This is a continuation of a series of posts exploring the June 2007 LSAT in detail. My goal is to demonstrate where hidden opportunities lie; then, using these analyses as a template, you can find those hidden opportunities in other practice tests. And, of course, find them on test day! Why the June 2007 LSAT? Because this is the LSAT all potential test takers can freely access; this is where most test takers probably begin their prep. And I want to give you some help from the ground up, so to speak!
Today we take a step away from Logical Reasoning, the focus of the previous two posts, and begin an exploration of Reading Comprehension (RC).
There are several aspects of RC that make it an intriguing component of the LSAT. One aspect that may be commonly overlooked is very basic: the number of questions! In terms of questions per section, no single section has as many questions as RC. And in terms of questions per source material, no question type has as many questions that focus on the same source.
This post will be broken into two separate components: analysis of the passage, and analysis of the questions and answers. There are two basic reasons for
So RC is unique in one unfortunate way: it’s possible you may be looking at 8 questions that completely freeze you, and that you have no idea how to efficiently answer, if you’re missing a core process to effectively read the passage. In the next post, we will look at some common challenging aspects to RC passages, but today, I’d like to consider RC from a different point of view:
How do we develop speed?
Yes, speed! Speed, the lifeblood of the 170+ score. Ok, perhaps “lifeblood” is a tad overstated, but seriously, who doesn’t want to have better speed on this test?
So how do we develop speed in RC? Well, for one thing, we can’t predict it. I can flip through the four games in a games section, and have a pretty good idea of which game will be fast. And as we saw last time, the first five or 6 LR questions in a section are usually pretty fast.
But RC? I don’t have a good handle on predicting speed just by looking at the passage. Instead, I have to give each passage my best shot, and recognize mid-passage that this particular passage may be pretty quick.
As it so happens, the first RC passage on the June 2007 LSAT is a pretty fast one. Why? Well, take a few minutes and read the passage—I’ll wait!
(The following analysis assumes that you’re familiar with the concept of “framing” a RC passage. If you’re not, framing is a process that’s simple in concept, but can be difficult in execution: you break the passage down into two opposing points of view that express the conflict central to the passage. Sounds easy, right? Two people disagree, and we’re supposed to summarize their disagreement. Well, you should be aware by now that the test writers are very good at making a supposedly simple idea deceptively complicated. But that’s a discussion for another day!)
So, hopefully you noticed a few things: first, the passage begins with the phrase “For decades…”—this is a good indication that we’re looking for a change from whatever follows this phrase. We need to get moderately far into the passage before we find that change, but hey! The first two words of the passage presented what turned out to be a reliable predictor of the scale.
The passage begins with Side A: a “deep rift between poetry and fiction in the US”. We find Side B in line 21: “bias against writers who cross boundaries is diminishing.” And the fact that line 21 begins with the word “fortunately” means I also know where the author stands. Now we can begin to speed up!
Rita Dove—where does she fit on the scale? Side B. Let’s move on. In fact, the last two paragraphs merely add more detail, or more flavor, to Rita Dove’s ‘Side B-ness’. I would want to get through these two paragraphs veryquickly!
Hopefully you found this illuminating, not because you had difficulty understanding the passage, but because, reading with this subtext, you can now see that some passages can be read and framed fairly quickly.
To summarize: what is a “quick” passage? A passage that presents small, one to three word phrases which indicate where the “split” in the points of view will occur—this is the first aspect. So you can begin to speed up your read when you see these. The second aspect of a “quick” passage is one which offers small phrases that help identify the author’s point of view and tone: what does approve of? Disapprove of?
But!!! (And this is a big “but”…) You can’t take this for granted. Read quickly, but keep an eye out for any changes in point of view, particularly if you’re having trouble identifying where the author stands in your “frame.”
Good luck! Next time, we’ll look at the questions!
For even an even more in-depth exploration of Reading Comprehension, check out our Reading Comprehension Strategy Guide. ?
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Chris Gentry is a Manhattan Prep LSAT, GMAT, and GRE instructor who lives in Atlanta, Georgia (and absolutely loves his city; he has family ties that go back over 150 years). Chris received both his Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Clemson and JD from Emory University School of Law before realizing that he genuinely enjoys the challenge of standardized tests, and his true passion is teaching. Chris’ dual-pronged approach to understanding each test question has helped countless of his students to achieve their goal scores. What are you waiting for? Check out Chris’ upcoming LSAT courses here.