Verbal Strat
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How to increase your accuracy on RC – 3

In the previous two posts, RC-1 and RC-2, we discussed 3 RCs from CAT 2017 Slot – 2 and executed a specific strategy — paragraph to questions — to solve CAT RCs that will increase your accuracy.

In this final post of this series, we will solve the two remaining passages and fine-tune the methods discussed so far.


What if there is only one paragraph?

The GMAT has over the years consistently had two long and two short passages — one para passages — in its Verbal Reasoning section.

The single paragraph RC has never appeared in the Verbal Ability section of the CAT — barring the sole passage in last year’s second slot. Even Slot 1 did not have one. Suffice to say that it seems to be by accident rather than by design.

Typewriters are the epitome of a technology that has been comprehensively rendered obsolete by the digital age. The ink comes off the ribbon, they weigh a ton, and second thoughts are a disaster. But they are also personal, portable and, above all, private. Type a document and lock it away and more or less the only way anyone else can get it is if you give it to them. That is why the Russians have decided to go back to typewriters in some government offices, and why in the US, some departments have never abandoned them. Yet it is not just their resistance to algorithms and secret surveillance that keeps typewriter production lines – well one, at least – in business (the last British one closed a year ago). Nor is it only the nostalgic appeal of the metal body and the stout well-defined keys that make them popular on eBay. A typewriter demands something particular: attentiveness. By the time the paper is loaded, the ribbon tightened, the carriage returned, the spacing and the margins set, there’s a big premium on hitting the right key. That means sorting out ideas, pulling together a kind of order and organising details before actually striking off. There can be no thinking on-screen with a typewriter. Nor are there any easy distractions. No online shopping. No urgent emails. No Twitter. No need even for electricity – perfect for writing in a remote hideaway. The thinking process is accompanied by the encouraging clang of keys, and the ratchet of the carriage return. Ping!

Question 19

Which one of the following best describes what the passage is trying to do?

A) It describes why people continue to use typewriters even in the digital age.

B) It argues that typewriters will continue to be used even though they are an obsolete technology.
C) It highlights the personal benefits of using typewriters.

D) It shows that computers offer fewer options than typewriters.

Question 20

According to the passage, some governments still use typewriters because:

A) they do not want to abandon old technologies that may be useful in the future.

B) they want to ensure that typewriter production lines remain in business.
C) they like the nostalgic appeal of a typewriter.

D) they can control who reads the document.

Question 21

The writer praises typewriters for all the following reasons EXCEPT

A) Unlike computers, they can only be used for typing.

B) You cannot revise what you have typed on a typewriter.
C) Typewriters are noisier than computers.
D) Typewriters are messier to use than computers. 

Now that there is only one paragraph to read, we know there is only one way to go — from the passage to the questions.

Once you go to the questions, it becomes important, as discussed in the previous post, to look at the sequence in which you have to attempt the questions. It is always advisable to finish off the detail questions first and then proceed to the summary questions.

The first question is a summary question and hence needs to be left for later.

Question 20 is a detail question that is very direct and I don’t need to solve it for you to arrive at the answer as option D.

Did you notice the paraphrasing? The passage says the only way anyone can get a typewritten document is if you hand it over, which is why some governments have reverted to them.

This has been paraphrased to — they can control who reads the document.

Very often test-takers are subconsciously looking for the same wording to be used in the options, as in the passage.

This expectation tends to have two negative fallouts.

Firstly, they fall for trap options that use the phrasing from the passage but tweak the logic. Secondly, they tend to, at first glance, quickly reject the correct option since it uses different words. So ensure that you are reading for logic and not for phrasing.

Question 21 takes paraphrasing to a new level and hence can become tricky. But any tricky question can become easy if you go by rejection.

  • The author clearly says that when typing there are no distractions and lists them out. This has been paraphrased to — they can’t be used for anything other than typing. So this can be rejected since it is an EXCEPT question.
  • Option B has been clearly stated — since you can’t revise you have to be attentive to what you type. So this can be rejected since it is an EXCEPT question.
  • Option C is tricky. Does the author praise the noisiness of typewriters? The word/phrase that is used is “encouraging clang”, clang means noise and the author finds the noise encouraging. The author lists this as one of the things to like about typewriters. So this can be rejected since it is an EXCEPT question.
  • The author does not mention the messiness of typewriters as one of the reasons for liking it. So this has to be your answer.

Now we can go to the summary question, which is a primary purpose question.

  • Option A cannot be rejected since the passage talks about how some governments are using it for security reasons and then lists all the other positive things about typewriters
  • Option B is incorrect since the author makes no claim that typewriters will continue to be used
  • Option C is close but it talks only about the personal benefits and not the security benefits
  • Option D is incorrect since the passage is not about computers versus typewriters

So by rejection, you are again left with the right option, in this case, A.

If you read this passage in under 3 minutes and answered the other two questions in about 4 minutes, you will have 6 marks in about 7 minutes. If you found yourself even remotely struggling with the Summary Question then you should have asked yourself whether you want to waste time over this.


Despite their fierce reputation. Vikings may not have always been the plunderers and pillagers popular culture imagines them to be. In fact, they got their start trading in northern European markets, researchers suggest.

Combs carved from animal antlers, as well as comb manufacturing waste and raw antler material has turned up at three archaeological sites in Denmark, including a medieval marketplace in the city of Ribe. A team of researchers from Denmark and the U.K. hoped to identify the species of animal to which the antlers once belonged by analyzing collagen proteins in the samples and comparing them across the animal kingdom, Laura Geggel reports for LiveScience. Somewhat surprisingly, molecular analysis of the artifacts revealed that some combs and other material had been carved from reindeer antlers. Given that reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) don’t live in Denmark, the researchers posit that it arrived on Viking ships from Norway. Antler craftsmanship, in the form of decorative combs, was part of Viking culture. Such combs served as symbols of good health, Geggel writes. The fact that the animals shed their antlers also made them easy to collect from the large herds that inhabited Norway.

Since the artifacts were found in marketplace areas at each site it’s more likely that the Norsemen came to trade rather than pillage. Most of the artifacts also date to the 780s, but some are as old as 725. That predates the beginning of Viking raids on Great Britain by about 70 years. (Traditionally, the so-called “Viking Age” began with these raids in 793 and ended with the Norman conquest of Great Britain in 1066.) Archaeologists had suspected that the Vikings had experience with long maritime voyages [that] might have preceded their raiding days. 

Beyond Norway, these combs would have been a popular industry in Scandinavia as well. It’s possible that the antler combs represent a larger trade network, where the Norsemen supplied raw material to craftsmen in Denmark and elsewhere.

Question 22

The primary purpose of the passage is 
A) to explain the presence of reindeer antler combs in Denmark.
B) to contradict the widely-accepted beginning date for the Viking Age in Britain, and propose an alternate one.
C) to challenge the popular perception of Vikings as raiders by using evidence that suggests their early trade relations with Europe.
D) to argue that besides being violent pillagers, Vikings were also skilled craftsmen and efficient traders.
Question 23
The evidence – “Most of the artifacts also date to the 780s, but some are as old as 725” – has been used in the passage to argue that:
A) the beginning date of the Viking Age should be changed from 793 to 725.
B) the Viking raids started as early as 725.
C) some of the antler artifacts found in Denmark and Great Britain could have come from Scandinavia.
D) the Vikings’ trade relations with Europe pre-dates the Viking raids.
Question 24
All of the following hold true for Vikings EXCEPT
A) Vikings brought reindeer from Norway to Denmark for trade purposes.
B) Before becoming the raiders of northern Europe, Vikings had trade relations with European nations.
C) Antler combs, regarded by the Vikings as a symbol of good health, were part of the Viking culture.

D) Vikings, once upon a time, had trade relations with Denmark and Scandinavia.


Once you read the first two paragraphs you will see there are no questions on both of them.

The first specific question you will encounter will be question 23 which is based on the third paragraph.

This question is like a CR question and the answer to this is option D. The presence of artifacts, 70 years before the raids, is used to highlight the argument that trade relations began before the raids.

We are now left with question 24 and question 22.

As discussed, always move from detail to summary questions and you should approach the last question.

Option A is not mentioned and hence is the answer since this is an EXCEPT question.  The passage says that Vikings might have brought raw material to make combs from Norway to Denmark. The question-maker cleverly slips in the reindeer instead of raw material.

The summary question again is best solved by elimination.

The passage is about the image of Vikings — they are not the fierce pillagers that they are considered to be.

Based on this you can eliminate options A and B since they do not mention or refer to the popular the perception, image or view of Vikings

Between C and D. Option D says — to argue that besides being violent pillagers. This means that the author supports or acknowledges the fact that Vikings were violent pillagers. The author nowhere states this. Hence, C.

Whenever you are caught between two options, always look for ways to reject.


Notes on the Paragraph to Questions approach

Over the years, I have got the same set of queries with respect to this approach and I am sure all of you will end up having the same set of issues when you try to execute the method. 

Doesn’t this method take longer?

You are not going to read all questions each and every time you finish a para or two by the end of the first question, by the time you do it twice you will remember most of the questions.

If anything you will save the time going back to the passage to answer specific questions and reading the paragraph all over again since you have completely forgotten Para 3 of a 6-Para passage by the time you read Question 5, which is based on the third paragraph!

So, no, it just feels longer in the beginning because you have not perfected it yet.

With this method, I find it tough to retain the overall thought flow of the passage 

Some test-takers have said that they find it difficult to retain the flow of the passage when they break off after every paragraph and go to the questions. They either really feel disoriented or they feel that they lose track of the overall flow.

This is absolutely expected in the beginning, it is purely a question of getting used to the method. Once you solve about 30 passages you will feel comfortable.

I feel that answering questions with respect to a paragraph makes your understanding of the paragraph stronger!

Also, if the Passage to Questions approach is working well for you and you are getting your desired accuracy on RCs, then there is no need for you to change! 

There are passages that have very few specific questions

Some readers have said that there are passages that have barely any specific questions. There can be a 3-question passage with no question from a particular paragraph and all questions being Summary Questions. But on average there will be at least 2 to 3 questions based on specific paragraphs. 

And even if you encounter such a passage it does not hurt you in any way since you know at the end of the first paragraph, when you read all the questions, that all of them are summary questions and there is no point going back to the question after every paragraph!


P.S: I do the VA-RC feedback of 3 to 4 SimCATs every year, the videos are a much better way to learn the actual process of solving the questions, especially the getting stuck between two options, so do watch the video feedback.

4 Comments

  1. cestaashi says

    Hi tony sir,
    I implemented this approach post reading your blogs in recent simcat and it helped. Just wanted to know what should be the flow of solving (1-2 RC sets followed by VA or VA first then an RC ) to maximize attempts and score? I tried to find an approach that would suit me but not able reach a definite strategy.

    Like

    • Hi,

      Glad your SimCAT performance improved!

      I have covered this in detail in the LMTC-Verbal session, which was more than an hour long. It will be available on myIMS, please go through it.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!

      Like

  2. Shubham Thacker says

    Hey, Loved your way to approach RCs. It did wonders for me.
    Also, where can I find the videos of your SIMCAT analysis that you mentioned at the end of the blog? I referred few SIMCAT I gave recently but could not find any of your analysis for those tests.

    Like

    • Hi Shubham,

      Glad you found the posts useful!

      I had done video solutions for a few SimCATs and analysis videos for a couple of Sims last year.

      This year all the video solutions are being handled by my colleagues.

      The LMTC-Verbal session recording will be available on myIMS, which will cover the selection issues.

      I might record the solutions for an upcoming SimCAT.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

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