LSAT Reading Comprehension
Preparation Techniques and Tips
Don’t speed read. You need to find the pace of reading that is just right for you: not so slow that you waste time, but not so fast that you don’t retain what you read. Speed reading tends to be counter-productive because you often don’t retain enough to answer the questions and will spend too much time rereading in order to answer the questions.
Read actively. At the end of every paragraph, pause to reflect on what you have read so far. Ask yourself why the author wrote that paragraph and predict what you think the author will say next. On the LSAT, authors always have agendas; they write to persuade, not to educate. Your job as you read is to determine that agenda.
Refrain from heavy underlining. Underlining is usually completely unproductive because these passages are so short and dense. There are far too many facts for you to predict which ones are important enough to underline. Instead, read to get the gist of the argument in the passage, and use keywords and line numbers to go back and reread for the questions that require specific references.
Don’t hesitate to check back to the passage. Reading comprehension is open-book! Don’t hesitate to check back in the passage to find an answer for a question that asks about what the passage stated.
When checking back to the passage, read a little above and a little below. The answer to the question is usually close to the line you are sent back to, but the test would be too simple if it was always in the same line. Often, the answer will be either a little above or a little below the line you are sent back to.
Don’t let unfamiliar subject matter worry you. Although the topics for some passages can be unfamiliar and the language can be a bit dense, the arguments underlying the passage are often discernable if you relax and don’t let the esoteric subject matter overwhelm you. You don’t need any background knowledge in order to answer the questions that accompany the passage; anything that you need to understand will be explained in the passage.
Be careful to answer the questions based on what is stated, not on your own external knowledge of the subject. The questions don’t ask you “which of the following is true?” They ask “which of the following must be true based on the passage?” In other words, you should not use your own personal knowledge of the subject in order to pick an answer, since this answer choice may be incorrect if it isn’t true based on the passage. When answering questions, use only the information that has been stated in the passage.
Tips for Studying Reading Comprehension
As you study reading comprehension, focus first on understanding the passages. The author of the passage always has an agenda, that is, something he/she is trying to persuade you to believe. Read to find what the author is attempting to convince you (this is the author’s main point).
Once you become comfortable reading with a focus on the main point of the passage, begin to focus on the questions that accompany the passage. Determine exactly what these questions are asking, and focus not only on finding the correct answer, but also on learning to eliminate the wrong answers more quickly.