Timing issue in verbal and strategy for specific questions

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Hi experts

I have an acute timing issue in verbal.
the two situations where I invest time:
1. I do not want to give up when I am really close to the answer, I try to buy more time. I often invest time for initial questions ( absorbed the incorrect myth somewhere in my brain and its not going out) and questions which I usually get correct.
2. Area which are clearly my weakest areas ( in terms of time consumed): CR somehow I feel that if I give more time to my weaker areas, I can still solve them. that's bad and its worse when you know you it is bad! In CR, I am inactive for first few moments and often re-read the wordy choices, undoubtedly costing me more time.

as a a result of 1 and 2,in my practice tests, I am consuming more time for initial qtns ( generally between 8 to 20) , resulting in less time for rest of the questions and miss easy questions wrong at the end.

I also need some solid tips for following type of questions:
1. RC main idea questions
2. Assumptions questions: also where can I get some legitimate questions. OG questions are quite easy but ones on GMATprep are difficult.
3. 700+Comparison questions ( particularly when we create ambiguity by excluding a helping verb or when we miss out the subject and that's understood)
4. 700+ parallelism questions: I get all OG questions right but miss some questions on GMAT Prep ( e.g snake question hissing )
7. 700+ tense questions

In general, can you suggest me good prep material for CR: I have exhausted OG, Powerscore and MGMAT guide

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by papgust » Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:42 am
For CR, i believe that there is no better book than Powerscore. It really breaks down each and every question type as separate chapters and goes deeper in strategies. I significantly improved my CR with the help of this book.

Firstly, are you comfortable with CR strategies? If you are, then you may move to OG. As OG seems more easy to you, I would suggest that you try out LSAT official test papers. You could buy LSAT official test papers book and work on them. After significant practice, you will find GMAT verbal very easy. You could also improve RC with this LSAT book. This book has great passages with very challenging questions. This will train you better.

For SC 700+ questions, i'm not sure of any resource apart from OG. I believe that other test prep companies have not come closer to how GMAT tests. GMATPrep is the only other great resource i could think of. I guess there is some document floating around this forum that has nearly 200 GMATPrep questions (very similar to zuleron's math repository).

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by Stacey Koprince » Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:00 pm
Received a PM asking me to reply.

We talked about this briefly via PM already, but I'll repeat what I said so that others can also read it:

As you know, it's a myth that the earlier questions are worth more. As you also know, spending more time on "weaker" questions (questions that test things you're not good at doing) doesn't actually increase your chances of getting that question right.

Finally, even if you do get something right after spending a long time on it... I would rather that you got it wrong in the right amount of time.

That sounds bizarre, right? Why would I want you to get it wrong when you could get it right? Well, this is how things usually work:

I spend 4 min on one problem. Afterwards, I check and I did get the right answer! I'm elated that I got the right answer! I think this proves that I should spend 4 min on one problem sometimes! [I'm wrong - the question can be done in 2 min, so the fact that it took me 4 just means that there's still a really good chance I'd make a mistake or that I got a little lucky when I got it right.]

After I spend 4 min on that one problem, I'm now 2 min behind. I know I need to make up that time. The next time I see a problem I know I can do, I try to do is faster to save that time. I save 30 sec. I do that four more times to save the whole 2 min. Yayy! I'm back on track!! [No, I'm not. Chances are I just got at least one of those questions wrong due to a careless mistake because I was rushing. Maybe I even made two careless mistakes. And those questions were ones that I thought were easier, so chances are they're lower level questions. And it hurts my score more to get a lower-level question wrong. See where this is going?]

And guess what? The above two paragraphs illustrate the best-case scenario. The worst case? I get that 4 min question wrong anyway. I simply run out of time at the end of the test and have to make random guesses. And not just on one question; I've probably had multiple 4 min questions, so I run out of time on a lot of questions at the end. Each time I get one of those wrong, the next one gets easier, and I keep getting them wrong because I don't have time to read them... and then my score gets killed.

Go look at some practice tests that show you (a) the time spent per question and (b) the difficulty level for each question. Look at your progression throughout the section. Look at the difficulty levels when you were spending more time at the beginning and the middle, and then look at how the mix of difficulty levels drop when you get to the end. Count up how many questions you got wrong that you could and should have gotten right, simply due to speed. Don't just count the ones at the end on which you had to guess. Count the ones on which you spend only 1m or 1.5m because you were trying to rush and then you made a careless mistake.

If you can show yourself the "pain" caused by mismanaging your time, you'll find it easier to let go when you have to let go. (And you will ALWAYS have to let go on something, no matter how good you get.)

In terms of your prep material, you aren't done with the material you already have. For CR, you mention the three sources that are considered the best for this area, so the problem isn't that you've done everything in these books. It's that you haven't learned all of the lessons that you need to learn from these books. Perhaps the explanations aren't written in a way that makes sense to you. Perhaps you're not fully following what the books tell you to do. But that's where you need to stay, because going to lower-quality materials isn't going to make this better.

I would start by searching for questions on here that have been discussed by an instructor, and posting your own questions and asking instructors to comment. Don't just post the text of the question. Post what you thought as you were doing it. Post what you wrote down on your scrap paper. Post your reasoning for each answer choice. Tell us what you're confident about and where you're unsure. Tell us what mistakes you made that you already know about. Then, we can understand what you're thinking and doing, and we can give you pointers, find a way to explain that makes sense to you, correct your mistakes, etc.

That goes for RC and SC (and quant) as well. You're going to have to dig in here - but you're asking good questions and articulating your problem areas well, so I think you can do it.

Back to timing again. Here are some ways to get better:
1) Know your benchmarks. This is trickier than quant because it partially depends upon where the 3 or 4 RC passages begin. The below assumes that one new passage starts within each quarter of the test (Q1-10, Q11-20, Q21-30, Q31-41).
Q10: 56 min left
Q20: 37 min left
Q30: 19 min left

2) Learn about how long one minute is without looking at a watch or stopwatch. If you don't have one already, buy yourself a stopwatch with lap timing capability. When you go to do a set of problems, start the stopwatch but turn it over so you can't see the time. Every time you think one minute has gone by, push the lap button. When you're done, see how good you were - and whether you tend to over or underestimate. Get yourself to the point where you're within 15 seconds either way on a regular basis (that is, you can generally predict between 45 sec and 1min 15 sec).

Now, how do you use that when doing problems? If you're not on track by one minute*, make an educated guess and move on. (The general idea is that if you're not on track by the halfway mark, you're unlikely to figure out what's holding you back AND have time to do the whole problem in the 1 min you have left.)

* For SC, 1min is well beyond the half-way mark (we're supposed to average about 1m15s here), but you can almost always eliminate at least some choices on SC in that timeframe. Once you've got that "I'm around the 1min mark and I'm struggling" feeling, go through any remaining choices ONCE more. Pick one. Move on.

3) Set up sets of problems (10 to start, moving up to 15, then 20) in which you do a mix of all 3 verbal problem types, all mixed up, and you have to practice managing your given time. To calculate the total time you're allowed to spend: (#SC)(1.25)+(#CR)(2)+(#RC passages)(3)+(#RC questions)(1.5).
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by dan.gmat » Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:35 pm
Nice post Stacey. Do you have similar post on managing the time in Quant section.

One more Qs: Is it really a myth that earlier Qs are worth more? Because I heard that GMAT will try to find out what your level is depending upon how well you answer the first 12 or 15 Qs. After that you will receive the Qs in your level. Because is thats not true then your score can start rising from Qs 15 onwards assuming that you answer all Qs correctly after Qs 15.

Also if you take more time on a certain Qs (verbal or Quant) and assuming that the Qs was of lower difficulty level and you got that Qs wrong then GMAT will deduct more points just because you spent more time and got it wrong. What I am trying to say is that if had spent less time and got the Qs wrong - is it true that GMAT would have deducted less point as compared to the first case. I know the Qs seems silly because I am asking you the way the GMAT algorithm works.

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by Stacey Koprince » Tue Mar 23, 2010 8:19 am
Here are the quant guidelines (much more straightforward than verbal):

Q10: 55 min left
Q20: 35 min left
Q30: 15 min left

It IS a myth that the earlier questions are worth more. Your score could rise significantly or tank depending upon your performance after the 10th or 15th question. Statistically speaking, an individual's performance doesn't suddenly get a lot better 10 or 15 questions in - after all, if you were that good all along, you'd be that good right from the start! An individual's performance could get a lot worse, though, if s/he messes up the timing badly enough. For instance, a 70th percentile quant tester who runs out of time with five questions left (and leaves all 5 blank) would score in the 55th percentile - a 15 percentile point drop for skipping those last 5 questions. (Those numbers are all courtesy GMAC<R>.) That's a pretty serious drop for only five questions.

The scoring does NOT change based upon the length of time you spend on the question - you would not lose more ground if you took longer on a question you got wrong, nor would you gain more ground if you took less time on a question you got right. If you do take too long on a bunch of questions, that will catch up to you at the end of the test, where you will either leave things blank or you will have to make a lot of random guesses in a row. Either way, your score will go down at that point, possibly significantly (depending upon your scoring level, how many in a row you get wrong, and other factors).
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by Brian@VeritasPrep » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:40 am
Hey guys,

Stacey gives some great pacing advice here, so don't let me step on that, but I received a PM asking me to chime in, so let me add a few thoughts to your situation:

1) I advocate a "30-second rule" for that desire to spend extra time on a problem to get the right answer. Once your conscience kicks in that "I'm spending too much time on this one", look ahead 30 seconds and ask yourself if that will be enough to finish. If so, it means you see a clear path to the right answer (on verbal, maybe it's re-reading the question one more time to make that final decision between the last two choices; on quant, maybe it's the time it will take to unravel a messy algebraic setup, but you know that you see the finish line), so it's worth that extra investment of time. If your answer is more "maybe, but I could just as easily be starting over in 30 seconds", then cut your losses immediately, make an educated guess, and move on.

2) For verbal-specific pacing problems, usually the issue is that you're not as direct in your thought process, and therefore spending time on what is unique about each problem, instead of focusing on that "standardized" component of the standardized test. For CR, for example, it's pretty crucial to determine the question type first, and then take the next step of reading the important components of the stimulus. Within 30-45 seconds or so, you should have a pretty good feel for what they're asking, and then you can go through and eliminate answer choices that don't fit with what's required. If, instead, you're reading the stimulus "for understanding" and not with a specific purpose, it may be a good minute or more before you have a firm grasp on what is required. That rereading time tends to be a killer.

If you find yourself doing a lot of rereading, try to get in the habit of taking executive summaries of each sentence (or for RC, for each paragraph). Hard questions often just contain a lot of filler with descriptions and technical terms. It's really the "what" and "why" of each sentence that's important - the X program was created to increase Y. Those variables can take the place of the often-verbose "who" and "when" and help you get to the point of what's being discussed.

3) For assumption questions, and any harder CR questions, really, LSAT prep materials are great resources to find more problems. The GMAT is getting more difficult as time goes on (I blame test prep resources like Veritas Prep and Beat The GMAT for helping raise the bar!), so the Official Guide may not reflect the current difficulty of the exam as those questions are all retired by five years before they're published. The LSAT has traditionally been a more-difficult test of "verbal" (but more logic) skills, so many of those questions represent the evolution that the GMAT is undergoing. I love difficult assumption questions - the biggest catch is that several choices may strengthen the conclusion, but only one is actually required by it. Be wary of words like "all" or "none" that would definitely strengthen the conclusion, but don't need to be as grandiose to do so.

4) Regarding additional study resources, I'm obviously biased, but I highly recommend our study materials. Noting that the GMAT evolved toward harder Critical Reasoning problems, for example, we included a pretty robust section on Assumption questions like those tougher ones above, and I've long felt that our STOP methodology for Reading Comprehension makes it quite beatable. Our books will be available for individual purchase on Amazon.com and from other leading retailers next month (April), so if you're planning to study through the spring, you can plan to add those soon, too.
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by Stacey Koprince » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:13 am
Received a PM asking about these issues:
In CR, I am inactive for first few moments and often re-read the wordy choices
re-reading issue: even though i strike out the wrong option on scrap paper, sometimes I go to that option again by mistake and re-read it partly...how to ensure NOT to re-read the option again?
As Brian said above, it's important to know what type of CR question you have - I read the question stem first, before I even read the argument. I've already studied which kinds of things are important based on the type of question. If it's a "strengthen" or "weaken" question, I have to find the conclusion, and I have to know how the premises feed into the conclusion. If it's a "draw a conclusion" question, I know I'm NOT going to find a conclusion in the argument, and I have to know very clearly what they do (and do not) tell me in the argument, because I can't go beyond the argument. If it's an "explain the discrepancy" question, I know I'm also not going to find a conclusion in the argument, and I have to understand very clearly what the disconnect is between the pieces of information given.

So, again as Brian said above, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm looking for and the kind of analysis I need to do before I even start to read the argument itself. I know my task. If I didn't, then it would take me a lot longer to read through and understand, because I'd be trying to understand everything equally, rather than honing in on the specific things I need to know and the specific analysis I need to undertake.

And this is taken a step further when we look at the answers. I know, again, what kind of answers are acceptable right answers and what kinds of traps they build for me, depending upon the specific type of CR question - before I even look at the answer choices, I could tell you "the right answer is going to have these characteristics, and some of the wrong answers are probably going to have these other characteristics." That makes it easier for me to eliminate the wrong answers and to find the right answer.

It takes work to be able to do that, but you can do it - you just need to do it!

In terms of your scrap paper problem, first, how do you currently move through answer choices, and how do you keep track of your thought process on your scrap paper?

First, I have three consistent symbols for three scenarios: an "X" if I think the answer's definitely wrong and I never want to look at it again; a "squiggle" if I'm not sure and may want to look at it again; and a "circle" if I think it's the right answer and I want to pick it. On any verbal question, I always do two "quick" passes rather than one "exhaustive" pass over the answers. On my first pass, I'm ONLY looking for things that are definitely wrong. I don't even ask myself whether I think something's definitely right - it just gets a squiggle as long as it's not definitely wrong, in which case it's an X. I do this pretty quickly - there's no agonizing. It's either definitely wrong, or it gets a squiggle if I'm not sure in any way.

Then, I go back over the ones that got squiggles. Sometimes there's only one. Yay - I'm done! If there's more than one, than I match up the squiggles on my scrap paper to the bubbles on the screen and only look at those.

By the way, make your answer choice grid VERTICAL, just like it is on the screen. Most people will write the letters horizontally on scrap paper, but that's not how the screen shows the answers. Make your life easier; make it a more obvious visual match.

I'm guessing that part of the reason you re-read a choice after you've already decided to eliminate it (and wrote that down on your scrap paper) is that you are focusing more on the screen and not so much on what's on your scrap paper. The scrap paper is your guide. You should constantly be looking back and forth between your symbols and the choices. EVERY time you re-read a choice, you should have looked at your scrap paper a moment before and said, "Okay, B has a squiggle, let's re-read that one." When you're done with B, you look at your scrap paper again to see what to examine next.

For this, you're just going to have to practice this rigorously until it becomes such a habit that you don't even think about it anymore.
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by iamcste » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:43 pm
2 great experts! I couldnt ask for more!
Stacey Koprince wrote:Received a PM asking about these issues:
In CR, I am inactive for first few moments and often re-read the wordy choices
re-reading issue: even though i strike out the wrong option on scrap paper, sometimes I go to that option again by mistake and re-read it partly...how to ensure NOT to re-read the option again?
For this, you're just going to have to practice this rigorously until it becomes such a habit that you don't even think about it anymore.
Brian@VeritasPrep wrote:
2) For verbal-specific pacing problems, usually the issue is that you're not as direct in your thought process, and therefore spending time on what is unique about each problem, instead of focusing on that "standardized" component of the standardized test.

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by iamcste » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:02 am
Brian@VeritasPrep wrote:I've long felt that our STOP methodology for Reading Comprehension makes it quite beatable.
can you give an executive summary of STOP. I believe you may not share the whole details but hope you wont mind sharing broad details... :D

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by Osirus@VeritasPrep » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:07 am
iamcste wrote:
Brian@VeritasPrep wrote:I've long felt that our STOP methodology for Reading Comprehension makes it quite beatable.
can you give an executive summary of STOP. I believe you may not share the whole details but hope you wont mind sharing broad details... :D
STOP stands for

Scope
Tone
Organization
Purpose

Its helped me tremendously. When you read the passage, if you can make sure that you understand those four points, you increase the odds of being able to answer the question correctly. The Veritas RC strategy is the best in the business in my opinion. If you can get your hands on that book, it would help you out a lot.
https://www.beatthegmat.com/the-retake-o ... 51414.html

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by Brian@VeritasPrep » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:34 pm
Thanks for the summary, osirus! I received a PM asking me to chime in, so I'd add some descriptions of what to look for with STOP:

Scope: What is the passage about? Typically if you can give yourself one sentence about what it's about (mentally...only write down keywords to save time), you have a good handle on this.

Tone: What is the author's take? Is the author proving a point? Discussing an issue objectively? Criticizing another theory?

Organization: Look for key words such as "however" or "furthermore" to determine the direction that the author is taking, and try to give yourself a summary of each paragraph's purpose (or purposes if a paragraph transitions between ideas) so that you have a blueprint of the passage to return to for specific questions.

Purpose: Why did the author write this? This typically combines scope and tone - a combination of "what did the author write about" and "why did the author write it". Organization helps, too: if your primary purpose of the passage question isn't reflected in each paragraph, it's wrong - an entire paragraph cannot be out of scope of the main point in a 3-4 paragraph passage.

The other benefit of STOP is its name itself - stop at the end of each paragraph to make sure that you have the gist of the scope, tone, organization, and purpose of that paragraph; if you don't, you should reread, but it's much more productive to reread just one paragraph than it is to reread the whole thing.

Obviously there's more to it, but this should at least give you a taste of what the STOP methodology entails.

Happy reading!
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