Many LSAT students find the LSAT’s reading comprehension section to be the most difficult component of the exam; however, rest assured, this is an illusion. In reality, students approaching a reading comprehension section on the LSAT should be filled with excitement—there is no “guesswork” involved, and the answers can always be pulled straight from the passage texts. Students falling victim to the illusion of reading comprehension difficulty should reexamine their reading comprehension approach and should practice implementing better evidence-tracking and passage-referencing methods. LSAT tutoring can also be an effective method for preparing for the reading comprehension portion of the LSAT.
Remedying Poor LSAT Strategy
First and foremost, students that simply “scan” the text can’t expect to do well in a reading comprehension section—this method is the primary cause for the illusion of reading comprehension difficulty effect. Scanning the text neither leads to effective evidence-tracking (or notation) nor is conducive to effective passage-referencing and passage retention. A common misconception about scanning is that it’ll allow you to get through the passage more quickly if you’re in a hurry; however, students that scan passages repeatedly as opposed to reading them once proficiently typically spend more time on overall passage completion because of their lack of conceptual understanding of the passage’s content. Keep this in mind, when you sit down to read an enjoyable novel—you don’t scan it, instead, you read it carefully, and this enables you to retain information and ideas to a much more proficient degree.
Tip #1: Read in an engaged manner. Train yourself to read the passage like an enjoyable novel.
There are also students who annotate too much, and by the time they’re done reading the passage almost everything is highlighted or underlined. Many students that run into this problem tend to highlight and underline as they read the text; however, a better approach exists. It’s tough to figure out the relevancy of a statement as you’re reading it, but it’s much easier to do so after reading it in the context of an entire paragraph. Therefore, students finding themselves doing too much annotating should start by reading the entire paragraph as a whole, then they should pause and ask themselves “what is the main idea(s) of this paragraph?” After answering this question, there should only be several things to take note of and annotate.
Tip #2: Read an entire paragraph prior to annotating. This will allow you to pick out only the truly relevant information. Complete the passage by reading and annotating one paragraph at a time.
Effective LSAT Comprehension Strategy
In addition to engaged reading and strategic paragraph notation, students completing a reading comprehension passage can improve pace and accuracy by anticipating the answers to four typical questions that appear on almost all reading comprehension passages: the main point, the author’s attitude, the purpose of the passage, and the analogous term/word meaning. In general, it’s not a bad idea for a student to scan the questions briefly prior to reading the passage—enabling the student to predetermine the anticipatable questions. One important thing to remember when formulating anticipations is that they have to come straight from the text and that there is no intuition involved—meaning, students should not insert “outside” ideas or knowledge into their anticipation formulations, and all anticipations should be extracted directly from the passage.
Tip #3: Scan questions briefly to determine anticipatable questions. Read passage—paragraph by paragraph, and notate after each completed paragraph. Formulate anticipations by using the evidence in the passage. Then, head to the questions.
Effective LSAT Reading Comprehension Practice: Drilling
While many LSAT students hold a popular misconception that “drilling” only applies to logical reasoning and logic games, one of the best ways to improve reading comprehension proficiency is to “drill” reading comprehension passages filtered by their passage type (natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, law-related, or comparative). Although the passage contents change with every given passage, the organization of evidence, use of reason, and passage structures tend to follow a standard layout. As such, students that prepare for the LSAT by drilling reading comprehension are able to better identify relevant content, main ideas, and are able to create anticipations more easily and more quickly. When drilling reading comprehension, the most important thing for a student to focus on is strategy implementation—drilling without strategy implementation does not constitute efficient usage of limited LSAT resources and should be always avoided.
Tip #4: “Drill” LSAT reading comprehension passages filtered by their passage type in order to increase proficiency. Start with easier passages before moving on to more difficult ones, and focus on your strategy implementation every step of the way!