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What do you do when you don't understand a passage?

blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
in General 3545 karma
Do you guys have a strategy for what to do during a PT or a test when you just don't understand a passage after repeatedly reading it and are starting to run out of time?


  • PacificoPacifico Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited May 2015 8021 karma
    Great question! I usually only read a passage once to begin with, even if I didn't understand everything. Instead I use the questions to make inferences/gain insight into the passage. If there is a main point question I try to gleam some info from that, along with any questions that reference the role of specific paragraphs. Then I might try to skim the passage again and piece as much together as I can. I think it's generally best to do passages like this last, so if it happens in passages 1-3 then just move to the next one and come back so you have maximum time to devote to it. Even for passages I don't understand I can generally piece together enough answers to get at least 50% right, which if there's only one passage like that should minimize the harm to your overall score. Also, if time gets really tight I'd only try to answer the questions with the least amount of words in the question and the answer choices. I'd love to hear some other thoughts on this though.
  • moocow314moocow314 Alum Member
    edited May 2015 140 karma
    If I'm having trouble with a passage, even after re-reading it, I jump to the "easy" questions and try to knock those out of the way. Even if I didn't understand the specifics, I tend to have an idea of the main point (it sounds counter-intuitive, but I can usually eliminate wrong answer choices in main point questions pretty quickly...too specific; completely opposite of what the passage is about; etc), so I answer that usual first question.

    Then, I look for questions referring to specific lines (what does "blank" mean in line 16; how does the author use "blank" etc). I also avoid any obviously long questions with equally long answers, and go to those only at the end if I have spare time.

    I find that answering these "easier" questions can help me grasp the passage a lot more clearly. I then jump to the harder questions (usually the inference ones for me) and through a combination of quickly of re-reading any relevant points and sheer intuition, I knock out wrong answers and make my best educated guess for the correct one.

    @Pacifico I hadn't seen your comment before I posted, but I see that some of my strategies aren't too different from yours.
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