LSAT Tips: What to Look for in Reading Comp
The Reading Comp section. It’s the most commonly neglected section while studying the LSAT. We’ve all been reading for around 20 years—so why bother focusing on it? You've either "got it" or you don't, right? Test takers tend to double down on Logic Games and Logical Reasoning, and then sprint through Reading Comp prep right before the exam, only to see their scores end up painfully lower than expected (there are more Reading Comp questions than Games questions!). What test takers (and even many tutors) fail to realize is that Reading Comp on the LSAT tests a very particular type of reading, one that you may have relatively little practice with: the ability to read for the structure of the author’s reasoning. And mastering this is a skill that requires practice.
With Reading Comp you have 35 minutes to absorb four passages (well, five, if you count the two comparative passages) and answer about 27 questions. That means you have about two to three minutes to read each passage before turning to the questions. That’s not a whole lot of time to absorb the passage, especially when they’re often chock full of information about subjects you’ve maybe never seen before or can’t stand (oh hi, science passages!).
Here’s what NOT to do: don’t try to retain every piece of information in the passage.
Don’t do this for two reasons:
1.) You just don’t have enough time, and
2.) You don’t need to!
The LSAT makers aren’t particularly interested in testing whether you can memorize the minutiae but rather whether you understand the structure of the author’s reasoning. You need to key into why the author wrote what she wrote in each paragraph, and what purpose each paragraph serves. You’ll encounter a fair number of questions explicitly focusing on this structure. Plus, understanding and internalizing the passage’s reasoning structure provides a roadmap of the whole passage, so if a question asks about a specific detail, you know exactly where to go to find the answer. That way, you’re not wasting time attempting to absorb every little detail, but you know right where to go to find it, if you need to.
Learning to focus on the right things in Reading Comp is a skill—just like learning to diagram a game or figure out formal logic. Remember, Reading Comp is just as crucial to your score as Logic Games (in fact, on average, you’ll get more Reading Comp questions than Games questions!). Don’t overlook it when you’re studying.