Reading Passages
The 11 Most Common Mistakes
As you prepare, keep the following common mistakes in mind. Some are mistakes to avoid when taking the actual test; others are mistakes to avoid during your preparation for the test. Some apply to all item- and passage-types; others are more specific.
  1. Reading long RPs word-for-word/refusing to skim. Maximize the time you spend on the items. Answering items correctly is what gets you points.
  2. Reading passively. Make margin notes; mark up the passage; have a sense of what each chunk of the passage, as well as the passage as a whole is about.
  3. Looking at the answer choices without having some idea of what the correct answer should be. If at all possible, make sure you come up with your own answer first so you’re not at the mercy of the distractors.
  4. Spending too much time (more than a minute or so) on any one item in a set.
  5. Failing to practice the step methods on every practice RP set—reading the book is not enough!
  6. Refusing to guess when you’ve eliminated one answer choice.
  7. Refusing to fly Bombing Runs on items. That is, refusing to do a passage’s items out of order based on your judgment of which will be easier and yield points more quickly.
  8. Refusing to fly Bombing Runs on passages. That is, refusing to attempt passage sets out of order based on your judgment of which will be easier and yield points more quickly.
  9. Refusing to fly Bombing Runs on sections. That is, refusing to work first on those passage types or item types that will yield points more quickly. Specifically, do the Sentence Completions first, then short RPs, and then long RPs/paired RPs.
  10. In Paired RPs: Reading both passages and then attempting all the items. Tackle one passage first. Then tackle that passage’s items. Next, tackle the other passage. Then tackle that passage’s items. If you have time, attempt the compare-and-contrast items.
  11. Not taking advantage of Backward Strategies when you’re stuck.
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