An ability to read well is one of the skills that everyone assumes to have when only some have truly mastered it. In numerous job applications, people put down skills like “experiences with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel” or “communicates in Spanish and French.” But, you do not always see people writing, “ability to read critically.”
That’s because everyone expects you to be able to do that.
Method 1: Confidence and Change in Attitude
Let’s say that it’s your first day of work, and your boss asks you to read through several piles of documents and type up the key summaries for the meeting the next day. Almost all office-related jobs will require you to read large amounts of readings and extract only the main points.
So, the first method to improve your reading comprehension is to change your attitude. See that the standardized tests are just first “piles” of papers that you have to read and analyze. Perceive the multiple choice questions at the end as the key summary points that your boss would be reading. Just like how you would not write answers that interest you and not the boss, you need to be able to think like the author of the passage and pick the answers that he/she would choose. Once you have mastered that, you need to be able to tell yourself that you can do it well each time. It’s like having the confidence to tell your boss that your key summary is always impeccable and thorough that he/she will be pleased to read.
Method 2: Be a Psychic
In terms of the reading comprehension of the LSAT, LSAC (Law School Admission Council) described, “These questions measure your ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school work.”1
The reading comprehension questions in GMAT are explained as following: “Topics contain material from the social sciences, physical or biological sciences, and business-related area (marketing, economics, human resource management, etc.).”2
I am positive that you can find similar types of descriptions in other standardized tests as well. The focus here is that the passages have been selected to mimic something that you may encounter. Many people assume that they will only be dealing with things related to their professional jobs. In other words, if you are a lawyer, you feel like you never need to know anything in medicine, music, and so on. But, the truth is that you do because your clients may be involved in those careers.
Standardized tests teach you how to confront situations that are not used to your familiar circle. The passages in standardized tests are intentionally introduced in obscure manners of arguments because most likely, people you deal with will speak in the ways that you do not always expect. Everyone will approach you differently, and somehow, you need to be able to get into their mind. Hence, you need to be a psychic, and standardized tests are realistic practices for you to do that.
Always keep this in mind. Treat the author as your future client and ask, “What is he/she trying to tell me? Why is he/she here to go through all the details? Is there something that he/she needs to prove to me?” Do not see the passage as a boring paper that you can’t penetrate with your eyes. Try to read into the author’s mind.
Method 3: Practice Your Fights and Battle Your Author
Every sport requires diligent practices and dedications. Reading Comprehension should be treated as a “sport” and undergo daily practices to brush up on your skills. But, here’s the twist: think it as a fight. You need to be aggressive when it comes to reading comprehension.
Think about how focused you are when you argue with your boss for a raise. You are very careful to hear every word that he says, but at the same time, you are preparing counterarguments to things that he will say. An irrational person will simply say whatever comes to his mind and be fired. But, someone who is rational and can construct logical thoughts will be able to express exactly how he wants to say while understanding the views of the boss.
Reading comprehension is the same way. When you read your passages, believe that you are “hearing” the words from your boss but only this time, it’s presented in written form. This is an excellent way you can stay focused throughout the passages. Read every single word and focus on the big picture. You wouldn’t fight someone because of one tiny detail, would you? No, your goal is to understand the overall argument that the author says, and comprehend it to the level that you can counterargument the person.
1. Law School Admission Council, “About the LSAT.” 2010. January 24, 2010. http://www.lsac.org/LSAT/about-the-lsat.asp>
2. Graduate Management Admission Council, “Verbal Section.” 2010. January 24, 2010. http://www.mba.com/mba/TheGMAT/TestStructureAndOverview/VerbalSection/default.htm>