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Faking it With Fractals: Bettering Your LSAT Reading Comprehension

  • by M Hope Echales
  • Jul 16, 2009
  • Advice on Reading Comprehension, LSAT

colin_fractal

Initially for many people the logic games section seems to be the hardest part of the LSAT. First time test-takers are often taken aback by the fact that getting into law school requires you to be able to do what looks like Sudoku on crack. People become frightened and panicked, miss the vast majority of questions, and get a score that makes them want to go cry in a dark room. But after realizing that there are only so many types of games, and they’re all very doable, you can get much better, and suddenly logic games become one of your strongest sections. It happens all the time.

Reading Comprehension, on the other hand, often has the opposite effect. You can both read and comprehend, right? You’ve been doing that all your life. So thinks the LSAT virgin. When taking the test for the first time, people generally feel better about RC than games. But I’ve noticed a trend among many of my students. Unlike the games section, reading comprehension doesn’t get significantly better and in the end, it often turns out to be the most hated section on the LSAT.

Part of this has to do with the fact that, no, it doesn’t break down quite as simply as games or logical reasoning. Basic games can be extremely difficult, but once learned, become pretty easy in a relatively short period of time. This doesn’t really happen in RC. There are certainly great methods for getting much better at RC, but they take a lot longer to internalize and master, and the results aren’t nearly as immediately gratifying. So people don’t bother to learn the methods, then get frustrated when improvement is elusive. But it doesn’t make sense to think that just doing a bunch will make you better. I’ve watched a lot of Japanese porn, and I don’t know anything other than irete kudasai. You can’t just learn by osmosis. But this doesn’t stop people from trying. The ensuing lack of improvement causes people to lose motivation and chalk reading comp up for a loss. This is so stupid. RC has considerably more questions than games, and it is totally learnable. But it’s true that it can be hard to keep the motivation up.

This is also exacerbated by the homework I see my students doing. Those who don’t like RC focus on games and LR (which tend to take less time to do), thus furthering RC neglect. So now they haven’t learned the methods, aren’t practicing as much as they are on the other sections, and the cycle of abuse is complete. So how to break the chains?

I talked before about how the subject matter of LR may or may not actually be true. With reading comprehension, it appears that everything is generally more or less factual. Real things and real people are discussed, and it’s generally the case that someone believes whatever they’re saying. It’s always the same sad song, night after night. You generally get a passage with an author who’s in love with some non-white and/or non-male artist or writer of some sort. Next, there is something dealing with a political idea you neither understand nor thought you would ever care about, but can now pretend to have mastered (this is how I learned about Game Theory). Then there’s science, with junk like “Basins of Attraction” (wtf?), dark matter, or baby frogs eating their siblings (that was actually a pretty good one). Basically, RC is a goldmine of random info.

And there is something to be practically gained from that. Whenever you have passages in RC that you find interesting, you tend to do better. So be happy that you’re learning something fun and new; it’ll keep you motivated. If you get yourself excited, you’ll be quicker and more attentive, answering more questions both faster and more accurately. This can seriously make all the difference in the world. On the June test from last month, this was exemplified by a passage about fractal geometry. If that sounds terrible and sciencey, you’re not alone; tons of people were super intimidated and confused, and ate shit. But, if you actually got yourself interested in what they were talking about, it was actually a pretty fascinating passage that really wasn’t that hard to understand.

So be happy that studying for the test is actually leaving you with something interesting. Get excited, even feign it, and good things will happen. It’s like dropping acid (which I know nothing about and strongly encourage you never to try). This is not the only tip you’ll hear from me about RC, but it’s the right place to start.

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