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Tips for Reading Comprehension on the LSAT

LSAT Reading Comprehension is a fickle mistress. You could be blessed with a difficult passage on the same topic as your senior thesis, or you could be cursed with a science passage that has nearly as much Latin as English.

You could have one RC section slotted in third, early enough that you’re still fresh but late enough for you to have built up some momentum. Or you could have back-to-back RC sections to start off the test.

Whatever the gods of fate (LSAC) are going to throw your way on LSAT test day, you need to be prepared. But so many people feel that they’re limited in how much they can improve in RC. While it’s certainly a different process than Logical Reasoning and Logic Games, there is a process to improve.

We’re not going into that today. Today’s all about quick fixes. Because it’s the holidays, and you’ve got enough on your plate. So here are a few tips to quickly see an LSAT score improvement in RC.

LSAT Reading Comp Quick Fix I: Let the questions guide you

Before answering any RC question, you should answer two questions:

A) From whose viewpoint is this question being asked?
B) What type of Logical Reasoning question does this one most resemble?

This is going to do a few things for you. First, the second question is going to give you a strategy; if it’s similar to a parallel question, go in with your strategy for parallel questions. Second, it’s going to limit the areas of the passage that might be asked about. If it’s asking you what proponents of the Species-Specific Theory would hold, then you should be looking for the answer in the paragraphs dedicated to that viewpoint. And, finally, if you have a solid grasp of the viewpoint, it should quickly eliminate 2-3 answer choices that have no chance of being correct because they’re antithetical to that viewpoint.

LSAT Reading Comp Quick Fix II: Know the source

LSAT Reading Comp passages are, for the most part, pulled from actual publications (then edited down). So they’re written by academics who don’t like to be wrong. They rarely take strong viewpoints, and they rarely go out on a limb.

How does this help you? It’s almost always better to pick the blander answer choice. Something weak. Something that’s hedged a little bit with uncertainty. Something that lacks an absolute conviction.

So “might” over “does”. “Thinks” over “is certain”. “Possibly” over “definitely”. If you’re between two answers, pick the one with weaker language. If an answer choice uses strong words (“whole-heartedly”, “scathing”) skip it.

LSAT Reading Comp Quick Fix III: Doctor Phineas Q. Shinners’ Patented Medicinal RC Cure-All

With very, very few exceptions, every RC passage of all time has followed this formula:

A) We used to believe something was true
B) Something happened
C) Now, we believe something else is true

If you can figure out A and C, and then understand how we made that progression through B, you’re golden.

But what the heck does this all mean? Well, it’s a little different based on the topic of the passage. I’ll go through a few examples, starting with science (since I’m sure the thought of a science RC passage is keeping most of you up at night):

We used to have a certain theory about the way the universe worked. Then, an event happened, or a scientist did some studies. Now, we have a new theory about the way the universe works.

If you can tell me the traditional theory, the new theory, and how each experiment got us from the old to the new, you’re all set. If you don’t understand the science, but you understand the progression, you can answer almost every question.

There used to be a prevalent style in a certain genre. Then, a certain visionary worked in the area. Now, there’s a new prevalent style (or at least an interesting, new one).

If you can tell me the differences between the two styles and what influenced the visionary to take the art in a new direction (both in their own life as well as in the styles they were influenced by), then you’re solid.

The world used to work in a certain way. Then, some huge event happened. Now, the world works in a different way.

This one’s all about the progression. If you can focus on how the steps led from point A to point C, you’ll be golden.

LSAT Reading Comp Quick Fix IV: Where we’re going, we don’t need…roads

Find Doc Brown. Go back in time. Get your younger self to start reading at an early age, and never put a book down.