Short RP Strategy
Short RP Strategy
For long RPs, we advised you to read the entire passage, make a sketchy outline, then check out the questions. We suggested that you follow those steps in that order because it’d be impossible to keep an 800-word passage and eight to thirteen questions in your head.
But short RPs are short and have just two questions. That means you can comfortably fit the entire passage and the two questions in your head. It also means you don’t have to worry about keeping an outline, since you’re dealing with only one paragraph. The change in the length of the passage therefore flips your whole strategy on its head: You should read the questions before you read the passage. That way, you’ll have the exact questions you need to answer in mind as you read the passage.
  1. Read the two questions but not the answer choices.
  2. Read the passage, with special focus on answering the two questions.
  3. Come up with answers for the two questions in your own words.
  4. Match your answer to the correct answer.
Now let’s see what happens when we apply this method to the two questions from our sample short RP.
Sample Short RP Answers and Explanations
Here’s the first question again:
1. The reference to the “person in the middle of nowhere” primarily serves to
(A) introduce a new argument
(B) challenge common beliefs
(C) highlight the limitations of an accepted idea
(D) question modern morals
(E) indicate the scope of a change
Let’s say you ignore our four-step method and read through this passage, skipping step 1. You’d have no clue what the questions are, so you’d just breeze by the phrase about the “person in the middle of nowhere.” Then you’d get to the first question and would have to go back to reread the entire sentence containing the “person in the middle of nowhere” phrase, wasting precious time.
Instead, if you had followed step 1 and read the questions first, you’d know what you were looking for. You’d then read the passage and keep an eye out for that particular phrase (step 2). You’d notice that the phrase “not even a person in the middle of nowhere would be surprised to see a plane in the sky” emphasizes how common airplanes are now, and it draws a contrast to a hundred years ago when scientists did not believe such flight was possible. That means the author uses that phrase to point out that today, no one, anywhere would be surprised to see a plane in the sky. That’s your version of the answer to this technique question (step 3). Now take a look at the real answer choices and try to find one that matches yours closely (step 4). E matches almost perfectly. The author uses the reference to the “person in the middle of nowhere” to indicate the scope of the change from the days when airplanes were foreign to almost everyone.
Now, for the second question from the sample passage:
2. The author of the passage would most likely agree with each of the following statements EXCEPT
(A) airplanes are a relatively recent innovation
(B) the Wright brothers took the first airplane flight
(C) air travel remains the privilege of the elite
(D) the word “airplane” was rarely used in the early twentieth century
(E) airplanes can be seen almost anywhere
Reading the questions first (step 1) can save you lots of time on EXCEPT questions. This themes and arguments question asks you to find the statement that the author would not agree with, so as you read the passage with the question in mind, you can check off the statements that the passage confirms as you read. Notice that on EXCEPT questions like this one, you have to read the answer choices first as well, since the question alone does not give you enough information to work with as you read the passage (step 2). Using this method will actually allow you to skip step 3 and 4, since the answer will be the only unchecked answer choice that remains after you’ve read the passage and checked off the statements with which the author would agree.
The author’s main argument in this passage is that air travel has become entirely commonplace even though the invention of flight only happened 100 years ago. You can knock out A, since the author would certainly agree that air travel is a recent invention. Check off B since the author references the Wright brothers’ famous first flight directly in the passage. D and E can get checks too, because they cover material that the author clearly supports in the passage: that airplanes can be seen even in the middle of nowhere and that the word airplane only came into common usage recently. Only C stands out as directly against the author’s main theme and argument: rather than remaining exclusively for the wealthy, air travel can now be enjoyed by almost anyone. After having read the passage and checked off answer choices as you read, only C would remain, and that’s the correct answer.
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