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What to Look for When Reviewing Reading Comp Passages

BPP aaron-lsat-blog-reading-comp-review

In my experience, LSAT students often neglect the Reading Comp section of the LSAT. I can’t fathom why—the passages are fascinating. Enthralling. You’ll get chills. But joking aside, the Reading Comp section has the most questions of any section on the LSAT, and therefore the biggest impact on your score. You can improve your Reading Comp score. It just takes practice. Since you probably took a practice test this past weekend, let’s talk about how to review and learn from a Reading Comp passage you’ve done.

1. Why are the answers wrong or right?

When LSAC writes questions for a Reading Comp passage, they don’t write the wrong answers to be merely inferior. They write them to be wrong. So when you review, look at every wrong answer you picked or even found tempting. There’s a reason it’s wrong. Now that you have time, you can go back to the passage as needed. It may be hard to find, but it’s there—something in the passage or answer is going to make it unquestionably wrong. When you find the thing that makes the answer wrong, you’ll have a head start on the next question with a similar wrong answer.

2. Did you get the structure and the author’s position right?

If you’ve been doing it right, you know that Reading Comp is all about viewpoints. How many main viewpoints are in the passage, and where does the author stand? If the author is present, what’s the author’s attitude toward the various things discussed in the passage? You can check how well you understood the passage’s primary structure by going over primary purpose and attitude questions. Did you feel prepared for those questions? If not, what did you miss in the passage? How will you be sure to spot that next time?

3. How useful were your tags?

Ideally, your tags will give you a quick overview of the passage’s overall structure. One way to evaluate your tags is to look at questions about the passage’s organization, or about the role of a claim in the passage. Your tags should pretty much just answer those questions. If they didn’t, use those questions to reverse-engineer what effective tags would look like. Your tags should focus on how the passage fits together—you’re not taking notes about the subject matter, you’re identifying the roles different parts of the passage play.

Another way to assess your tags is whether they help you find details in the passage. If there were specific reference questions, did you know where to find the answer?

4. How prepared were you for the questions that were asked?

Part of this is big-picture stuff, such as whether you were clear on the main point. You should always be clear on the main point; in most but not all passages you can underline one main conclusion. But the other part of this has to do with the details—there are certain details that almost always lead to a question. These details are almost always given through what Blueprint calls secondary structures. When you get a detail via a secondary structure—like, say, a cause-and-effect relationship or an example—it’s almost a guarantee they’ll ask about it. If you didn’t see that question coming, you know to look for these structures in subsequent passages.

Above all, give Reading Comp its due. You can improve your Reading Comp score just as much as you can improve your score on other sections. But it takes careful thinking about how you read a passage, and it takes careful review of the passages you’ve done so that you can improve your approach. It’s only boring if you think it’s boring.