How to Master LSAT Reading Comprehension

One of four scored sections on the LSAT is Reading Comprehension. The LSAT reading segment has about 27 questions distributed over four passages. One of the passages is actually a pair of two shorter excerpts. Many test takers find the LSAT reading comprehension section challenging since the passages are dense and you have 35 minutes to complete the questions.

The key to mastering LSAT reading comp is to improve your speed without sacrificing retention. Here are study tips that will raise your LSAT score.

Know the format. Reading comprehension contains three passages of 400-600 words each, and one pair of passages that have 200-300 words each. Each passage (or pair) represents one of four subject areas: humanities, law, natural science, and social sciences.

The LSAT reading comprehension questions cover the main ideas, details, inferences, and logical structure of the passages. In the case of the paired passages, some questions will ask you to compare ideas.

When starting this section, work on the easiest passages first. Save the hardest passage for last. The paired passages are often easier, though they may seem intimidating. The LSAT passage dealing with law tends to be dry. Take 30 seconds to skim the section to see which passages have more friendly topics, shorter paragraphs, and shorter words--these will be easier.

Read each LSAT passage carefully to glean its argumentative structure. Some LSAT passages are merely descriptive, others are persuasive articles, and some present open problems with possible solutions. All follow a logical (and often predictable) pattern of reasoning. For example, many reading comprehension excerpts start out with the history of a problem or dilemma, followed by several possible solutions, the author's critique of these solutions, and finally the author's proposed solution. Knowing the structure will help you on many questions.

Be on the lookout for structural keywords, such as although, therefore, thus, however, but, nevertheless, furthermore, etc. Note these phrases: for example, in addition, on the other hand, etc. These words and phrases give you clues about the author's line of argument; they tell you when the author is reinforcing a point, or undermining it.

Keep tabs on different viewpoints presented within a passage. There is always the author's view, but often the viewpoints of critics and other researchers are presented. LSAT reading comp questions will try to trick you by mixing up who says what, or who thinks what.

Use your pencil to actively highlight key parts of the LSAT reading comprehension passages; make margin notes about the structure if you find it helpful. The act of writing helps your retain information and keeps you focused.

Always practice with a timer. At first, you can give yourself 15 minutes to read a passage and answer seven questions. But gradually, you should work your way down to 9 minutes.

Be sure that you answer every question, even if you have to guess. Check your grid to look for questions that you accidentally left blank. A wrong answer and a blank answer are treated no differently on the LSAT, so there is no harm in guessing. Even with random guessing, your chances are 20%. If you can eliminate a few wrong answer choices, your chances increase.

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