General – It is important to have a general understanding about certain things that you can expect to see on the questions: Main point, organization, author’s attitude & purpose, paragraph function, etc.
Underline key words and phrases: “First, Second, Third”; “Furthermore”; “On the other hand”; “for example”; “namely”; “for one thing”; “In addition”; “Nevertheless”; “For these reasons”; “proponents believe”; “critics believe”; “But”; “However”; “According to”; “In contrast”; “…claims”; “…goes so far as to claim”; “others argue”; etc. This is far from a comprehensive list. As you work through more RC passages, you begin to develop a sense for where the testmakers are likely to draw questions from. The goal is to anticipate where questions are likely to be drawn from, and remember where that important information is located so that if you see it later then you will know exactly where to refer to.
In addition, be aware of:
-shifts in point of view (“Despite,” “however,” “nevertheless,” “on the other hand,” “on the contrary,” “proponents claim…,” “critics claim…”, etc.) [be sure to know which point of view the author subscribes to]
-lists (“first… second… third…”, “one such… another…”)
It is less important to know specific details (scientific nomenclature, definitions, etc.). It is, however, important to know WHERE these unfamiliar terms are so that you can quickly refer to them when you see a question regarding them.
Granted, it is always great if you can quickly read a passage and fully comprehend every detail… it simply isn’t always possible to do so. If you cannot, then try and get the gist of the passage and move on to the questions without wasting too much time reading and re-reading. It is easy to refer back to the passage to answer questions on specific points, as long as you understand it well enough to know where to quickly find the answers.
Personally, I usually feel like I’ve read a passage properly if I read it in 3:00 (+/- :30), and can easily answer the main point question.
After reading through hundreds of passages, you develop an intuitive sense of where the questions are likely to come from. Pay attention to developing that sense, and learn to anticipate what will be asked of you (but DON’T read the questions before reading the passage).
• Push through the passage. Don’t allow yourself to get caught reading and re-reading.
• Keep a clear head and positive attitude to your approach. Getting frustrated/getting bored/zoning out is what the test makers WANT you to do. The material is intentionally dry and technical so that many readers lose focus. Don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap.
• Don’t be so afraid to skip a difficult question. Keep moving forward. Narrow the answer choices down to 2, circle one, move on. Come back later. Perhaps the fresh perspective will quickly lead you to the correct answer. If not, a 50/50 shot at a tough problem is ok, especially if it gives you sufficient time to attack 2 or 3 easier problems that you may not have gotten to if you remained stuck.