These are good questions so I've taken a moment to reflect on them and, while I wish I had better answers, these are some of the VERY rambly thoughts I've come up with, which I promise I pruned down from an even RAMBLIER screed, so please forgive my longwindedness:
CocoSunshine wrote:Could you please elaborate your strategy on RC a bit more? For example, how much time do you spend on reading the passages and doing questions respectively? Do you heavily annotate and underline (Since you mentioned Voyager's guide, I assume you do)? Do you refer back to text frequently or trust your memory more? How do you work on timing? etc. Thanks!
Yes, I would like to know this as well! Also, you mentioned it took you a few months to get your score consistently down to ~ -5. How many RC sections did you do before you got to this point? Did you redo any of the sections? And, if so, how did you review them?
Thinking about this really brings back some awful memories about just how terrible RC was. Also, fortunately for my sanity but unfortunately for you, I think I've already repressed a lot of my memories about RC.
When I edit the OP next I'm gonna try again to take away the impression that I was an RC master, I just went over a few of my graphs from when I was logging this stuff and my memory seems to have been painting a rosier picture than the data suggest. Toward the end I did get plenty of -0s/-1s, maybe even mostly
-0s/-1s, but there was a lot of fear and loathing and -4s/5s dotting that landscape so the word "consistently"might be too generous. Also, when I did have a terrible PT, it was usually because RC threw me for a loop. I had a couple of -5s in the last month or so of PTing which really
scared me but that's a different subject altogether.
As far as which strategies I tried, the answer is: pretty much all of them, at one point or another. I did sections where I forced myself not to underline/box/write anything and I did sections where I basically covered the page. I read some passages out loud, I imagined myself screaming passages in funny voices, I tried the time-limit method that some people like (where you FORCE yourself to read the passage in a short amount of time, sometimes varying lengths per passage (as many people find they tend to get harder throughout the section but for me this effect wasn't as strong)) so that they have lots of time per question, I tried taking my time and racing through the questions, I think I tried everything but using highlighters and looking at the questions first, but I would have if I needed to.
You might be thinking, "Yeah, okay, I don't want to know what you tried
, I want to know what worked
", but let's dwell on that impulse for a moment. You want a silver bullet that will magically bring down this beast and the closest to a silver bullet I can give you is trying as many things as you can and paying as close attention as possible to how your performance is changing under all these different methods until you've gotten to the mountaintop because, at the risk of sounding trite, what will work for you will not necessarily work for me or for anyone else. I want to stress this so much because I want your takeaway NOT to be "ohhh so THAT'S how RC should be done" but rather "hmm I guess there are a few other things I could try" or "hmm I guess I don't know as much about my own performance as I could".
I like Voyager's guide most of all for the confidence he has. But Voyager says that time is the real trick to the passages and I would say that's misleading. Time is the trick to everything if you already know how to spend it but, if you don't, then figuring THAT out is what you should be focusing on. His method is worth practising, but here would be my approach for RC, if I were coaching someone personally and they were missing, say, 5-8 per RC section:
Go through Manhattan's RC guide SLOWLY and TYPING UP NOTES ON EACH SECTION. You will refer to these regularly and they will keep you from skimming. Then get LSAT trainer and do it all over again with that. You can do all this without taking a single PT and I doubt doing one would help anything. I won't say much on this phase because the advice that's specifically about RC is in those books, I can only say pay close attention to the books. Manhattan first, because LSAT Trainer is (iirc) geared more toward mastery. Maybe LSAT Trainer has come out on top, though, if I were you I'd ask around in the forum and lurk a lot.
I see I've missed a few of your specific questions, though. For thoroughness' sake, how much time do you spend on reading the passages and doing questions respectively?
I'm a little embarrassed to not know exactly, this would have been such a great little datum! I bet it varied pretty broadly depending on how much I was able to engross myself in the passage, on how much I was able to sustain interest in listening to the author. I get the impression that lots of people think they lose time by reading too slowly, but after a relatively early threshold of reading speed I think they overestimate that effect and underestimate how much time they lose by not reading INTERESTEDLY: if you have to read something twice, you could have read it 1.5x slower and saved yourself the difference, and often when you speed read you waste whole minutes
this way, or at least I did. Do you heavily annotate and underline (Since you mentioned Voyager's guide, I assume you do)?
I got pretty underliney and writing stuff in the margin was key. Bracketing, not so much. Writing (A) in the margin for author's point, that sort of thing. I think you have to try both extremes before you can know what is the best balance for your vision, think of annotations as a scaffolding that you place over the passage so you can see its skeleton. But I'm sure the books go over that stuff better than I can. Do you refer back to text frequently or trust your memory more?
Memory is a function of interest and serves you best in remembering the passage in broad terms, I think. You don't need to remember what effect XYZScienceWord had on ABCScienceWord so long as you can remember WHERE in the passage the author discusses that stuff, that's
the memory you want. I think this broader, more helpful memory, is fostered by interest in the passage, which is not outside of your control. Someone elsewhere on TLS said something about how life is brief and you only get to learn so much about this amazing world and that RC is a genuine opportunity to learn something that is fascinatingly interesting to someone else. Why can't it be fascinatingly interesting to you? Jokes about recent trends in African Feminist Sculpture's effect on the Latin American school of Dancing Poets aside, this stuff is genuinely interesting to lots of people and you need to be one of them
. How do you work on timing?
I did my best when I didn't think about it. Not like LG. It internalizes after a while and you know whether you've spent 3 or 5 minutes, not necessarily because you know that number, but because you know if you're behind or ahead. Here's a suggestion for a rule on timing: If you're making forward progress, which means interested reading, helpful annotation or eliminating wrong answer choices, you're making good time. If you're slipping(lost in the passage or debating the PROS and not the CONS of a couple of tempting answer choices), you're not. Also, you mentioned it took you a few months to get your score consistently down to ~ -5. How many RC sections did you do before you got to this point?
See above where I embarrassingly admit that 'consistently' is probably too generous. I think I thought that was a fair description of my performance until looking back over all those graphs, but now I feel like I was consistently -0/-1 when I was in the zone but that it was a very tiny zone to get into. A crying baby or an old friend interrupting my studying at the library and *boom* -4. Which is problematic, because excuses are the opposite of what we want, but I'll get into that later when I respond to cpamom. Anyways, I did way too many PTs early on and I did probably 2 or 3 RC passages from old sections(at which point I probably could have been just doing crossword puzzles)/week, but it wasn't until I really hit the books later on that I saw the gains I wanted. Doing sections is just like doing PTs, in that it's only helpful insofar as it illumines your weaknesses, it won't make you stronger by itself. The books are the way to go. Did you redo any of the sections? And, if so, how did you review them?
Meh, I don't think taking sections over again is that helpful, but that might be me. To harp on a familiar theme, it's not how much you're doing
, it's how much you're reviewing
. Now for review, I was big into the circling-hard-questions, and I googled any question that I found difficult or got wrong. I read all the discussion that I could on that question and, in the rare case that there was none, I wrote it myself. When there was some, I wrote it out in my own words (when I was ambitious) or I just ctrl+v'd it (when I wasn't) in a google doc, printed it out, and read my explanation throughout the week. Here's an excerpt from a PM I wrote someone about this:
Honestly, I never did a perfect write up. A perfect write-up would have the following: A total, thorough run-down of the context of the test as a whole (not just how long I slept and what I ate, but how well I slept and how much I ate and when. All these opportunities to notice trends, all this data just waiting to be jotted down) and, for questions that I:-missed and thought was right
: full write-up OF THE WRONG ANSWER CHOICE I CHOSE AND FULL WRITE-UP OF THE RIGHT ONE THAT I DIDN'T! Both in particular AND IN THE ABSTRACT. An example of the particulars would be "I thought that the passage said that green tea had been shown not to aggravate folliculitis, and the wrong answer choice implied that it wasn't certain whether or not green tea was a factor in a person's likelihood of contracting folliculitis, so while I thought they conflicted, they didn't. An example of the abstract statement of that would be "I thought the text and the answer choice presented mutually exclusive options but that was because I glossed over the precision of their meaning. When two things use different phrasing, even and perhaps ESPECIALLY when they are very close to the same but not quite, I need to ask myself, 'are these really the same meaning or are they trying to trick me?' Hopefully that would help me realize that often when the LSAT uses similar wordings it is deliberately presenting different meanings similarly! A Trick!" I'd probably type something like that up, print it out, highlight the relevant parts (answer choices and explanations), and carry it around in my pocket so I can look at it throughout the week, several times a day. Not joking I actually did this on several occasions. -missed and wasn't certain about
- same as above but since I'm not getting tricked, I don't need to spend quite as much time as the ones where I think I'm confident that I'm right but I'm not (so the pocket thing is optional probably)-got right but wasn't certain about
- I can do the thing where I carry it in my pocket but probably just writing it up and reading it once or twice throughout the week would be enough, since I already am getting them right. Time is finite and areas in need of most improvement must be attended to first. -got right and knew it
- Awesome no need to review
but here's a little more rambling on the subject:
You are making mistakes and you need to know exactly what kind each mistake is. For example, maybe 2 or 3 times per section you are struck by a very attractive answer because you aren't working wrong-to-right. Had you been looking for what was wrong about each question instead of what was right about it, you wouldn't have made those mistakes. Cool. Now dig deeper. 1) Why did you forget to X
(in this case, to go wrong-to-right)?. This is a very important question in part because of how perilously easy it is to overlook. Were you not constantly combing over your methods in the days before the PT? If you need to set a reminder on your phone that tells you "Go Wrong To Right" every couple of hours, do it. Were you thinking about the methods that you would use for a particular question type right before you sat down to PT? If you need to make flash cards and drill the names of general approaches before you sharpen your pencil that morning, do it. There are far fewer random mistakes and coincidences than we would like to think and this is perhaps especially true on RC, where we often feel most guided by intuition. 2) What was the wrongness that you overlooked?
Don't just say "it was unsupported" or "it missed a key element of the text", that's good but insufficient. If the reason was that "in reading the text I thought that the author was continuing to talk about a way in which his side was supported when in fact he was introducing a new form of support altogether. Thus, when I got to the question, I didn't realize that it was missing a reference to this new form of support (and, when that form was mentioned in a different question it looked out-of-place). Why did I make this mistake? Well, they are of the same kind (both were lab experiments done by the same scientists) and they both support the same conclusion, but the second one actually defends against a potential objection (that xyz) whereas the first just shows that, in the absence of what the scientists think is the cause, the phenomenon doesn't happen. This mistake could be paralleled in the following examples: [examples with different subject matter but that would similarly tempt me]." then type all that up, and read it throughout the week. You are, again, trying to learn what trips YOU up, you are your coach and you are watching film of your pupil's performance trying to see where his form tends to break down.
*phew* I will get to the question on staying positive in a bit I promise lol
Good luck and keep grindin
eta: you'll note I didn't say that going through those books would be my recommendation to people who were getting -5s or worse and who hadn't read them yet
, that's my recommendation to everyone. "I already read that book and I'm still not getting it" isn't a valid excuse, I promise. I read that Manhattan guide pretty much every time I got a -5 and probably read parts of it a dozen times. It's short and yet so full of RC wisdom(same with LSAT trainer, at least w/r/t being full of wisdom) so if you've already read it, awesome, you don't have to buy it again just read it more closely this time.