Just needed to do some venting. After I find myself saying the same things repeatedly, I start to think that perhaps I should just make a recording and just hit the “play” button whenever someone neglects to do one of these things…for the fiftieth time.

1) When you get down to two answers on Critical Reading, GO BACK TO THE FRIGGIN’ PASSAGE AND CHECK TO SEE WHICH ONE IT DIRECTLY SUPPORTS. Pick the most concrete, specific aspect of one answer choice, and check to see whether the passage explicitly addresses it. If it doesn’t, it’s not the answer. If one of the answers contains extreme language, start by assuming it’s wrong and focus extra-hard on connecting the other answer to the passage.

2) Don’t make wild guesses. Just don’t.

3) If you’re going to skip questions on the real thing, skip them when you’re practicing. Don’t answer them just for the heck of it. You’re a lot less likely to do everything you intended to do on the actual test if you’ve never done it before. Besides, most questions you should skip fall into the category of questions you had no idea of the answer to. See #2 for my thoughts on that.

4) If you know there’s a particular mistake you tend to make or a particular rule you always forget, take a pencil and physically write yourself a note IN CAPITAL LETTERS at the top of your page to look out for it. Otherwise, you’ll forget and just keep doing the same thing. Yes, actually write it down.

5) If you see the word “NOT” or “EXCEPT” in a question, put a huge circle around it so that you don’t accidentally answer the opposite.

6) Write down each step of complicated Critical Reading questions as you do them. Sum up, write, sum up, write… You can write fast. And honestly, what you write isn’t that important. It’s more the fact that the act of writing forces you to clarify your thoughts at each step. I find it virtually impossible to work through a question without doing this, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a student who tried it willingly (and didn’t make the “ew, she’s not serious, that’s way too much work, I don’t really need to do that to get the answer” face). Yes, it’s a lot more work than most people are used to, but if done consistently, it keeps you from making those last few mistakes.

7) Think about whether the answer makes sense in the real world. Yes, the answer must be supported by the passage, but if it doesn’t make sense period, it’s probably not right.

8) If you get down to one answer by process of elimination, double-check that the answer actually makes sense.

9) Physically cross out answers as you eliminate them. Put a line through them completely. Don’t get lazy and stop after one or two. Your goal is to look at the smallest amount of information possible at any given time. Don’t give yourself more things to get distracted by.

10) Playing process of elimination does not absolve you of the responsibility to think. When you’re done eliminating answers, make sure that whatever you’re left with actually works. If it very clearly doesn’t, go back and reevaluate.