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How to Improve On Verbal: Golden Rule

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KoalaT

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I've mentioned the golden rule in many threads and people are always messaging me and asking more about it and my take on verbal. Well here is a thread that explains it all perfectly. I promise this is the best way to improve your verbal score. Try it, practice it, improve.

The Golden Rule
Basics:
1) Mark out 2 obviously wrong answers to leave you with the 2 answers that sound good.
2) Pick the LESS WRONG answer. This means pick the answer that does not contain anything even remotely contradicting to what you thought of the passage. Even if it doesn't seem as explicitly correct as the other answer, if it does not contain wrong information, it is the less wrong answer.

Reason it works:
Wrong details make questions 100% wrong.
Right details do NOT make questions 100% right.
Test makers will make 2 questions that sound good. One will include a trap. It will sound really really good but then have 1 small detail where you think "well that's not quite right, but the rest sounds so great". Don't fall for it.
The other answer (the correct one) will sound right but not as obviously right, so you doubt picking it.

Example
I'm going to simulate a passage here. The blanks are there because let's be honest, you didn't understand everything. You just picked up on key words and some ideas.

John Smith .... African artist ..... contemplative .... art .... south Africa ..... art that makes one think about the human perspective .... not normally seen by the human eye .... mixed colors and blurred details .... Smith raised in poverty ..... believes art makes one contemplate human experience ..... art must reflect humanity to be true art.

Try to answer this question using the golden rule.

Which of the following would the author most likely enjoy?
A) A detailed drawing of a city skyline.
B) A picture of his mother.
C) A realistic painting of an impoverished African child with no shoes.
D) An abstract painting of a man alone on the subway.

Now lets walk through it:
1) Mark out 2 wrong answer.
So we know the author likes art about the humanities and that it should express the human perspective and condition to be true art. That seemed pretty obvious from the passage, and we know that.
Answer A we mark out because it is a skyline, not of human perspective. Answer B we mark out because a picture is not an art piece and it also doesn't express the human experience.

2) Pick the less wrong answer.
We have C. This sound pretty darn good. An impoverished African child definitely makes us feel for the painting and shows human perspective. Also, I remember Africa being mentioned and something about poverty, so this sounds pretty darn good.
We have D. It is abstract. That sounds good with the blurred details and mixed colors. It also shows a lonely man, so that fits the human perspective and experience part. It makes you feel for a lonely man on the subway all alone.
Choice C must be incorrect because it mentions "realistic", which the author does not endorse.
Answer D is correct and includes no contradictions.

In reality, Answer C is super enticing in a timed MCAT where you barely understood the passage. You think "It mentions Africa, poverty, and clearly evokes emotion about the human perspective and experience." However, you did remember a slight something about not normally seen by the human eye and mixed colors and blurred details. Be confident in what you read. Even though this answer sounds great, "realistic" is a contradicting detail and makes the whole answer wrong no matter how great the rest of it is. Answer D matches the main point AND has no contradicting details. Pick it and be a winner.

I made this post so I do not have to answer a dozen messages and questions about it anymore. I believe it is sufficiently explained in this post. If you're still uncertain about it, you need to practice. After all, no advice is going to instantly jump up your verbal score. Practice is key. Practice using this rule DAILY and you will improve.
 
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Ryomagoku

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I took the diagnostic exam today since I'm taking April exam. I didn't do well overall. But, I read your post before the exam and kinda tried it. I wanted to try my method also so I just integrated both.
I am not a native speaker. My SAT verbal reasoning was the worst. And I was very afraid of CARS.

After the diagnostic, I ended up scoring 129 on it. Tbh, I was beyond amazed. I will be doing another FL before I make decision on postponing the exam, and I will let you know if this could work out or not. My method plus yours could work out. Besides, I had about 15 to 20 min left.
 

KoalaT

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I took the diagnostic exam today since I'm taking April exam. I didn't do well overall. But, I read your post before the exam and kinda tried it. I wanted to try my method also so I just integrated both.
I am not a native speaker. My SAT verbal reasoning was the worst. And I was very afraid of CARS.

After the diagnostic, I ended up scoring 129 on it. Tbh, I was beyond amazed. I will be doing another FL before I make decision on postponing the exam, and I will let you know if this could work out or not. My method plus yours could work out. Besides, I had about 15 to 20 min left.
That is a great score and A LOT of extra time to have for verbal. Might I ask what your technique is? I rarely have more than a minute or so left over and sometimes I even find myself rushing the last 2-3 questions of the last passage.

I am assuming you must be using a speed reading technique like reading the first and last sentences of paragraphs that are the introduction/conclusion is something like that. I have never been a fan. I like EK approach to verbal, which is just read the freak'n passage the way it was supposed to be read and move on to the questions.

I don't want to critique your strategy since it seems to be doing well, but it seems to me that if you continue to have 15-20 minutes left over (this is way too much) you should definitely take more of your time to improve your score. Either more time understanding the passage or more time on the questions, whichever you find most helpful.
 

Ryomagoku

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That is a great score and A LOT of extra time to have for verbal. Might I ask what your technique is? I rarely have more than a minute or so left over and sometimes I even find myself rushing the last 2-3 questions of the last passage.

I am assuming you must be using a speed reading technique like reading the first and last sentences of paragraphs that are the introduction/conclusion is something like that. I have never been a fan. I like EK approach to verbal, which is just read the freak'n passage the way it was supposed to be read and move on to the questions.

I don't want to critique your strategy since it seems to be doing well, but it seems to me that if you continue to have 15-20 minutes left over (this is way too much) you should definitely take more of your time to improve your score. Either more time understanding the passage or more time on the questions, whichever you find most helpful.
by all means critique if you want. I too was not a fan of speed reading. Besides, I was never good at verbal section.

Surprisingly, I noticed something as I was doing TPR hyperlearning workbook one day. There are A LOT of information in the passage that are unnecessary for us to know and are written very complicated way in order to confuse the heck out of us.

That's when I started my method.

My method is kind of like speed reading.

Yes, you pointed out the right stuff, reading the first and last sentence of the paragraph.

My method is a little different.

Read first 2 and last 2 sentences of each paragraph. If only if the paragraph sounds interesting to you, read the entire paragraph. Otherwise, just read first 2 and last 2 sentences. That leaves me one or two sentences unread. When I'm done with reading, jump right onto the questions. You can and should be able to answer most of the questions. But there are one or two questions that are from the sentences that I did not read. All I have to do after that is to read those sentences quickly and answer the question. By using your strategy incorporated, I noticed my time was reduced by a lot.


Before I came up with what worked for me, I could not answer questions on one passage under 10 minutes.

Now, I have at least 5 minutes left, mostly 10minutes.

It really is up to what works for you. But your method is really good because I was always between the two answer choices.
 
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KoalaT

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by all means critique if you want. I too was not a fan of speed reading. Besides, I was never good at verbal section.

Surprisingly, I noticed something as I was doing TPR hyperlearning workbook one day. There are A LOT of information in the passage that are unnecessary for us to know and are written very complicated way in order to confuse the heck out of us.

That's when I started my method.

My method is kind of like speed reading.

Yes, you pointed out the right stuff, reading the first and last sentence of the paragraph.

My method is a little different.

Read first 2 and last 2 sentences of each paragraph. If only if the paragraph sounds interesting to you, read the entire paragraph. Otherwise, just read first 2 and last 2 sentences. That leaves me one or two sentences unread. When I'm done with reading, jump right onto the questions. You can and should be able to answer most of the questions. But there are one or two questions that are from the sentences that I did not read. All I have to do after that is to read those sentences quickly and answer the question. By using your strategy incorporated, I noticed my time was reduced by a lot.


Before I came up with what worked for me, I could not answer questions on one passage under 10 minutes.

Now, I have at least 5 minutes left, mostly 10minutes.

It really is up to what works for you. But your method is really good because I was always between the two answer choices.

I used to use a strategy like this back when I used Kaplan to prep (dumb idea looking back. It's crap compared to TPR and TBR). Although, speed reading was a NECESSITY for me on the old MCAT. It was so time crunched. However, I'm starting to notice that the new MCAT gives you A LOT more time. I can actually read the whole passage, answer questions, and even refer back to the passage for a good amount of questions with a good 30-50 seconds left per passage.

That being said, I think speed reading techniques may not be as necessary in the new MCAT. However, I wouldn't say their uneffective. If you use that extra time to spend more time on the questions and referring back to the passage, your score might be better than if you didn't.

The strategy I've come up with is something like this. If the passage is easy (you're reading it and understanding it well), then actually read the whole thing and absorb it all. You can get through the questions quickly because you understood it so well. If the passage is very difficult (you are thinking "what the heck is going on") and don't understand anything, then speed through it and get to the questions. In this case, you want to use the questions to give you extra info and want more time to refer back to the passage.

Summary: Easy passages = read entirely for understanding. Hard passages = speed read and spend time on questions/referring back
 
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DesitnationMD

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I used to use a strategy like this back when I used Kaplan to prep (dumb idea looking back. It's crap compared to TPR and TBR). Although, speed reading was a NECESSITY for me on the old MCAT. It was so time crunched. However, I'm starting to notice that the new MCAT gives you A LOT more time. I can actually read the whole passage, answer questions, and even refer back to the passage for a good amount of questions with a good 30-50 seconds left per passage.....

Summary: Easy passages = read entirely for understanding. Hard passages = speed read and spend time on questions/referring back

Yeah, the new mcat give you 10 mins per verbal passage, as opposed to the old version and ~8 mins. thats 2 whole extra minutes per passage, an eternity on the mcat

I used a similar strategy to your idea, but tweaked. I always skimmed/sped read, but i only ofucsed on what i felt the paragraph's main idea was, or how it related to the ideas/themes brought up in the first paragrap (which almost always gives it away).

the problem with your strategy might be a passage seems easy or hard, then changes a few lines or a pragraprh or so in.

an easier passage makes it easier to find the main idea, while tougher passages i had to sort of figure out what I could, and only sweat the details if the questions required me to. in fact its like that (way more details than they can ask about) in every section of the exam.

you dont NEED speed reading on the mcat, and if you are nto a speed reader i don't recommend trying to become one in a few weeks, but a critical reader who focuses on the important, more likely to be tested stuff, can still get through a passage without needed to speed read.
 
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TestingSolutions

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Summary: Easy passages = read entirely for understanding. Hard passages = speed read and spend time on questions/referring back

Overall, I think your "Gold Rule" post is excellent. The idea of picking the answer which is "Less Wrong" is exactly right. But regarding what you've written about speed reading hard passages, I'd have to strongly disagree. In my experience, it's impossible to accurately judge in a short period of time whether or not a passage is going to be "hard." For one thing, often denser passages on the CARS have easier questions, thus making the "hard" passage, actually rather easy. The opposite is also true, frequently "Easy" passages have very difficult questions. It's not possible to know this quickly. Beyond this, often passages that seem difficult at the beginning actually end up being quite easy. The opposite is also true. Passages which are "easy" for the first third can be real beasts for the last 2/3. In my experience teaching students how to excel at the CARS, the students who consistently do the best are the ones who develop a methodical approach where they thoroughly read each passage without wasting time trying to figure out "Is this a hard passage or easy passage." I don't think you should speed read anything on the CARS. It isn't necessary to do well and actually can be very detrimental to your score. For example:


There are 9 passages on the CARS section. Each passage is a maximum of 600 words. Thus,
9 X 600 words = 5,400 words
Now, the average reading speed with decent comprehension for an adult is around 250 words per minute. Thus,

5,400 words / 250 words per minute = 22 minutes

90 Total Minutes - 22 Minutes for Reading Passages = 68 Minutes for Questions or 1.3 Minutes per Question
I write all of this to say that the "skim/ speed read approach" for hard passages is not a new strategy out there. Test prep companies have been selling it for years, but in my years of teaching, I've seen very few (if any) do really well with it. There are people (like yourself KoalaT) that are going to do well on the CARS regardless, so using this strategy doesn't hurt them. I don't think the "skim/ speed read" hard passages approach works for most people. They end up spending far too long judging whether its a hard passage or not ("Is this a hard passage or not. Should I read it thoroughly. I'll read it thoroughly...oh crap, it is seeming harder. I'll speed read it...oh wait it's seeming easier. I'll read it thoroughly..etc.) and they also spend too much time going back to the questions because they haven't really read the passage.

I don't mean to be nit-picky as I think the point you make really is one of the most important "Golden-Rules" on the CARS, as a question that has something wrong with it, no matter how small has to be wrong on the CARS. Just like you say. I think realizing this and utilizing your rule could earn 1 or 2 scaled points overnight.

Right details do NOT make questions 100% right.
Test makers will make 2 questions that sound good. One will include a trap. It will sound really really good but then have 1 small detail where you think "well that's not quite right, but the rest sounds so great". Don't fall for it.
The other answer (the correct one) will sound right but not as obviously right, so you doubt picking it.

Those are some of the most useful words I've ever seen written on SDN. Great job!
 
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