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Reading Comprehension Passage Approach

dadulik8dadulik8 Monthly Member

Hey are there any strategies to choose which RC passages to read first, second, third, fourth? Or do you guys suggest going 1-4 as given? Is it better to do passages with more questions first? Thanks for all your help!


  • galacticgalactic Yearly Member
    edited August 2021 690 karma

    Hi there, I heard on the Powerscore podcast that on the LSATs as of late you can count on Passages 1 and 2 being generally easier than 3 and 4. I'd do a little more research to confirm this but in any case I hope this helps.

    As far as identifying which passage contains more questions - I would say this is something you have to consider only if you are struggling to complete the section, but you also have to push it up against passage difficulty as well. Let's say you're someone who can only do 3 passages in the 35 minutes - then I think Yes, after doing Passages 1 & 2, it makes sense to look at the question count between 3 and 4 and then do a skim to determine which one you think you'll have an easier time with. If that is the passage with more questions, then great, you just created an opportunity for yourself. If not, I'd stick to the easier passage with lesser questions. Hope this helps. Would be glad to hear if anyone has a different perspective.

  • WinningHereWinningHere Alum Member
    417 karma

    My advice is take it in stride and focus on accuracy and each question at-a-time as you progress.

  • Austin.hutchinson1Austin.hutchinson1 Monthly Member
    104 karma

    I second WinningHere's advice, especially with the first two passages, which are almost always easier than the third passage. In fact, I don't think I've ever done an RC section where passages 1 or 2 were harder than 3. If you're comfortable with those, I think it's probably fine to quickly get the layout on the 3rd one and if for some reason it is immediately difficult to parse, do the same for the 4th passage very quickly and go from there.

    I personally don't think this is all that helpful; there are only 4 passages, not a lot of different combos to try out if you grant the first 2 as "easier" (must-do) and the last two as "harder/trickier" (finish 1, hopefully both). I never feel like any of the passages are "harder" than any others, just some take longer to read than others, but you don't really know that until you've started reading it. RC is my strongest section at this point; I've taken 3-4 PTs from the 80s recently and from those, usually 1-2 incorrect answers total on RC. Same with LG, but that took a lot of practice.

    With RC, just try not to get sucked in to any part of a given passage, don't overthink it as you're reading it, don't worry about whether you're mapping the argument from a passage totally accurately "in media res", self-consciously pestering yourself to focus on reading comprehension. Just read the whole thing, as long as you get all the main ideas you can usually re-read the intro/conclusion super quickly and move on to the questions, knowing more or less what kind of questions you're gonna get (like knowing, by feel and by sight, particular keywords/phrases that are likely to be asked about later).

    I just thought of this one RC passage about deep well drilling/permeable rock and that is a good example of an RC that is pretty hard to parse quickly, and easy to get questions wrong if you hurry too much. But, for me, sometimes it's best to just accept that the passage is a little confusing and move on. Almost without fail, answering the first couple questions about a passage like that makes up for what I didn't pick up on my read through, guiding my focus to particularly key parts of the argument where I can spend a minute or two to arrive at my answer choice. Like with LG sometimes having very little initial inferences/diagrammable info at the outset, you can get your sense of orientation from the questions on RC once you've at least read the passage (as in, don't read any of the questions first and then read the passage, I can't see any benefit to that with RC).

  • luckysat1luckysat1 Alum Member
    167 karma

    I always do the science passage first, usually then followed by law. I do these because I find they tend to be subject areas I come into with less foundational knowledge than the humanities.

    More crucially, the tone and style of them are just generally less familiar as my bachelors is non-STEM, so typically they take a little bit longer to process. Because they typically take longer, I want to come at them as 'fresh' as possible to try to cut down some of the time.

    At the risk of upsetting some of my fellow humanities and literary folks, I find the law and science passages to tend to be a bit more intellectually challenging than, say, literature. They tend to be a bit more grounded in hard facts and numbers and more nuanced. Obviously this is a generalization, but I find it's often really hard to identify things like author views in science passages versus, say, something about a novel or type of literature.

    Some argue (convincingly) that deliberating on which passage can be done quicker is self-defeating. That's fair, but we are really only talking a 10-20 second process of identification here. A glance at the first paragraph is typically enough to determine the flavor of the reading material. Personally, I think taking the time can be worth it, if only on a purely psychological level. I have learned the hard way there is a big psychological difference coming into a difficult passage on quantum physics or bioengineering with 10.00 minutes on the clock versus 34:00 minutes.

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