Trouble with Reading Comprehension for the June 2011 LSAT? What to Do.

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Trouble with Reading Comprehension for the June 2011 LSAT? What to Do.
Today, we are three weeks from the LSAT.  This should be frightening, but exciting.  Over the last few months you’ve been learning how to do all the different problems on this terrible test, but now is about the time that the review phase of studying is going to start.  Now you start translating the skills you already have into higher scores.  You have to get used to doing problems out of order, working with time pressure, getting used to doing hours-straight of work, etc.  The more you practice, the better you’ll get.  Sometimes, though, it can seem like you hit a wall in any given section.  One of the sections this most commonly happens on is reading comprehension.

Most of the time, the biggest thing you need is practice.  I’ve had a lot of conversations that go something like this:

Concerned student: I’m not getting any better at reading comp.

Colin: Have you been practicing?

Concerned student: No, reading comp is so boring.

Colin:…

So if your problem is not doing any homework, then (surprise!) the solution is just to practice a lot more.  Don’t wait another day, do it right now.  Improvement is gradual, so you can’t cram in the last four days.  But even if you have been practicing, there are a few other things you can do to help boost your score even higher.

First, get excited.  Yes, really.  It sounds stupid, but if you can make yourself feel excited about a passage, you’ll be much more focused, pay more attention to detail, and actually get through it faster.  You’ve probably already noticed that you do better on passages that you care about.  It’s not because you have outside knowledge – you’re probably learning totally new things on these passages.  What makes them easier is that they’re about something that doesn’t make you want to shoot yourself.  So try to get excited as you go.  Ask yourself little questions and make little comments in your head (“oh, wow, Kingston blended her cultural heritage with her own unique literary style! She sounds great! I wonder what we’ll hear about next?”).  You’ll feel like a crazy person, but you’ll get higher scores.

Second, manage your time well, and don’t rush the passage.  If you rush the passage, you’re going to spend a ton of time checking questions against the passage, and you’ll get a ton wrong.  But if you take the passage a bit slower, making sure to thoroughly understand the argument, you’ll answer the questions much faster, having to look back much less often, which generally translates to less time being spent on the whole passage overall, and higher accuracy.  The place you add the speed is more often than not in the questions, not the passage.

Third, have a plan of attack going in.  If you ever run out of time in RC, it can be a good idea to make sure that you do the passage with the fewest questions last.  That way, if you do run out of time, you’re having to blindly guess on the fewest questions possible.  If you never run out of time, but find yourself getting sluggish toward the end, you could instead consider doing the passages in reverse.  The passages generally go easier to harder, so starting with the harder one means that you’re tackling it when your sharpest, and dealing with the easiest one when you’re more fatigued.  Again, this is only a good idea if timing isn’t an issue for you.  The important thing is you try different approaches so that you know what works best for you, and have a battle plan for going in.

It’s normal to get fatigued when doing RC, so make sure you do your practice like the test.  Do passages back-to-back without stopping or checking your answer choices.  Sometimes do eight passages in a row instead of four (that’s a very real possibility for test day, as you could get the real and experimental RC sections one after the other.  If you only ever do reading comp passages one-at-a-time, in your comfort zone, the real reading comp on the test is going to be insanely difficult.

So practice, practice, practice, and you can definitely still see gains in reading comp.  Three weeks of review is a lot of time, and you can still see improvement in all sections.

5 Responses

  1. Monika says:

    This was exactly what I needed to hear (or read, um – whatever). I took my first full-length practice exam this past weekend and RC is definitely my trouble area. I have additional full-length practice exams on the calendar with solid back-to-back drills every night in between. I’m pleased with how I did on the other sections, but I need to forget all of that and ramp up my practice across the board. Thanks for the reminder that three weeks is still enough time to improve – as long as I make myself actually do the work…

  2. Colin says:

    Yup, it’s all about the work. Keep on going, we’re almost there!

  3. Lena says:

    Since the passages have changed fairly recently, I am finding that I am very quickly running out of material with which to drill (especially the double passages). I have done the older passages (19-38) but the difficultly is so different that I don’t know how much they are actually helping. Advice?

  4. Colin says:

    It’s true that there’s only so many of the comparative reading passages, but the difficulty level shouldn’t be too much different from the more recent tests, even for the non-comparative reading passages. Still, there are a few things you can do.

    First of all, do make sure to keep doing RC practice from all tests. Even if they’re not all comparative reading, and even if on some the difficulty level seems different, it’s all still good practice. Secondly, if you have any comparative reading passages left, make sure to ration them and not use them all up at once. And lastly, if you feel like these passages are especially hard for you, don’t be afraid to redo them. Sure, you’ll remember them somewhat, but you’ll still get experience in getting to know exactly how these passages work.

  5. Julie says:

    Thank you for the great advice!

    But my question is, after I do the reading comp, and I see that I got several of the answer choices wrong, how do I go back and review it? What are some of the methods?

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