How to stop waffling on tough Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension questions
You’ve read the CR argument and it seems reasonable.
You’ve got a grip on it,
Maybe there were a few murky moments but you’ve read it and now are ready to get cracking rooting out the correct answer.
And things are going alright.
Three choices eliminated already.
Not so bad!
But, wait, this is starting to get confusing.
And now you are starting to sweat.
These last two are close.
You convince yourself one is correct.
But then, is it?
And now the other feels like a winner.
Now they both seem wrong.
Tick, tick, tick…
We’ve all been there.
Those last two Critical Reasoning answer choices that just won’t fall in line as the timer ticks away.
There are some things you can do to get more confident in your CR (and RC) decisions and we’ll discuss them below.
But the reality is that lots of GMAT folks skim or simply read too quickly.
There is the idea that you need to read fast or else…
Speedy reading leaves you confused once you reach the questions.
You are much better off investing in the reading so that you have a good chance at a high level of comprehension.
With that the questions are generally much easier and you will get through them more quickly (making up for the time you spent reading more carefully).
Also, if you practice reading at a slower pace (for higher comprehension) then you may be able to increase the pace while maintaining the comprehension.
That said, the comprehension is more important than the speed.
Yes, slow reading can bog down your score. But there may be other ways that you can improve your timing on the verbal section so that you can read at an appropriate speed and still manage the clock.
Read skeptically with the idea that something is always wrong with the argument
This is especially important on Critical Reasoning questions.
Always look for the holes.
Think about what is missing.
By doing this you will naturally anticipate the correct answers.
Look for the correct answer (avoid POE)
Process of elimination can work. But on CR and RC it is usually slower.
Also, POE has you focus more on the incorrect answers which are there to trick you.
It is much better to have a sensitivity for the correct answer.
This sensitivity will make it so there is more obvious contrast between correct and incorrect.
So even if you do end up using elimination, the correct answer will be clearer.
If stuck, go back to the passage and: read carefully
A not uncommon scenario that we see in the GMAT tutoring program: A student reads the passage carefully then goes to the answers.
So far so good.
But then: never goes back to passage.
It is almost as if there is a sense that you shouldn’t go back.
That it is a waste of time.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Reference the passage. Especially if you are stuck.
The answers aren’t in the answer choices. The answers are in the passage. Use it!
In review be 100% binary
If you want to be a CR or RC super hero on test day then really put your shoulder into review and make sure that every single correct answer is OBVIOUSLY correct (to you) and every incorrect answer is OBVIOUSLY incorrect.
Don’t leave any ambiguity in review.
It isn’t enough to “kind of” get it.
Every question you review should be so clear to you that you could teach it to someone else.
Use LSAT for GMAT
If you are struggling to get to the next level on verbal than LSAT practice may be just what you need.
LSAT questions are generally tougher than their GMAT counterparts and there is a near unlimited number of them to practice on.
Usually, once you get solid on the LSAT level questions the GMAT ones are much easier.
If basic reading skills are weak then consider bulking up (and potentially pausing test prep until ready)
Not everybody is going hit a perfect verbal score but given the right focus and commitment just about everybody can make a significant improvement.
The above ideas are generally not quick fixes.
Yes, it is possible that simply slowing down and reading more carefully or referencing the passage (instead of staying in a death spiral with the answer choices) could boost your CR score overnight. It happens.
But, in general, these are things that you will need to practice and let sink in for a bit.
You may try to read more carefully (correctly) but end up being super rushed for time and do worse (at first).
Again, it may take time to get this process working for you as we wean you off shortcuts (skimming for instance) that may work some of the time but are limiting your potential.
Hopefully some (or all) of the above will contribute to a better CR/RC approach, a higher verbal score, and ultimately you achieving your GMAT goals.
Feel free to follow up with any questions or comments. Good luck with your GMAT prep!