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Assessing RC Passage Difficulty

Yorgez10Yorgez10 Alum Member

So I am currently in the process of fine tuning some of my strategies and doing some last minute drilling before the June exam and was wondering if there is a reliable way to determine passage difficulty for RC. I feel like if there is a method to assess the passage difficulty, I could improve my RC score a little bit just by being able to focus on the easier passages first. If anyone has any tips/recommendations I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!


  • CSieck3507CSieck3507 Monthly Member
    1107 karma

    Science seems to be the kicker for most test takers. However, the problem with science passages is that the detail in them is so dense that people get lost. The importance is to find the structure and the tone of the author. Often times you see that science passages follow one specific structure which is that a Phenomenon is apparent and the author gives his own hypo for that phenom or the author lays out other hypo's for that phenom. Make sure to break up the different viewpoints of different hypos and differentiate them.

    Also, difficulty can range from test taker to test taker. Some are better at art passages, some are not and law is harder for some. It just depends and thats just what it is. The importance is not necessarily trying to figure out if a passage is difficult or not because once you start reading the passage you will FOR SURE know if it is difficult FOR YOU. The importance then is to rely on your process. What is your process? Is it writing down low res summaries for each paragraph? Is spending 4 min on the passage and making sure you have a full grasp on it? Are you prephrasing each question before you jump into the AC? Do you have a full understanding of the MP, Tone, and Structure of the passage? If you are able to answer all of those questions during a timed reading, you should have little difficulty in answering the questions.

    Now, there will ALWAYS be 1-2 difficult questions on each passage no matter what. That is okay! Our job is not to get every question right, it is to maximize our results on the questions that we know for sure we can answer.

    I hope this explanation helps a bit!

    If you have any more questions about RC strategies or to pick up on more difficult passages feel free to PM.

  • Yorgez10Yorgez10 Alum Member
    95 karma

    @CSieck3507 I appreciate the reply, it was helpful. You are definitely right about it being subjective in terms of difficulty. Like for me, law passages are always easy and I will rarely get any wrong. But then for art passages I tend to struggle even if the difficulty is a lower rating. My main strategy at the moment is to spend most of my time making sure I fully understand the passage and then move on to the questions. I will also highlight any change in POV or transitions from one thing to the next so I can quickly refer back to the passage if needed.

  • CSieck3507CSieck3507 Monthly Member
    1107 karma

    @CactusJack That seems like a good approach to me. Are you BRing the passages after you're done? I am following a BR technique that has helped immensely with my RC score

  • Yorgez10Yorgez10 Alum Member
    95 karma

    @CSieck3507 Yes I am but I tend to trust my gut on the first answer I choose usually because most of the time when I change an answer it hurts me more than helps. I would say my range for RC is typically -3-7.

  • CSieck3507CSieck3507 Monthly Member
    1107 karma

    Okay no worries. PM me and I can go into more detail about RC

  • Jordan JohnsonJordan Johnson Alum Member
    680 karma

    I'd highly recommend doing the comparative passage last, since you should use a slightly different set of strategies to assess it.

    I'm not sure there would be much benefit in trying to assess the other passages' difficulty during a live run, since the 2-3 minutes it takes for you to do so would probably be better spent reading whichever passage comes first.

    Hope that helps!

  • yang9999yang9999 Alum Member
    413 karma

    yeah the comparative passage definitely requires a slightly different approach. Those tend to be slightly easier for me once I am able to figure out the relationship between the two passages, which is in my experience so far with RC sections, usually limited to:

    1) passage A and B disagree over a central topic/explanation of a phenomenon, etc.

    2) passage A outlines a theoretical problem or phenomenon whose characteristics are described using a real world example in passage B (e.g. a historian talks about an academic approach to history and passage B describes a study that proceeds by using the technique described by the historian in passage A)

    3) passage A and B are both aligned in their views but are approaching the issue from different angles (e.g. one is a historian and one is a law professor)

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