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Reading Comp best practices for improvement

allison.gill.sanfordallison.gill.sanford Legacy Inactive Sage
in General 1128 karma
Hi all,
I'm really interested in crowd sourcing some best practices for improving reading comp, especially from those of you who have seen significant gains in that section. It's a weak spot for many students and it seems perhaps to call for a more individualized approach depending on if you tend to over focus on details, or miss the tone of the passage, etc. As I work with more students to improve this section, I want to be able to give tailored advice that might not come from my own experience.
So, what has helped you improve? Does the memory method work for you? Have you tried any other methods with success? Have you picked up tips for pacing that made you a faster reader? How do you retain the passage? Do you use a notation strategy, and if so, how do you do it?
Go!!

Comments

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Yearly Member Sage 🍌
    25635 karma
    I use beats for pacing. 1 2 1 2 1 2. I tap it out with my pencil across the line I'm reading. 1 is the left of the line, 2 is the right, then it starts over on the next line. 1 2 1 2 1 2. I don't think 1 2 of course, that's just the time signature. This provides me with empirical data on my pacing. I used a metronome to discover that my natural pace is about 50 beats per minute. The average passage is about 60 lines, so I'm at about a 2:10 passage time theoretically. Obviously there are delays when I stop to annotate or need to reread something I fumbled, but it's a baseline. I use a metronome to practice. The other major benefit of this method is that if I lose interest in the passage or if my mind starts wandering, I realize it immediately because I miss a beat. It doesn't stop it from happenening but it allows me to recover lightning fast having only lost a single beat most of the time.
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Yearly Member Sage 🍌
    25635 karma
    I'm also a big advocate of extracurricular reading. It can't be used as a replacement for study time, but the only way to get better at reading is to read. Harry Potter y'all.
  • stepharizonastepharizona Alum Member
    3197 karma
    @"Cant Get Right" said:
    I'm also a big advocate of extracurricular reading. It can't be used as a replacement for study time, but the only way to get better at reading is to read. Harry Potter y'all.
    I agree with this too. Besides drilling a RC passage every day, I became a lot better at RC when I started thinking about the "typical" RC questions. What was the main point of the article. What was the authors tone? Was there a conflicting tone? Where there any main areas of concern (subjects, people, ideas) and is so what were they? I basically started doing this for everything I read, usually magazines or newspapers. Now, I am much better at RC and timing can be a challenge, but even that is getting better as reading I am starting to answer these questions much more intuitively. Basically, I read with a different intention other than retention of the article.
  • BelgianwafflesBelgianwaffles Legacy Member
    17 karma
    The GRE has a RC section, which for all intents and purposes is the same as the LSAT, with the exception that the GRE is computerized. I found the best way to prepare was to find and read dense, high-level writing. I concentrated my RC prep with the NY Times, specifically the "Science" section, "Books", "Arts" and "Health". The people who write for the NY Times, especially these sections, are some of the best writers in the business. They cover subjects and write reviews that almost without exception, come up on standardized exams. I'm doing the same for the LSAT. As such, I don't think it's a coincidence that RC is my best section. That's what works for me.
  • only3monthsonly3months Legacy Member
    13 karma
    @"Cant Get Right" said:
    I'm also a big advocate of extracurricular reading. It can't be used as a replacement for study time, but the only way to get better at reading is to read. Harry Potter y'all.
    I don't think reading 5th grade level books is going to help much to be honest. If I missed your sarcasm, I'm sorry.
  • MrSamIamMrSamIam Legacy Inactive ⭐
    2086 karma
    @only3months said:
    I don't think reading 5th grade level books is going to help much to be honest. If I missed your sarcasm, I'm sorry.
    Be gone, muggle. Sorry, I've always wanted to say that...and I'm not even a Harry Potter fan.

    To the original question, lately I've been reading random articles where the author of the article tries to sell the reader on something.
    Like @stepharizona I keep the cookie cutter RC questions in mind as I read. "What is the author trying to convince me of?" "How does she feel about X?" "Oh look, this word has multiple meanings, how is she using it?"
  • stepharizonastepharizona Alum Member
    3197 karma
    @MrSamIam said:
    "Oh look, this word has multiple meanings, how is she using it?"
    Oh that's a good one! I forgot about that one... I might be doing it subconsciously but much better to actively thinking about it!

    And I think any reading would help... as long as you're trying to analyze something. I mean I had an improvement when I stopped watching videos as I read even on 7Sage. Its insane how accustomed we've come to "watching" everything vs reading it. I hadn't even noticed until I started studying for the LSAT.
  • stepharizonastepharizona Alum Member
    3197 karma
    @Belgianwaffles said:
    The GRE has a RC section, which for all intents and purposes is the same as the LSAT, with the exception that the GRE is computerized.
    Are you suggesting it might be interesting to get some GRE reading items to help with the LSAT too if you've run out of passages? I've never thought about it but might be good!
  • unisdayyunisdayy Legacy Member
    6 karma
    As a political science major, I was half forced to read and thoroughly understand various political theories and related texts during my final semester. At that time, comprehending Robert Dahl or Dewey as precise as I can was extremely time consuming and painful. You know what I'm about to say. Because those texts are cratered with unnecessarily heavy conditional structures (just like the LSAT), the LR and RC sections now read much more smoothly, and I can certainly feel how much my reading skills have been improved. I often read the Economist and Dahl's Democracy and Its Critics in between just to warm up before I deal with LSAT questions.
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Yearly Member Sage 🍌
    25635 karma
    @stepharizona said:
    I mean I had an improvement when I stopped watching videos as I read even on 7Sage. Its insane how accustomed we've come to "watching" everything vs reading it. I hadn't even noticed until I started studying for the LSAT.
    Yep. This. Reading just isn’t something most of us do a lot of anymore. Reading anything at all is tremendously helpful. I hate to use a metaphor here, but it’s kind of like keeping those pencils sharp. Of course, if you can handle Dahl or Dewey, do it! For me, Homi K. Bhabha’s ‘Signs Taken for Wonders’ is something of a white whale. If y’all really want a challenging read, look it up. And if you can understand it, please let me know what it’s about!

    Also, for the record, Harry Potter is way more than 5th grade. It’s like how The Lion King is a kids movie but then it’s actually kinda Hamlet. Or have y'all seen The Brave Little Toaster as an adult? DON’T! It is an existential nightmare. Even Dostoevsky would be like, “Man, that’s messed up.” Seriously. Harry Potter is like that only less traumatizing. It’s got a 5th grade layer but there’s way more beneath that surface. It’s taught in college lit classes. Dissertations have been written on it.
  • helenharrishelenharris Alum Member
    edited April 2016 72 karma
    Seriously for someone has the most trouble with law passages like me, I think reading law reviews would be really helpful. I only checked Yale Law Review but I guess most of them are freebies online. Another thing that I think is really helpful is my American Constitutional History class, and reading materials are just on the topic. Unlike many people, I've never struggled with science passages, and I think the reason is that as a BS major I just read so many things about science in my whole life. Backgrounds definitely help.
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Yearly Member Sage 🍌
    25635 karma
    @kotokochan said:
    Backgrounds definitely help.
    True dat. I got a passage on Latin literature during the English Enlightenment and I’m like, please. I have run into things though where I have an informed opinion and strongly disagree with the author. That can be tricky.
  • runiggyrunruniggyrun Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    2481 karma
    @allison.gill.sanford thank you for creating this thread. It's sometimes helpful to stop and think about how we do something, and RC is the most difficult section to "explain". I also believe it's the section where it's most difficult to adopt a pre-made approach - unlike LG, where most people come with no previous experience, most of us are used to reading in a certain way, and we've done it for a long time. The mismatches between our natural style and the RC requirements can vary greatly, and a strategy that addresses my mismatches might make yours worse. So, it's great someone is collating diverse perspectives instead of looking for the magic bullet everybody seems to want these days.

    My perspective is that of someone who's improved relatively little in RC over time - it's always been a good, not perfect section, so what I have to say might be of limited interest. What I did notice is that I do better on the very recent PT's, so it might be useful for those who find recent PT's more challenging.

    I try to read for structure - that's been covered by multiple people before, but it bears repeating, because I bet a lot of people run out of time because they try to understand everything they are reading.
    For all but the science passages, I'm not very bothered if I don't understand what the author is saying, as long as I understand why he's saying it and how it fits with the rest of the passage. I don't need to know what "polychromatic harmonies of sound" are, just that this guy does them and this other one doesn't.

    I do try to get a mental picture of what's going on in the science passages, because I found that the questions for those are more likely to test you on inferences drawn from the facts (like the stripes of the ocean floor, the planet orbit passages, the wave theory, and so on). The science passages tend to use much more clear and direct language with less existential fluff, so it's usually possible to imagine in your head what the author is talking about.

    For comparative passages, I very quickly scan the questions and mark those that reference a single passage. I answer those right after I read that passage. As I read passage B, I try to make a note when I encounter a concept or phrase that's already been discussed in Passage A. That usually comes up in questions.

    My annotation system, which has greatly evolved over time, now includes almost exclusively indicators of structure, tone and strength, plus random things I find important (I sometimes find that underlining helps me focus, even if I don't go back to the notes)
    I find those to be especially helpful for the newer passages, where they ask you to make subtle inferences that can be sussed out by paying attention to those indicators.
    Indicators of structure: Question marks; But; Also; Nevertheless; First; Second; Also; Furthermore; Others; However; Finally; Therefore and so on.
    Indicators of tone: Fortunately; unfortunately; critical, crucial, radical, paramount, welcome, unexpected, beneficial etc I also pay attention to words like "conveniently leaves out" or "rather presumptuously" that would in any normal conversation tip you off about the author's opinion of the things discussed.
    Indicators of strength: Certainty: proves; demonstrates; shows; will; is; Uncertainty: could, potentially, might, don't know, hypothesis, believe, theory, postulates, possibly; Doubt/skepticism/opposition: unlikely, questionable, mistaken and so on.

    I'm not advocating learning a list of these (or any list for that matter) - just the general practice of paying attention to these kinds of words.

    That's all I got. I love reading what other people have to say, so hopefully a lot of Sagers can chime in.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    I've probably mentioned this too many times by now, but I find it to be applicable here, especially since it's more of a concrete tip - perhaps my only one in RC. Some tougher main point questions may have you in sweats, especially if they're in the beginning of the section. These should be easy, right? An understanding of the passage should allow you to get this with almost absolute certainty, right? Well, technically, yes, but some of the answer choices in these main point questions aren't quite perfect, leaving you to do what feels like splitting hairs. In this case, it has helped me tremendously to skip these questions after having given them some thought. I finish the rest of the questions in the particular passage and go back to the main point question. This to me is a "use the test to beat the test" strategy that has served me well, since the other questions almost always clear up my understanding of the primary focus of the passage (and more importantly, what is not of primary concern). This strategy could conceivably lead you to select an incorrect choice for main point questions, as the other questions could steer you the wrong way. Even so, this hasn't yet happened to me.
  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma
    @runiggyrun's tip on comparative passages is one I use as well. It definitely helps.
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