Getting started with Reading Comprehension
Reading Comprehension overview
- Duration: 35 minutes
- Length: 26-28 passage-based questions (divided into four reading passages).
- Subject matter: Four passages are drawn from four areas: Law, Social Science, Science, and Humanities. Three of the passages will ask you questions about a single text. One of the passages, known sometimes as the “Comparative Reading set", will feature two texts, and the questions will focus on how they relate to each other.
- 1-2 passages: Total length of the text will be about 50-60 lines. The topics are diverse, and many may be unfamiliar to you.
- Questions: You’ll be asked several questions about the text. Some of the questions can be answered with information explicitly stated in the passage, but many questions ask about what can be inferred.
- Choices: You’ll be presented with five choices. Only one of them is correct. You’ll see us refer to the correct choice as the “answer” throughout your practice sessions.
What can I do to tackle the Reading Comprehension section most effectively?
- Why did the passage’s author include this quote? Was it supporting a claim?
- Why did the author include this example?
- What role does each claim, each paragraph play in the text’s overall argument?
All Reading Comprehension questions are not created equal!
Dos and Don’ts
- Don’t try to read faster: LSAT Reading Comprehension isn’t about speed and memorization. Students who consider themselves slower readers can be very successful on the test, by learning active reading strategies to identify the most important information. Some parts are okay to read less carefully, for example, because they contain details supporting a larger claim or point.
- Don’t add your own soundtrack: The LSAT doesn’t require any outside expertise in the many topics it presents to you. All of the information that you need will be presented in the passage. When you bring your own experience, knowledge and opinions about a topic into the mix, you may add your own unwarranted assumptions which will lead you to wrong choices. Strong critical readers avoid this common LSAT pitfall!
- Don’t time yourself too early on: Accuracy, then speed! When learning a new skill, it’s better to leave timing considerations to the side until you’ve increased your skill level enough to warrant timing. If you were learning piano, you wouldn’t play a piece at full-speed before you’d practiced the passages very slowly, and then less slowly, and then less slowly still.
- Do read with your pencil: Reading actively is helpful to understanding reading comprehension passages and not “zoning out” while you read. Many students like to underline or circle keywords, such as “however”, “therefore”, “argues that”, “first/second”, and many others that you’ll learn throughout your studies with us. If you’re reading with your pencil, you’re much less likely to wonder what you just read in the last minute, and you can focus on the structure and shifts in the action.
- Do be nimble: You don’t have to do the passages and questions in order, or even to do a given question at all. Many students find success maximizing their score by skipping a select handful of questions entirely, either because they know a question will take too long to solve, or because they just don’t know how to solve it.
- Do learn about all of the question types: An effective approach to a main point question is very different than an effective approach to an inference question, even though the passage is the same.
- Do spend time on the fundamentals: Effective reading strategies take time to learn and implement consistently. For example, understand how to identify important keywords (and why they’re important) before practicing many passages in a row. The hints and explanations in the system will help with this—a lot! Other key skills include characterizing the relationships between various points of view and identifying the purpose of a paragraph. Be patient with yourself!
- Do honor the precision of language: If the author writes, “This explanation isn’t well-supported, however”, an inference question might ask you what the author’s attitude towards the explanation is. A wrong choice would be something like, “vehement skepticism”, whereas the answer might be, “cautious doubt.” Many students are too approximate in their reading and it hurts their score on the LSAT; in other words, they see some degree of disagreement and they believe that any choice that expresses disagreement will be correct. They may see the word “most” in the passage and equate it to “all” by mistake.