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Vinny Gambini
Vinny Gambini
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Reading comprehension, score dropping

by LaurenL785 Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:31 pm


After MONTHS of studying for my lsat coming up in just a few short weeks, Im starting to struggle with choosing the right answer when it comes to RC. I've been using a method I find extremely helpful and by the time I'm done reading I usually have a fairly solid idea of what is happening in the passage with respect to structure, arguments, tones, and viewpoints etc. When I first started I was usually scoring between 20-21 in this section, which I was happy with as I find this section the most difficult. However, now my scores in this section are ranging from 14-16 consistently and I am not sure what I am doing wrong which is why I am looking for some help. When I do the review there is no specific question type I am getting wrong, however some of the right answers seem to be completely obvious which leaves me very frustrated. Other times I have narrowed it down to two questions, and I usually choose the wrong one and the answers I choose more often than not also seem to be the "trap" answers.

Any idea what is going on here? Or advice on how to get back to where I was?
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Atticus Finch
Atticus Finch
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Re: Reading comprehension, score dropping

by ohthatpatrick Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:39 am

Hey, Lauren.

I'd love to be of service, but your description is super generic, so I'll just have to give a few scattershot pieces of advice and hope that at least one applies. :)

It's not your fault; it's hard to find patterns in wrong answers (often teachers can't either). Improving at RC, for me, consists of a thousand little micro-lessons, wherein we gradually figure out what LSAT will / won't accept in terms of how a correct answer choice behaves.

Part of your recent struggles may be explainable if you've recently shifted towards doing more recent RC passages (in the 70s and 80s).

I've found RC much more difficult over the past 15-20 tests. The correspondence between the language of a correct answer and the language of its supporting text was much stronger in years past.

Nowadays, there are some "loosely supported" correct answers that are correct because everything else is wrong.

I have to occasionally remind myself that "Some support > No support" when I'm otherwise wanting to reject every answer because they all have inadequate support.

It sounds like you're defining "Trap Answer" as one specific answer, but that's just a generic term people use sometimes for any wrong answer. You often hear it used when people are referring to their "down to 2" nemesis, or when they are explaining what common answer choice quality a given wrong answer exhibits, i.e.:
- Unknown comparison trap
- wrong point of view trap
- true, but too narrow trap
- extreme wording trap

So you're not cursed by some misfortune for routinely picking trap answers: that just means you're getting questions wrong, which is pathologically normal. :)

Also the down to 2 phenomenon afflicts us all, because the test writers purposefully make ONE of the four wrong answer choices a very tempting choice, for the specific purpose of getting us into a down to 2 jam.

If your change in performance isn't due to a change in the modernity of the tests you're working on,
could it be any of these things?

1. You used to do it more by gut, and now you're being over-analytical?
(if so, try giving yourself less-than-adequate time limits ... like 7 mins to do a passage + Q's so that you force yourself to make quick, intuitive guesses on some of the problems)

2. You're not forcing yourself to prove which lines of text would support your selected answer choice?
(if so, do some untimed drills in which you strive for 100% accuracy and write down the supporting lines for each answer you pick. If/when you get some of these wrong, you'll learn valuable lessons about why your supporting lines weren't a match for their answer choice)

3. You're not organizing the passage as you read into a brief:
(i.e. old way vs. new way .... geothermic vs. hydrothermic models ... opponents vs. proponents' positions)

If this hits home, try reading some passages untimed for as long as it would take until you could safely look away from the passage and fill out this brief.

4. You're not using the keywords in the question stem to find the "Proof Window" -- the available lines of text that this question is testing?
(If so, do some untimed passages in which you cover up answer choices and try to write your prediction for each question before you see answer choices ... you can predict by answering in your own words, in the passage's words, or by identifying the relevant lines in the passage that are being tested on this question.)

5. You're not noticing the loaded language in tempting-but-wrong answer choices?
In addition to the usual suspects, the words that convey certainty (all, each, any, every, no, none, only, unless, must, requires, depends on)
we need to watch out for words that overstate or over-specify frequency (most, typically, generally, usually, tends to, rarely, few).

To work on this, try going through an RC section's ANSWER CHOICES first, without having read a passage. Underline any loaded language in the answer choices (and if you want, put a heart next to softly worded things like "can, may, might, some, sometimes, not always, is compatible with, need not, not all"

Hope something here helped. Since you also seem psychologically deflated, remind yourself that you're awesome and that you have the capacity to do well on RC! Go in with irrational confidence. Talk trash to it. Rip out some pages of RC and use it as a doormat. :) Good luck.