While there are many ways to improve your LSAT Reading Comprehension score, here are a few strategies that will get you started on the right track to acing the LSAT Reading Comprehension section.
LSAT Reading Timing Techniques
To finish all four passages in the allotted 35 minutes, along with saving some time at the end to go back and review your answers, you should be completing each passage in 8 minutes. Four passages at eight minutes each total 32 minutes, leaving you three minutes to check over your answers. While it may seem daunting to finish a passage in that short of a time period, if you manage your time wisely you can do it. As a first step, try to read and annotate the passage in 3 ½ minutes or less.
LSAT Passage Prioritization
At the very beginning of the Reading Comprehension section take a quick glance at each of the four passages and decide the order in which you are going to read them. Prioritizing passages is mainly a question of personal preference. If you are a history major you will probably be able to finish a passage about Henry VII quickly.
On the other hand, if you have a background in the sciences you will want to start out with the passage about stem cells. Through practice, you will discover that some passages are inherently easier for you than others. Start with the easy passages and end with what you feel are the harder passages. As a general rule, the comparison passages tend to be harder than the other passages so leaving those for last is not a bad idea.
LSAT Question Prioritization
As in all sections of the LSAT, there are some questions in the RC section that are easier to answer than other questions. In general, the easiest questions are those that ask you to refer directly back to the passage, commonly called “Specific Questions”. These questions will read along the lines of: “In line X the author is trying to do Y”. Questions like these are the easiest to answer because all you have to do is go back, read one or two sentences before and after line X, and answer Y. Here is an example of one such question: In lines 25-28 the author draws a distinction between…”
The harder questions to answer are those that ask you to infer something from the passage, whether it be the author’s overall tone or the main point of the passage. These questions, “General Questions”, should be left until after you have answered all of the specific questions described above. While it may seem easier to answer a general question about the main point of a passage immediately after you have read the passage, there are at least two good reasons why you shouldn’t do this.
First, by answering the specific questions before tackling the general questions you get a better idea of what the writers of the LSAT think the key points of the article are.
Second, leaving the general questions until the end ensures that you have already gone back at least once and read parts of the passage in answering the specific questions. In essence, you have read the passage twice before you start tackling a question such as: “The author’s tone in the passage overall is best described as…”
LSAT Reading Comprehension Question Overview
|Think big picture.|
Consult your roadmap.
|Research the relevant text.|
Correct answers will be a very close paraphrase of something stated in the passage.
“likely to agree with”
|Research if possible.|
Correct answer will follow from the passage but will probably not be a close paraphrase.
“primarily in order to”
“for the purpose of”
|Research the relevant text.|
Look at the context to determine why the author included the referenced detail.
|Use appropriate Logical Reasoning strategy.|
LSAT Reading Comprehension Question Types and Strategies
Triaging: for 30-60 seconds at the beginning of any RC section, you should be choosing your passage order. If you are not doing this, you are doing yourself no favors. The LSAT does not necessarily put things in the most helpful order for us, so do it ourselves. Some factors to consider: paragraph length, sentence length, keywords, author point of view/opinion, subject matter or complexity, number of questions, types of questions. Don’t automatically assume that natural science passages, for instance, are always harder–any of the four types can be the toughest one.
Most students attack global question first, then move to whatever questions have specific line references. Don’t be afraid to skip around. Save vaguely worded inference questions without any context clues (like “which of the following is most likely to be true according to the passage?”) and hypothetical/analogy inference questions (in which you have to refer to situations similar to the passage, but not the exact situation mentioned) for the end.
The passage will be in one of four categories: natural science, social science, humanities or law. One passage will be comparative reading, which means two shorter passages that agree on some points and disagree on others. Remember, don’t get lost in details! Big picture and overall structure are more important.
[ PREVIOUS: Logical Reasoning: Strengthen and Weaken Questions ]
[ NEXT: 5 Tips for Reading Comprehension ]