Dan McCarthy is a veteran Blueprint LSAT Prep instructor. This is his final post in a series on improving one’s reading skills for the LSAT reading comprehension section.
We have finally reached the end of the first edition of the LSAT Reading Comp Book Club. My motivation in writing these posts has been to provide an answer to one of the most common questions my students ask me: What can I read to get additional practice for LSAT reading comprehension? If you’ve been reading these posts faithfully, you now have three solid starting points.
If you haven’t been reading them faithfully (tisk tisk), here’s your chance to catch up:
But I hope you’ll view those as only the beginning. As I said at the beginning of the series, you can improve your LSAT reading comprehension skills, but it takes time. You should try to get in the habit not just of reading the books I mentioned, but also by seeking out similar materials. It’s important to find books or articles that are similar to the LSAT reading comp passages that LSAC is going to throw at you on LSAT test day.
What should you be looking for? LSAT reading comprehension passages are a lot like a restaurant full of unhappy couples on Valentine’s Day; they are filled with people arguing. LSAT reading comp isn’t really about storytelling. Instead, the LSAT test writers want to see if you can distinguish between different positions on an issue. When two parties disagree, what do they have in common, where do they diverge, what’s at stake, and who’s right? If you think about it, that’s a highly relevant skill if you’re going to be a lawyer. It’s not enough to know that your client hates the opposing party; you need to know exactly where your positions diverge and how new information you discover can help or hinder your side.
So when I suggest you practice your LSAT reading comp skills, it’s not only for the exam. It will also pay off in law school and in your legal career. If nothing else, you’re going to be doing a lot of reading in law school. At some moments, you may find yourself reading something so boring, you’ll wish it was an LSAT reading comp passage. If you’re not accustomed to doing that kind of academic reading, that’s all the more reason to build up your stamina now.
It can be a little tricky to find reading material that looks like an LSAT reading comprehension passage. After all, most writers are trying to sound interesting, not develop your skills on a standardized test. But in addition to the books I’ve covered before, there are other places you can find essays and shorter pieces to read. You may have noticed at newsstands that there’s often a section full of magazines without pictures of celebrities or sports stars on them. You may have wondered, briefly, before turning back to your copy of Us Weekly, who would read such things. The answer, at least while you’re prepping for the LSAT, is you. One great magazine in this category is the Economist. The Economist isn’t actually about economics. It’s more like an intellectual newsweekly. Another magazine in this category is The New Republic, which deals primarily with political issues from a somewhat left-leaning perspective.
Another slightly different source of LSAT reading comp reading material is Instapaper. Instead of a magazine, Instapaper is a way to collect articles you see elsewhere on the web and save them so you can read them later in an easy-to-read, all-text format. They have iPhone and iPad apps, and they also have a free service that will send the articles you’ve saved to a Kindle. It’s essentially a way to create your own magazine. Instapaper also puts together collections of articles that they think you’ll find interesting.
I’ve found several articles from Instapaper that could be helpful for LSAT purposes, often on scientific topics. For example, here is an article about the decision-making process of bees. Or here, an article about the nature of dark matter. The LSAT has already done science passages that cover subjects similar to these. And if you like Instapaper, you might also want to check out Longform.org, which collects articles in a similar way.
I apologize if I’ve started to sound more and more like a librarian (or Levar Burton) as this series has progressed. My message is basically the same as what any librarian told you in elementary school: read. If the message didn’t get through to you then, I hope it will now. It’s a skill you’re going to need on the LSAT and beyond.