A Look at the June 2017 LSAT: Reading Comprehension

BPPyuko-lsat-blog-june-2017-reading-comprehension

This week, we’re breaking down the just-released June 2017 LSAT. For a look at the Logical Reasoning section, check out yesterday’s post. Today, let’s dive into everyone’s favorite section, Reading Comprehension.

The June 2017 LSAT had a fairly tough Reading Comprehension section. Here’s my breakdown of the hardest passage, which was something special. The rest of the passage ranged from easy to medium difficulty.

Passage two was the most difficult.

What the heck was that? The title should have been, “Thoughts on thoughts, or are they?” The second passage was a highly abstract discussion on how humans understand their own thoughts. The main problem or mystery was whether we understand our own thoughts “directly” or if we understand them indirectly by inferring what our thoughts are from other sensations and emotions.

The author of this passage is an especially horrendous writer. She gives you only a single concrete analogy to anchor your understand of these abstract distinctions, and the analogy is based on how chess experts come to see their ability to evaluate the strength or weaknesses of a position. If you had a hard time with the level of abstraction in this passage, you should cling to this analogy for dear life because it finally gives us something concrete to attach to the author’s musings.

The key experiment—the one about the children in paragraph one—gives no examples of how children “misdescribe” their own thoughts about a “phenomenon” while correctly describing the “phenomenon” itself. Brutal. If you didn’t understand this experiment at all, you should have returned your attention to it after reading the chess expert analogy. This should have made the description of the experiment a bit more concrete.

And in typical LSAT fashion, where there is an experiment in the passage, there is a question about that experiment. Here there were two. First, you had to weaken a conclusion drawn from the experiment in question 9.

The key to getting question 9 right was to notice that the conclusion was causal—children misdescribe their own thoughts because they’re having a hard time drawing the correct inferences. Very often, when the LSAT asks you to weaken a causal claim, what you should look for is an alternative cause that the argument did not address. Here, that’s exactly what we get in the correct answer choice—it’s not that the children have a hard time drawing inferences about their thoughts, but that their limited vocabulary gets in the way of their being able to express their thoughts. Again, very abstract, very brutal.

Question 14 comes back to the child experiment and it tries to mess with your mind. The great thing about experimenting with children is that … they are dumber than adults. Sometimes being dumb can be an advantage—are you keeping up with the Kardashians?—and this question was hoping that you wouldn’t think so.

Question 12 was an absolute hot mess. The key to getting this one right was focusing on the lead-in to the chess analogy and not the chess analogy itself. You had to see the distinction between “expressing one’s judgments” in an “altered way” and “understanding” things in a “substantively different way.” It’s enough to make you want to barf.

Now, the breadth of topics covered in this RC section shouldn’t be a big surprise to people. The LSAT has eclectic interests. If you’re not a big enough nerd to have read about jazz, the philosophy of the mind, the role of judges, or pseudoscientific methods before, you’re not alone. But familiarity with these topics could hurt you as much it could help you because you’re not allowed to bring in outside knowledge to the test. On the other hand, you might be better able to understand one of these topics if you’ve seen them discussed before. Maybe. At any rate, reading more in your free time can’t hurt. I suggest the New Yorker and the Economist.

Now, excuse me while I warm up my dowsing forks.

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