When it comes to the Reading Comprehension section on the LSAT, my eternal refrain is that the best success is achieved by focusing primarily on the structure of a passage, with the content of the passage as a secondary concern. (In fact, I’m working on boiling that phrase down for use as a catchy statement on my tombstone.)
Today, we’ll be drilling down into one way to do just that: making the most of examples when they appear in Reading Comprehension passages. As part of our annotation method, we at Blueprint preach that you should be making note of every example you see on the LSAT. It’s hugely helpful to notice when examples appear in passages, and not only because you are extremely likely to see at least one question about any examples. Noticing examples also helps you have a better overall understanding of the passage. Here’s why:
By definition, examples are used to support a general claim; that’s why we frequently remind Blueprint LSAT students that examples are used in support of a conclusion, but cannot themselves be the conclusion. (So even if three-quarters of a passage is dedicated to explaining a certain example and its significance, the thing it’s an example of would still be the main point of the passage.)
So, just noticing the example itself is not sufficient to fully understand a Reading Comprehension passage, and in fact, it might not help you answer the question(s) related to the example either — some questions just ask for details about an example (such as “Which one of the following was mentioned in the passage…”), but often, a question will ask specifically about what the example was supporting.
Since the point of marking up the passage while you’re reading is to prepare yourself for the questions as much as possible, that means that you should probably be marking which conclusion is supported by an example. At the end of the day, the best way to do so is whatever makes the most sense to you, but here are a couple options:
• Write a note about the general claim the example supports at the top of the paragraph, then write “Ex” under that where the example appears
• Next to your annotation of the example, draw an arrow that points at the place where the general claim appears in the passage
• When you note the example, append a few words to remind yourself of what it’s supporting (e.g. “Ex. Fruit flies, supp. adaptability”)
Finding the idea that is supported by an example will help you with identifying conclusions, and noting conclusions is a critical aspect of understanding a passage’s structure, which, in turn, is key to improving your overall understanding of a passage. So develop your preferring strategy for noting how examples function in a passage, and get ready to start reaping the benefits.