To annotate or not ? Annotation or just read through?

agathamelanieagathamelanie Free Trial Member
So far, I've tried circling all transition words (ex: but, however, therefore) and important words that specify the author's viewpoint, but I've found myself pressed for time and each time I go to circle a word, I lose focus on what I am reading and find it difficult to grasp it all.

For my most recent pre-test, I tried reading without annotating/circling and found that my score improved, only by a little. Would you recommend annotating? Does anyone just read the passage and go straight to the questions?



  • NYC12345NYC12345 Alum Inactive Sage
    1654 karma
    I suggest focusing on reasoning structure and not spending too much time on specific details. 85% of RC questions test you on reasoning structure, and the other questions tell you which paragraph or line(s) where it is drawing information from, which allows you to easily revert back to the specific portion of the reading. I personally find annotating and circling t be a complete waste of time and extremely counterproductive. I used to underline and circle everything after reading the Powerscore RC Bible, but after using 7sage and The Trainer I have stopped and I have improved ever since.
  • PacificoPacifico Alum Inactive ⭐
    8021 karma
    I just read and head straight to the questions. I think it's best to take a big picture approach to RC versus a minutiae approach, macro versus micro if you will. Anything that takes away from you getting a sense of the whole piece is just going to hurt you. Putting pencil to paper outside of marking the ACs or bubbling is a waste of time in my opinion. You could spend all that time annotating and then the questions have little or nothing to do with what you annotated, so why bother? I know some people swear by this, but the fastest people don't and I'm sure that most of the top scorers don't either. If a question asks for the roles of specific words or arguments then it might be easier to go back and annotate, but without knowing exactly what they want from you, I'd say you're just losing a minute per passage or more. And I agree with everything else @alexandergreene93 said about reasoning structure.
  • nicole.hopkinsnicole.hopkins Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    edited June 2015 7965 karma
    Here's what I do. This is the first thing that's stuck for me; my RC scores have averaged –1-3 since I started with this method (PT's in the mid-late 60's). At this point I think future RC progress will come as a result of habits and of being relentless with admitting shortcomings of my own understanding (and not getting stuck in a whirlpool when this does happen; better to box the question and return to it in a bit).

    1) Get yer pencil ready. (1-1.5 minutes: I hesitate to call this a "skim" but that's more or less what it is)
    1a) Read as quickly as you can while still actually reading, following every line with the point of your pencil (not actually underlining—think about how little kids read with their finger following the lines of text).
    1b) BOX any names, dates, or words that are defined.
    1c) Make large ">" marks whenever there's a pivot ("But recent studies have shown..." "This view, however, does not take into account..." etc.) in the left hand margin (right up against the text).

    2) Begin from the start of the text. (1-1.5 minutes)
    2a) Mark your MP1 and MP2.
    2b) Mark OP (author's opinion--any point at which OP becomes evident or is indicated).
    2c) Mark app.MP1/MP2 for applications of theories, etc.
    2d) Mark ex.MP1 for examples of MP1, etc.
    2e) Make a short (!!) summary of what each paragraph does in relation to MP's and passage structure. Like 2-5 words.

    3) The focus in all of this is on READING FOR REASONING STRUCTURE. It's more about marking where key points/moments are/occur in the passage; assume that you'll be referring back to the passage for at least some of the questions.

    I don't spend more than 3 minutes reading a passage; I DO get two reads in, more or less, with annotations. You have to keep in mind that for a number of questions (anything referring to "the passage"), you're going to want to confirm with the text anyway. Do yourself a favor and anticipate where you're likely to reference for those Q's.

    One last thing ... DO compare contenders (non-eliminated answer choices) with the text/passage/your digestion of reasoning structure, tone, and direction of argument (or OP). DO NOT spend time comparing contenders with one another. This is almost inevitably leading you into a trap/time sink.

  • DumbHollywoodActorDumbHollywoodActor Alum Inactive ⭐
    7468 karma
    RC is incredibly personal. What works for one person may not work for another. I think it depends on what kind of learner you are: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you’re crazy not to annotate. Just write quickly and don’t worry about legibility since you’re not writing down the note to look at later. You’re writing it down because that’s what your brain needs to process that information.
  • nicole.hopkinsnicole.hopkins Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    7965 karma
    @DumbHollywoodActor said:
    RC is incredibly personal.
    True this.
  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited June 2015 3545 karma
    The #1 key to doing well on RC is to read for structure, not content. Now, HOW you read for structure is immensely up for debate and I have changed RC methods countless of times.

    The things you want to look out for when you read are:
    1) Main point
    2) Author attitude
    3) Role of evidence & other opinions

    How you go about reading for those things is immensely personal, like @DumbHollywoodActor said. For example, I do everything on RC that the test prep companies tell you not to do. I use 2 highlighters, one to highlight the MP and the other to highlight author attitude, and I spend more time on the questions than I do on the passage. Is my RC score perfect? No. Is this method better than any other method I've tried (for me)? Yes.
  • Dr. YamataDr. Yamata Member Inactive ⭐
    578 karma
    Taking a few seconds to pause and summarize the paragraph in my mind and also create a small visual scene or "movie" has been monumental. It's easy to just keep reading lines and lines without internalizing any of the information. Before you know it, passage is over, you have a bunch of questions you can't answer, you don't know what you just read, and you just lost 5 minutes. Fail.

    Annotation is really hit or miss in my opinion.. sometimes the act of summarizing the paragraph in a few words helps me to solidify my interpretation of the paragraph, as well as take a short pause to make sure I really understood it. I'm a big fan of putting + and - signs next to lines.. to indicate a positive or negative view of the topic, if there is one. Or possible letters that differentiate viewpoints. But also sometimes the annotations are completely useless because the questions don't draw on any of the information you highlighted. Annotation may help by keeping you "on the task" and by making sure you don't slip into "passive test-taking" mode.

    I personally NEED a RC warmup. On test day, I will bring copies of new RC sections and read them before I enter the exam room. I need to get my brain into "reading mode." On this same note, if I did two RC sections in my PTs, I would invariably do better on the second. It could also be because by that time I'm not able to focus on the details as much, which I think actually works to your benefit in RC.
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