of the passage?

This is different from "What is the topic of the passage?" (a much simpler question). You need to determine what the author's overall point is. This should encompass the ideas in every paragraph of the passage. The best way to get to this is to make sure that you have a rough idea of what each paragraph is saying, and then take a moment at the end to synthesize this information. If you just say "It describes a theory about snakes," that probably won't be enough. What is the theory? What is the author's perspective on the theory? Is the theory criticized, championed, fine-tuned, compared to others?

2) Where should I go to answer each question?

You want to have a strong enough sense of the content of each paragraph that you are able to quickly identify where to look to find the answer to any question. I often compare this to getting familiar with the layout of a library. I may not know all of the information contained in my local library, but I know what part of the library to visit to find that information. The same thing here--if you have a strong enough sense of each paragraph, you will know where to re-read to find your answer. On specific detail or inference questions, you don't want to fall for the trap of trying to answer from memory, and you don't want to read too much, or look in the wrong place. Find the relevant portion and go back to the answer choices with a strong sense of what you're looking for!

I hope this helps!
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Re: Reading Comprehension - Time Management   [#permalink] 04 Jan 2012, 22:17
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