Tips to Make LSAT Reading Comp Not Feel Like Pulling Teeth

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When given a choice between doing an LSAT Reading Comp section and getting a root canal, many LSAT-takers would opt for the dental work without hesitation.

This notorious section can be dense, dull and difficult, and as the June LSAT approaches, you may find yourself frustrated because your Reading Comp scores refuse to budge. Fear not. Just as with the rest of the LSAT, practice makes perfect, and with these tips you’ll find yourself inching ever closer to your goal score. And all without novocain!

Tip #1 to Ease the LSAT Reading Comp Pain: Change how you look at LSAT Reading Comp

One of the reasons RC is so reviled is that many LSAT test-takers think there’s not a “right answer” for RC questions, but rather several answers that could all be right, requiring test-takers to magically intuit the correct one.

This misconception could not be further from the truth. In fact, you can think of an RC passage as a Logical Reasoning question with a really long stimulus. Any answer choice you pick for RC must be 100% true based on the stimulus, and the other four are completely wrong. If you think two answer choices could both be right, it’s not because LSAC made a mistake; it’s because you are missing something.

Tip #2 to Ease the LSAT Reading Comp Pain: Perfect your mark-ups and tagging

It’s always beneficial to take note of which question types you’re getting wrong. You may notice that you screw up on questions that ask about the author attitude, or on questions that ask about a specific example. If there’s a trend among the questions you’re missing, adjust your mark-ups and tagging accordingly.

Tip #3 to Ease the LSAT Reading Comp Pain: Predict the questions before you even read them

No, I’m not telling you to become a mind-reader before the LSAT, so put that crystal ball away. However, the LSAT is extremely predictable in terms of what questions are asked based on certain features of a Reading Comp passage. If the author has a strong opinion, you can bet there will be questions asking about with what he’d agree. If a study or example is cited, there’s probably going to be at least one question about it. Start noticing what details lead to questions so that when you see those details on future passages, you’ll be prepared for a corresponding question.

Tip #4 to Ease the LSAT Reading Comp Pain: Take your time on the passage so you can fly through the questions

Many students have a bad habit of rushing through the passage because they’re afraid they’ll run out of time for the questions. This habit leads to misunderstandings and mistakes. Instead, take your time reading the passage. You’ll find that the questions go much more quickly because you have a strong understanding of the passage, and you’ll get more questions right.

Tip #5 to Ease the LSAT Reading Comp Pain: Troubleshoot

If, after practicing all of these LSAT Reading Comp tips, you’re still struggling to finish all four passages in 35 minutes, you may want to consider a different strategy. For some people, it makes sense to focus on three of the four passages, skipping whichever of the last two passages has fewer questions. This strategy gives you about 11 minutes to spend with each passage, so you have plenty of time to understand them.

With whatever time is remaining, you can guess on the LSAT Reading Comp passage you skipped; if you have a little extra time, it’s helpful to read the first and last sentence of each paragraph in the passage and pick answer choices based off that. You may find that focusing on three passages will improve your score because your accuracy rate is higher for the questions you attempt.

LSAT Reading Comp may not be your favorite section, but when approached the right way, it doesn’t have to suck, either. Give these tips a try and soon you’ll be completing passages in less time than it takes to floss.

If you floss, that is.

3 Responses

  1. Erick says:

    Great advice! I think comparing RC to LR in the way one approaches eliminating the answer is a very helpful tip.

  2. Brad says:

    Comment 1 doesn’t seem exactly right to me. Considerations of tone, attitude, and the author’s perspective are all outside of the purview of logical reasoning questions. Since the logical reasoning questions deal with the logical form of the argument–whether inductive or deductive–they can be evaluated according to commonly accepted criteria: representativeness of sample, size of sample, deductive fallacies, etc. One never needs to draw inferences regarding the mental state/perspective of the author. This isn’t true of reading comprehension questions, which often require that the speaker extend their thinking beyond the factual content of the passage to the attitude of the author. Phrases like “x is an important figure who…” or “x was instrumental in…” are evaluative phrases that often occur in answer choices and require the reader of the text to assume certain criteria for the satisfaction of these phrases where the criteria is absent from the passage. For those who have spent a lot of time reading precise articles, the reading comprehension passage answers often seem under-specified. This is not to dispute the possibility of there being an exactly right answer, but it is to say that the two types of sections are different in non-trivial ways.

    • Laura Santoski says:

      Hey Brad,

      Thanks for the comment! I disagree, actually — tone/attitude/etc. do play a role in *some* LR question types. For instance, in Main Point LR questions, you need to take the author’s attitude into consideration to find the right answer, and what we call Soft Must Be True questions (“which of the following is most strongly supported”) require evaluation similar to the examples you posted.

      My broader point, though, was that the correct answer for RC questions requires the same degree of support as the correct answer for LR questions. There is always something specific in the passage that supports the correct answer, and that same support will be lacking for the other answer choices.

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