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Really struggling with RC

kmarie7kmarie7 Alum Member
in General 208 karma
I have posted about this before, but my struggle is only getting worse. I just hit an all time low on the RC section. -5 below my diagnostic. I am not sure what to do. I know its hard to improve, but I am taking a huge step in the wrong direction. ANY suggestions? Would love to hear from people who improved their RC scores. REALLY need some motivation.


  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    3545 karma
    There are 2 things you need in order to attack RC:
    1) You need a reading strategy that doesn't fail you.
    2) You need to be aware of wrong answer characteristics.

    Can you walk us through how you go through a passage and answering questions? How long does it take you? What do you underline/highlight? How do you approach questions?
  • kmarie7kmarie7 Alum Member
    208 karma
    I'm really in need of a method. I have begun trying the memory method for 7Sage, but seem to be highlighting 90% of the passage. Other than that I have been kind of just reading the passages and answering the questions. It's taking me a rather long time, and I'm not usually able to finish all passages. I have just subscribed to the New Yorker and Economist in hopes to start getting more familiar with the types of writings. Would love to hear a method that you suggest!
  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited July 2016 3545 karma
    So I've taken a lot of stuff from all over the place (Manhattan, LSAT trainer, @"Nicole Hopkins") and these are the annotations that best help me in no particular order:
    1) Box key terms + names
    2) Circle words that indicate pivots/qualifications (e.g, however, yet, also)
    3) Circle words/phrases that indicate author's tone/opinion (e.g, undeniable, undesirable, not enough)
    4) Write "EX" next to examples
    5) Number any lists (e.g, monetary prosperity has three characteristics -- I'd number the characteristics so I can refer to them easily)
    6) Underline the main point and write MP next to it

    After reading, I'll double check to make sure what I identified as the main point is actually the main point.

    I'll typically read a passage in 3/3:30 minutes but I'm trying to get that down.

    When I approach the questions, I try to pre phrase the correct answer as much as possible. I've come to realize this means more than writing the correct content like "MP = economy." Rather, I need a more nuanced pre phrase that incorporates things like authors attitude or details that I know are relevant such as "MP = economy can be improved with x and y policies." I've found that the better my prepares, the better my accuracy. And, to have a better pre phrase, I need a better read (hence, annotation method).

    The answer choices are typically incorrect for the following reasons:
    - wrong modality (typically too strong but occasionally too weak)
    - subject shift (might be too narrowly focused on one subject in one paragraph rather than the whole passage or might be too broadly focused rather than the instance given -- like worrying about the global economy when the passage only talks about Canada's economy)
    - partly true (these are the devil- they're answer choices that take language directly from the passage so you assume it's correct but hen is misapplied to the wrong context)

    There are others but those are the ones that come to the top of my head. Let me know if you have any questions :)
  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    3545 karma
    I'll note the annotation that has so far paid the most dividends for me is circling words indicating author's tone. It's really strengthened my RC accuracy over the past 4 RC sections and held it at a -2.
  • kmarie7kmarie7 Alum Member
    208 karma
    THANK YOU SO MUCH! This seems like a method that may work for me. I spend a lot of time looking for author tones and examples.
  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Yearly Member Sage 🍌
    25703 karma
    @kmarie7 said:
    seem to be highlighting 90% of the passage.
    The first book I ever annotated was Cat's Cradle in high school. I've been annotating everything I read since, and it's so funny to go back and read my notes in that. I literally underlined the entire book. That was because A) Kurt Vonnegut is an incredible writer and every word he ever put down is worth noting, and B) I had no idea how to annotate. It is a skill that sharpens with practice. So when you get in Economist and NYer, annotate as you read. After a few days, go back and reread. It will be really funny. Learn from the weird shit you underlined and have no clue why.

    Another thing to consider is big picture stuff. The main annotation error I still find myself making is I'll underline or box things that are just too broad. Annotation is for highlighting details and subtleties. The big stuff is just what the passage is about and you have to be able to hold that in your mind. Marking that kind of thing is when you end up underlying an entire passage (or novel!).

    Focus is also very important in reading. We've all been reading only to realize we have absolutely no memory of the last three pages. (This also happens with driving sometimes, a little more frightening.) You simply must avoid this. It's easy enough to reread, but there just isn't time. You've got to maintain intensive and unbroken focus when you're reading. Get curious about the topic. A lot of times, I really do find the passages interesting. I've even looked up a few topics for further reading. I also create a cadence for myself by tapping the lines as I read. If I zone out, the cadence is broken and I realize it immediately instead of two paragraphs later.

    At the end of each paragraph, pause. Briefly mull over what you've just read and what it really means and what the author's attitude about it is. Project forward and try to guess at what's coming next. It doesn't matter if you're right or not, but it helps you because you actively engage yourself and you have expectations when you continue. As those expectations are either met or denied, you will remain engaged and the direction of the passage should be more conspicuous to you. Similarly, pause after completing the passage and recap it. This seems really simple (and is) and the benefits it provides are actually quite significant.
  • amipp_93amipp_93 Alum Member
    585 karma
    ^that last paragraph is literally beautiful.
  • leejayleeleejaylee Alum Member
    edited July 2016 218 karma
    RC is different from everyone. I feel like you have to find your own way through it. For me, a passage that may be considered a level 5 difficulty is much easier than some with a level 2 or level 3 difficulty.

    I use this as a guideline: Don't focus too much on specifics/details like you would with Logical Reasoning.

    For majority of the RC questions, you can attempt the questions WITHOUT going back to the passage. You should have a solid foundation of the passage. If you go back to the passage => that's another 15-30 seconds added on to the section. Of course, there are questions which refer to certain lines in the passage, where in this case, it makes sense to refer back to the passage.

    What works for me doesn't mean it'll work for you. However like some people said above:

    1) After each paragraph, I quickly reflect (5-10 seconds) about what I just read about. I ask myself questions like: what's the main idea of this paragraph?

    2) As I read along, I ask other questions such as: are there several different viewpoints and perspectives? Are we comparing two things or three things?

    3) At the end of the passage, quickly, what's the main idea of this whole thing? If I can't think of one, then, I make sure I understand the main idea for each paragraph.

    For #3, there are certainly cases where I don't know the main idea of the passage, and I struggle to think of one after I have read it. There is probably going to be a question about the main idea of the passage. To solve these questions, I take the main ideas for each paragraph, and order them quickly depending on their "priorities". Some ideas are obviously going to seem much important than others.

    I BARELY mark my passage. I have some underlines here and there for phrases I think are important, (important premises/conclusions/sub-conclusions). There are some circles for different perspectives. Overall, it's rarely touched when compared to my logical reasoning sections.

    The most important thing in RC is focus and concentrate. You only have 3-4 minutes to read the passage. Grab and absorb all the information you can (in a broad way - you DO NOT have to know every single thing from the passage). Think of them as COOL FACTS in a way... "Oh man, this is so cool, I am so intrigued!".

    For 5-6 question passages, I try to finish them under 7-8 minutes.
    For 7-8 question passages, I try to finish them under 9-10 minutes.
    (obviously this defers on the type of passage, but usually, longer questions will take longer to finish)

    It's taken me awhile to figure out my RC style. I've looked at a lot of guides, but I realized I do my best when I follow my intuition and my "own self-belief" in a way. A way that may work for you is a combination of these guides and I hope you find it soon =). Keep working at it!
  • bjphillips5bjphillips5 Alum Member
    1137 karma
    So many of the above comments are really helpful. Thank you @leejaylee @"Cant Get Right" @blah170blah

    The only thoughts I have to offer are you aren't alone. As I've loosely experimented with other methods, I've just confused my own RC approach and gotten worse. My aim this week is to focus mostly on developing a solid RC approach that I'm comfortable with. That means I'm going to do individual passages trying different strategies. See what works and what doesn't and then try to ingrain those habits/strategies into my automatic mode for RC. I may delay taking another PT until I feel more comfortable. Hopefully we both find something that works for us @kmarie7 !!
  • JerseyRhk3JerseyRhk3 Alum Member
    114 karma
    hey @kmarie7 I've also had an uphill battle with RC. I've seen improvements in my other sections using the methods employed here on 7sage, but the memory method for reading comp hasn't exactly clicked for me. However, I definitely don't think you should feel discouraged. With slow and grueling practice you will see improvements. Personally, I've found one of @"Nicole Hopkins" RC methods to be particularly useful for me, and I've really been seeing the improvements I've been hoping for. Considering I'm still far from where I need my RC to be, this is certainly not a silver bullet. Additionally, I'm not even sure if Nicole still endorses/recommends this method because I did have to do quite a bit of digging in some very old RC threads to find it... but the method is as follows:
    1. Read the passage once through very quickly, following each line with the tip of the pencil... (not underlining)
    2. On this first read, use the toolbox method. Box names, dates, and terms that are defined. Also mark pivots
    3. The first read is all about marking up the important details.. You can think of it as drawing the outline of a picture before you color it in. (Be wary not to mark your whole passage as this would be a waste of time)
    4. On the Second read (not really a full read), go through and identify what the main points are and use brief notations in the margins if need be. (This step is the coloring in of your picture)

    Note that these are not the exact words Nicole used.... they are just the general notes I took from her post from a while ago.

    I've found this method useful for me because I've had a difficult time finding my sweet spot in terms of how much of the passage/details I should be focusing in on, vs what are the structural components that are crucial to answering the questions correctly. Previously, I would either spend too much time trying to understand the passage (particularly details that I didn't need to answer the questions), or I would too quickly try and skim the passage for the structure and miss the information necessary to solve the global questions correctly. I usually finish with the passage in 3.5 minutes using this method which is right around the recommended time to spend on the passage. In the LSAT Trainer Mike Kim talks about focusing on the forest and not the individuals trees, so I've found that quickly using the toolbox method to establish where my individual trees are, and then quickly going back over the passage to gain an understanding of what the "forest" is has been useful.

    Good luck!
  • rbg.wellsrbg.wells Legacy Member
    11 karma
    I honestly do better on RC when I just read the passage and answer the questions and don't try to get cute with annotations and note taking. All of that just seems to distract me, but if I just simply read the passage just like a read a book and then answer the questions then I will get 90 percent of them right and I will be faster.
  • LSAT StudentLSAT Student Alum Member
    156 karma
    I honestly have the most success just reading the passage and answering the questions.. I might underline some things but most of the time I just go in with laser sharp focus and fake interest in what I am reading. I feel like RC is a lot about just focusing on what you are reading. A lot of the time it is boring and dry but just try to fake interest. That is what works for me but of course everyone is different and it might be a bad strategy for you.
  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    3545 karma
    ^^ evidence = one size does not fit all.

    I'll note that my RC strategy also needed revision as I got to the newer PTs so I adopted a pretty different strategy than the one I'd been using. This also underlines the importance of using newer PTs in your study.
  • NanchitoNanchito Yearly Member
    1754 karma
    Bookmarking this thread. It's gold.
  • blah170blahblah170blah Alum Inactive ⭐
    3545 karma
    @diefor170 I think you'll find some answers to your question here :)
  • diefor170diefor170 Legacy Member
    129 karma
    @gabriellatkj I am tagging you :)
  • sunnyp89sunnyp89 Legacy Member
    edited July 2016 28 karma
    You are not alone .. I have been struggling with RC as well. During my BR I go through the passage and do well, averaging around 6 to 7 incorrect (for me thats well lol) However, during timed tests Im on average losing 11 to 12 marks, which is frustrating. I have noticed improvements with pausing after a paragraph trying to understand wth have I just read and summarizing the MP of the paragraph. Using this method it helps in locating where things might be in answering questions and to go over some questions without referring to the text. I'm sure with more passages we read and work on it will become second nature :)
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