Motivator9 wrote:Hey Mike,
I hope all is well. I wanted to ask you about what direction I should take with my LR studies. I've been studying LR for about 3 months now, mainly using you book while drilling from the cambridge packets and going through individual LR sections. Although I've seen vast improvements since I first began my studies (my diagnostic was a 145), I'm still having a hard time translating that success to the timed sections. When I do a LR section un-timed, I might miss two or three questions per section.For the timed sections, it's not that I'm getting more questions wrong because I'm making, say, reasoning errors; it's because I'm simply not finishing the sections. I have to admit I don't consider myself to be a naturally good reader (which explains my low diagnostic), so it takes me longer than it probably should to comprehend the stimulus and understand the reasoning issue. How do I work on my speed without sacrificing the skills and habits that I've worked on during my studies. Can you give me some specific ways to drill our work on timed sections?
Here is some more background on how I went about my studies since I started.
When I first began, I went through your book and drilled using one of the study schedules (PT 52-56) you provided. I also included Cambridge drilling questions from PTs 1-19 as I went through the different questions types. I made sure to throw in plenty of full LR sections so I wouldn't focus too much on one question while neglecting the others. I also spent ample time reviewing questions that, I either missed, or wasn't sure about. Once I finished your the Trainer, I started incorporating more individual sections, focusing more on timing and building up endurance. For the past two weeks, I've started reading the LR chapters in the Trainer again, really trying to sharpen my skills and habits, with the hope that it'll help me spend less getting to the right answer on questions that are giving me a hard time. However, it's just been frustrating finding that balance between pacing and doing the questions in an efficient manner.
So, again, what direction should i take now? Should I continue to work on those individual sections with a good mix of drilling? is there something specific that you recommend for someone like me, who has the skills and habits to do almost all LR correctly, but really struggles with speeding up and getting to the end of a section.
Thanks as always!
Hey M9 -
Great q -- here are some thoughts that I hope you find helpful -- apologies for the length and if some of this is redundant --
Hope you don't mind if I start off w/an analogy....
So, I have a lot of friends, who, for a variety of reasons, have ended up in this troublesome situation when it comes to their diet -- all the food they love to eat happens to be very unhealthy. So, they constantly have to make an either/or (but not both) choice at mealtime -- do they eat something healthy that they don't want to eat, or do they eat what they want (and feel guilty about it)? There is no easy fix to this conflict, which is why our supermarkets are filled with unhealthy food pretending to be healthy, and healthy food disguised to taste like the unhealthy stuff.
Who gets to avoid this mess? People who happen to find healthy food tasty. If the food you love to eat happens to be healthy, you get the best of both worlds.
Here's the tie-in --
A lot of students face the same either/or (but not both) dilemma when it comes to timing and accuracy -- because the methods they have developed for gaining accuracy are overly time-consuming, or because the methods they've developed for cutting time are ones that cut out accuracy, these students are consistently forced to make unpleasant either/or (but not both) decisions -- do I go faster or try to get more q's right?-- for which there are no good solutions.
How do you avoid this? My main advice to you is to work to improve at those skills that have a positive effect on both your timing and your accuracy.
More specifically, these include, but are not limited to --
1) Having and enforcing a very clear sense of task.
The question stem should give you a clear sense of what to focus on in and what to get out of the stimulus, and also what you should look out for in the answer choices. The better you are at staying on task, the faster you will go and the more accurate you will be.
2) Being able to prioritize correctly in the stimulus --
This is obviously very closely linked to #1 -- you have to have a clear sense of task to be able to know what to prioritize, and you won't be able to stay on task unless you can prioritize correctly.
One of the biggest mistakes students commonly make is trying too hard to retain too much of the stimulus (basic example would be a student who by default diagrams every single inference question) -- this is a defensive "safe" move, and though it may seem like a good idea, the consequence can be that it forces you to spend more time (because you are trying to pay attention to everything) and you'll have a less clear sense of the right answer (which will relate to what you were meant to prioritize) and be more tempted by the wrong ones (which will often relate to the secondary information you weren't meant to prioritize).
3) Being able to see, correctly, what's wrong with an argument (when that's required)
This is obviously related to #'s 1 & 2 -- and you can just imagine that if have a less clear sense of task, and you aren't focused in on the key components of an argument, it makes it much, much harder to have a very clear sense of the exact reasoning issue.
4) Being able to anticipate the right answer / characteristics of the right answer / (on flip side, knowing what is missing/wrong in wrong answers)
And this is obviously related to 1, 2, and 3 -- clear sense of task / clear and correct focus on the key components of the stimulus / clear and narrow understanding of the exact flaw (when that's your job) all add up to make it that much easier for you to anticipate what the right answer ought to be like, and, on the flip side, they all add up to make wrong answers that much more obviously wrong.
If you have a somewhat fuzzy sense of task (or don't focus enough on task), are trying to keep in mind all the background etc in addition to the argument, and either haven't thought enough about what's wrong with reasoning or haven't worked hard enough to see the flaw correctly, right answers will be much harder to see and wrong ones much harder to eliminate.
I know that you've heard all the above before and it's all discussed at exhausting length in the trainer, but if you're still with me here's the big point I want to make --Use the above parameters when you review your work, and use them to gauge your progress and plan your improvement. Decide that you've solved a q efficiently if you've done all the above well, and that there is review to be done if you haven't.
If, two weeks away from the exam, your timing still isn't where it needs to be, I can give you advice about which q's to rush on etc., but for now, I want to keep encouraging you to work on getting faster in ways that don't sacrifice accuracy.
Every student is different, but in my experience reading pace is not a common reason students have trouble finishing the LR (I used to tutor Ozzy Osbourne's kids and he'd sometimes join us and read along -- talk about issues with reading pace). Anyway, for every one super-slow reader who really has to account for that as a serious impediment, twenty other students I've worked with have trouble finishing sections because they don't use efficient processes, waste time doing unnecessary work (this is the #1 most common problem), or waste time spinning their wheels because they haven't planned for certain contingencies.
Another way to look at it -- top scorers in the LR section do not necessarily do "more work" nor do they necessarily read faster than average scorers -- in fact, top scorers generally think about far less -- it just so happens that what they focus on consistently turns out to be the keys to solving q's. Lesser scorers, because they aren't able to zero in as well, have to process a lot more information to try to keep up.
I hope the solutions for the practice problems in the trainer serve as a good gauge of efficient work -- try some of those q's again, and compare your thought processes with the ones I wrote down -- are you processing about the same volume of information, or are you thinking about a lot more stuff than I am? If there is anything extra, was it helpful for you or not? If not, what should you not have done?
Finally, some suggestions for more practical exercises:
1) Do practice sets of easier q's (lower #'s in section or "level 1" in cambridge packets etc.) at an artificially fast pace (must faster than you would expect from yourself on test day -- like 10 q's in 8 mins or even less) -- don't skip out on steps (just try to get through them faster) and see how well you can do -- by doing this you can a) improve your overall pace and b) get a better sense of exactly how fast you can go without losing control (you can't truly know how fast you can go without knowing what it feels like to go too fast). In my opinion the work you do on easier problems has a bigger impact on your overall pace than the work you do on harder q's.
2) On the flip side, force yourself to practice imposing maximum time limits on the hardest q's. A lot of times, students will shoot themselves in the foot because they waste far too much time on just one or two tough q's in a section. Often, this is a result of not having a primary strategy work out, not having any backup plans, and having to scramble in the moment. Make sure you work on having systems that you implement when you run into trouble, and make sure these systems prevent you from spending too much time on a q. One way to gauge/work on this would be to do a bunch of level 4's and make sure than no one problem takes you more than 2 mins (or whatever upper limit you want to set), no matter what.
Wow, way longer than I had even initially feared -- sorry for that, but I hope at least some of it is helpful -- something about the tiny box I have to type in on TLS makes me even more wordy than I normally am -- anyway, as always, pls follow up if you need anything else -- MK