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What is an appropriate reading time for a RC passage( for non-native speakers)?

cnguye15cnguye15 Legacy Member
edited March 2015 in Reading Comprehension 64 karma
I have problems with finishing RC on time. My problem is mainly on "detail except" and inference questions. I feel like when i try to read slowly (4 minutes upfront) I do well on structure and author attitude questions but still spend too much time on detail questions and get them wrong. If i read too fast (less 3 minute), then i still miss although i spend more time on those questions. Does anyone have any similar problem? I've been in the U.S for 6 years but still struggle with reading sometimes.
My reading comprehension is improving slowly. I've just started reading more for the past 2 years. My average RC is -6 or -7 (best -4 and worst -12). I have problems with deciphering detail sentences and usually misunderstand them. Recently, I am trying to re-reading technique by Graeme Blake ( I actually re-read sentences and the whole passage in about 3-4 minutes until i can summarize each paragraph and sentence), but my rc has not improved. It seems like i tend to forget these little summaries as I answer the questions. Does anyone have any specific or general tips on RC? I would like to hear success stories from non-native speakers who scored well on this test. Thanks


  • Nilesh SNilesh S Alum Inactive ⭐
    3438 karma
    Hey @cnguye15 good or bad, the LSAT does not differentiate between native speakers and non native speakers... the average time to do an LSAT RC passage questions and all is 8 min 45 seconds... in that, your ideal time reading a passage should be 3.5 minutes for the passages that you find easy and 4.5 minutes for the passages that you find tough, so that you get enough time to work on the questions as well as to quickly refer back to the passage if need be. This would be the same for both native and non native speakers because at the end of the day, the score that you have on your sheet will not distinguish you from a native speaker... you may be able to do that in your personal statement but the extent to which that factors in will decided by the admissions committee. Even then a top score will only advance your cause because standardized tests are there for that purpose... to act as levelers... not to grant concessions... But you are doing great work and a lot of people would take your situation i.e. where you are at, and thank the stars!!! Keep at it and you will improve... try also looking at the Manhattan RC strategy guide and the LSAT trainer... also check out this thread... hopefully it comes in handy!!!
  • cnguye15cnguye15 Legacy Member
    64 karma
    Nilesh S thanks for the tip. I am not really good at science-passage since I am a polisci major. Do know any good books that are difficult to read in natural science?
  • Nilesh SNilesh S Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited April 2015 3438 karma
    @cnguye15 You could definitely look to the Scientific American... the passages are as similar in complexity and density to the science passages in the LSAT as you can get.
  • inactiveinactive Alum Member
    12637 karma
    Like @"Nilesh S" mentioned, Scientific America is great. So is The New Yorker.
  • emli1000emli1000 Alum Member Inactive ⭐
    3462 karma
    Also, The Economist.
  • kraft.phillipkraft.phillip Member Inactive Sage
    444 karma
    Reading outside of the RC section (Scientific American, The Economist, and I'd add Foreign Policy magazine) is good, but there is so much actual RC content that I'd focus on the actual RC passages.

    I found that RC often seems amorphous and that I lacked direction when tackling a passage. "Just read it and answer the questions" was how I thought about it for a long time. Instead, after wasting a lot of time, I realized that what I really need to do is accomplish only a few tasks:

    understand of the content of the passage, generally;

    find the main arguments and conclusions in the passage for those main point questions (this includes the author's and other people's who were mentioned in the passage opinions);

    Lastly, and most importantly, create a mental map of the passage. Where, physically on the page, is the author's opinion on how ocean floor spreading (for example) happens? Where is the background information? Where is the long and drawn out causal explanation for photosynthesis in the passage? This knowledge is most useful because this is how you prove and disprove answer choices efficiently--by being able to know where you need to go to check an answer choice. Notably, if you use this approach, you can allow yourself to actually essentially not care about whatever complex science thing there is in the passage. Rather, you simply make a mental flag: "okay, this is where it explains, in detail, X." Since you don't know whether a question will be asked about that particularly complex thing, and since even if you spend the time upfront attempting to understand it you may not remember perfectly by the time you get to the pertinent question anyway, it's better to just flag it mentally so you know where to go if there is a question about it.

    Lastly, my first language is English, but I have tutored two people who spoke Mandarin as their first language. Since I was at a loss because it seemed that the primary obstacle was reading speed, I looked in to how people learn to read in the first place and read this study that examined "pattern recognition" approaches to reading. I thought it made sense--basically, when you read you should not be reading one word at a time. You should be recognizing a chunk of words and processing them in bulk. I made some basic exercises in which I removed the articles and some other extraneous things from RC passages for these students with the goal of training their brains to better recognize the patterns of groups of words rather than the words themselves (or even worse, recognizing the letters that construct the words that construct sentences). Send me a PM if you are interested in discussing that.
  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    3545 karma
    Oh gosh, the New Yorker is amazing. Also, NPR's "Planet Money" podcasts are AMAZEBALLS. They're usually 15-20 minutes long and their "story-telling" device is all about challenging correlations that might imply causation. Alt causes being talked about ALL OVER THE PLACE.
  • cnguye15cnguye15 Legacy Member
    64 karma
    Thanks everyone, especially Kaftphillip. i just took RC prep 23, with -3. I missed 2 questions on passage three, the debate over the environmental crisis, which i spent more than 4 minutes to read!!! Other than that, I focused on reading for structure and use the main point to guide me through most questions. I managed to finish it 33 minutes.
    Do you think reading for structure and main point still applies to modern RCs (from 36 onward) which seem to be much harder? I have problem with global inference question. For additional readings, I think I will just stop reading books and focus on short articles and news because they are shorter.
  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    3545 karma
    Reading for structure is consistently important in the beginning tests and later tests. If you can read for structure, you are in fantastic shape.

    Also, for inference questions, think of them like MBT questions in LR. Don't go outside the scope of what's been given to you and explain what those line(s) tell you. Especially with RC, your answer choices will be on the narrower side. If you are stuck between two choices, go with the one that is more narrow.
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