A Look at the September 2018 LSAT: Reading Comprehension

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We’re continuing our look ing the recently released September 2018 LSAT. Today, a current 1L will delve into the Reading Comprehension section, particularly the first passage about a famous Supreme Court case, and its relevance to law school.

Learning to take the LSAT can sometimes feel like a demoralizing exercise that’s completely inapplicable to the rest of your life (or so I hear). However, future law students can rest assured that they will very much be putting their Reading Comprehension skills to use in each of their core law school classes. While the first passage of the Reading Comp section on the September LSAT gave a lot of students trouble, it’s a passage about a famous Supreme Court case which can perfectly illustrate the use of Reading Comp methods in your upcoming legal studies.

First, here are the highlights of the Sept. LSAT Reading Comp section on Shelley v. Kraemer:

This is an LSAT passage about Shelly v. Kraemer, the court case which held that the enforcement of racially discriminatory restrictive covenants violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. However, the author of the Reading Comp passage (who sticks to writing about their own opinion only) concludes that Shelly would have been better off decided on different grounds, because the court could have addressed the discriminatory content of the restrictive covenant practices more directly, and created a less problematic rule for courts to apply in future cases.

Apart from the conclusion and author’s attitude (which, if you missed it earlier on, is summed up nicely in the last paragraph when the author calls a part of the Shelly decision “particularly noxious”), the structural elements to identify in the passage include the author’s main point and purpose. The main point could be summed up as: while the Supreme Court was correct in determining in Shelly v. Kraemer that restrictive covenants were unlawful, the case should have been decided on different grounds. When you add the main point to the author’s jab at the court for the “noxious” aspects of their decision, you can surmise that the purpose of the passage was to critique the court’s decision for its reasoning.

The identification of conclusion, author’s attitude, main point and purpose above all help marvelously toward answering the questions that went with the passage (especially the more general questions 1, 3 and 6), and finding this structure within the passage yourself will be key to referring back to specific paragraphs to answer the other questions as well.

So which elements in the Shelly v. Kraemer decision would be most important to a student reading the case in law school? Reading Shelly in a law school class, you would need to note the history of the case before it reached the Supreme Court, the facts from the case that were relevant to the court’s decision, the court’s decision and the reasoning it used, and most importantly, you would pinpoint the major rule (or rules) which came out of the case. According to the Reading Comp passage, one of the precedential rules of Shelly was that an agreement had the “state action” ingredient necessary for 14th Amendment protection if it was enforceable in the courts, and the “attribution” rationale was part of the reasoning the court used for that decision.

As you can begin to see, the ability to find the structure and analyze the argument in a reading passage becomes even more relevant when you’re applying it to your reading of court cases in law school and beyond.

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