Day 26 – How to Review a CARS Passage

Ok, so you’ve been reading all of these posts about how to read CARS passages and how to recognize the different question types and answer pathologies. You’ve been taking a ton of CARS passages. Your timing is down, and you’ve got your pacing just right. What do you do to push yourself up that last little bit to get in the 129+ range? The final key is mastering how to review your practice tests. I’m going to break the process down into the three pieces of the CARS section, the passages, questions, and answer choices, and then in our final review post, I’ll bring it all together. Today, we look at reviewing the passages. Don’t worry if this seems like a lot to take in, especially since we’re breaking it up over three days. On Day 29, I provide a complete overview of how to correctly review a CARS test. I’ve also included a “How to Review a Practice Test” summary sheet you can download. If you want to be ahead of the game, you can download it here.

The Why of Reviewing:

The goals of reviewing a CARS passage are very different than those of reviewing a passage from one of the other sections. In “studying” for the CARS, we’re actually “practicing” doing things the right way over and over again. This allows you to habituate doing the right things which translate into success on test day. In reviewing a passage, we’re trying to develop our CARS “skills.” This is our only goal, so keep that in mind whenever you review anything on the CARS. You’re not trying to learn. You’re trying to develop a particular skill set!

How to Review a Passage:

Hopefully, you’ve been doing the keyword review for some time now. If the keywords are starting to jump out at you as you take the passages under testing conditions, you’ve achieved our goal in doing the exercise, so it’s time to move on to more advanced techniques. What do we do now? There are six steps I recommend for reviewing CARS practice passages:

Step 1: Wait at least four hours to review your practice test!

Step 2: Read the passage once through at a normal CARS pace, but without any reference to time. Slow down when you need to.

Step 3: Determine what kind of passage it is: Argumentative or Descriptive?

Step 4: Read the passage again, but this time, after each paragraph, write on a sheet of paper a one sentence summary of the paragraph. Do this for each paragraph.

Step 5: After completing step 4 for all of the paragraphs, paint yourself to the main idea.

a. What’s the frame?
b. What’s the subject?
c. What’s the point?

(See Day 11 if you have questions on how to do this)

Step 6: After completing steps 1 through 5, write a one-sentence summary of the entire passage.

Reviewing your passages like this will allow you to most effectively review the corresponding questions and answer choices, and it will also get you in the habit of summarizing passages and paragraphs in your mind. The ability to summarize efficiently and thoroughly is one that must be developed over time. By doing these five steps repeatedly, over time, you’ll begin to do them without even thinking about it while taking your test.

***TIP – To make your review even more productive, when you’re taking the passage under test conditions, if there is a part of the passage that doesn’t make sense or confuses you, highlight it or make a note on scratch paper reminding you why it was confusing or hard. Going back to these sections later when you’re reviewing your test is a useful way to improve your reading comprehension.

And that’s it!Make sure you do your five passages today. Review each passage as we’ve described above. I’ve created a handout that makes it easy to remember which questions to ask yourself as you review a passage. You can download it here. Tomorrow, we’ll go over how to review questions which is slightly more involved. Keep up the hard work. The finish line is in sight!

Today’s Assignment: Do Five CARS Passages Consecutively, Under Timed Conditions

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”
– Dr. Og Mandino

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