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Reading Comprehension - a complete lottery.

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New post 11 Oct 2018, 09:00
Hi.

I have been studying for 2-3 months now. I managed to improve from 400 to ~660. What keeps me away from the "700" barrier is reading comprehension.
I focus on OG passages only. There are passages that I find easy; said passages bring me a 100% accuracy. There are, however, also passages, such as: https://gmatclub.com/forum/when-jamaica ... 36802.html, that leave me with a 0/4. What do I do? Reading "the economist" and simillar journals is just pointless - there is NO resemblance between passages from OG and the articles. I have only 3 weeks left.
Thanks.
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New post 12 Oct 2018, 16:17
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Hey Kaczet,

I think it boils down to why those particular types of passages are giving you trouble. Are you noticing that it's a certain difficulty? Or a certain type of passage? (Is it all humanities passages?) Does this tendency hold up during CATs? The answers to these questions are going to determine what you should be focusing on.

Without knowing exactly what's going on, it's hard to give exact advice. However, some advice I can give is that it's important (when at all possible) to treat the answer explanations of the questions you get wrong as "sing-alongs". What I mean by that is that you shouldn't just read them! If someone says "X line is why this is wrong", go to x line and explain to yourself (preferably out loud but in your head works too) why that answer choice was wrong in your own words. Do the same thing for all parts of the answer choice. It'll take longer than going through a RC passage would normally, but I have a feeling that quantity isn't your issue here.
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New post 22 Oct 2018, 13:38
Nothing seems to be working for me.
Since the very beginning, I've been at the very same level. That's funny how I do incredibly great in CR (let's say 80% accuracy) and I do absolutely terrible in RC (usually ~20-30% accuracy unless the passage is just simple). It's not that I cannot read. I can. I did great on both FCE and CAE exams. I tried to employ various strategies; nothing works for me. What's wrong? I'm sitting GMAT in two weeks. Should I just skip RC part and go focus to get all the CR and SC questions correct on the real test?
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New post 22 Oct 2018, 15:30
Hey -- I'm sorry to hear you're getting discouraged. It's important to remember that you aren't alone and that GMAT reading comprehension is difficult for everyone, including native speakers. That said, it is something you can improve at with practice. So while you are right and you could cut your losses on reading comprehension, it's unlikely that you'll score as well as you'd like to if you just cut and run on those problems.

So a couple questions on the reading comprehension front: given unlimited time, are you still having the same issues with accuracy? Or do you have the same issues no matter how long you take on a passage?
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New post 23 Oct 2018, 00:27
Hello LauraOrion,

this is the first day, in which I didn't deprive myself of sleep since a month. I think this may have affected my performance. (but I wouldn't be destroying Q problems if it were a deciding factor, would I?)

To be able to answer your question, I made attempt to solve this RC:
https://gmatclub.com/forum/a-small-numb ... 76035.html

Time taken: 12 mins. 5/6 correct. The passage is rather considered hard: most people on gmatclub couldn't get the correct answers.
It may be that time management is an issue, but I have to read slowly in order to get the exact point on what's being discussed within the passage. The "skimming" strategies don't work for me.

Thanks.

edit: I often find myself stuck between two answer choices and, on general, I end up with the wrong one. (this happened today, too; if it hadn't, i'd have gotten 6/6 on the said passage).
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New post 23 Oct 2018, 08:53
Hey Kaczet,

Okay, that's useful to know! Did you take 12 minutes for all 6 questions? If so, I think that maybe you just need to let yourself slow down a little. 12 minutes is a good time for a whole passage and set of answers!

If that's just for reading the passage itself, though, then here are a couple thoughts. You aren't going to get from 12 minutes to 90 - 120 seconds overnight (and probably won't get there in 3 weeks. But you can get faster. Try setting a timer for 1 minute less each time and then see when your accuracy starts to suffer. You're going to need to find a sweet spot between speed and accuracy here. And some of that might be giving up the deep understanding you want of the passage. The trick is to balance between "close reading" and skimming. The trick with skimming is that you don't skim everything. You skim details, but you slow down and read carefully 1) for the first sentence of a paragraph 2) any time you see a transition word and 3) for the conclusion of a passage. So for the passage you linked to, I would read most of the first paragraph closely (it has a lot of transitions), then read the first sentence of the next paragraph closely, skim most of the second paragraph (making a note that there's a fair amount of jargon there, so I might have to come back to it), and then read the last paragraph closely (it's only two sentences). Notice that I read a portion of the passage pretty closely, but I'm giving myself leeway and skimming where the authors of the passage aren't expressly signaling to me that I need to pay attention.

In terms of being stuck between two answer choices: what's your mindset as you're going through the answers? I find - as both a test taker and an instructor - that focusing on proving each question wrong (I jokingly call it "channeling my inner 13 year old") rather than focusing on finding the right answer can get me there if I'm struggling between two answers.
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New post 23 Oct 2018, 09:06
Thank you for your response. The time taken allowed me to get 5/6 correct (I usually do worse). However, given that it's an OG passage, it would be too long to use 12 minutes for one passage (I think).

I've tried to employ the "skimming" strategy, albeit with no success; it makes me feel too confused. I am not the type of a person who would skim the passage and then be able to say what it was exactly about.

In general, you recommend that I read closely ONLY the first and last sentence of each paragraph and take notes of the remaining ones (If i think they may be crucial to answering some specific questions), right?
How do I get the whole idea of what's being discussed and the author's tone doing this? Maybe it's that I do something wrong.

I do employ the same strategy when it comes to selecting the answer; I try to prove answer choices wrong and then choose the one that is, in my opinion, correct. I find myself often stuck between two options. But let's focus on the "whether to skim or not" problem.

Thanks.
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12.08.2018 MGMAT 680 (Q49, V33)

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New post 23 Oct 2018, 09:13
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Is that the time for passage only or passage + questions? If passage + questions, then your timing is actually pretty good.

In terms of skimming, I'm recommending closely reading the things I listed and then skimming (and by that I mean reading every word but not taking the time to think about what it means) the other bits. This should be enough to get the main idea and the author's tone - or at least enough of a mental map that you should be able to use process of elimination on the answers that are wrong and then reference the passage when you need to for the rest.

However, this isn't something you're going to get to the first, second, or even tenth time you do it - it takes practice to learn to go back and forth between skimming and close reading. As I previously mentioned, if you are spending 12 minutes on only reading then you're going to want to gradually bring that down rather than trying to force yourself to get within time on one try.
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New post 23 Oct 2018, 09:25
Laura,
12 minutes for both reading and answering questions. The passage was the first thing I did after I woke up.
Thank you for your advice. You convinced me, I think I will try the "skimming" strategy once more. I just have to get a week off from my job (I work 12-15 hours a day, even 17-hour workdays happen) and then see if I still do as bad as I have been doing for the past months. Maybe that's the reason.

Thank you for your help and keeping my spirits up!
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Going to take the real test in November...

21.07.2018 OG gmat prep 400 (Q26,V20)
28.07.2018 OG gmat prep 550 (Q42,V23)
04.08.2018 MGMAT 680 (Q50,V31)
12.08.2018 MGMAT 680 (Q49, V33)

OG GMAT Exam 3 & 4
01.11.2018 Exam 3 GMAT 710 (Q50, V35)
03.11.2018 Exam 4 GMAT 710 (Q50, V35)

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New post 23 Oct 2018, 09:40
Best of luck! (And based on your description, I definitely think that exhaustion might be playing a factor in your problems right now. Don't underestimate the value of some rest!)
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Re: Reading Comprehension - a complete lottery.  [#permalink]

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New post 08 Nov 2018, 19:30
Hi Kaczet,

I’m glad you reached out, and I’m happy to help. If you find that you are struggling with difficult passages, then it’s likely that you are not quite understanding the content of those passages, right? So, when reading an RC passage, take the time you need to understand exactly what is being said, reading one sentence at a time or even one word at a time, if necessary. There is no way around this work. You have to learn to comprehend what you are reading. Your goal should be to take all of the time you need to understand exactly what is being said and arrive at the correct answer. If you can learn to get answers taking your time, you can learn to speed up. Answering questions is like any task: The more times you do it carefully and successfully, the faster you become at doing it carefully and successfully. If you can follow this advice, in time, you will get better at Reading Comprehension, and then you can start working for speed.

Lastly, I don’t think you should stop reading magazines and journals in your spare time. However, if you find that you are struggling with a particular type of reading passage, such as history (in the example you provided), then read articles from a history magazine such as the Smithsonian.

If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out.
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