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I also had a hard time with science RC questions. I haven't taken a science class since high school, and I find reading detailed scientific passages only slightly more boring than watching paint dry.
Luckily I didn't get any on the actual GMAT, but in practicing, I developed a strategy that worked for me. Maybe it will help you:
1) Skim the passage quickly, to determine and write down the main subject and the main purpose of the passage (e.g. Is the person arguing something? Presenting conflicting evidence? Disproving an existing theory?) At this stage, don't worry about the details. Just determining the subject matter will help you process the details better later.
2) Read a second time, more carefully. On scratch paper, write an outline of the passage, paragrah-by-paragraph, writing the topic sentence and main idea of each paragraph. For example, paragraph 1 introduces the theory and the intent to disprove it, paragraph 2 gives an example to disprove the theory, and paragraph 3 gives suggestions for further research. This skeleton outline will help you later as you look for facts.
3) Answer the questions one by one, first checking to see what kind of question each is, and then looking at your outline for where to go for the answer.
By the way - one more tip: Pretend the subject is something you enjoy. If it's about soil erosion, for example, pretend it's, I don't know, about the erosion of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anistan's marriage. Then, everything you read, make an analogy to your other subject matter.
I'm not suggesting you write a novel or anything. A few scratches of shorthand take only a couple of seconds to write, and can save you loads of time later on searching for answers in a passage.
In RC, a lot depends on how fast you read. I'm probably the wrong person to give guidelines because I have a tendency to speed-read (I finished the verbal section with nearly 20 minutes to spare, so I'm aware I'm not typical...). That said, if you can learn how to speed-read and absorb what you read, it will surely help.
Still, you can do some simple math. Approximately 41 questions in approximately 75 minutes = average of 1.8 minutes per question. If you assume that most RC passages have an average of 4-5 questions, and you'll probably see 4-5 RC passages on your test, then you should spend an average of about 40-45% of your time on RC, which breaks down to approximately 6-7 minutes per RC passage. That means if you spend the first 2-3 minutes reading the passage and taking notes, you'll still have over a minute to answer each associated question.
Or, you can just practice pacing and not worry about it too much; if you know you're finishing within the allotted time on practice tests, then you probably will if you go at the same pace on the real thing.
For all RC, including science-related ones, I always do some scribblings on the paper provided. All I scribble are keywords, concepts, author's positions, etc.
When the questions refer to some of these keywords, concepts, etc. it is useful to refer to the scribbles and see where they are located and how things relate.
Over my prep period, I find that I'm able to scribble better and faster. Initially, I was writing short but incomplete sentences. Then it was in point-form. Eventually, I just write keywords (e.g. "Pre-1900s", "HOWEVER", "union movements", etc.). These keywords are especially useful when specific details are asked but the line #s are not given.
Hence make use of your prep time to master the art of scribbling. This skill should also be useful when you march into the B-sch.
Good points. For me scribbling down always takes time (maybe coz i don't know what to write!) and since it is just a few mins, I rely on the transient memory. Since I have an Engineering background (and also Biology at school), to find Science passages on any test, I consider it a blessing. I totally suck at Literature and History passages. But in general, if you also think taking notes is time consuming, rely on your memory! Once I read any para, I create a mental roadmap of what that para says, what it is leading to (next para), Does the author support/oppose a view...you create the links as you read thru each para. In the end, connect everything to form a chain and this is most important. Once I understand the content and structure, it takes really no more than 2 mins to answer each all the Q. If I get lost in the passage - God help me!
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