Is there a specific order in difficulty of the RC passages? I thought that they got progressively harder, but in certain cases (such as the one below), Passage 3 was significantly harder than Passage 4. This puzzles me seeing how if you allot a given time for... say the second passage thinking, "Oh, this is the second one so I'll give myself 8 minutes," when in fact it's supposed to be significantly harder than Passage 3 or 4 (and thus supposed to take longer).
Been trying to assess where the hell I'm going in regards to timing. Thoughts? Too slow in reading/questions or a particular passage? I have no clue where to spend the "normal" amount of time (one minute per question? 4 minutes reading each passage?). Tips appreciated!
TIME: 41:37 min
Passage 1 (8 questions)
Reading: 4:12 min
Questions: 5:41 min
TOTAL: 9:53 min
Passage 2 (8 questions)
Reading: 5:12 min
Questions: 6:19 min
TOTAL: 11:31 min
WRONG: 1 (#15)
Passage 3 (7 questions)
Reading: 4:48 min
Questions: 6:25 min
TOTAL: 11:12 min
WRONG: 3 (#19, 20, 21)
Passage 4 (5 questions)
Reading: 4:16 min
Questions: 4:45 min
TOTAL: 9:01 min
WRONG : 2 (#25, 27)
I don't think there is an order really. At least not one that explains my RC misses. Sometimes the hardest passages have the easiest questions and vice versa.
I have never broken my timing down as specifically as you did here, but my gut tells me that it's a little bit of both (too much time spent reading and too much time spent answering). I would try to get through the passage faster first, but also make a point of not wasting time debating between two likely answers. Choose one, then circle the question and return to it if you have time. No point wasting time on a question that you will probably end up missing anyway (just in my experience!).
Yeah I agree with everything Shifty just said, but recently I did go so far as to time myself and check on detail stuff like that in the RC section so let me weigh in here and see if what I say makes sense (note: thestalkmore helped me out with RC, so a lot of these ideas are his. The rest is just my experience)
I read my passages anywhere from 2:15 to 3:30. No longer than that. In the old, panicky and slow days I'd be sitting there reading 3-4 minutes, trying to understand every little detail of what I was reading. I wanted to understand every sentence, and every word. This was a terrible idea as it did little to improve my total section performance--I'd run out of time.
Now (reading between 2:15 and 3:30, and with the +3min only when it's really tough) I am going for about 80% comprehension, with the 20% that I leave behind being "micro-concepts" like how a particular protein binds to the cell membrane or how Lichtenstein felt about this particular dude's work in 1961. I'll remember exactly where that discussion took place, and if it is ever asked about I will go back and re-read that moment in the passage. I've been surprised at how rarely this happens, though, because turns out there are a bunch of different "micro-concepts" in a passage and they're only going to ask about like two of them. My initial 80% read is surprisingly good enough for most questions--it gets me to where I need to be with a "macro" understanding and a knowledge of where
everything is. Trying to understand all of those micro-concepts had been wasting my time in the same way that understanding every aspect of a Must Be True question in LR would be a waste--they're only going to ask you about the interaction of two premise, but they've got about 6 in the stimulus. In the RC, there are about 6 questions and there is no way they can ask you about everything that's going on in the passage--there are probably more than 100 premises, sub-conclusions, and conclusions stuck in there. It's just one big stimulus.
As for how much time to spend on a question, this varies quite a lot I think. Sometimes you can crush a question that you already know the answer to--you remember it from the 80% read-through. Most times, though, it requires some elimination of poor answer choices and then a final showdown between two reasonable-sounding ACs. Once you've got it down to these suckers just read them alongside each other and see who's better (as Dave Hall says, the softer language is usually better). And then, about as rarely as the questions you can crush right off the bat, there will be a question that you absolutely don't know the answer to but (crucially) you at least remember where to find it. If you don't know where to look for this answer then you haven't done your job during the 80% read-through (you were supposed to remember where everything is, even if you didn't understand it fully). Go back to that moment where it discusses that exact micro-concept and re-read, come back to the answer choices and repeat the process discussed above. If I still don't find an answer that I like (this is rare but it happens on really tough passages) I'll cut myself off after about 1:30 (using internal clock), circle it and move on. It's not worth it.
On average, I deal with my passages in anywhere between 7 minutes to 9 minutes, with the very rare outliers around 10 minutes or 6 minutes. These sections are pretty well balanced in my opinion, just like the games, so I don't think you'll find a section that is unmanageably chock-full of tough passages. The whole section takes me around 30-33 minutes (not as fast as shifty and others).
Lastly: I'm no expert. But again I have recently put time into thinking about this section and this is what I've got. I feel good about it, so I thought I'd share.