10 LSAT Reading Comprehension Tips
If you have your LSAT coming up or you are planning to take it, this article is for you.
The LSAT reading comprehension section is one of the most challenging sections for students. Many students feel they don’t have enough time to complete this section. And that’s mainly because of their inadequate preparation.
Standardized tests are all about knowing and internalizing the tips and tricks to improve an unfamiliar situation. What you see on the test will determine your ability to answer questions about the given information. Therefore, your prior information doesn’t count.
With a few of the following tricks, you can ace the LSAT reading comprehension:
- Pick the reading approach best suited for you
- Give yourself less time in practice tests
- Use the first and the last lines of the paragraph
- Build the bigger picture later
- Do the more straightforward questions first
- Cross out the incorrect answers
- Improve your vocabulary
- Learn to analyze the question stem
- Rest well on the night before test day
This article will give you tips that can help you improve your LSAT reading comprehension score. We also provide actionable steps to make implementing those tips easier.
Let’s find out more.
How to speed up reading comprehension for LSAT
The best way to speed up your LSAT reading comprehension is to practice increasing your reading speed altogether. It will help you retain information about the main ideas while reading faster.
But sometimes, students don’t have enough time to improve their LSAT scores by increasing their reading speed before test day. In that case, you can still do well on your reading comprehension passage with a few tricks.
1. Pick the reading approach best suited for you
The reading approach you should adopt for LSAT depends on what works for you. However, reading the questions first allows being more prepared to pick out the main point when reading the passage.
Reading the passage first
There are two schools of thought about this. One school maintains that reading comprehension passages should come first. They claim that LSAT reading comprehension tests the ability of the test takers to answer questions from the blocks of information presented accurately.
However, you might struggle with this approach if you have a slow reading comprehension speed. You might spend too much time reading the LSAT passages. Or you might reread the passages to figure out the main idea.
You can find the correct answers by reading the comprehension passages first. But it will take you more time – especially with a slower reading speed.
Reading the questions first
On the other hand, you can improve your ability to cope with the LSAT reading comprehension section by first going through the questions. It lets you get a little sneak peek of the main point you must look out for when reading the passages.
This approach saves time, especially for people with a slower reading comprehension speed. While reading the questions, you can highlight the keywords you see in the question. You can look for these keywords when you read the passage to answer questions. It will help you figure out the “location” of the answers in the passage structure.
However, you need to make sure that you exercise caution while using the approach where you read the passage first. The LSAT reading comprehension section revolves around the test takers’ ability to grasp the context. Therefore, the answer may not always be what’s directly stated.
You might need to read some scaffolding sentences before and after your presumed answer to ensure you get the context right.
Some people read the passage in depth after reading the questions. This helps them see the author’s main point, which may not be immediately apparent if they don’t read the passage.
Skimming through the text first
Some people claim it’s best to skim through the text first. Then, you can read the questions and revisit the passage to answer questions.
However, you must read the LSAT comprehension passages when answering questions. Therefore, this approach is relatively inefficient. It adds an unnecessary step at the start that wastes time.
You will not be able to understand the main point by just skimming the text. And if you do, you will already have the reading comprehension ability needed to breeze through the test.
Therefore, we would suggest that you avoid this approach.
Leaving main point questions for the end
The LSAT reading comprehension section questions have a central point question. This question requires you to understand the passage altogether.
Some people prefer doing this question first. They believe that they need to find one idea. And that if they find the right answer, they will understand the passage better.
However, others prefer answering the rest of the questions first. Often, answers to other comprehension questions would contain relevant information. You can use this information to understand the main point better. This approach saves you time.
If you don’t have the exceptional reading ability, we suggest leaving the main point questions for the end.
That way, you can make more out of the time at hand.
Answering from memory
Of course, this is the fastest way to answer the questions in the LSAT reading comprehension section. However, this requires you to have an excellent memory, so you don’t forget any specific detail.
We suggest maximizing memory if you have enough time before the test day. Unlike what most people believe, memory is a skill. Memory training can help you boost your information retention capacity.
However, we wouldn’t suggest using this approach if you don’t feel confident in your memory skills. There’s a decent chance of selecting the wrong answers if you answer solely from your memory.
Reordering the passages
Many candidates choose to use this approach where they first answer the questions of the passage they deem the easiest. This is not necessarily the first passage in the test.
The reading comprehension section has four passages. All of them will have their own set of questions.
One of the passages will be a comparative reading passage. This will consist of two short, related texts. The other three passages will be single, standalone texts.
Based on your prior knowledge, you might be more comfortable answering the questions in, for instance, passage 3 instead of passage 1.
This approach helps you get done quickly with all the easier passages. In turn, it allows you to take your time with the specific passage that you find the most challenging.
2. Give yourself less time in practice tests
Many students cannot complete all the passages in the LSAT reading comprehension section in time.
A great remedy is to train to solve the test quickly. You should try to solve a sample passage in less time than you would get on the test.
The LSAT reading comprehension section has four passages and is 35 minutes long. The reading comprehension passages have their own questions. For every question, you have to choose from five answers. The best approach is to train yourself to spend a maximum of 8-9 minutes on each question set.
Another way to go about it is to spend a maximum of 2 minutes reading the text. You might need to increase your reading speed if you are a slow reader. There are some courses available online that can help you master speed reading.
This will save you a lot of time figuring out any questions that bother you during the test.
3. Use the first and the last lines
One of the best ways to understand any paragraph is to analyze the first and the last line. This helps you build a connection between them. Sometimes, you may lose this link while reading the paragraph because of confusing transitions. This can result in you selecting the wrong answers.
However, revisiting the first and the last line after reading the paragraph ensures you get the hang of what the paragraph is saying. Despite its many twists and turns.
This strategy really helps students who tend to run out of time. You only need to reread two sentences instead of chunks of text.
However, you must be careful when using this technique. It requires you to read the entire paragraph to make sense of the answer choices.
This trick works because LSAT readings are well-organized. They are densely packed with information, but the sentences and paragraphs build upon each other. Thus, it’s easier to understand the argument by analyzing the reading’s start and end.
4. Build the bigger picture later
Some students tend to annotate the text as they read it. It is an excellent strategy, and we will explain it later in this article. But this can be a time management nightmare if you are a slow reader.
Instead, it might be wiser not to take notes until you are done reading passages. So, once you have read one passage, you can return to the main points you identified. They will be fresh in your mind. You can now annotate them with your personal notes to identify supporting ideas.
The primary purpose of this technique is to save time by taking notes once everything is already clear to you. This technique is best used by people who prefer reading the passages first.
5. Do the easier questions first
Likely, you won’t find all of the questions equally difficult. Therefore, it’s better to do the easier questions first and mark the ones you find difficult. Once you finish the easy questions, you can return to the flagged questions. It will help you save time for the more difficult ones.
The reading comprehension section has several different types of questions. They include the following:
- Main idea
- Stated information
- Inferred information
- Word/phrases in context
- Author’s attitude
- New information
For all of these questions, there’s only one right answer. Most of these questions assess your logical reasoning. Therefore, having great critical thinking skills is the key.
6. Cross out the incorrect answers
Sometimes you may get stuck on a question. You may be confused between multiple choices because all of them sound right. However, remember that there’s only one correct answer.
Sometimes more than one answer choice might indeed make sense. But you need to select the best one. Anything other than that would be an incorrect answer.
The best thing to do to save time here is to cross out the answer choices that are obviously wrong. Even if you cross out 2 answer choices out of the 5, you will have a 13% more chance of selecting the right answer.
Plus, it’s much easier to analyze fewer options than to analyze a greater number of options. Therefore, you would save time on every question by eliminating the wrong answers.
This is an excellent technique for anyone. It will help you find the right answer choice on any test, not just on an LSAT reading comprehension passage.
7. Improve your vocabulary
Some questions in a passage would require you to discern the meaning of a word or phrase in context. Usually, it will be easier for native speakers to do this. However, sometimes the reading may contain technical jargon. Or there may be too many contradictory transitions.
In those cases, the word might not hold its original meaning. Nevertheless, when answering these questions, it’s always helpful to know the meaning of the word/phrase.
Highlight unfamiliar terms during your LSAT prep. You can then look up their meanings and try to remember them. It might help to memorize new words if you write them down or try to use them in conversations.
Knowing the meaning of a word beforehand will save time when its meaning remains unchanged in context. This technique can also help you gain a couple more points per section by saving a few minutes.
8. Learn to analyze the question
One of the biggest challenges with reading comprehension is not accurately understanding what the question demands. Understanding what the question needs using keywords will help you save time. This way, you wouldn’t need to think too much about the possible answers.
Students are expected to select the best answer. This is the one that accurately answers the question.
To be able to select the right answer, you need to be able to distinguish the key characteristics of the different types of questions.
Let’s take a look at how questions will be phrased in the LSAT RC:
- Which option is most similar to the passage’s central idea?
- The passage mentions all of these EXCEPT?
- What can be inferred from the passage?
- What describes the function of the second paragraph in relation to the whole text?
- Which of the following statements is supported by examples in the text?
- Which of the following would resonate the most with the author’s feelings?
- If true, which of the following would help support the argument presented by the author?
A keyword or phrase has been underlined in each of the examples above. This word or phrase dictates the requirements of the question.
If the question asks for something that’s “most similar” or anything synonymous, its answer will simply be the option that capitulates the most complete information. Several options might sound right, but they might miss a few details. Or some choice might mention things that aren’t stated in the passage (even if they are true).
Since the LSAT comprehension passages test your ability to analyze given information, ensure you only stick to the text. Use explicitly stated information unless they ask you otherwise.
Questions that ask you to choose options in support or against an argument are fairly tricky. To do these questions, you need to understand the argument being made. This might require rereading the passage to put information into perspective.
One of the best techniques to use here is to skim through the passage and identify the part that contains the argument. Now, read the first and the last sentence of that paragraph to get an overview. After that, you can read the entire paragraph and understand the argument thoroughly. This will help you save time during reading comprehension and help improve your LSAT score.
Some questions will require you to use inference. This is where you can talk about things not explicitly stated by the passage.
In inference questions, you must make logical assumptions by building upon the ideas presented in the passage. These questions can be the trickiest of all. They will test your ability to understand the text’s information and go beyond it.
If you can answer these questions quickly, it will save you a lot of time. Practicing is the only way to improve your inference skills. The best thing to do here would be to read many articles. Try to understand them. Identify the main points and try to deduce their implications.
One of the ways you can make it easier for yourself to do this is to annotate the text. This will help you connect the dots and see the passage structure. Based on that, you will be able to make much better deductions.
Lastly, there would be questions that require you to talk about the author’s stance or thoughts. In these questions important to remain unbiased. You need to understand the author’s point of view. Regardless of how you feel about the subject, you need to consider the author’s feelings.
These questions can be tricky. They might seem simple, but the author might have subtly phrased his stance using many twists. Therefore, the best way to deal with these twists is to first skim through the passage and identify the paragraph where the author’s stance is presented. Read the paragraph’s first and last line to make sense of it. And then read the entire paragraph.
Remember, you might need to reread a major chunk of the passage in some questions. Therefore, always leave enough time for these types of questions.
9. Find what works best for you
There are many unique reading comprehension strategies available. They all work well for most people. However, the most important thing is finding the optimal one for you. You can go about it by doing something like this:
- Start by making a list of all the different strategies that you would like to use. This can also include combinations of different strategies.
- Use this guide to help you understand every strategy effectively. Doing that will ensure you have the right outline in your head of how and when to use each strategy.
- Now, it’s time to practice using each strategy. You need to try every strategy at least 6-7 times. It’s best to use a varying difficulty of passages for an accurate measure of the effectiveness.
- Based on your practice, you have to calculate the proportion of questions you get right when you use a particular technique. This will help determine what suits you best statistically.
- Now, you have a strategy to start with. You can modify the strategy to make it work even better as you go along.
10. Rest well
Finally, get some rest and give your body the right fuel. Some students are so stressed about the RC score that they forget to let their mind rest.
Analyzing a text and being able to draw inferences is a very mentally intensive task. You need to ensure that your brain is well-rested to do this. In fact, sometimes, you might get the answers right, even with a tired brain. However, LSAT has a time constraint. You will likely spend more time on each question to get it right than you would have with a fresh brain.
Studies have shown that students get less than 7 hours of sleep a night before the test. Moreover, they experience daytime sleepiness. This affects their academic performance. Conversely, longer nighttime sleep has been associated with higher GPAs and standardized test scores.
Remember, you can only do so much on a tired brain. It’s essential to give your brain the right amount of sleep and nutrition to stay on top of its game.
If you don’t rest, you will not be able to read as quickly. Plus, you will not be able to retain as much information. Therefore, it will require rereading, and that will waste more time.
A tired brain would be far less efficient at identifying links, transitions, contradictions, etc. You will miss out on important details. As a result, you will end up with a far worse score.
Hence, it’s important to make sure that you get enough sleep. This will not only help you save time during the LSAT but keep your brain healthy as well.
Takeaway: Ace your LSAT reading comprehension section
In the end, it’s all about practice. Practice using all these tricks as much as possible if they are new to you. We can assure you, you will get a better score with these tips than you would without them.
To practice more, you will need to stay productive. For that, we will recommend taking a personal productivity course.
If you have some time before the test day, we suggest checking out some other services and resources offered by Iris Reading. They will help you drastically improve your testing skills.