1) Read the passage slowly until you figure out the point

Usually the point will be stated somewhere close to the end of the introduction or at the beginning of the second paragraph (first body paragraph). Once you figure out the point, focus on the first and last sentence of each body paragraph, then read the conclusion carefully. Underline the last sentence. For short passages (GRE), focus on the first and last sentences of the passage.


2) If something confuses you, skip it and focus on what you do understand

When a lot of people encounter a confusing section of a passage, they stop and read it repeatedly, often without obtaining a clearer understanding and wasting huge amounts of time in the process. You should avoid falling into a this type of rereading loop at all costs. If you don’t understanding something fully the first time you read, force yourself to keep moving and focus on the parts that are clearer. What confuses you might not be important anyway.


3) When you finish the passage, write the tone and the point

Try to limit the point to 4-6 words, symbols, etc. OR, if you see the point directly stated in the passage, underline it and draw a big arrow/star, etc. so you remember to keep referring back to it. For the tone, you can write an adjective (e.g. skeptical) or just positive (+) or negative (-).

4) Circle major transitions and “interesting” punctuation

Transitions such as therefore, however, and for example indicate when authors are drawing conclusions, disputing ideas, and supporting points. “Interesting” punctuation (colons, dashes) often indicates explanations. Strong wording (alwaysnever) is often used when an author wants to emphasize a point. These elements usually signal the presence of the information necessary to answer questions.

Note: If you find it too distracting to pay attention to these things while you are trying to absorb the meaning of a passage, you should look out for them when you go back to passages while answering questions.


5) When you read a question, re-read the appropriate section of the passage, and try to sum up the answer quickly for yourself.

The answers are there to confuse you, not to help you. The more work you do on your own upfront, the less likely you are to get confused.

If you can’t come up with anything in a few seconds, look at the answer choices and cross off everything that absolutely does not make sense. If there is any chance an answer could work, leave it — remember that correct answers will sometimes be phrased in ways you are not expecting. When you get down to two or three answers, go back to the passage and check them out carefully


6) Same idea, different words 

Correct answers rephrase the passage using synonyms; they do not quote the passage verbatim. On the other hand, answers that do restate information from the passage verbatim are usually wrong.


7) Answers are not always located in the lines referenced.

A line reference tells you where a word/phrase/sentence, etc. is located — it does not mean that the answer is located in that place. Always start from the sentence before the one given in the question and read to the sentence after if necessary. The answer to a question about the purpose of a given line (i.e. the point) is just as likely to appear in the sentence before, or at the beginning of a paragraph (topic sentence), as it is to appear in the lines provided in the question.


8) When you eliminate choices, cross out the entire answer

If you just cross off the letter, your eye can still get distracted by the rest of the answer. Don’t let this slow you down. Just a quick line through it. If you’re taking an online test (GRE, GMAT, etc.) and don’t spot the correct answer right away, jot the answers you eliminate down on your scratch paper as you get rid of them.


9) Skip strategically

You should never waste time struggling with a single question that you might not get right when you could be answering multiple other questions easily and quickly. If you insist on answering every question, in order, and not moving on until you’re done, you can lose a lot of points. Most time problems come about because people spend far too much time spent on a few questions, not because they spend a little too much time on every question. If you can identify those few potential “problem” questions and avoid them from the start, you can make the whole test much easier.


10) Be willing to revise your original assumptions

If you understand what a question is saying, go back the passage, formulate your own answer, and nothing seems to work when you look at the answers, that’s a sign you’ve been thinking in the wrong direction. Ask yourself what you’re missing, go back to the passage, and see if you can approach the question from another angle.