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RC: The Power of Just Reading

Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
edited October 2017 in Reading Comprehension 3521 karma

Hey all,

I thought I'd share this discovery.

7Sage advocates doing what works best for you, but to be honest my "works best for me" patterns were heavily influenced by the first prep-materials I used: PowerScore. From what I remember, PowerScore heavily advocates diagramming RC passages. Of course then, I have been diagramming the heck out of RC passages since forever. But consequently, RC has always been my slowest section.

But I didn't care! I was doing really well on RC, at least in the earlier exams. But then RC changed. Starting in the mid-2000s RC became a lot more "big picture" and less "fact-test-y." I started missing a lot of questions (from -1 or -2 in early PTs to -5 or -6 on later PTs), usually because of rushing with timing, but also because diagramming for these didn't really help! The modern PTs were a lot less about "can you remember this specific word usage in this specific part" to "What statements would the author agree with?"

AKA - RC went more from specific to big picture.

Being stubborn, I didn't change my RC methods. And consequently, RC was consistently my worst section.

Coming back to PrepTesting after a months break (since Sept. exam), I tried a new method of approaching RC: just reading.

That's right. Just reading.

Underline stuff here or there, but no real marking of viewpoints, no circling indicator words, no writing "CC" or "Quest" beside certain passages. I just read. I focused less on the little details, and more on internalizing the text and really understanding what I was reading.

What has this given me? -0 to -1 on modern RC. (3 modern PTs so far!)

I thought I'd share this with you all; maybe it will help some of you!

TL;DR - Modern RC is less nitpicky about certain word usage, and will ask more questions that do not pertain directly to the text (the author would agree with which statement?). Consequently, just reading the passage, and not trying to diagram everything, could prove much more helpful.




  • mgzero2mgzero2 Alum Member
    86 karma

    I agree. I got so much BS advice from all types of prep companies. I've actually scored -2 on an official test in the reading section with almost no marking. I just mark two things and know roughly where things are in the passage if need be. So my advice is structure, view points, and tone. The shitty part is I got bent sideways and anally penetrated on the games section of that test so that score was not ideal. People tell me how improving in the logic games is easiest and how easy it is to improve that score. I went from a -10 avg in RC to a -2 in RC avg in 5 tests. I cannot say the same for the games or the LR section either but at least the LR goes up faster. Logic games are slowest for me.

  • FerdaFreshFerdaFresh Alum Member
    561 karma

    @"Paul Caint" , I've noticed this too. The modern and modern-ish RCs are, on average, much more manageable than old RCs IMHO.

    I think it's great you found your best plan of attack for RC. It took some playing around for me to find mine too, and it happens to be very similar. I hardly make notes or diagram for RC anymore, but I do mark up the passage like crazy as I read (a circle here, line there). There's no real set method for what gets a circle and what gets a line, or square, etc... it's all very malleable (based on what the passage is saying) but definitely not arbitrary!

    This is my "just reading." By circling and underlining a third of the passage, I know it'll make for a messy reread if I need to go back. But that's the thing -- I don't need to go back. I retain the passage much better this way so I don't have to go back to it during Q's.

    I am also in agreement that RC is probably the most "personal" section in terms of suitable strategy, but I'm hard-pressed to recommend diagramming and writing summaries (consistently) to anyone -- it's just too much of a time sink. By the time you've written your 5 word low resolution summary, you could have read 30 or 40 words. Anyway, I think "just reading" is the way to go, too :)

  • 10bird__10bird__ Member
    edited October 2017 80 karma

    How much time do you guys allocate to reading the passage? I usually get through in ~3 min but spend too much time re-reading certain parts on inference/more abstract questions.

  • FerdaFreshFerdaFresh Alum Member
    561 karma

    I usually spend spend between 3:30 to 4 minutes reading a passage, which I've read is longer than ideal. But I make sure to spend the required time up front on the passage, which helps me answer most questions in 20-40 seconds.

    What I find useful for RC questions is to be more lenient to the answer choices than you would be for LR when not in hunt mode (i.e. when scrolling through them from A to E). I am less dogmatic about "striking out" answer choices that sound iffy but not totally wrong, because -- more often than in LR -- RC answer choices, specifically the inference ones, are less clear-cut than right LR answer choices.

    For instance, if the right answer is E for RC, I may have left a tilda on one or two of the earlier answer choices, but once I read E I deemed it "more right." Conversely, if the right answer is E for LR, I'm usually able to cross off A through D by the time I've got to it. If you find yourself between two or more answer choices in RC and you don't know exactly where in the passage you should be looking, I think you should have spent more time up front on the passage before touching the questions.

    Hope that helps!

  • mgzero2mgzero2 Alum Member
    86 karma

    @10bird__ said:
    How much time do you guys allocate to reading the passage? I usually get through in ~3 min but spend too much time re-reading certain parts on inference/more abstract questions.

    I do 2 to 2.5 mins.I reference a lot on certain subject passage types I dislike and less on passages I like. I also usually allocate an extra min on those I dislike. Find your weakness but if I was you I'd trade either more time to read and reference less or vice versa. Referencing a lot and not being quick is not very ideal in my opinion.

  • westcoastbestcoastwestcoastbestcoast Alum Member
    3788 karma

    I had a similar breakthrough as you @"Paul Caint" . Been focusing on big picture ideas on RC and maybe occasionally I'll mark the text when I see an important detail, example or analogy so that I can revisit it. In the more recent exams, I do notice that occasionally they will have a MSS or Inference question that hinges on whether or not you caught a particular detail. But, if you did a good job understanding and summarizing each paragraph, it shouldn't be too difficult to find the correct answer. The forest definitely matters more than the trees but some of the harder questions may require you to look at the trees.

  • Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
    3521 karma


    Love your forest and the trees analogy. I agree. I think the older exams (PTs ~60s and older) tended to focus a lot more on "the trees" while the newer ones focus on "the forest." So different reading strategies may be appropriate for the two "eras" if you will.


    Before, I would literally spend 4.5 - 5 minutes on an RC passage. Now I'm spending ~3:00 to 3:50 minutes on the passage. But again, just reading.

  • Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
    3521 karma


    Whatever works for you!

    I just found for me that diagramming actually took my brain out of the passage. I guess I'm definitely more of a "narrative" thinker - I like to read like a continuous flow. Diagramming in any way, like circling, writing notes besides the passage, etc, tended to take my mind out of the passage, and left the whole reading experience feeling more discombobulated.

  • Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
    3521 karma


    It's good that RC is your best section, since most prep courses don't do a lot of RC focus. I do think that LR and LG are the two most "perfectible" sections though, but they do take a lot of grinding. Stick with it and you will see improvement :)

  • lsatplaylistlsatplaylist Alum Member
    5244 karma

    For people who are kind of starting out in RC, would you advocate drilling a later RC section during the CC in order to help adjust to the change?

  • Paul CaintPaul Caint Alum Member
    3521 karma

    @lsatplaylist Yeah I think the skills you learn in the early RC can still be helpful. It's good practice to get used to going back to the passage for some of their questions. Just know that modern RC has a lot more big picture questions - inferences, "assumptions underlying the argument," etc.

  • karenkarenkarenkaren Alum Member
    116 karma

    I also "just read" and agree that diagramming takes away my attention from internalizing the text itself.

    I've been averaging -3 on RC and this method makes it hard to pinpoint how to improve to -0 or -1, which is my goal. I think that for me, I'll improve by simply remembering the text better, which I can best achieve by being more focused and interested in it. If I don't feel that way naturally as I sometimes don't, I try to fake interest and use mindfulness.

    Do you all have any tricks for being energized and interested in the text? Does it come naturally always for anyone?

  • Harmmanb-1Harmmanb-1 Alum Member
    126 karma

    @karenkaren I would recommend reading the original article LSAC used to create the passage. You can get an inside look into what info they leave out and how they change the reasoning structure to make it ore difficult. May help with the last few points you are trying to get right.

  • tringo335tringo335 Alum Member
    3679 karma

    Wow great advice thanks for sharing!

  • LsatkayyLsatkayy Alum Member
    162 karma

    @Harmmanb-1 where is the LSAC thing that has the RC breakdowns that you were referring

  • karenkarenkarenkaren Alum Member
    116 karma

    @Lsatkayy -- they are at the end of each preptest, in the Acknowledgements section.

  • OlamHafuchOlamHafuch Alum Member
    2326 karma

    @karenkaren said:
    @Lsatkayy -- they are at the end of each preptest, in the Acknowledgements section.

    They are often found in journals that are beyond paywalls.
    I tried doing this once, and it was of little value to me. Much of the adaptation was in shortening and organizing the material into the proper from for an LSAT RC passage. In an LSAT RC, all (or almost all) of the information is organized around a main point. In real life, most articles and arguments are not that well-constructed; there is often much tangential and extraneous material.

  • Sammie215Sammie215 Member
    202 karma

    I kind of automatically mark stuff up as I read now (underlining, circling, whatever; I do it in LR too, it helps me to process the text) but I would add that cutting back on that to focus on writing a few words by each paragraph (ie: low res summary) has helped a ton. It's easier to find things in the passage and it lays out the whole structure for you-- for me it's worth spending 3 min instead of 2. So maybe a combo of just reading through, but stopping at the end of each paragraph to leave yourself a little marker would be best of both worlds. I think if I just read the passage and left everything completely blank I would have a really tough time with the questions (especially if it's the 4th or 5th section and I'm tired), but that's just me!

  • Harmmanb-1Harmmanb-1 Alum Member
    126 karma

    @uhinberg I found it to be helpful, as it makes the importance on reasoning structure very apparent. If you can see first hand the lengths LSAT writers go through to structure the passage a certain way, it motivates you to look at the passage as a whole/big picture, vs. reading each paragraph individually, without relating it to the rest of the passage.

    Also if anyone is currently in college, your school should have a database pass for you, such as EBSCO, which you can use to access many of the original articles.

  • jennybbbbbjennybbbbb Alum Member
    630 karma

    How do you guys time your RC passages? I have found that just reading helps a lot, but I often struggle with getting to the main point of the passage. I take generally longer than 3 minutes to read an entire passage properly so when I know I am panicking on time, I bomb all the passages by trying to read quickly...

    I have been getting -4 or -5 on the RC sections on BR, but during a timed PT... I bomb it LOL.

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