12 - 760+: Reading Comp - Learning to Read GMAT RC at the Perfect Pace

By richc On Oct 29, 2021 In  Quant Verbal IR Study Plans General GMAT MBA Advice & Tips 

Many GMATers make the mistake of thinking that ‘skimming’ is the proper way to deal with Reading Comp passages. By its nature, skimming is often a desperate way of trying to quickly deal with a (frequently lengthy) passage. Unfortunately, it sacrifices all manner of comprehension and note-taking for speed. That is a TERRIBLE trade-off – and often causes serious problems for Test Takers as they practice RC during their studies. By extension, those same Test Takers often fail to perform at a really high level on RC on Test Day, which keeps them from scoring at a really high level overall.
Proper reading speed for GMAT Reading Comp is probably not what you think it should be. As an experiment, we’re now going to test YOUR natural reading speed.
Here is an RC passage from the Diagnostic Test of the OG, formatted in the same way that it appears in that book. We’re not going to focus on answering the questions; this is just about reading the prompt. For this exercise, I want you to keep track of how long it takes you to complete the passage (and you should try to mimic your typical reading speed when you take your practice CATs). We’re going to use that piece of information to assess your 'default way' of dealing with RC.
All right. Ready? Start your timer and begin…
Women’s grassroots activism and their vision
of a new civic consciousness lay at the heart of
social reform in the United States throughout the
Progressive Era, the period between the depression
of 1893 and America’s entry into the Second
World War. Though largely disenfranchised except
for school elections, white middle-class women
reformers won a variety of victories, notably in
the improvement of working conditions, especially
for women and children. Ironically, though,
child labor legislation pitted women of different
classes against one another. To the reformers,
child labor and industrial home work were equally
inhumane practices that should be outlawed, but,
as a number of women historians have recently
observed, working-class mothers did not always
share this view. Given the precarious finances of
working-class families and the necessity of pooling
the wages of as many family members as possible,
working-class families viewed the passage and
enforcement of stringent child labor statutes as a
personal economic disaster and made strenuous
efforts to circumvent child labor laws. Yet
reformers rarely understood this resistance in terms
of the desperate economic situation of working-
class families, interpreting it instead as evidence
of poor parenting. This is not to dispute women
reformers’ perception of child labor as a terribly
exploitative practice, but their understanding of
child labor and their legislative solutions for ending
it failed to take account of the economic needs of
working-class families. 
How much time did you spend? Be honest.
0 – 40 seconds: You’re either amazing at RC or probably really terrible at it. Since you’re reading this article, it’s probably the latter. The time that you would have spent rushing through this prompt has been wasted. You will almost certainly need to go back to reread the prompt repeatedly as you work through the questions – and that’s a big waste of overall time and effort.
41 – 65 seconds: You may have caught some of the ideas/meaningful words in the prompt, but you probably won’t be able to accurately summarize them and you’ll end up rereading the prompt each time you have to deal with a new question about it.
66 – 89 seconds: Depending on your level of comprehension, you might have absorbed some of what’s here. What’s the point of the article? What is the article really discussing? Does the author have an opinion on the subject matter? At this speed, you probably missed out on some of the relevant points that were made, so most of the questions will require that you reread the prompt.
90 - 100 seconds: Proper reading speed for Reading Comp on the GMAT is about 150 words per minute. This prompt is roughly 230 words, so if you engaged with the prompt, then this is just about the perfect amount of time for this passage. Any ‘detail’ questions will require that you reread a small section of the prompt (but that’s often the case for those types of questions regardless of the length of the prompt or the subject matter).
101 – 120 seconds: Not too bad. You might have gotten hung up on some of the vocabulary, but you didn’t let it keep you from moving on to the parts of the passage that did understand.
121 – 140 seconds: We’re now getting to a point in which you’re probably rereading small chunks of the passage. You’re allowing yourself to get distracted by dense sentences and big vocabulary – and almost none of that will be relevant when it comes time to answering the questions.
141+ seconds: You might have broader ‘comprehension issues’, or you’re reading each sentence more than once. Training to learn what ‘matters’ in a passage and what doesn’t matter will be essential for you to score at a high level in the Verbal section.
Adapting one’s reading speed and ‘default way’ of reading is one of the specific challenges that most GMATers face. Since many of those habits are ingrained – they can take some serious time and commitment to change (you’ve been reading this way for most of your life, so you have to embrace the training if you want to improve). Thankfully, the style and logic behind GMAT RC is remarkably predictable – as are the question types and common wrong answers to RC questions – so you CAN train to score at a higher level. If your current study materials aren’t helping you to make those improvements, then it might be time to invest in materials that will.
GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,
If you have any questions about anything in this thread, then you can feel free to contact me directly via email (at [email protected])

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