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Does RC come down to strategy?

Travis10Travis10 Free Trial Member
edited December 2014 in Reading Comprehension 23 karma
I would consider myself a very good reader, and I have an expansive vocabulary. Yet RC on the LSAT is a different beast all together. I took a Blueprint class, read the LSAT Trainer, and read significant information online. I feel that my poor performance is that I am looking for a solution that doesn't necessarily have an exact answer. Can anyone with an experience in improved RC give insight on how they were able to overcome early struggles and tackle the daunting task? Thanks guys.


  • SnowballSnowball Member
    111 karma
    my two cents: try your best to read with your brain not your pen!! Don't adopt any complicated notation system unless you're already used to it. Otherwise, try to eliminate any notation. It works for me after a long time struggle.
  • CloudNothingCloudNothing Alum Member
    edited December 2014 4 karma
    Try a few methods out and see what works best with you. In university I studied English Lit, so active reading was very much second nature to me. However, when I followed certain guides that said not to write anything down or underline anything -- which is how I began reading comprehension -- I wasn't doing very well. I went back to the active reading that I was accustomed to: underling, marginalia etc and my reading comprehension, for me, was good: I usually go -3, give or take.

    I think the best thing you can do is engage with the material. If that means underlining a few things, awesome. If it means underlining nothing, awesome. Stick to a method that gives you results.

    Also, if you don't understand something, re-read it. If a sentence or paragraph is giving you trouble, take the time to figure it out.
  • Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
    edited December 2014 6839 karma
    "I feel that my poor performance is that I am looking for a solution that doesn't necessarily have an exact answer."

    No, your problem is in the above quote. Rather than work on the skills you are deficient in, you are blaming the test. Your statement is flat out wrong - the correct answer is objectively correct, the four wrong answers are objectively wrong, and the gap between them is humongous. That you think that there's no exact answer, combined with your assertion that you are a "very good" reader, makes it entirely unsurprising that you aren't seeing any improvement. I don't mean to be harsh, but that's how I see it. If it makes you feel any better, you're hardly the first person who's had a bucket of cold water thrown on them by the LSAT - I see this on a regular basis with my private students.

    Nothing on this test 'comes down to strategy' - nothing.

    Every RC method is, at its core, an attempt to help you organize and synthesize information better. If no method is working, it suggests that the specific method is not the problem - it's your ability to organize and synthesize information. I can only frame "roadmapping" in so many ways before it just becomes reliant on your ability to actually understand the words on the page and their relationships to each other. Whatever your criteria are for being a 'very good' reader in general, it is clearly not translating over to the specific skills necessary for the LSAT - absorption, retention, and synthesis of unfamiliar and often technical material. You are clearly not as good at this type of critical reading as you think you are, and worse still, you are rejecting out of hand the LSAT's attempt to tell you as much.

    Again, I don't mean to sound overly harsh, but this attitude change is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. If you continue to blame the test to salve your ego or sense of self-worth, you'll never improve. If you take it upon yourself to critically analyze every misstep, blame yourself for every mistake, and put in the hard work necessary to change and improve the way you read, you'll at least have a shot.

    Assuming you do that, everything you do comes under scrutiny. If you missed a piece of information, how could you have seen it was important? Where does it fit in with the overall structure of the passage? How could the LSAC expect you to be able to recall that? Did you make a 'stupid' mistake? No, there are no stupid mistakes - what did you screw up and how can you fix it? Ask yourself a ton of questions and really try and get to know your weaknesses and tendencies.
  • Travis10Travis10 Free Trial Member
    edited December 2014 23 karma
    Jonathan Wang, my comment meant that I am looking for a specific RC strategy, when in reality there might not be one, and it really just depends on the person. I understand that the every question has one answer and the other 4 are all wrong. I meant that I am not being consistent with the way I approach RC because I am constantly trying to tweak the process of how I attack passages. It had nothing to do with my ego or attitude.....It is my mistake for wording it poorly, but it would be pretty nice to not get chewed out on the discussion boards haha.
  • miriruchertmiriruchert Alum Member
    180 karma
    Valuable constructive criticism in my mind has nothing to do with being 'chewed out.' It did you a service, right? I definitely learned from the post and know what I need to do to do better. Thanks Jonathan!
  • Travis10Travis10 Free Trial Member
    23 karma
    Yes it was valuable. It was my fault for poor wording, I just felt it was slightly unnecessary nonetheless.
  • Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
    6839 karma
    It was not my intent to "chew you out", and if it came across that way I apologize for that. I'll leave it up in its original form for others to decide exactly how big a jerk they think I am, but know that it wasn't my intent to just be mean to you, and I hope that the lesson comes through at least.

    To clarify, what I interpreted your question to be was: "I'm a very good reader but my RC score doesn't reflect that, so I want a method that will reflect how good I am". That's something I've learned cannot be dealt with by tiptoeing around it. Everyone has to get past this idea that they're excellent readers who are just temporarily struggling; nobody who's ever come to me for RC help is nearly as good at reading as they think they are. Academic reading is HARD. Under timed conditions, it's even harder. Much like the first step in AA is accepting you have a problem, the first step in fixing RC is to recognize that you're actually terrible at this task, and to not let your pride get in the way of improvement. That's where the 'ego' and 'attitude' pieces came from; in hindsight, I suppose I could have phrased it better as well.

    As for your actual question - your core reading fundamentals probably aren't going to change very much. Rather, you need to find a way that works for you to do two things: retain and synthesize. 7Sage's Memory Method does this by repetition of mental summaries; other more markup-based methods do the same by forcing you to put pencil to paper. I like to have my students "put on (their) author pants" and figure out why they would structure a passage a certain way as if they were the author. Understanding why things are introduced in a particular order, why certain details are placed in certain places, and where the relationships begin to surface follows from this core understanding of writing, and the rest will follow. As a comment a few above mine said - use your brain! Every method exists only to facilitate an understanding, so there's no magic bullet. And like I said at the bottom, in the part that might actually have been of use to you, make sure you analyze the hell out of your mistakes. If you didn't learn how you could have avoided a mistake every time you make one, you might as well have just not bothered to review it at all.
  • Travis10Travis10 Free Trial Member
    23 karma
    I do appreciate your response, and I do believe you are correct. The mention of "strategies" essentially meant the process that I go through for every passage. Ideally I want to get to the point where I am attacking the passage that exact same way every time, and I feel that I haven't consistently done that. I range from -1 to -5 on RC sections, and like everyone else I would like this to consistently as low as possible. I never intended to insinuate that I believe my reading skills to be great, which in turn means that I am assigning blame to the test. Every single mistake that I make is because I did something incorrectly, not the test. I understand that RC is a very difficult and challenging task, and was just trying to get perspective.

    What I meant by "chewing out" does not mean that I don't understand what constructive criticism is as "miriruchert" alluded to. I appreciate honestly and bluntness, yet it wasn't exactly what I meant by the original post, which again, was my fault. I don't have a problem with brutal honesty, and essentially laughed at critiques that were both harsh and true. I just felt like I should say something because to me it felt as if the message could have been conveyed without it. Like I said for me it really is not a huge issue, and I want to know my flaws and weaknesses, as I don't come to this message board to build my self confidence.
  • SnowballSnowball Member
    111 karma
    I like this comment most: "If you continue to blame the test to salve your ego or sense of self-worth, you'll never improve." It happened to me! I once continuously criticized some questions whose logic is not 100% water-tight...I refused to surrender and held to my perfect standard.

    Now I can see the most dangerous part of studying LSAT is to lose common sense, the very context of every logic. If LSAC wants, it can construct every question as logically perfect and require you to tackle it with perfect logic. But it chooses not to, for if students study LSAT in this way, they may well probably lose the ability to see the very legal flexibility common law offers once they get into law school.

    off-topic thoughts...hahah
  • mp_mcconnellmp_mcconnell Alum Member
    9 karma
    Hi Travis
    I feel lucky that I've always been a fast reader and I too, have an extensive vocabulary and can absorb and retain a lot of information. But I sure had to check my ego at the door when I found myself missing Main Point RC questions in my baseline test. I found JY's 1st two lessons on Introduction to Arguments, and Grammar, very grounding (despite my inner voice asking: "Really? You've gotten this far in life and need a grammar review?"). I set aside asking myself if I would be capable of writing this test successfully, and have relied on knowing that I am capable of _learning_, and I have learned through hard work- my scores have gone up ~25 points since I began.

    As for your question regarding a "solution", I have found two keys: the first is learning and practising the necessary skill sets related to active reading and understanding the LSAT question and answer types; the second is recognizing and accommodating both your strengths and your weaknesses. I happen to see "big picture" and relationships as easily as I breath, but miss detail when there is too much clutter. I've learned what is "too much" for me, and what is necessary to me, through practise. I suggest that you trust your own needs while testing and practising what you're learning. You can find an optimal solution for yourself.

    I used other materials before finding 7Sage. What bothered me about other LSAT prep was that a lot seemed to be based on "tricks" and memorization of rules, and not a lot on core understanding. I felt like I wasn't able to bring a lot of my strengths to the process as taught elsewhere.

    What I love about 7Sage is that I am learning a disciplined way of thinking that will serve me in my future career; it is not merely a means to an end. I now easily recognize types of valid and invalid arguments in conversations and reading; when premises may be weak for the conclusions drawn; when assumptions are made for the conclusion to logically follow; and I see the unsupported gaps; all in a clearer and more disciplined way than I had previous to studying for the LSAT.

    A lot of people talk about what kind of reading to do to prep; my choice is case law. I read from all court levels and I love finding a supreme court decision and then following it through application. A well written judicial decision (and many of them are), is amazing to read. I also read and think about legislation and how a complex law links together as well as how it may intersect with other legislation. With some law, I've gone back to senate hearings and reports and Parliamentary debates to understand the thinking that went into the legislation. I find this reading both fascinating and fun. I think I was meant to be a lawyer!
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