9 Tips To Manage Time in GRE RC

Let’s face it: nobody likes spending time reading dense and obscure paragraphs about the American economy under President Nixon or the influence of the Renaissance movement on modern culture, especially when you are under severe time crunch.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you dread it, reading comprehensions contribute to 50% of the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE, so there really is no way out but to deal with the RCs.

The thing about RCs that daunt most test-takers are the length and complexity of the passages. Obscure topics; use of cryptic and complicated words and phrases; and an abundance of names, facts, and figures all contribute to the sense of overwhelming helplessness that engulfs these students.

However, you will be glad to know that you need not fear RCs at all. Sure, it may seem like an uphill task to read and deconstruct, let alone critically analyze a passage on a topic you are unfamiliar with or unconcerned about, but there are a few simple tips and tricks you can adopt to breeze through the RCs.

What is the pattern of the RCs?

Typically, each of the two sections on the Verbal section will have about five passages, which could range from short (one paragraph) to long (five paragraphs). There will be one to five questions per passage, with  a total of ten questions per section.

There are three types of questions:

1) Multiple-choice questions, where you must pick one right answer out of the available five.

2) Multiple-choice-multiple-selection questions, where you will have to pick one or more correct answers out of three given options.

3) Select-in-passages, where you have to click on a sentence in the passage to answer the question asked.

Why is it difficult to manage time in the RCs?

The problem with managing time efficiently in RCs is rooted in one of these core issues:

  1. Passages are too complex/dense or boring
  2. Questions are too ambiguous to comprehend
  3. Answer choices are confusing and it is difficult to differentiate one from the other

But fear not! We can categorize each of these difficulties into a problem area that you can solve and fix!

For example,

  1. Passages are too complex: This hints at your lack of familiarity/disinterest in reading
  2. Questions are too ambiguous: This highlights your lack of practice with the different question formats
  3. Answer choices are confusing: This indicates lack of reasoning skills and vocabulary

Demarcating these issues into significant problem areas ensures that you know exactly what to work on and how to go about saving time in GRE RCs!

How to ace GRE RCs?

Now that you have a basic idea of what to expect out of the Reading Comprehension section, let us discuss some strategies and tips that will make it easier for you to conquer the section:

#1: Build your vocabulary:

The easiest way to perform well on the RCs is to build your vocabulary slowly and steadily. Of course, this takes time. If you are already a voracious reader, you will have a distinctive advantage over the rest. If you aren’t, remember, it’s not too late to start! Instead of buying bulky vocabulary-building books, start by reading the English newspaper every day. Mark the words and idioms that are new to you and look them up later. This is the easiest and most effective way to gain complete command over the language.

AdmitEDGE Pro Tip: Visual memory tends to be a lot more stronger than any other form of memorizing information. That’s why, the best way to learn AND remember words is to relate it to a picture. This way, when you see the word, you’ll recall the image and this will help you understand the emotion & context easily.


#2: Tackle RC at the end:

This in particular is applicable for students who are nervous regarding the timer. If you feel anxious and tend to make mistakes out of nervousness, then save RC passages for the last. Remember, all the questions on the GRE carry the same points, so answer TC/SE first as it is relatively easier.

AdmitEDGE Pro Tip: During GRE Online Preparation, get cracking on topics that you are familiar with. Since RC passages are taken from a wide range of subjects from history to mathematics and ecology, start with the ones you are familiar with. This will help you develop a keen interest in RC and hence solve better.

#3: Factual Reading vs Analytical Reading:

Did you know that it is important to employ a different reading technique for different types of questions in RCs?

There are two main types of reading, namely Factual Reading, and Analytical Reading.

Factual Reading:

Skimming through a passage to understand facts, figures, dates, numbers etc is the essence of factual reading. Ideally, it takes 1-1.5 minutes for long passages and is crucial in answering factual questions such as “What is the conclusion from this passage?”, meaning of a specific sentence etc.

Analytical Reading:

The concept of breaking down a passage into a series of ideas that are interconnected by a common theme is called Analytical Reading. Though this approach takes longer, it helps answer inferential questions accurately.

It follows the principle that every passage consists of a couple of main ideas that are supported by specific examples and details. Analyzing a passage using this structure is the key to unraveling the purpose of the passage and keenly grasp the tone of voice used. Is it positive? Critical? Is it laudatory or disapproving?

If you come across an unfamiliar word or phrase, don’t dwell too much on it. Read the sentences before and after it and try to glean the meaning from that. It is the norm for the RCs to be riddled with jargon and obscure language. It is usually done to distract students and test their alertness and presence of mind.

The easiest way to get around this is to read the entire paragraph and try to place the words in the relevant framework. Additionally, try to grasp the tone of the passage. Understanding the tone and the intent of the writer can often help you get the meaning.

AdmitEDGE Pro Tip: Often paragraphs are structured into a series of main ideas that convey a specific purpose. Check our video lesson on how to grasp the purpose of an RC passage here!

To see part 2 on how to grasp the Main Idea of an RC Passage, click here!

#4: Make relevant notes when you learn to read RC passages:

Never underestimate the importance of underlining and making notes. While you read the paragraphs, underline or mark those facts, names, or dates that catch your eye. Put your scratchpad to full use and jot down whatever you feel is crucial in the passage.

#5: Never read the questions first!

This is a sure shot way to build assumptions and make incomplete inferences. Read the passage first with an unbiased mind. Presumptions and prejudices can often cloud your judgment and understanding of things and will mislead you.  Make inferences, but never make any assumptions.

#6: The answers you seek lie in the passage!

When you feel flustered with a complex passage. remember that the answers lie in the passage itself. You are not required to have any additional knowledge of the subject/topic. Conversely, avoid bringing in your knowledge of a subject while answering the RCs. Stick to what is given in the passage, and nothing more. Use analytical reading to simplify your reading.

#7: Don’t get bogged down by the details.

The passages are packed to the brim with facts and figures designed to slow you down, but you mustn’t fall into that trap. Only read through the details when the question demands it. Otherwise, skim the passage to understand the main points and supporting points.

#8: Befriend time!

Demarcate 15 minutes of your Verbal section time for RCs. Try not to spend more than five minutes on the long passages, and two minutes on the shorter ones. This will help you keep track of the time. Work this way, while you practice, so that it becomes a habit in you.

#9: Keep score!

Lastly, remember the old adage of “practice makes perfect.” Attempt as many mock tests as possible before the test day and ask a friend or teacher to score them for you. Acquaint yourself with every possible type of RC and aim to master all of them.

See, now tackling RCs don’t seem so bad, does it?

Go on now, conquer GRE RCs. We wish you all the very best!

P.S: Comment and let us know what you think of these tips and which topics you want us to blog about 🙂

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