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Approach to Comparative Passage

How does everyone approach the comparative passage in reading comprehension?

I've seen a couple of posts that advocate for reading passage A, going through the questions then reading passage B and again going through the questions ( The presumptive benefit is not falling into probably what is the most common trap answer choice - a detail that is discussed in one passage but not the other.

Admittedly I have not tried this approach (and I do plan on experimenting later with this) but for point-at-issue questions in LR, I have never liked the approach of reading one response, eliminating answer choices and then reading the second response before hopefully honing in on the correct answer. For whatever reason, I just find it too mechanical and feel that I am better able to get a sense of the tension in the two statements by reading them concurrently instead of 'jumping around' the screen from stimulus to ACs, to a different part of the stimulus back to the ACs again. Perhaps somewhat related is that I find that doing the acceptable situation question in LG as I read the rules to be somewhat discombobulating and that it disrupts the natural rhythm of figuring out how the rules interact with one another (I'd happily trade away the additional 10 seconds in efficiency for a stronger comprehension of the game board).

Additionally, I think the digital format compounds the amount of needlessly bouncing around in the comparative passage in terms of having to click through each question.

My current approach is to read Passage A in totality, then creating a low resolution summary for the structure of this passage. Afterwards, I go onto Passage B, again reading the passage in its entirety and before building out another quick low resolution summary for this second passage and finally I quickly consider how the two passages are related.

Previously, I read Passage A (creating a low res summary for each paragraph as I went) and would immediately proceed to Passage B (also creating a low res summary for each paragraph as I went) and felt that this handicapped me in getting a sense of how the two passages as a whole related to each other. Also, I think going right from one to the other further confused me to what details were included in each passage.

Does anyone else do something similar? I know that RC tends to be the most divergent in terms of strategy but just curious as to what others are doing here.


  • Chris NguyenChris Nguyen Alum Member Administrator Sage 7Sage Tutor
    4538 karma

    Hey there! Hope this helps.

    Reading Passage A, then going to the questions, then reading passage B and answering the rest of the questions has worked wonders for me. And it’s exactly because of what you pointed out. It is so easy to remember details from Passage A and apply it to the questions when it’s fresh in my mind. With this approach I’ve gone from comparative passages being my worst passages to them being my best, usually missing zero. This strategy helps with remembering the minute details that the answer choices will call upon. The questions usually go much quicker the 2nd round as well, and you may think going through the answer choices twice in a row wastes time, but I’ve found in my experience that’s just not the case.

    With Agree/Disagree questions, I don’t use the same strategy because the text isn’t long enough for me to forget details I was reading in the stimulus. I don’t have trouble recalling details because the text short. This is not the case in reading comprehension.

    For LG, I think you’re saying that when you’re doing the recommended process acceptable situation questions, you are trading away a stronger knowledge of how the rules connect with each other. But I don’t see this as the case. You can both do the acceptable situation in the process recommended as well as have a strong grasp of the game board. It doesn’t have to be one for the other.

  • edited June 2020 410 karma

    As someone who was really in line with your method before (ie. read both before going into questions) since at first I was really good at comparative passages, I noticed when the subject matter became more esoteric I was having a lot more trouble keeping track of all the ideas (ie. as I got to later PTs). I switched over to the method to try it, and it's helped keep my comparative passage pretty consistent even when I feel I don't actually understand one of the passages at all.

    I'd recommend you at least give it a fair shot to see what happens. RC is more personal than LR and LG in some ways, what works for some might not work for others, but try the different strats properly to see what sticks and what doesn't.

    At first I was not a fan of what I thought were overly mechanistic approaches, but the more I attack the test the more I realize that it's nice to have consistency in approach as long as it's not your only approach. It gives you an initial toolkit to work from and then you have other measures in place when it's not enough.

  • ahnendc-1ahnendc-1 Member
    642 karma

    Thank you @Christopherr and @jeff.wongkachi for the input! I will try it out and repost my thoughts.

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