We’re up to the very last question in the series on the Meteor Stream passage from the free set of practice questions that comes with the GMATPrep® software.
If you haven’t already, go read the first article (linked in the first paragraph); I’m not going to reproduce the full passage here
because it’s so long. When you’re done, keep that passage open in another window and come back here. (Note: you can try the other questions first if you like, or you can come straight back here. Your choice.)
Ready for the question? Give yourself about 1.5 minutes to answer. Read more
A couple of years ago, I wrote a small series on the Meteor Stream passage from the free set of practice questions that comes with the GMATPrep® software. A student recently mentioned how useful he found the discussion regarding how to handle all the technical language in a science passage, and I realized that there’s more we can do with this passage! Read more
As dedicated readers of this blog may have guessed, this is a follow up to my earlier post When is it Time to Guess on Quant? Timing troubles are not, however, exclusive to the Quant section, so in this piece I’ll talk about some common scenarios that bedevil students on the Verbal section.
As with Quant, not all guesses are created equal. The earlier you decide to guess, the more likely that you will make a random guess. If, on the other hand, you’re far enough into the question that you’ve eliminated 2-3 answer choices, then you’ll be making an educated guess.
One immediate difference between guessing on Quant and Verbal is that guessing strategy is essentially identical for both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions. Each of the Verbal question types, on the other hand, has less in common. That being said, there are a lot of parallels in guessing strategy among the three types.
No matter the question, there are really three distinct stages at which it becomes a better idea to guess than to keep going. I’ll briefly describe each stage, then show how it connects to each of the Verbal question types.
Stage 1: No Clear Starting Point
As a general rule, if you haven’t really made progress on a question after 30 seconds or so, it’s usually a good idea to just make a random guess and save your energy for a question you’re more comfortable with.
Reading Comprehension Stage 1: I don’t know where in the passage to look.
The great thing about Reading Comprehension (or at least its saving grace) is that the correct answer has to have support in the passage. With the vast majority of RC questions, as long as you can find and reread the relevant portion of the passage, you can find an answer choice that will match what you read. In fact, you should be able to answer to come up with your own answer to most RC questions before you even look at the answer choices.
Many questions provide good clues as to where in the passage to look for the answer (seriously – a surprising amount of questions are very helpful in that regard). Things get much tougher when they don’t. So here’s your first big clue that it may be time to guess. If you’ve read the question, and you’ve skimmed through the passage looking for an answer, and you still don’t feel like you found what the question was asking about, it’s time to guess.
At this point, you could guess randomly, but I would recommend taking one quick pass through the answer choices. If any choice contradicts your understanding of the passage, eliminate it. After you’ve each answer once, pick from the remaining.
Sentence Correction Stage 1: I don’t understand the sentence and the underline is long.
On the Verbal section, you have to answer 41 questions in 75 minutes, which is less than 2 minutes per question. Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension are naturally time-consuming, so that time is going to have be saved largely on Sentence Correction. Remember that you only have an average of 1 minute and 20 seconds to answer these things.
If you’re struggling to even understand what the sentence is saying, then it will almost certainly take too long to properly analyze the answer choices, especially if the underline is long. No need to fight through the pain. Just take a quick scan through the answer choices and pick one that doesn’t sound immediately wrong.
Critical Reasoning Stage 1: I don’t understand what the argument is saying.
To my mind, good process on Critical Reasoning questions means being in control the whole way through the process. The worst situation to be in is one in which you’re hoping that the answer choices will help you make sense of the argument. Four out of the five answer choices are actively trying to trick you, and the GMAT has gotten pretty good at tricking people over the years. By the time you get to the answer choices, you need to understand the argument well enough to effectively evaluate each choice.
Consequently, if you’ve read the argument two or three times, and still can’t articulate to yourself the link between the premises and the conclusion, you shouldn’t waste time with the answer choices.