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MissRune363

HELP Reading Comp

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I just took a reading comp section and completely bombed it. I have no strategy/know what to look for to be honest, so I think I need to start from the fundamentals. Can anyone recommend a prep book or any strategies that helped? I also have 7sage, would appreciate any tips, thanks!

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The following is genuinely not meant to be facetious - I really believe the LSAT's RC section often exposes the fact that most university-educated young people legitimately can't read. Now, this is not to say test takers are explicitly illiterate. My point here is that there is a significant difference between recognizing a string of words on a page, and truly understanding what an author is trying to communicate. I learned this lesson and found I was able to increase my RC score considerably. You're in a great position - improving a bombed RC section is an excellent way to pick up a ton of points!

I will provide a guideline that I found helpful below, but would first like to include a note on perspective. For me, improving RC was about reorienting my thinking as much as anything else. Here's a trick that I used to improve my focus and retention - feel free to label it silly if you'd like. When you start an RC section, forget the LSAT for a moment. Convince yourself that what you're about to read actually matters, and that your thorough understanding of the material has real value. Regardless of the subject matter, take an interest in it - fake it if you have to. The idea here is to engage with the author's work as genuinely as possible, and in turn, you'll be far more likely to grasp what they're trying to communicate. I recognize this is a bit hippy-dippy, but I would really encourage you not to discount the significance of perspective  - give it an honest try.

See below the guidelines that I used to engage with the passages. It's helpful to memorize these, but they aren't meant to be applied mechanically. Essentially, after each paragraph, pause for a moment to summarize what you've just read in your own words, keeping in mind: function, idea, connection, and attitude. 

Self-Summary Checklist

  1. Function - How does this function/ why did the author include this?
  2. Idea - What is the author trying to communicate / prove here? What evidence exists?
  3. Connection - How does this connect to the other paragraphs / passage as a whole?
  4. Attitude - What is the author's attitude toward this topic? Supportive? sceptical? critical?

Lastly, while going through the questions, train yourself only to look back at the passage when absolutely necessary. You should never do this on your first pass through the answer choices. Always eliminate the options that are clearly wrong, and check the passage if you must in order to choose between two or three strong contenders.

As a final note, a lot of what I've included here is taught by Harvard Ready, in Toronto. They are currently running online classes, and provide outstanding prep materials to their students. Outside of taking their course, I am not affiliated with them in any way, but seriously cannot say enough about how great they are. If you're looking at prep course options, or even private tutoring, these guys are the best available, worth every penny. Lengthy reply, but wanted to be thorough - feel free to shoot me a PM with any questions! 

 

 

 

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I've got to echo @CTS's point. I wouldn't go so far as to say that "most university-educated young people legitimately can't read" but that most can't read well. And it's not their fault, its just that they aren't taught to. Unfortunately, that's not something you can learn in a month. Neither is it a skill you pick up from from reading novels (especially Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.) or even most newspapers and certainly not social media. The type of material you find in RC is a dense version of scholarly work published in academic journals. If you've never read such material, it hits you hard, and it isn't readily accessible to most of us. So, if like most of us you're not accustomed to reading scholarly research in the natural sciences, humanities, law, history, etc; then you're going to have to try and make up for it with some strategies.

The single best strategy, as CTS points out, is to identify the reasoning structure of the passage and the purpose each paragraph, section, etc. serves with respect to that structure. If you look for reasoning structure you'll be able to identify the main point and to map out the argument (main point, premises, counter-premise, background, application) and to identify the author's position on the topic. If you're able to dissect the passage in this manner, and also to recognize how the LSAT writers make incorrect answers look attractive while obfuscating the correct answer, then you're set. Well, nearly so. Those strategies teach you what to look for, but learning to comprehend complex texts and to identify all of that information in a matter of minutes (which is where I struggle) takes practice. A lot of practice. Good luck, @MissRune363 and PM me if you have any other questions.

Edited by Musashi
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On 12/6/2020 at 11:04 AM, CTS said:

Self-Summary Checklist

  1. Function - How does this function/ why did the author include this?
  2. Idea - What is the author trying to communicate / prove here? What evidence exists?
  3. Connection - How does this connect to the other paragraphs / passage as a whole?
  4. Attitude - What is the author's attitude toward this topic? Supportive? sceptical? critical? 

This guideline is so helpful, thanks for this!

On 12/6/2020 at 12:31 PM, Musashi said:

The single best strategy, as CTS points out, is to identify the reasoning structure of the passage and the purpose each paragraph, section, etc. serves with respect to that structure. If you look for reasoning structure you'll be able to identify the main point and to map out the argument (main point, premises, counter-premise, background, application) and to identify the author's position on the topic. If you're able to dissect the passage in this manner, and also to recognize how the LSAT writers make incorrect answers look attractive while obfuscating the correct answer, then you're set. Well, nearly so. Those strategies teach you what to look for, but learning to comprehend complex texts and to identify all of that information in a matter of minutes (which is where I struggle) takes practice. A lot of practice. Good luck, @MissRune363 and PM me if you have any other questions.

Thank you so much! Both of your points were super helpful, I will try out these strategies!

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While we appreciate the endorsement, I think @CTS is being a little bit harsh on the average university student 😋

It is true that people have a general tendency to be less than critical when reading, well, most things. And yes, this is quite clearly problematic because a large component of writing (and by extension reading) is to communicate ideas to either enhance or proliferate knowledge; and an uncritical pass is not likely to aid in the selection of the best ideas to codify in knowledge.

But...........in life almost no one is ever forced to read dense, particularized pieces of information that they don't care about and express informed and critical opinions about them. On the LSAT though, you have 4 passages that ask you to do exactly that!

The point is well taken though. When reading passages one has to have a critical mindset. The way I describe it to my students is that they should read and evaluate as if they were a scientist. The mindset of a scientist is one of "show me." Don't let one of those pesky authors pull the wool over your eyes!

Because @CTS has reviewed many of the points I would otherwise address, I won't get into the details as they have laid them out well. I'll just point you towards some other resources. @yoni45 (the HarvardReady godfather as we...I call him) has previously written an RC guide on these forums that can be found here. The LSAT Trainer RC guide can be found here. And some of my own past RC advice can be found here and here. General guides and study advice can be found in a resource thread that I posted here

Best of luck!

Edited by AllanRC
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For me, I had to train myself to count the number of "people" or the number of "theories" in a passage. Do not confuse them with each other.

For example:

Player A was considered one of the greatest of all time according to Commentator 1. But Commentator 2 thinks Player B was actually better.

The questions then sometimes try to trick you into getting confused about who said what about what.

Another strategy I employ is to spend about 3 to 5 minutes reading each passage. That's right, about 16 out of 35 minutes are spent reading the passages. That means I only spend half of my 35 minutes reading and answering the actual questions. Do not spend more than 60 seconds on a question. Spend 30 seconds on most questions. You are going to get several wrong anyway, so it is more valuable to you to guess a hard question than to waste precious time and run out of time for the easy questions.

Make sure you have 17+ minutes left by the time you begin the second passage. Make sure you have 8+ minutes left by the time you begin the fourth and final passage. Do not rip yourself off by spending too much time on the early sections.

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