Adjusting your aggression setting

By Brent Hanneson - June 9, 2020

Here's a common phenomenon I see when tutoring:

SETUP: After reading a Critical Reasoning passage, the student begins analyzing the answer choices to determine which one best strengthens the conclusion.

STUDENT: “Answer choice A doesn't seem right. If anything, it weakens the conclusion. Then again, perhaps there are certain circumstances I haven’t considered in which answer choice A could actually strengthen the conclusion. I'll be safe and leave answer choice A for now. Answer Choice B introduces a new idea that’s irrelevant to the argument, but maybe it’d be relevant if we made a few extra assumptions. Let’s leave it for now. Answer choice C . . .

By the time this student reviews all 5 answer choices, only 1 answer choice was considered bad enough to warrant elimination. This means we must waste precious time re-analyzing the 4 remaining answer choices.

Clearly, this student needs to be more aggressive, or else it’ll be impossible to complete the Verbal section on time.

If any of this sounds like you, then you probably need to be more aggressive. So, if an answer choice smells incorrect in any way, eliminate it and move on. The worst case scenario with this approach is that your increased aggression causes you to eliminate all 5 answer choices, but even that scenario isn't much worse (time wise) than eliminating only 1 or 2 answer choices.

Your goal should be to eliminate 3 or 4 answer choices on the first pass (with all Verbal questions, not just Critical Reasoning questions). It’ll take some practice to find the best aggression setting for you, but, doing so will free up valuable time in the long run.

Give it a try and see how you do.

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