Reply To: Getting stuck between two answers

March 30, 2016 at 11:33 am #1641
Mike Kim
Keymaster

Hey Tanika —

I promise to answer your q more specifically in just a bit (and if you get bored by the following, or find that it’s stuff that you already know, or that it’s stuff that isn’t relevant to your concerns, feel free to skip ahead at any point to the bolded “advice…stuck” headline) — but first…

I’d love to just a little bit about why you might get stuck between two answer choices.

You can split up the issues into two main baskets —

One, you are stuck because there are two attractive answer choices.

Two, you are stuck because you weren’t as strong as you could have been at the various processes you went through before you got to those answer choices — that is, getting stuck is a symptom of your problems, rather than the cause.

In my experience, the second of those two possibilities is the much more important and common concern for most students. That doesn’t mean it’s the case for you, and I encourage you not to take my word for it, and to see if this is true for you too — I suggest all this because I think that the very act of thinking about it and evaluating where things went wrong for you is great for your prep.

A different way to think about the situation is — imagine that you did slightly misunderstand a conclusion, or the support, or the task, or whatever — how would you know this happened? Unfortunately, there aren’t many barometers until you get to the answer choices — struggling with the answer choices is commonly the first chance you have to recognize you had any problems beforehand.

Okay, so why am I telling you all this and, if you do feel this is relevant to you, what can you take away from it?

First, recognize that, long term, the best thing to do about getting stuck between two answer choices is to work to get better and better at avoiding the situation in the first place —

Expect that as you get better at different parts of the process for LR, LG, and RC, these situations should happen less and less — and…

When you do get stuck between choices, during your review, try to go as “upstream” as possible in your assessment — that is, try to figure out as best you can the earliest points at which things started to go awry for you (“Oh, I didn’t really understand the conclusion as clearly as I should have, or oh, my understanding of the flaw wasn’t exactly on point,” or, “if I focused on thinking about the q a certain way, I wouldn’t have been attracted to that choice,” etc.) and work to address those concerns.

The second reason I tell u this is as setup for my —

Advice on what to do if you do indeed get stuck —

Not a lot of ground-breaking stuff, but here’s my main advice

1) When you get stuck between two answers, recognize that there were very likely problems earlier — try to go back upstream to see where you could have gone wrong, in terms of your understanding of the conclusion, understanding of the reasoning, understanding of the task in the stem, etc (or RC, LG equivalents of those types of steps). Once in a blue moon this can also help you catch something that makes you realize that one of the three answers you eliminated is actually correct.

2) If after you retrace your steps you still can’t figure out why u r attracted to two choices, practice focusing on two specific concerns, what I think of as text and task

Take each of the two answer choices and try your best to compare them, word for word, against the conclusion, then the support (or the exact wording in an rc passage, etc), and also make sure to compare them against the exact task that the question stem set-up — this can help you catch yourself if you’ve failed to notice some very subtle wording change from the passage/stimulus whatever to the answer choice, and it can help you catch when you’ve gotten attracted to a wrong answer because it “fits” with the stimulus or passage or game very well, and this “fit” made you overlook the fact that it doesn’t actually match the exact task presented in the stimulus (an example would be being given a sufficient assumption q and being attracted to an answer that really seems to hit a flaw you saw and strengthen a given argument, but that isn’t actually enough to guarantee that argument’s validity).

Those are the thoughts that come to mind — hope at least come of that helps, and let me know if you have any follow-up or need anything else —

Mike