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pre-reading questions on reading comprehension

lewis.waringlewis.waring Alum Member
edited May 2014 in General 68 karma
I was under the impression that, on reading comprehension, reading the questions before you read the passage was a bad idea and a waste of time. However, I have been struggling with reading comprehension lately, and so wanted to experiment with some new techniques.
I decided to read the questions ahead of time. Specifically, I read for the details. I tried my method out on PrepTest 60. On one of the passages, I noticed that about three questions were about a group called the 'New Urbanists." Also, I found one question that mentioned a specific line, and marked this in the passage. Basically, I took a note of the concept in each question. This probably took me 15 seconds.

That ended up changing the way I read the passage. I now read with a focus on those details I had just scanned. It made the right parts of the passage pop out and ultimately led me to be able to finish all four passages (which I had been struggling to do).
This approach just make reading comprehension a lot more straightforward because I approached the passage with a direction instead of feeling around for which details would be important.
I would compare it to reading the question stem before doing a logical reasoning question. It seems similar to me because reading an RC passage without reading the questions beforehand gives me the same feeling that reading a logical reasoning stimulus without knowing the question stem. A feeling of foreboding about what would be coming at the end. I tried to retain what I'd read in the stimulus, but was always jarred by the need to contemplate the question stem and its effect on the passage. I find reading the questions for the first time after reading a passage is like someone pushing me while I'm trying to balance on a ball or something. It's such an effort to stuff the passage into my brain that trying to juggle the questions and their effects on the passage really throws me off.
By having a heads up on the questions, I am able to search my way through the passage instead of stumble my way through.

It made me wonder if somehow logic games might benefit from the same approach?


  • alexanderalexander Alum Member
    81 karma
    I think it will help with those specific questions for details, but generally speaking I think it will hurt you on grasping the main point and the m.p./primary purpose questions if you are focusing on the details.

    On a related note, sometime I DO look at the questions beforehand...but only for double passages to check if any of the questions can be answered by reading only one of the passages, then I answer that question, and read the remaining passage.
  • thelocal711thelocal711 Free Trial Member
    72 karma
    I see why you would pre-read but I think that the reasons why you would are also encapsulated in ID'ing the main point, structure and purpose of the passage... Pretty much every question you are looking for through the pre-read is a function of the purpose/MP.

    If you have time, maybe consider taking one passage and just reading it for structure. Do it untimed and focus in on organization of the overall passage as well as within the paragraphs. See if you can ID the purpose of what the author is trying to convey, the main point and the passage scope. Write down what you think those are as BRIEFLY as possible and also write out a quick abstract summary of each paragraphs organization:
    P1 observation+view 1,
    P2 new view+characteristics of new view,
    P3 compare&contrast V1 V2,
    P4 support why author likes V2.
    Use just keywords to boil it down. Then approach the questions in the set and answer as many as you can based on those elements only. Dont refer back to the passage for anything. I'm betting that a majority of the questions except 1 or 2 at most can be answered off of that information alone. You might not get them all right as you work out the kinks of this system but as you get better at doing this process. You will notice you go back to the passage substantially less and even when you have to, you know exactly where to look and youve probably already eliminated 2-3 questions because they dont match the MP/scope/purpose you have already identified. This holds true for virtually all passages. The idea is that you do this process enough that you commit it to your short term memory and dont have to write it down and the process is sped up to allow for adequate timing.

    See if that process (untimed) makes the questions any easier for you compared to reading them upfront and then answering them. I'd be curious to hear what your results are.
  • thelocal711thelocal711 Free Trial Member
    72 karma
    also for what it's worth... shorthand for me to what I have noted above as passage structure would be:
    P1 obs + V1
    P2 V2 + char V2
    P3 C&C V1V2
    P4 V2 supp + author=V2
  • ONuellaOONuellaO Alum Member
    210 karma
    @thelocal711 Thank you very much for that! i'm so bad at notating that it most definitely slows me down when i'm always trying to write everything down!
  • lewis.waringlewis.waring Alum Member
    68 karma
    Awesome perspectives, that is great advice. I am going to test it out today.
    My only worry is... where am I going to get fresh passages to mess around with?
  • thelocal711thelocal711 Free Trial Member
    72 karma
    @ONuellaO there is a great article on the lsatblog about that kind of notation that was a game-changer for me. He basically advocates one simple set of annotations to keep track of in the margins:

    V1 viewpoint 1 (ex. traditional theory)
    V2 viewpoint 2 (new theory)
    [sometimes V3, etc -> authors view differing from the other two..]

    A1 advocates of V1
    A2 advocates of V2

    E1 evidence of V1 (support of any kind)
    E2 evidence of V2

    Whenever you see any of these mark them down each time. And he also suggests (which i try to do as well) is to translate V1 and A1 in to a descriptive word using "V1'ist"

    Passage 56.1 -> Novelists V Folktalists.. It kind of helps you visualize the passage and possibly keep you a bit more engaged...

    Of course, there are certain passages that this may not be the best approach but it's a solid guideline to base a concise system of annotations on
  • thelocal711thelocal711 Free Trial Member
    72 karma
    Repeat old passages.. Trust me, a once through on any part of the LSAT is not enough. Just pick a number 1-70 and repeat the RC section or google "hardest LSAT reading comp" and do those or just pick up any random test and repeat the section.

    One of my biggest problems was decision paralysis... I had too many options and I wouldnt just pick something because I was afraid of not picking the best possible option. Dont worry about it, the idea is to work as much within the LSAT as possible. Grab any old practice test and run with it!
  • lewis.waringlewis.waring Alum Member
    68 karma
    I'm glad you mentioned the V E A approach because I came across that blog and that method made a lot of sense to me, but after reviewing the approach advocated on 7sage I decided it might be counterproductive for me to take on that approach.
    Also, I couldn't understand the distinction between V and A.
    I imagine a sentence like "The greenists thought that green was the best."
    I wouldn't be sure whether to make this as V or A.
    It expresses a viewpoint, but it also features an advocate of that viewpoint.

    I understood E to mean the 'evidence,' which to me included the argument for any given point.
  • lewis.waringlewis.waring Alum Member
    edited May 2014 68 karma
    Does it work like this?

    eg (A1) Dr. Soandso is an advocate of
    (V1) Natural Medicine Theory.... is a "natural medicinist," because
    (E1) he thinks natural medicine works great, and so recommends its use to all of his patients.
  • lewis.waringlewis.waring Alum Member
    68 karma
    is the viewpoint the argument-as-a-whole, as in premises+conclusion?
    Also, is evidence merely evidence, as in studies and empirical justification? Or does it include examples?

    My understanding would be to mark like this

    Math matters. For example, math has been used for many good things.

    (VP1) |Math matters.
    |For example, math has been used for many good things.

    Math matters. Random University did a study which demonstrated math's importance.

    (VP1) |Math matters.
    (E1^VP1) |Random University did a study which demonstrated math's importance.
  • lewis.waringlewis.waring Alum Member
    68 karma
    Here's a real example from PT 60 that I don't understand how to mark.

    "Suburban housing subdivisions, Duany and his colleagues add, usually contain homes identical not only in appearance but also in etc etc."
    I could see that this sentence is a viewpoint, but also an advocate.
  • thelocal711thelocal711 Free Trial Member
    edited May 2014 72 karma
    Have you seen the "scale" that Manhattan uses in RC? I think that might clarify what I was trying to get across in a better manner...


    In short you write or visualize the scale at the end of your passage read like this:

    A1-------------|-------- A2
    -Author |

    V1 and V2 represent the different views relating to a central subject of the passage. If it's a phenomenon observed and a hypothesis is introduced to explain it, then that would be your V1. If another comes up then that's V2. Anyone that you can flesh out of the passage that agrees with that hypothesis in any way would be A1. When that hypothesis (V1) is supported through an example or analogy or anything in the passage then that will be E1. Thinking about the scale while I read helps me to address the point of contention, polarize the sides of the point clearly and see where (if at all) the author resides. Where the author resides is always important because that will clue you in on the author's purpose for writing the passage. It will always relate back to the central issue that divides the scale up between the different viewpoints of the passage.

    Annotating with the V/E/A helps me to keep a quick and loose organization of the passage as I read and to help guide me back in to the right part of the passage if the question calls for it. For example "The critics referred to in paragraph two would most likely agree to which of the following claims about post-modern abstract paintings as described in the passage" I would quickly be able to ID the critics in question looking back at the passage for an A1 or A2 in the margin around the second paragraph, match that to the (V)iewpoint on the scale and the corresponding (E)vidence and then apply that to the question.
  • thelocal711thelocal711 Free Trial Member
    edited May 2014 72 karma
    It's more of just a routine I've learned to follow to stay actively engaged in reading the passages. I treat each passage kind of like unboxing a jigsaw puzzle for the first time. The pieces are scattered and disheveled, some flipped upside down and others backward. The idea is that as you read the passage, you start flipping over the pieces (viewpoints, advocates and evidence...) and organizing them in order to connect them correctly to one another. Once you have all the pieces identified then you can properly connect them to each other to form the full picture of the scale. Each sentence in a passage serves as a puzzle piece that is used to create the whole picture.

    What I enjoy about envisioning it this way is that even if I am unsure of exactly how a particular sentence or two fits in to the overall puzzle, I can "infer" what that piece should look like based on the pieces I have assembled around that gap. For instance, if a question asks "the primary purpose of the first sentence of the second paragraph is most likely to..." and that happens to be something I just couldnt wrap my head around, I can look at the context surrounding it and apply that logic to the bigger picture and more times than not, arrive at the correct answer.

    The questions are all designed to test:
    -your understanding of the individual "puzzle pieces" (detail questions like "the author mentions all these about X, except..."),
    -your understanding of how they relate to the full picture that they come together to create (inference, authors tone, function)
    -the full picture (Main point, passage purpose, global inference).

    ALL the questions are finding different ways to confirm the same thing: did you put the puzzle together correctly?

    this might not work for anyone else but me so my apologies for the overkill rant ahead of time. I hope that if this isn't your system, that it will, at least, push you closer to narrowing down what is. good luck!
  • jschmi25jschmi25 Alum Member
    62 karma
    I firmly believe that I can blame reading comp for the recent greying of my hair..and I am 22.
  • lewis.waringlewis.waring Alum Member
    68 karma
    Beautifully written. Very helpful.
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