Normally, your brain wakes up these ideas and memories as a natural part of reading. However, under stress, your eyes can pass over words and even recognize them, but no ideas come to life in your brain. You are too distracted and overwhelmed, and the words on the page remain “just words.” In this case, try concretizing . That is, actively imagine what the words are referring to . Re-explain the original text to yourself. Visualize what it represents. Indulge in simplifications, even stereotypes. Make up examples and use any other mental handles that you can. Of course, there is a danger in actively concretizing part of a GRE passage—you might introduce outside ideas. However, that danger is small in comparison to the worse problem of not understanding at all what you are reading, especially at the start of a passage. Consider the following sentence, which could be the opening of a passage: Most exobiologists—scientists who search for life on other planets or moons—agree that car- bon probably provides the backbone of any extraterrestrial biological molecules, just as it does of terrestrial ones, since carbon is unique among the elements in its ability to form long, stable chains of atoms. Ideally, you can read this sentence and grasp it without any problems. Under exam pressure, however, you might need some help understanding the sentence. In your mind, you might concretize this sentence in the following manner: You should NOT write this concretization down (except as an exercise during your preparation). The process should happen quickly in your head. Moreover, as you read further into the passage, the need to W or ds Concr etiz ed I deas …exobiologists–scientists… smart folks in white coats …who search for life on other planets or moons… who peer through telescopes looking for little green men …carbon probably provides the backbone of extraterrestrial biological molecules… carbon : charcoal, key element in living things backbone : like a spine to a little molecule …its ability to form long, stable chains of atoms. carbon can make long, stable chains like bones in a backbone or links in a physical chain
INTRODUCTION TO PRINCIPLES 18 Manhattan GRE Prep Chapter 1 the new standard * concretize should diminish. In fact, if you do too much concretizing along the way, you might introduce too many outside ideas and lose track of what is actually written in the passage. However, concretizing can help you make sense of a difficult opening paragraph, so you should practice this technique. Principle #4: Unpack the Beginning You must understand the first few sentences of every passage, because they supply critical context for the entire passage. If you do not grasp these sentences at first, you have two choices. Either you can take more time with them right away, or you can read a little further and gather more context. In the latter case, you MUST go back and re-acquire those initial sentences later.
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