Reading Comprehension on the LSAT is a learned skill, and better scores on this section of the LSAT are eminently achievable by anyone willing to work at it! Whereas better scores in the Analytical section sometimes feel easier to achieve by simply practicing LSAT questions repeatedly, there are no “shortcuts” for LSAT RC – it all comes down to strategy. Here are 5 quick strategic tips that will help you turn a bad LSAT score into a good LSAT score.
Reading Comprehension Passage Types
The LSAT Reading Comprehension section features four passages with a variety of topics and writing styles. The paired reading style and humanities passage can cause many to struggle. Here are the basics for excelling at these Reading Comprehension passage types.
When you arrive at the Reading Comprehension portion of the LSAT, you’ll notice that one of the four sets of questions refers to a set of two “paired passages,” each by different authors, rather than to a single, more lengthy passage. (Note that LSAC routinely provides one set of “paired passages” per exam, but — as with a number of facts about the exam — it leaves open the possibility of more than one set appearing at some point.)
First, when encountering “paired passages,” don’t be intimidated by the potential length of the pair! Each is shorter than the other three passages in the section; in fact, the length of both passages combined typically equals the length of one of the longer sections. You may even want to approach the pair first, as they often deal with “easier” subject matter than the longer passages, which can be denser and involve more detailed or difficult information. .
The set of “paired passages” and their related questions should be attacked similarly to single Reading Comprehension passages, with one primary — and vitally important — difference: the need to compare and contrast. When reading and marking the pair, you should pay particular attention to the interaction, as well as the similarities and differences, between the passages.
If possible, it is initially helpful to address the passages — and their corresponding questions — separately. After briefly skimming and marking the questions, try to read and answer those questions solely related to the first passage — should any appear — then move on to the second passage in a similar fashion. At this point, you should have detailed knowledge of both passages and the major issues associated with each. Though you may need to quickly re-read the pair, you are now prepared to tackle those questions relating to both passages with the knowledge and confidence necessary to succeed!
Of the four sections in the LSAT’s Reading Comprehension portion, one will focus on humanities-related themes such as authors, philosophers, art, etc. To some test-takers, these “softer”-seeming subjects may in fact appear daunting, densely packed with richer description and a more elaborate writing style than, for example, those passages dealing with the sciences. If you are one of these test-takers (perhaps a math or science major more used to numbers than narration), remember that you do not need to know anything outside of the information provided in the passage in order to successfully answer the corresponding questions. You are fully equipped with the material required to arrive at correct answers.
Conversely, test-takers accustomed to the humanities — those who light up at the thought of a class in ancient philosophy or modern English writers — may anticipate such a passage to be a comfortable respite from a section filled with less familiar passages on the sciences or legal issues. They should, however, be sure not to answer based on outside information, and instead focus specifically on those assertions contained directly within the material provided.
Regardless of your area of expertise, remember to read humanities passages — though they may seem quite different — similarly the way in which you might read an unfamiliar science or law passage: pay close attention to the topic, main and important supporting ideas, and structure of the passage, and avoid getting bogged down in the perhaps more complex language or unfamiliar subjects examined in the passage. Instead, read confidently, at an appropriate speed, and mark important points as you would with any other type of passage.
Previous: What’s Tested on the LSAT: Reading Comprehension
Next: Reading Comprehension: Main Idea, Scope & Tone