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Diagnosing Weaknesses in Reading Comp

BPPcolin-lsat-blog-bookReading comprehension can be one of the most frustrating sections of the LSAT. Since it often appears to be less black-and-white than games, for instance, people oftentimes feel disoriented and at a loss for how to improve. But reading comp is actually a lot more concrete than it at first appears, and by diagnosing your specific weaknesses you’ll be able to address them, then fix them.

First, see if you can find any specific trends pertaining to your misses. Often people miss a certain question type again and again, so go over many recent RC passages to see if that’s true for you. If you find that you’re getting a lot of main point and purpose questions wrong, you might be missing the forest for the trees, as it were. Getting bogged down in the details, and forgetting about the big picture. If this is happening to you, make sure to review the passage more before diving in. Ask yourself the big questions – why did the author write this? What was the whole point of this? Was the author present, and if so, how strongly did he or she feel? Doing this will reorient you to the passage, and help you not lose track of the bigger picture. And when you’re answering main point questions, make sure that the answer choice is both correct and complete. If it’s missing any of the key parts of the conclusion, it’s out.

If, however, you’re missing more of the specific reference questions, you may need to take a different approach. Oftentimes people who miss the specific questions get the broad strokes of the argument, but run into trouble when it comes to the minutiae. There are a few things to help here. First, you have to realize that these questions often cannot be answered with memory alone. You have to go back to find the answer. This feels sort of wrong and just too time consuming at first, but you have to do it. It actually can take a lot less time than you think. The trick is to have a good markup of the passage so you know exactly where to look back, because you’re not supposed to memorize tiny details. Doing so would take forever. Rather, knowing where to find such details will be all you need. So when you get to questions that are asking about something very specific, stop and, using your markups, think about where you would find such information, rather than skimming the whole passage. A little foresight can go a long way.

Often weaknesses are more general, and one of the most common complaints pertains to speed. Lots of people feel like they don’t go fast enough in RC. “Fast enough” is somewhat relative, but yes, it’s possible you’re not going fast enough. But the test isn’t tomorrow; it’s in a month and a half. And you can increase your speed in the time we do have. What you should do is begin doing your RC practice in back-to-back chunks. This forces you to stay focused across multiple passages. It also boosts your endurance, and you’ll get burned out later and later. And it’ll make you faster, as well. There’s no real shortcut to speed, you’ve just got to do tons of practice.

So keep up the work, pay attention to your specific misses, and do your homework in large chunks, and you’ll be seeing improvement across the board in reading comp.