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Conquer LSAT Reading Comp This Columbus Day

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could just get along? If we could all bake cakes filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy?

Unfortunately, that’s not always going to be the case — there will be disagreements. On the LSAT, this means antithesis passages in Reading Comprehension.

An antithesis passage is a passage where there are two opposing viewpoints. These are the most common type of LSAT passage, so it’s important to understand their format and how having multiple viewpoints affects the structure of the passage. Since today is Columbus Day, a holiday that has become increasingly controversial in recent years, what better way to discuss antithesis passages than by using an example based in reality? (Who says the LSAT isn’t applicable to real life?!)

As with all passages, the author’s presence makes a big difference in the types of answers you’re anticipating. With antithesis passages in particular, it’s important to take note of which side (if any) the author is supporting, as well as any criticisms he or she makes. It’s rare for an author to be fully, unreservedly in favor of or against one viewpoint — even in passages where the author ultimately sides with one viewpoint over the other, he or she generally acknowledges the pros and cons of both sides.

Here are some key points to look for when tackling an antithesis passage.

Main Point
The main point of the passage must acknowledge both viewpoints. If the author has “picked a side,” the main point should also reflect the author’s opinion.

Absent author: “Columbus Day, which has been celebrated for hundreds of years in the U.S., is seen by some as a day honoring a visionary explorer and by others as a day celebrating a greedy conqueror.”

Present author: “Although Columbus Day was created as a day to honor a great explorer, in recent years many scholars and public figures have correctly pointed out that the day highlights Western imperialism and celebrates what, for many, was a dark period in history.”

Primary Purpose
Now that there are two viewpoints in the passage, the primary purpose needs to reflect that multiple arguments are present.

Absent author: “To present arguments for and against celebrating Columbus Day”

Present author: “To argue against the continued celebration of Columbus Day”

Author Attitude
Since there are more viewpoints to keep track of, it’s especially important to make note of any phrases that shed light on how the author feels about the viewpoints in question.

Other Things to Keep in Mind
It’s also extremely important to keep track of who is advocating what. It’s quite common to have a question that says something like “With which one of the following would the scientists mentioned in the passage be most likely to agree?” If you don’t have a firm grasp on exactly what those scientists believed, you’re going to have a hard time with that question.

One idea that’s not controversial: mastering antithesis passages is key to LSAT success. As long as you’ve identified both viewpoints and understand how they relate to each other, you’ll be setting yourself up to conquer the passage, so go forth bravely into this New World of Reading Comp.