Intro to Reading Comprehension

Keith Syska
Lesson by Keith Syska
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh LSAT
Hello I'm Keith. This video is an introduction to LSAT Reading Comprehension. There's only one scored RC section on the LSAT. But it counts for about 27% of your LSAT score. So it's definitely worth the effort to study RC. Each RC section contains 26 to 28 questions and these are grouped into four sets of questions.

In that way, the RC section is structured similarly to the logic games section, but instead of logic games, each set of RC questions pertains to a passage or a pair of passages. Three sets of questions pertain to individual passages and one set of questions pertains to a pair of passages. All the passages combined contain about 1,900 words.

That's a lot to read and a lot to answer within the time limits of 35 minutes. So the time pressure is particularly acute on the RC section. In fact, most test takers cannot finish all the questions on the RC section, but you can still earn a good score, even if you cannot complete all the questions. You just need a solid strategy to answer as many questions as possible. And remember, there's no guessing penalty on the LSAT, so you should mark a random guess for any questions you don't have time to read.

So how are you going to deal with the time pressure of the reading comprehension section? First, you need an effective study strategy. And second, you need an effective test strategy. Let's talk about your study strategy first. The RC section tests all of the skills tested on the logic games and the argument sections.

But, the competing arguments of the RC passages add a layer of complexity to the analysis. The nuances of the RC section are difficult to understand if you don't already have a strong understanding of formal logic and informal logic. You can gain that understanding by studying logic games and arguments before you commit to a serious study of reading comprehension.

Next, let's talk about reading speed. Outside students often ask me how to increase their reading speed. And my answer tends to surprise them. Slow down. You will need to analyze dozen of passages slowly before you're ready to read at a higher speed. It's tempting to study RC by simply completing time section and checking your answers.

But that not a good plan for improvement. Instead, you should watch these entire series of videos first and learn an effective strategy. Then when you turn to the practice section. Take your time, and make sure you apply the strategies patiently. Old habits die hard, and it will take a lot of practice for you to adopt these new reading methods.

But if you adopt a disciplined study regimen your reading speed will improve naturally without sacrificing your comprehension. You also need a solid strategy for test day. Here's how to maximize your score on timed RC sections. Because of the time pressure, you should employ the easy first strategy. That means you complete the easy passages first and you skip difficult passages for later.

That way, you can focus your time on the easy passages and if you run short on time, you can guess on the hardest passages. Also, you should be willing to skip difficult questions within a passage. Next, our sea passages require a large time investment to read. So you need an active reading strategy, just like you needed an active strategy to diagram logic games.

Reading actively means reading with a goal in mind. So lets think about the appropriate goal for reading RC passages. Most RC passages describe different viewpoints on a subject and you have to keep track of all the supporters, and detractors of each viewpoint. Therefore, you should read the passage with an eye toward identifying the disputed issues.

Incidentally, that's the same method you will use in law school to analyze judicial opinions. Finally, your active reading strategy should include an annotation method that allows you to tag important parts of the passage for reference when you get to the questions. That will allow you to discriminate more carefully between the subtle details of the answer choices.

Now that we've talked about the strategies, let's take a look at an RC section and see how we might apply them. When you turn to the first page of the RC section, you will see a passage in the left column. Followed by the first set of questions. Before you read an RC passage, you should count the questions to determine the potential payoff for reading the passage.

This passage only has six questions. Remember that the question sets contain five to eight questions each. So the pay off for this passage is on the low end. On this test, you should skip the first passage because there are probably two other question sets that contain more questions than this one. When you skip a passage, you can always come back to it later once you've completed the passages with a higher pay off.

So let's flip to the second passage and find out how it compares. The second passage contains seven question, so this passage has a higher potential payoff than the first, and we should go ahead and start reading this passage. Once you've decided to read a passage, you should read the first sentence. But before you continue reading, pause and consider the difficulty of the passage.

If the topic and the writing style seem easy to you, keep going. But if you're already confused after one sentence, you should skip the passage until you've completed the easier passages. Now let's turn to the third passage. This set of questions contains eight questions, so it would appear to have the highest payoff.

But take a look at this question. Notice that the question stem is long. That means this question introduces new material that is not contained in the passage, so this question is probably difficult. The answer choices are also quite long which makes this question a potential time trap.

Smart test takers will skip it and come back later if they have time. Contrast this question with these three easier questions. Each of these questions occupies only two lines as do most of the answer choices. Because of the potential time trap, you should rank this as a seven question passage rather than an eight question passage. Therefore, the deciding factor between the previous passage and this one, should be the difficulty of the passage itself.

Finally, let's turn to the fourth passage. This set of questions only contains six questions. So there's a low pay off for reading the passage. Also, notice that the passages is divided into two parts. Passage A on top and passage B below. This set of questions pertains to the pair of passages I mentioned earlier.

The subjects of these passages will overlap but the passages are written from different perspectives. Furthermore, most of the passages in this set will ask you to compare or contrast the two passages. This focus on multiple perspectives can make this set of questions challenging. So on the timed section, you should skip this passage and go back to one of the earlier passages.

Here are a couple final thoughts about RC. Use the easy first strategy until you reach the five minute warning. Every time you finish a passage, move to the next easiest passage, or the one with the highest payoff. At the five minute warning, you should stop working and mark a guess for all the questions you didn't have time to read.

Once you've marked a guess for the remaining questions, you might have time to read one last question and change your answer. That concludes the introduction to LSAT Reading Comprehension.

Show Transcript

Next Lesson

Reading Comprehension