Step 4. Now, onto the long passages. I had loads of trouble with these before I found this method. I am going to give you my step-by-step method of attacking them, which I have found extremely effective, albeit somewhat more time-consuming. Before anything, you MUST read the short blurb before the passage. It gives you a sense (though always limited) not only of what the passage is going to be about, but also of the position and possible tone of the author. You will then be able to perhaps place yourself into the author's shoes. This is a good point right now to tell you that you MUST love the passage you are reading. Force yourself to love it - throw yourself into the passage with gusto. It works. Though it's quite ludicrous to be super-enthusiastic about a boy and his alfafa patch, with your enthusiasm comes retention, heightened focus, and an oddly vicarious interest in the passage. My general mental approach was a huge contributing factor in my getting an 800 in CR and a 2400 on the SAT.
Step 5. After you have read that thrilling blurb, don't start reading the passage yet. Quickly jump to the questions, and as fast as you can, skim every question for line number references (don't read the choices or the full question yet). On some passages almost every single question has a line reference - on most others it's about over half. Very rarely will you see a passage with question without any line references (perhaps only rarely on a six question passage). Anyway, once you see a line reference (In lines 23-25 of the passage, the author is saying that...), you should bracket not the lines, but the sentence contained within the lines. This mark-up will allow you to focus in on that sentence once you begin to read the passage. Based on the question, you want to make a small annotation. For this question: (In lines 23-25 of the passage, the author is saying that...), you might make the annotation MEANING next to your marked-up sentence. Other annotations might include: SAYS THIS BECAUSE, REFERS TO, HOW SIMILAR TO PASSAGE 1, BACKS UP WHAT BEFORE (think crude caveman notations - they're more efficient). Go through all of the questions. Perhaps some of the references will not have any line numbers. If you see (In the last paragraph...), just put brackets around the last paragraph along with an annotation. If you see a general question referring to the passage as a whole, on the question circle the number of the question with a large circle. This means it's a general question and must be answered AFTER all the specific questions. I find this is always a very comfortable way of attacking the questions based on how College Board writes these questions.
Step 6. Once you have marked up all the line references as fast as humanly possible, then the real art begins. You must read the passage. There is no way around reading every single word. But HOW you read it is the true art. Read the unmarked sections quickly yet efficiently, absorbing it briefly but not truly pausing to analyze. ONCE you hit a marked section, slow down and absorb it. If you feel that it would not disrupt your flow to answer the corresponding question, do so. If not, keep going a little more. A vast majority of the line reference questions (even complex ones such as inferences) can be answered after reading from the beginning to the point of reference. In a few instances, it may help to read past the point of reference, but NEVER read the whole passage through without pausing to answer questions. Your retention will be terrible and it's much better to handle the passage in small, manageable chunks. Also, when you answer a question, just circle in the answer in the test booklet. DO NOT BUBBLE IN THE ANSWERS UNTIL YOU FINISH THE ENTIRE PAGE, SOMETIMES EVEN THE PASSAGE. This is a huge time saver and it prevents you from making bubbling mistakes. The time saved is not necessarily the time difference in bubbling, but the time saved because it prevented you from breaking your focus. This is very important in CR. Don't break focus. If you're very low on time, however, you can bubble as you go.