Five Strategies For Reading Comprehension On the LSAT
Examinees often consider Reading Comprehension as one of the most difficult sections of the LSAT. Many students even find it more difficult to study for Reading Comprehension than Logic Games! However, you can improve your Reading Comprehension by employing a few different reading strategies. Try out several strategies on practice tests so you can figure out what works best for you on test day. We’re including five strategies for Reading Comprehension on the LSAT below.
Five Strategies For Reading Comprehension On the LSAT
1. Establish an understanding of the passage framework
When approaching a reading comprehension question, the first step is to understand the information presented in the passage of the question. Passages often follow certain broad frameworks, which can be referred to by many different names. Memorizing these names isn’t especially important, and the categories often have considerable overlap. However, having an understanding of the common frameworks for passages can help you to orient yourself within a passage, and allows you to anticipate what might come next.
Some examples of passage frameworks include:
Old/New – The problem compares an old vs. new way of thinking about an issue
Problem/Solution – A problem asks you to review, present, or dismiss solutions
Expository – The author writes about an issue to inform the reader about something interesting
Debate – Two opposing sides are presented (often, but not always, seen in Passage A/B format)
Some individuals suggest that certain types of frameworks are more common for certain types of subject material (e.g. science topics are often old/new). This position can often be undermined by certain test questions, including ones appearing on the LSAT you plan to take! The most important thing is to be familiar with the patterns of question passages so that you are familiar with navigating them on test day!
2. Find the author’s voice in adjectives and subjective words
Many of the questions in Reading Comprehension require the test taker to correctly understand the author’s tone of voice. In doing so, the reader must be able to match not only the author’s position but also the intensity of the author’s position.
Looking for subjective words and claims is a good way to understand the author’s viewpoint. An author dryly reciting that an “artist made X sculpture at age 14” is very different from an obviously impressed author lauding how an “artist expertly crafted the world-renowned X sculpture at the incredibly young age of just 14!” The addition of adjectives completely changes the presence or absence of the author’s voice in the sentence. Being able to sense the tone of an author’s position is an important skill, and there will undoubtedly be several questions that assess your understanding of the author’s viewpoint!
3. Use the highlight tool to make it easy to find important sentences
The highlight tool included on the digital platform is an excellent way to make important sections of the passage visually easier to locate. However, it is important to avoid over-highlighting, as this can become confusing! Highlighting too much text will make it difficult to discern whether pieces of information are of critical importance highlights are of critical importance or not. It is generally not important to highlight small details, such as statistics. Questions rarely require you recall this information when viewing the answer choices!
As a rule, highlight conclusion sentences, major transition words, and phrases that indicate the structure or argument of the paragraph or author, respectively.
Below is an example of some highlights (appearing in red font):
Many top experts used to believe that dogs are the best pets. Indeed, 75% of veterinarians say that dogs are the best pets. However, despite their qualifications, these animal aficionados have been deceived and misguided by pro-canine propaganda. A recent string of nearly flawless scientific studies has shown that cats, not dogs, are superior pets in almost every way. Cats are much cuter, and pictures of cats on social media receive an average of 36% more likes than pictures of dogs. Cats also are better at pest control, as studies have estimated that US domestic cats kill billions of vermin every year.
4. Summarize paragraphs and/or the whole passage
It can be difficult to keep track of information conveyed in the passage of a question in your head alone. Writing down brief summaries of each paragraph can give you a quick reference to what the overall course of the author’s argument was as well as note the most critical details. These summaries can be either a brief sentence or a more restricted shorthand. For example, a full paragraph explaining how consumption of sugary breakfast cereals has traditionally caused an increased rate of dental cavities across childhood might be simply summarized as “Sugary Cereal → BAD teeth”. Having several paragraphs summarized into a few dozen words will greatly enhance your understanding of the overall structure of the passage. This will make answering questions about both the structure of the passage and the purpose of different parts of the passage significantly easier!
5. Engage in an internal dialogue about what you are reading
One of the best ways to remember what you read is to engage in an internal dialogue with the material. This can include asking yourself questions (e.g. why the author is bringing up this particular detail? or how does passage B relate to passage A?). Another strategy is to make connections between the material and your existing knowledge, such as “we talked about this in my biology class” or “my cousin loves jazz, I bet they would disagree with this author.” Some of these connections might be spurious and not especially helpful for memorizing details about the content of what you have read, but having any mental connection to the passage will likely improve your general recall.
Another benefit of internal dialogue is that often you will find yourself asking questions about what you already read. This strategy can help you notice when you might have missed something important or aid you in anticipating what information you might see next. While you may not always accurately predict what will come next, or might not have much personal connection to the material, a higher level of engagement with what you are reading is a great way to enhance your comprehension and recall of the passage.
6. Use “point-reading” to slow down (if necessary)
While many LSAT takers complain that they run out of time, other people find that they read passages too quickly. These examinees often can’t recall important details about what they have just read! If you are someone who finds that you are reading too quickly, consider using your finger, pencil tip, or mouse pointer to trace under what you are reading as you move along. This will force you to slow down since you have to coordinate your hand and eye movements. Another benefit of this technique is that it will allow you to quickly highlight important details. Using the point-reading method can also be helpful if you find yourself getting distracted! Pointing naturally directs peoples’ attention to where they are pointing, so this may be an added benefit.
These are some of the strategies for reading comprehension that we encourage you to try as you prepare for the LSAT. We recommend trying multiple strategies as you practice so that you can see which ones work best for you! Even if you try a reading strategy that does not increase your score immediately, consistent practice and consciously engaging with the material will be sure to pay off.
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