If you are planning to apply to law school, you probably got the chance to familiarize yourself with the LSAT exam, its sections and the overall format. Today, we are going to focus on the reading comprehension section. It includes categories such as law, history, science and the humanities. The reading comprehension section can be a formidable struggle for non-native English speakers especially as they need to pay attention to the nuances that draw your attention to potential solution paths.
There tend to be three types of passages that cause problems for their readers.The reading comprehension part of the LSAT is designed to assess your ability to test and synthesize information, which can seem intimidating as it can be the most challenging section for non-native speakers. Besides learning all the skills and tools you need to ace the reading comprehension section, we will also provide you with an overview and with the basic knowledge that you should be aware of before starting the preliminary preparation.
To begin with, be prepared to encounter the following:
- 26-28 multiple choice questions
- 35 minutes to complete the section
- approximately 8-9 minutes for each passage. You might be overwhelmed to learn that you will have only 8-9 minutes, but this can be worked through once you master the techniques and relevant features.
- Passages of about 500 words,
- This will give you enough time to read, process and understand the given information.
The passages concentrate on one single idea, while developing questions around that idea. Questions will test your ability to recognize and understand the correct meaning and purpose of key components, as well as your knowledge of why the author wrote the text. Once you have laid out the question types, you must realize that passages include very subtle nuances and those complicated tiny details are actually necessary for succeeding. Hence, acquiring strong reasoning and reading abilities is vital in this case. There are mainly six categories on the reading comprehension question types. Which ask about the
- main idea of the passage,
- question structure,
- specific memorization questions,
- argument questions.
Thus, you will be boiling down the information by finding points and details that support the purpose of the passage. Finally, you will draw a conclusion based on the argument by deciding between two opposing arguments, assumptions and discrepancies. There might be two opinions regarding the law and some strong controversy and evidence for each viewpoint, and your job will be to define each perspective and come up with a clear and precise answer.
The most important thing is not to focus on the bigger picture, instead you should dig as deep as possible. Everything should be discernible, so you must develop a tactic for noticing the details as you read. As a result, you need to practice and utilize the details as they may appear to be challenging. As you can see, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with the overall structure, and start elaborating tools and plans for acing this section and overcoming the fear of skipping diminutive features. The LSAT is a standardized test for a law school, and so it tests skill sets required to succeed in your degree program by becoming a proficient problem solver and an analytical thinker.
Tips for an efficient LSAT prep
Now that you have some basic understanding of the LSAT reading comprehension section and what it consists of, it is time to gain some more tips and tricks that will definitely aid you during the preparation process and the exam as well. First, we start off by mentioning that you should let your brain
- read and grasp the structure of the passages.
- try to nail your thoughts in supporting the functions.
When reading a passage
- try to understand what the writer is trying to convey and
- focus on the main idea.
Even though the LSAT reading comprehension section is not something that you can encounter every day, as it is academic and rough to digest, your brain will become stronger when absorbing such intellectual information and making sense of the content in the passages. The beginning phase can be mentally draining, however you will get used to mastering important details. Getting used to such type of highly sophisticated information definitely requires LSAT reading habits and instincts.
So, what is the best approach for this?
It is trying to find the answer to the “why” question.
As mentioned above, the most significant thing is disclosing the objective of the passage. Even when you have some leisure time, immerse yourself in written law, history, and science material and work on your understanding of these texts. You can start with easy passages to train your brain at acquiring new types of context, then enrich it. You might think that the process can be overwhelming, as consuming that information continuously will not always bring you the most desired outcome. It is true that you cannot practice reading comprehension just by reading historical or social science articles and passages, however your job here is to work on understanding and not practicing. You are adapting to the format and the language! It is unlikely that you will be able to fully understand the passages, but in some cases, your unconscious memory comes into play during the actual exam.
For example, if you encounter similar passages you will subconsciously remember the purpose and what it was mainly about. In a word, the bigger picture will be obvious and you will only concentrate on the smaller hints. In addition, before preparing for the actual section, establish an approach for being a critical thinker. Whenever you are reading legal content, transform yourself to become a critic.
Finally, after you have fully adapted to understanding the language, start by practicing. Do not forget to answer the exact question that is being asked after reading the passage. Sometimes students try to track a keyword from the passage and match it with one of the answer choices. However, this is not the right approach as answer choices are designed to be misleading. Every time you are answering a question, actually give an answer to that specific question.
Learn how to read and interpret questions
Besides being a good reader and being able to absorb information, learning how to read and interpret questions is incredibly important. Navigate through the words quickly and effectively. Even if you do not understand a certain word or a phrase, being able to navigate through it will strengthen your abilities to feel the language and the overall meaning of that certain word or sentence. By being able to read a lot you will be able to predict the answer when reading, it means that you can already feel where the passage is leading you to. When you first start studying there is a high chance that some passages bring you trouble. Try to maintain the difficulties fresh in your brain, that means reviewing passages time after time that cause hardships.
As I said REVIEW, REVIEW and REVIEW so as to amplify your familiarity with the passages and question types. No matter what you are planning to study, make sure to get back to it and review. Be realistic in the time you are setting aside to study, but never forget to return and fill in the gaps again time after time. Even if after a second or third review the passage still feels strange it may begin to make more sense after the 6th time. Remind yourself during the review process that the goal of practice and review is to create successful skills and habits. Reading comprehension is all about what you do, not what you know. It’s about how you read and what you think about when you encounter a question.
Master efficient skimming techniques
It is normally suggested to skim only the first sentence of each paragraph in order to understand the overall structure of the passage. Rapid eye movement in this case will help you delve into the surface. Then, before answering the questions, we recommend performing a careful read, by outlining and addressing those questions sentence by sentence. Skimming rushes you to detect the generic idea of the story but not the whole, therefore you cannot skim through the entire passage. Even if you try skimming, that technique will gradually force you to go back and search for the answers or some specific phrases. Which is why we recommend skimming through the first sentences in the beginning and then proceeding at your own pace. Eventually, this means a larger time commitment up front, but quicker responses to the questions thereafter.
Mentally organize and aggregate everything you read
The last advice that we are going to give for your LSAT reading comprehension preparation is to mentally organize and aggregate everything you read. If there is a passage or question that you cannot get through just try to put things in your own words and figure out what the answer is in your words and then transform it to your personal viewpoint. You are maybe in a word labyrinth, but there is always a way out, right?
Remember that even during your way out you do not need to be an expert. You just need to be able to rephrase everything according to your own convenience, distinguish between opposing ideas and get out of the labyrinth easily. In order for the answer choices not to come out tricky for you, understand the argument and the flow of information. In this way you will be able to collect the elements to the correct answer choice and eliminate the ones that are odd to your instincts.
A brief recap
In this article we tried to cover all the basics of the LSAT reading comprehension section with its question types, timing, difficulty level and some tips. Be sure to develop a study regimen with a timeline. We know that it might seem a lot but you need to put in the effort to pull through. And remember that LSAT is all about reading within words and no matter what your native language is, the exam is difficult and only a mind which can sift through the puzzles can secure a good score. Eventually, you need to have a strategy to manipulate the test by yourself rather than the vice versa. It is not about cramming, but about who dedicates more time to actual studying rather than putting off everything for the weekend.
Contributor: Ruzanna Mirzoyan