“Don’t be hasty.”
If you’re familiar with the sprawling fantasy epic that is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, then you probably recognize those wise words from Treebeard the Ent. (You probably know that today is Tolkien Reading Day, as well.) What you may not as readily recognize is the applicability of this quotation, and of reading The Lord of The Rings, to the Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT.
LSAT Reading Comprehension passages are often dry and dense, and thus many students find this section particularly daunting. Whether the subject is a scientific analysis of a platypus’ bill or a historical description of the cakewalk, it is often difficult to unpack these passages in order to effectively answer questions about them. When you add in time constraints, this section becomes a truly formidable obstacle to success on the LSAT (an obstacle almost as formidable as the Dead Marshes or the Mines of Moria).
Fortunately, there is a method to effectively dealing with LSAT Reading Comprehension passages: know what you’re looking for, read slowly and carefully, and annotate. As is the case for most of the questions on the LSAT, the best way to approach Reading Comp questions is to anticipate the correct answer choice. The LSAT tends to test on the same kind of information regardless of the specific passage. Thus, knowing and understanding what to look for is vitally important. Once you know what to look for, the next step is to read the passage carefully and slowly so that you fully understand what it is saying. As you work through the passage, annotating certain key aspects will help you remember specific points once you get to the questions.
Reading a book like The Lord of the Rings is a helpful way to hone your LSAT Reading Comprehension skills. Even though it is a fantasy novel, The Lord of the Rings is full of imagery and language that is often just as dense as a passage you might expect to find on the LSAT. For those of you familiar with the books, the chapter in the “Old Forest” is a particularly good example of the complexity of Tolkien’s language. A cursory reading of a chapter like this one will serve you no better than a quick perusal of an LSAT Reading Comp passage — when you come to the end, you probably won’t remember the details and you’ll find yourself confused about the purpose and lost in the minutiae. In order to appreciate the function and beauty of Tolkien’s language, it is necessary to employ the same careful attention to detail that you should use when you encounter LSAT Reading Comp passages — be aware that you’re not reading something simple (e.g. Harry Potter), read slowly, make sure you understand everything that is happening, and occasionally jot down notes or underline main points.
Like Frodo throwing the ring in the fires of Mt. Doom…or Eowyn slaying the Witch-King…or Gandalf vanquishing the Balrog…or Sam putting an end to Shelob, you too will succeed in your quest (to master LSAT Reading Comprehension) if you practice and follow this method. Just remember, don’t be hasty.