Reading Comprehension Plateau - Personal account of issues, requesting insight

Lots of words below outlining my issues with the section. If you're also struggling with RC and/or have come up with novel solutions, please consider sharing ideas.

Reading comprehension is consistently my lowest performing section, I've got a pretty static -4 to -0 band on LR and LG, but reading is something that I'm worried I'm not effectively getting better at just from reading more passages.

Current Method:
I find that writing things down sucks up time and misdirects effort away from holistic understanding, because if I try to write a one sentence summary or comment on the structure I'll be focusing on that PARAGRAPH at the detriment of understanding the author's point as a whole. Currently, I don't use any paper in my RC strategy. This is probably a big area I need to consider. I'm entirely mentally reading for detail, and thinking about how things relate to each other as I go, keeping it in mental storage.

-Topics are too foreign/difficult/boring. I don't care about how 18th century English medieval common law courts carried out sentences pertaining to women's rights and how research methodology pertains to whatever. This makes it difficult for me to even recognize important details, let alone remember them. I also straight up don't know anything about art history or shit like that. I've noticed a significant boost in performance when it comes to science/natural history, things that I'm interested in, or technology/economics/finance, things that I've studied. Prior knowledge clearly helps but I don't see how I can get enough of a broad base of knowledge for the entire LSAT.

which leads to
-Struggling with inferences. Things that aren't explicitly stated are inherently fuzzy, and then I'm legit coin-flipping for those 5* Q's. I can't generate a mastery of the detail in these passage inside of 4 minutes. Current approach is to try and isolate relevant sentences from the passage, but then you inevitably miss things.

-General shitty reading ability? Like, I didn't have to write essays in college, so getting hit with these academic paper writing styles is tough.

Current stats:
170 Avg, 175 peak timed over 5 most recent PT's taken, up from roughly ~160 2 months prior. Need to get to 175 as a floor. RC consistently holding me below 175.

Thanks for any insights guys, let's make this a discussion. Feel free to dm me or call me a poopee head, I just need ideas for how to approach prepping this gd section.


  • --- KPL ------ KPL --- Alum Member
    14 karma

    Like JY says "Feign an interest" in those topics you dislike. I also am more inclined toward subjects like econ, science, law, they just seem more logical and concrete. The art history stuff is harder to grasp for me and don't have a background in it. So one day I decided to give myself an "informal" education on the subject. I spent a couple days deep diving on Wiki about common art themes that arise: Modernism, Postmodernism, Realism, Impressionism. Seems like the RC passages are concerned with art movements, and using individual artists as an example to make some point. Spending a couple days to develop a framework on this subject has shown me a little return on my investment. Maybe it will for you too.

    I have the opposite problem sometimes. I feel like if I encounter a passage that catches my interest, I get curious about it and start drawing connections in my mind and then snap myself back into it, "hey get back on task, you're taking the LSAT right now, idiot" lol.

    Hope this helps.

  • valentina.soares-1valentina.soares-1 Alum Member Sage 7Sage Tutor
    edited January 24 188 karma

    Hi @grugtheslug ,

    In the last month or so leading up to my test date, I realized that I needed to shift my focus to RC and find a different approach to break through a plateau. I definitely shared a lot of the concerns that you’ve listed here. I started by spending quality time reviewing my PTs and drills and watching not only the explanations of the questions I got wrong, but the explanations of the passage as well. I picked up a lot of gems that JY drops in those videos that helped me shift my perspective and the way that I look at and approach the RC section. Here are my thoughts on what you've outlined.

    Your Current Method:
    While the low res summary is a great strategy, it doesn’t work for everyone. However, the purpose of it is still very important. Focusing on structure rather than detail. Personally, I also found that trying to summarize paragraphs and structure into one sentence was too difficult and time consuming and took me out of the passage. Instead, I tried to use my highlighting tool to replace the low res. So, I’m not necessarily using the tool to highlight details in the passage, but rather notate where the passage changes in terms of structure or flow of information. I’ve outlined this in another forum post before, but you can usually apply this method in two ways, depending on what type of passage you’re looking at.

    Some passages are clearly putting forth an argument. They might follow the classic other people’s argument -> author’s opinion structure or contain an author arguing towards a specific point. With those, you really want to differentiate where in the passage the different parties or speakers are making arguments and where any agreement or disagreement occurs between them. I highlight things like “some proponents of the theory believe” but not the rest of the sentence where it tells me the details. When the author comes in and starts making their own case, I highlight things like “However, this is misguided because”. That way, when a question asks me what the author is most likely to believe, for example, I can center my focus on just the paragraph where the author is putting forth their own ideas (whether those are concessions to the other perspectives argument or their own opinions).

    Other passages have less of an argumentative structure and seem to be relaying information about a particular subject. In those cases, I like to keep track of new ideas that are presented, facts, rules, etc. and focus on tracking how the passage flows from one idea to the next.

    For example:
Paragraph one introduces the subject of research and its purpose of application, paragraph two gives a an overview of a prior way of looking at the subject and then switches to a new way, and paragraph 3 applies that new way of thinking to a specific field and gives an example.

    Now, based on what the question stem is asking of me, I can narrow my focus to the correct part of the passage to find the support I am looking for. For example, if I am given a hypothetical situation in the question stem, I decide if the hypothetical matches the new research, the old approach, or the application, and answer the question based on that part of the passage.

    Your Concerns:

    • First, it is true that feigning interest can make a big difference in reading more actively and staying in engaged with the passage. Pretending you are enthusiastic about what you are reading, even though it is inherently fake, can help you get through without that feeling of “what did I just read?”. Visualizing what you read and making quick little comments to yourself can also help. Sometimes if an example or a sentence makes me think of something else in the real world I just say to myself “Oh, like X thing!” and keep reading. Don’t worry if you can’t fully process all the details and understand every single thing. As long as you keep track of the structure and where certain ideas are existing, you can come back to that part of the passage and use it to eliminate ACs that are not supported or find the proof you need.

    • When it comes to inference questions, I like to take them on in 2 passes. In the first I read the ACs and eliminate the ones that seem obviously wrong or that I know are contradicting the passage. That usually leaves me with about 2-3 contenders, depending on how hard that passage/question is. Be careful that you don’t eliminate an AC just because you don’t understand it or don’t see how its supported. Then I go through my remaining contenders and search for proof in the passage. At the end of the day, it’s similar to an MSS question, so there will be 4 ACs that are not supported by the passage at all. Sometimes I look at the only answer I have left and I still don't see the inference, but I know that the answers I eliminated are definitely not supported so I just choose it anyways.

    • In terms of general reading ability, I recommend reading academic journals or publications like “The Economist” on a regular basis to get used to that type of writing. If you have time to do this consistently over the course of a few months, you can seriously improve your reading ability and that alone will make a difference for you in this section.

    This is exactly what we help students with in 7Sage's tutoring program. Knowing exactly what the RC section is testing and how you should be thinking about/approaching not only the reading, but also each question type makes all the difference in performing well. We also really focus on helping you diagnose the issues in your thought process, and coming up with ways to fix it. If you want to talk to one of our expert tutors about how we can help you create a game plan for the time between now and test day, feel free to use this link to schedule a free consultation!

    Best of luck!

Sign In or Register to comment.