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Course: LSAT > Unit 1

Lesson 10: Reading Comprehension - Worked Examples

Social science passage overview | Wool

Watch a demonstration of one way to use active reading strategies to tackle a social science reading passage on the LSAT.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] Here we have a social science passage about the New Zealand sheep industry. It's always a good idea to try to get excited about what you're about to read because the more you can convince yourself that the topic of a passage is going to be fascinating and super exciting, the more likely it is that your brain is going to remember the details from the passage when you're answering the questions. As always, I'm going to focus on keeping the different views expressed distinct in my mind, as well as the viewpoint of the author. I'm going to read actively by underlining and circling main claims and major points as well as contrast words and important connecting words. I've always believed that when we underline and circle words, we're physicalizing what we're hoping our brains are doing. I don't have any scientific data to back this up, but I believe it really helps to lock down these ideas into our memory. I'll also be restating what I'm reading. By putting the ideas that are expressed by the passage into my own words, I am getting control of the content in the passage and raising the chances that I'm gonna remember what I need to when it comes time to answer the questions. Okay, so here we go. The 50 million sheep of New Zealand outnumber its people 13 to one, the highest such ration in the world. Okay, so there are a lot of sheep in New Zealand. At the wool industry's peak in the 1950s, the wool growers of New Zealand delivered well over a third of that country's total export revenues. So it's a big deal in New Zealand also. Yet this figure has declined drastically, as has the industry's profitability. There's a big problem here. The profitability of the entire industry has declined drastically, that's bad. New Zealand is second only to Australia in total wool production and is the world's largest producer of strong wool, a relatively coarse wool characteristic of crossbred sheep that is used mostly for carpets. But for the past 20 years, okay. But for the past 20 years, competition from synthetics has inexorably driven down the price of clean strong wool. Okay, so here's a problem. Competition from synthetics has driven down the price. Causing annual production to drop by 65,000 tons as farmers switch lands to other uses. Thus wool has fallen behind beef, lamb, milk, butter, cheese, fish, fruit, and wood, and pulp as an agricultural export earner. So the outlook for wool has gone down a lot because of the diminishing profitability of New Zealand wool. Let's see where this goes. Rather than raising wool prices, the only reliable route to profitability lies, as in any agricultural enterprise, in improving productivity. Okay, so that author is making a recommendation here. The author is saying we need to improve productivity if we want to return to profitability. New Zealand's commercial sheep farmers need to achieve the same kind of annual productivity gains that manufacturers of synthetic materials have recorded. This goal could readily be achieved if the industry as a whole were to adopt the management and breeding practices of the country's leading, and comfortably profitable, wool growers. So the author is making this recommendation, let's adopt the management and breeding practices of our leading wool growers. I'm speaking as if I'm from New Zealand, but I'm not. Gains on the order of those achieved by the world's cotton growers, who on average have been improving productivity at several times the rate of wool growers, can come wholly through better farm management. Okay, so this is the point of the topic sentence of that paragraph. If we want gains, we need to get them from better farm management. At present, wool growing in New Zealand, like agriculture everywhere, is deeply divided. Oh yeah, how? So that's a claim, I'm gonna put a little C for a claim there. The support is gonna be right after it. On the one side are professional operations that exceed market returns, with 30% of farms achieving double the average profitability and the top 10% achieving three to four times the average. So that's on the one side. On the other side are family farmers willing to receive a substantially lower return to maintain their lifestyle. So we have an other side of family farmers who don't really mind they're not making the most bucks per sheep as the most successful commercial enterprises are doing. Let's keep going. To encouraged increased overall productivity, the establishment of a commercial genetic research company, which would concentrate on genetic selection for crossbreeding sheep, not on artificial manipulation of genetic material in individual sheep. So the author is making a distinction here, is recommended. So, is recommended by the author, right? So the author wishes to increase overall productivity by establishing a commercial genetic research company, which is gonna concentrate on choosing the right sheep to crossbreed, not on actually artificially manipulating the genes. This would represent a shift in spending away from industry efforts to improve the efficiency of wool processing. For example, by lowering spinning costs and towards efforts to cut the cost of producing a given unit of raw wool or to increase the quality of raw wool produced. So that's a pretty big sentence and it basically represents that there have been industry efforts to improve the efficiency of wool processing. So the processing industry has been trying to improve the processing, but the author's recommending that they cut they cost of producing a given unit of raw wool or to increase the quality of raw wool produced. Okay, so you could do that by crossbreeding better sheep. Enormous gains in overall productivity could be made through genetic improvement. The best of New Zealand's sheep produce wool worth significantly more than the wool of the country's average sheep, and these superior sheep can be identified and kept as breeding stock. So the author is recommending that they find the superior sheep and breed them to improve the entire gene pool of the sheep producing wool in New Zealand. Now if you wanna go ahead and try the questions now that's fine, but what I'll do now is go back up to the top of this passage and just sum up paragraph by paragraph what each paragraph seems to be doing. And after I've summed up the passage in my own words and I make sure I have control of it, I can then go ahead and head to the questions. So stick around and we'll go up there right now. (mouse scrolling) To recap, first paragraph introduces the topic and tells us that all is not well for the wool industry in New Zealand. Profits are down because of competition with synthetics and farmers are switching over their land use to the production of lots of other exports. So that's what happens here. Next paragraph, this author starts suggesting solutions to this problem. The big solution the author suggests is to improve productivity throughout the region by having the entire industry adopt the best practices of the country's leading wool growers. So let's do what they're doing because they're clearly doing it right. Third paragraph recommends your better farm management. And the fourth paragraph makes this recommendation of establishing a commercial genetic research company in order to improve the gene pool of the country's breeding stock. Okay, so now that we have ahold of the entire passage and how it's structured, it's time to head to the questions.