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Albertan

Reading Comprehension Struggle

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I am currently practicing for LSAT reading section and found a lot of problems in the RC section. 

I am ok with the science readings and law readings, but I get bombed by the humanities and political sections. I just don't really understand them, putting stuff together just don't make sense to me. I tried to skip reading the passage and got similar correctness. Does anyone know what I should do? Shall I dig out the old humanities tests and start over again?

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On 2018-06-21 at 12:04 AM, Albertan said:

I just don't really understand them, putting stuff together just don't make sense to me.

Do you think you might be reading too fast? Do you try to summarize each paragraph as you go along? Are you reading the sections for the "big picture" (AKA the forest over the trees)? After you read the section or a paragraph do you remember what you just read? 

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Disclaimer: This was my method, but it may not work for you. I have a weird brain and retain information best by dissecting and compartmentalizing it. I'm going into this comment under the assumption that you've learned some of the fundamental/conventional tactics for tackling RC and LR outlined in some of the more popular LSAT prep books and in courses. If you haven't, I recommend checking those out before taking my comment seriously. 

Something that helped me out with RC was thinking of it as a long-form LR organized around a particular theme. The point isn't really understanding the passage as a whole, but rather being able to filter it down to its key premises, and answer questions about those. My tactic for difficult passages was to isolate the main point of the article (what's up and why), and the conditional statements that inform that point (which I understood as basically analogous to LR prompts). The questions are primarily about those elements, and can be answered without really fully comprehending what the article is actually talking about.

A synthetic understanding of the passage isn't completely necessary to score well, in my opinion. Questions will often pertain to only one or two sentences (often the topic sentence of a paragraph) that can be considered without any other context, just like an LR question. My tactic for difficult RC passages was as follows: 

  1. Read the passage once without making any marks on the page.
  2. Read the passage again, highlighting the main point and any conditional statements.
  3. Read the questions and try to link each one to a highlighted statement. 
  4. Answer the questions using the linked information. 

Learning to identify key words and phrasing that set up conditional statements was critical to this method. Some people recommend reading the questions first to make this process easier, but personally, that just tripped me up. Also, finding a good way to annotate consistently and efficiently helped a lot. 

Edited by jan
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@Albertan - Also, I think this section is the most personalized. Some people make no marks whereas others may notate or highlight. Try a few practice passages and try different strategies so you can see which one works for you! 

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On 6/22/2018 at 7:50 PM, LivePumpkin said:

@Albertan - Also, I think this section is the most personalized. Some people make no marks whereas others may notate or highlight. Try a few practice passages and try different strategies so you can see which one works for you! 

Hi Pumkin,

Maybe I had almost no exposure to many of the topics such as art and English, the description I do understand sentence by sentence, but they just don't formulate a whole picture for me. 

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On 6/22/2018 at 10:23 AM, jan said:

Disclaimer: This was my method, but it may not work for you. I have a weird brain and retain information best by dissecting and compartmentalizing it. I'm going into this comment under the assumption that you've learned some of the fundamental/conventional tactics for tackling RC and LR outlined in some of the more popular LSAT prep books and in courses. If you haven't, I recommend checking those out before taking my comment seriously. 

Something that helped me out with RC was thinking of it as a long-form LR organized around a particular theme. The point isn't really understanding the passage as a whole, but rather being able to filter it down to its key premises, and answer questions about those. My tactic for difficult passages was to isolate the main point of the article (what's up and why), and the conditional statements that inform that point (which I understood as basically analogous to LR prompts). The questions are primarily about those elements, and can be answered without really fully comprehending what the article is actually talking about.

A synthetic understanding of the passage isn't completely necessary to score well, in my opinion. Questions will often pertain to only one or two sentences (often the topic sentence of a paragraph) that can be considered without any other context, just like an LR question. My tactic for difficult RC passages was as follows: 

  1. Read the passage once without making any marks on the page.
  2. Read the passage again, highlighting the main point and any conditional statements.
  3. Read the questions and try to link each one to a highlighted statement. 
  4. Answer the questions using the linked information. 

Learning to identify key words and phrasing that set up conditional statements was critical to this method. Some people recommend reading the questions first to make this process easier, but personally, that just tripped me up. Also, finding a good way to annotate consistently and efficiently helped a lot. 

2

Thanks, Jan,

This does sound like a great idea, especially when passages are longer with more complicated structures. I always tried to formulate the whole picture by analyzing everything but some topics don't make sense to me ;(

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This is a common problem. Areas you know a bit about or have an interest in will click, others won't.

How are you scoring otherwise? RC is the hardest section to improve. It could be worth improving other areas to get within an acceptable range without RC and then take your chances on getting good samples on the day. 

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I agree with what easttowest said about interest. When I did RC sections, I found I scored higher when I found the material of the passage inherently interesting to me. This is because I find it easier to focus on what I'm reading when it's not boring. For some reason, this was a huge battle for me to figure out. From what I remember from taking the LSAT over a year ago, I realized that I found the biography passages super boring, but found the rest pretty interesting. When doing RC, I found that I didn't need to use any special techniques for the interesting passages (i.e., I would just read them once and then answer the questions without marking up the page or anything), but that it really helped to note up and highlight the sections that were less interesting.

Don't know if this is all that helpful to OP - maybe you've already done this - but try figuring out why you are finding it harder to parse the humanities passages/ which types of passages you specifically struggle with and adopting a different technique especially for those. 

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Usually humanities students find the passages you listed easier and the science ones harder ( not to make assumptions of test takers/OP) . Most of what's written about rc is geared with this in mind. ( 7sage/Internet) 

For me slowing down while reading the passage lead to more right answers - I know know no brainer. But it is often over looked. Time yourself taking your time reading the passages and then time yourself under time constraints of the test and compare your times. When I was under pressure I would read waaaay too fast, and then end up taking too much time going through the questions. 

Read for structure not content ( to some extent)- look at how the passages relate to one another and why the author chose to include them in that order . 

Work on a notation/underline/annotation strategy that works for you. 

SEE 7sage- https://7sage.com/lsat-reading-comprehension-the-memory-method/  

The most helpful aspect is the idea of low res summaries next to each paragraph. RC is all about your own personal approach.  

don't mark up the passage too much just pull out the key ideas- authors view, tone, Main point, point of view, other views ect  ...oh and try to make a list/look up the categories for question types they ask. 

Feel free to pm

 

Edited by Destroythelsat
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You see, the simplest and most effective tip is to be able to summarize each paragraph into one sentence. Do not zone out, regardless of how boring the content is. Every single paragraph serves a purpose within the overall passage. You do not need to be a science major or a literature critic to be able to understand any of the passages. Just focus on what the paragraph is doing and/or how the author is presenting the information. Be able to write out what each paragraph discusses in one sentence to the side (e.g. the function of tectonic plates is being explained by one academic who has critics, the critics response to the academic and a third view is presented, the third view is accepted but not without qualification). Once you have these short "one-liner summaries" for every paragraph of the passage,  you have your "roadmap"/path to law school. Note: the first sentence of the paragraph will often give you a good idea of your one-liner summary for the paragraph; I have underlined the main point I tried to express with this paragraph to demonstrate.

Now that you are reading according to the way that the testmakers award points, let's move to the questions. ALWAYS be able to identify back to the passage for every single question (there are types of RC questions that are actually characterized as "identification"  and are said to be the easiest, but actually refer back to the passage for them and do not assume based on what you think you remember from reading). For inference questions - that is moving beyond merely identification and drawing a conclusion based on new information given - refer back to the passage and identify the relevant portion based on your roadmap. Then take some time and go through the answers to see whether they correspond / could really be concluded based on the relevant portion of the passage that you have already identified. Never go into the answers without having identified the relevant portion of the passage for the question prompt. Lastly, the main point questions are lay-ups. Yes, there will often be two very attractive options, but there will always be one main point. Go through your roadmap and develop your own answer before jumping into the answer choices. While doing so, put yourself in the author's shoes  and consider why they are writing the passage - what do they really want you to know? Note: adverbs will often express an author's  opinion; I have italicized the adverb "actually" in the brackets above to demonstrate. 

Edited by Trew
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This is a simple tip: try to convince yourself that you are interested in the material. When you flip over the page and see a passage about jazz music in the 30s, think to yourself "ooh, I can't wait to learn about this". I felt like tricking my brain into being interested in subjects that I truly have no interest in whatsoever for three minutes at a time helped me to see the big picture of the passage (rather than just read each sentence and have none of it connect). 

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On 7/8/2018 at 7:00 PM, easttowest said:

This is a common problem. Areas you know a bit about or have an interest in will click, others won't.

How are you scoring otherwise? RC is the hardest section to improve. It could be worth improving other areas to get within an acceptable range without RC and then take your chances on getting good samples on the day. 

i did 3 full 5 section practices scored 163 154 158. I get on average 10-14 reading comprehension questions wrong. Reasoning and Games I know where I have to improve and am practicing it. My reasoning section are usually between 3 and 8 errors on average. Games are very dependent on the type of questions I get 1-5 question wrong 

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On 7/8/2018 at 8:11 PM, Destroythelsat said:

Usually humanities students find the passages you listed easier and the science ones harder ( not to make assumptions of test takers/OP) . Most of what's written about rc is geared with this in mind. ( 7sage/Internet) 

For me slowing down while reading the passage lead to more right answers - I know know no brainer. But it is often over looked. Time yourself taking your time reading the passages and then time yourself under time constraints of the test and compare your times. When I was under pressure I would read waaaay too fast, and then end up taking too much time going through the questions. 

Read for structure not content ( to some extent)- look at how the passages relate to one another and why the author chose to include them in that order . 

Work on a notation/underline/annotation strategy that works for you. 

SEE 7sage- https://7sage.com/lsat-reading-comprehension-the-memory-method/  

The most helpful aspect is the idea of low res summaries next to each paragraph. RC is all about your own personal approach.  

don't mark up the passage too much just pull out the key ideas- authors view, tone, Main point, point of view, other views ect  ...oh and try to make a list/look up the categories for question types they ask. 

Feel free to pm

 

Thanks,

this does sound like a good idea, but I too often run out of time to finish the section already. My strategy was leaving the humanities/art./music question to the very end, and barely have time to finish half of the questions of the last excerpt. However, I sometimes reread part of my passage to understand it a bit more, and that time could potentially be squeezed out. 

Would it be a viable strategy if I completely give up a passage in exchange for time? I am a little hesitant to do that since even skimming could help getting a few answers right.

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On 7/8/2018 at 8:20 PM, Trew said:

You see, the simplest and most effective tip is to be able to summarize each paragraph into one sentence. Do not zone out, regardless of how boring the content is. Every single paragraph serves a purpose within the overall passage. You do not need to be a science major or a literature critic to be able to understand any of the passages. Just focus on what the paragraph is doing and/or how the author is presenting the information. Be able to write out what each paragraph discusses in one sentence to the side (e.g. the function of tectonic plates is being explained by one academic who has critics, the critics response to the academic and a third view is presented, the third view is accepted but not without qualification). Once you have these short "one-liner summaries" for every paragraph of the passage,  you have your "roadmap"/path to law school. Note: the first sentence of the paragraph will often give you a good idea of your one-liner summary for the paragraph; I have underlined the main point I tried to express with this paragraph to demonstrate.

Now that you are reading according to the way that the testmakers award points, let's move to the questions. ALWAYS be able to identify back to the passage for every single question (there are types of RC questions that are actually characterized as "identification"  and are said to be the easiest, but actually refer back to the passage for them and do not assume based on what you think you remember from reading). For inference questions - that is moving beyond merely identification and drawing a conclusion based on new information given - refer back to the passage and identify the relevant portion based on your roadmap. Then take some time and go through the answers to see whether they correspond / could really be concluded based on the relevant portion of the passage that you have already identified. Never go into the answers without having identified the relevant portion of the passage for the question prompt. Lastly, the main point questions are lay-ups. Yes, there will often be two very attractive options, but there will always be one main point. Go through your roadmap and develop your own answer before jumping into the answer choices. While doing so, put yourself in the author's shoes  and consider why they are writing the passage - what do they really want you to know? Note: adverbs will often express an author's  opinion; I have italicized the adverb "actually" in the brackets above to demonstrate. 

5

Thanks for the advice,

I always hated flipping back and forth to look for evidence and that might be the reason that I take a long time to absorb as much as I can during the initial reading. I find this process is very good for the main point, but might not be very efficient. I guess strategies are very important rather than brute force trying to remember all the details. Question guessing is another area I should improve, that eliminates some unuseful stuff. 

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32 minutes ago, Albertan said:

Thanks for the advice,

I always hated flipping back and forth to look for evidence and that might be the reason that I take a long time to absorb as much as I can during the initial reading. I find this process is very good for the main point, but might not be very efficient. I guess strategies are very important rather than brute force trying to remember all the details. Question guessing is another area I should improve, that eliminates some unuseful stuff. 

This strategy is MOST effective for the identification and inference questions (i.e. 4-6 questions per passage). The testmakers reward readers who do this. Trust me, I've practiced on at least 700 RC passages. You need to be able to refer back to the passage for all of the questions if you want to do well on RC.

The main point questions are more of a general reference back to your roadmap rather than a specific one like identification questions.

Edit: To be clear, you use your roadmap to locate the relevant paragraph when you get an identification or inference question. So for example, if they ask you about a person that your roadmap says was discussed in paragraph 3, you've already identified the relevant portion. 

Pretend you're a law student doing an exam and you need to quickly identify some legal test that was set out in a case. You would first go into the analysis portion of the judgment, and then you need to know where in the analysis the test was set out. The only difference is that the content on the LSAT isn't exclusively law, but the principles are the same.

Edited by Trew
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On 20/07/2018 at 10:33 PM, Trew said:

This strategy is MOST effective for the identification and inference questions (i.e. 4-6 questions per passage). The testmakers reward readers who do this. Trust me, I've practiced on at least 700 RC passages. You need to be able to refer back to the passage for all of the questions if you want to do well on RC.

The main point questions are more of a general reference back to your roadmap rather than a specific one like identification questions.

Edit: To be clear, you use your roadmap to locate the relevant paragraph when you get an identification or inference question. So for example, if they ask you about a person that your roadmap says was discussed in paragraph 3, you've already identified the relevant portion. 

Pretend you're a law student doing an exam and you need to quickly identify some legal test that was set out in a case. You would first go into the analysis portion of the judgment, and then you need to know where in the analysis the test was set out. The only difference is that the content on the LSAT isn't exclusively law, but the principles are the same.

My apologies as I went MIA on you. I find trying to do 4 passages well, at this point a little too hard and too much stress. You end up focusing too broadly and not honing in on your skills.  Because of my target score I can get away with this- BUT if you need a higher section for RC/super high score,  you would have to rethink that strategy. I would say it works well for those aiming for 160 below. 

Spend more time with the passage then the questions, and slow the reading down. This has impacted my rc section greatly. 

Watch the way 7sage solves and diagrams for RC. 

Underlining- looking for changes in tone/direction of argument. I like to draw arrows on my rc passages to link ideas together. Fell free to pm if you have any direct questions . If you want I can also refer you to my tutor 

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