How do I finish 4 @#$! RC passages and 27 questions in 35 minutes?!
- Nov 23, 2016
- Advice on Reading Comprehension, LSAT
- Reviewed by: Matt Riley
I have to answer questions on this???
Interesting question, if coarsely phrased. Very few students finish any of the sections on their first practice exam, but with Logical Reasoning and Logic Games, after a few months of practice, most can get to the vast majority if not all of the questions in the time provided.
Then there’s Reading Comprehension.
People who got through two passages might end up at three. What’s worse, those who started out at just enough time for three passages now finish three passages in about thirty minutes, and then get to the last passage with five minutes left, which leaves just enough time to read the passage before guessing on ALL the questions. In that case, you should’ve just spent an extra five minutes on the three passages you already did, right?
“So, Blueprint instructor man,” you say. “What’s the secret?” I wish there were a secret, which there is not. That doesn’t mean there’s just no chance of improving, but before we talked about how to improve, let’s just set the terms of the discussion:
The whole point of Reading Comp — unlike the other two section types — is the time crunch. Each section tests a different skill necessary to succeed in law school, and the one that Reading Comp tests is your ability to read titanic loads of information in a short period of time and speak intelligently on the topics therein. When you’re in law school, you’ll walk home with 200 pages of dense reading for the next day. If you don’t understand that stuff, you’ll be humiliated by a sadistic professor with a fondness for the Socratic Method.
That’s why what I’m about to tell you is not a hack for timing on Reading Comp. In my experience, there is no such hack. I’ve heard rumors — the most common being that you can just read the first and last sentence of each paragraph and answer the questions on that basis — and all of them strike me as nonsense. Instead, it’s all about putting in the work up front to make the questions go more quickly:
1. Read for big picture structure.
Blueprint students are taught to create a Primary Structure diagram which includes the important arguments in the passage as well as the proponents of those points of view. If you figure those things out, even if you don’t get every juicy detail, you’ve got the right answer to the Main Point, Primary Purpose, and Author’s Attitude questions.
2. Understand the argumentative purpose of each paragraph.
Every paragraph in a passage is there for a reason. One might have a claim by a certain party, which means the point of that paragraph is to announce a conclusion. Another might have an experiment supporting a conclusion, making that paragraph one big premise. Other common argumentative tropes: raising an objection and dismissing it, making a prediction based on the information in the passage, or qualifying a conclusion somewhere else in the passage, i.e. the conclusion doesn’t apply as broadly as one might think.
Doing this will invariably get you the Role and Organization questions.
3. Make sure your tags are coherent and systematic.
Blueprint gives students a comprehensive set of conventions for tagging passages. If you know exactly what your tags mean, then any time you need to refer back to the passage, you don’t actually have to read the passage. You just take a glance at your tag, and the answer jumps off the page at you.
I see a lot of students who just haphazardly underline and write crazy little notes in the margin, and then they have absolutely no idea what those tags mean and they’re back filtering through the passage on every damn question. Time wasted.
Seriously, this step is going to get you all of the other small-bore questions like Inference, Specific Reference, and Parallel questions.
I hope you can see that the advice I gave you does NOT include reading faster. It actually will slow you down in the short term. But that’s the only possibility for success. Everyone thinks the points are to be found in the questions. They’re not. You get points by reading the passage correctly and comprehensively the first time. When you do that, you pick up time by answering questions quickly.
A corollary: Never get bogged down on a question. Any question. A point is a point, and you can always come back to it.
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