RC: Main Idea vs. Detail

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RC: Main Idea vs. Detail

by XLogic » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:12 am
Looking for some strategy advice on RC.

I've improved my score and timing on RC passages by focusing on structure/reasoning as opposed to strictly detail. However, I find that on tougher RC's I tend to miss detail questions or inferences that hinge on detail in a particular section.

To get some of those pesky detail questions right, especially inference Q's based on detail with no line #'s, I usually have to spend extra time (more time than necessary) tracking down the particular section. So that even if I get the question right, I end up wasting an extra 2+ minutes which hurts me on CR and SC.

I get most "main idea" and "purpose of passage" questions correct (I think I'm at 90% the past few RC's). So my issue is not necessarily with understanding the passage as a whole, but I think my strategy on mapping the passage, so I can easily go back for detail, is lacking.

Please provide effective RC mapping strategies (or other methods) that will help me not only understand the entire passage, but also map each paragraph/section so I know where to go back to for detail.

Thanks :-)

PS. Prioritizing detail is also something I'm working on. Any tips on deciding what/what not to focus on? I appreciate the help.
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by mundasingh123 » Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:11 pm
Whats the difference between main idea and primary purpose ?
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by Frankenstein » Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:50 pm
Hi,
@XLogic: I am not sure if most people have this problem, but I do have a similar problem. May be writing few words(in your own words, shorthand) about each paragraph should help you because, we will know which paragraph to look for the detail question if we have these things written on a note pad. I have been trying the same. I guess it is working for me. Perhaps, you can try this if you haven't already tried this. This is no generalization. Everyone has his/her own approach.

Main idea - something like summation of the entire passage, questions such as 'Title of the passage'
Purpose - Why is the author writing(Not to sell his articles, though :)) - I mean 'to suggest something' 'to analyze something' 'to describe something like this.
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by XLogic » Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:30 am
mundasingh123 wrote:Whats the difference between main idea and primary purpose ?
Main point = conclusion of passage
purpose = reason for passage -- describe, intro new phenomenon, criticize etc...
> See Frankenstein's comment on purpose
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by XLogic » Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:45 am
Frankenstein wrote:Hi,
@XLogic: I am not sure if most people have this problem, but I do have a similar problem. May be writing few words(in your own words, shorthand) about each paragraph should help you because, we will know which paragraph to look for the detail question if we have these things written on a note pad. I have been trying the same. I guess it is working for me. Perhaps, you can try this if you haven't already tried this. This is no generalization. Everyone has his/her own approach.
Thanks for the suggestion. I do something similar, but maybe I need to put in a few more notes? Not sure. I want to be able to keep a good balance between my "bird's eye view" and "detail view" of the passage.
Frankenstein wrote: Main idea - something like summation of the entire passage, questions such as 'Title of the passage'
Purpose - Why is the author writing(Not to sell his articles, though :)) - I mean 'to suggest something' 'to analyze something' 'to describe something like this.
I'm generally good with main idea and purpose Q's, it's the "inference based on specific detail" that I seem to be running into problems with.

For example, "It can be inferred from the passage that the author believes bla-bla-bla about bla-bla-bla" (notice that line numbers are not included here)
> Most times, the inference hinges on re-reading one or more key sentences. That's mostly where I get stuck! :-(
Last edited by XLogic on Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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by Frankenstein » Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:50 am
Totally agree mate. That is the trickiest part indeed, at least for me. Practice and alertness should make us better!
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by [email protected] » Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:39 pm
Okay guys --

The key here is what I call a "two-way paraphrasing." This is a little of how I explain it to my classes.

The First paraphrase -- the question stem will paraphrase a portion of the passage. Frankenstein is correct that the paragraph structure is key. If you can read the question stem and it seems to be from just one paragraph that paragraph is what you want to focus on. Skim through the paragraph looking for the portion that the question stem has paraphrased. Note that key words and phrases do remain. It is possible to do - the GMAC writes these questions so that it can be done. Practice this.

The second paraphrase - When you have found the proper portion to re-read then you should be sure to read around it. Make sure that you read the entire thought. Then you can pull out the most important words. The correct answer will be a paraphrase of the relevant part of the text. Key words remain on most paraphrases.

If a question does not seem to come from just one paragraph then it is not smart to scan the entire text, instead you should eliminate any answer choices that you can and then let the remaining answers lead you back to the text.

You can get very good at the "detail questions" if you get good a paraphrasing. No need to take more notes while you are reading - just the main idea of the paragraph no more than 10 words.
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by XLogic » Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:14 pm
[email protected] wrote: If a question does not seem to come from just one paragraph then it is not smart to scan the entire text, instead you should eliminate any answer choices that you can and then let the remaining answers lead you back to the text.
-> Using key answer options to re-attack the text. I'll definitely practice this suggestion!

Thanks :-)
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by [email protected] » Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:19 pm
Right -

there are some questions that say "the author would most likely agree with which of the following" and it is like - that could be anywhere in the text! So you want to eliminate any choices you can and then the remaining answers will be more specifically from a part of the text and you can usually go back pretty quickly to check on those.

Remember, in order to say that you can infer or that the author would agree it needs to almost flat out say it.
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by lunarpower » Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:31 am
i know this is an old thread, but i'm working on a couple of weeks' backlog in answering private messages.

here are my general comments regarding the initial post:

in your first reading of the passage, DO NOT pay much attention to detail. this is really important, because it's basically impossible to focus on the main idea and on details at the same time -- you have to pick one level of focus and stick with it. (as an analogy, consider a smart phone. you can think about the design and purpose of the entire smart phone as a whole, *or* you can think about the functionality of one particular component of the touchscreen, but you can't think on both of these levels at the same time.)
it's not going to be possible for you to figure out main ideas and themes later, so your initial reading of the passage should focus entirely on main ideas and themes.

as far as the details: just INDEX the details as you go through the passage. DO NOT write them down, and DO NOT try to memorize them.
by "index" i mean that you should just try to remember where you saw certain types of details.

don't forget that you can always refer to the passage again! i think a lot of students forget that the passage will always be available to them -- i see lots and lots of students copying tons of small details, almost verbatim; needless to say, that's a complete waste of time, because those details will always be available if you just go back and look at them.
as a timesaver, consider the fact that once you figure out what's basically going on with the details in a certain section of the passage, you can skim or skip the rest of those details.
for instance, consider the RC passage on page 394 of og12. when you start reading the third paragraph, you can figure out that this paragraph is just going to rattle off a list of 5 different ways in which managers use intuition. you don't have to read through this paragraph at all! once you figure out that the paragraph is just going to give an exhaustive list, you can skip it, and then return to it if and when you have to answer a specific question about the things in the list.
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by XLogic » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:33 pm
@Ron, thanks for your feedback. And Yes, I appreciate your feedback no matter how late it may be. Always insightful -- I've read a lot of em.

I've been working on incorporating David's suggestion into my RC workout; i.e., using possible correct answer choices to re-attack the RC passage. And from your feedback, I need to keep focusing on "structure" as I've been doing. So I'll rinse and repeat and see what happens.

I'll let you guys know how it works out.

Again, @Ron, David, Frank* -- thanks for the feedback :-)
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