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My RC strategy that got me to -0

TheoryandPracticeTheoryandPractice Alum Member
edited March 2017 in Reading Comprehension 1008 karma

Hi everyone,

I'd like to share a RC strategy that's been working for me.
I'm just trying to give back to this community that has given me much.

Quick note about me:
When I first began the LSAT prep, I didn't think that I needed to focus on RC much, due to my arrogance.I majored in Political Science (Political Theory) and got a master's degree in humanities. I'm very used to critically reading and analyzing dense, complex materials. I also happened to get a perfect score on GRE verbal. I didn't have much trouble with the GRE RC passages, so I thought that my experience would be the same for the LSAT passages.

I was wrong.

When I first timed myself, I realized that I go over 10 min easily per passage, with 1+ wrong. I'd be missing on average 5 questions wrong per section, way over the allotted time. Since then, I have been studying and researching various RC strategies to help me, such as Nicole's webinar, Corey's active reading webinar and @"Cant Get Right" 's, (they were also super duper helpful. I really highly recommend watching them), some discussion postings from here (the posting from @theforms is also very helpful) , some from TSL, Mike Kim's trainer, etc.

After synthesizing my own strategy and using it, I am now consistently 2~3 min under with 0-2 wrong per section.

Here's my synthesized strategy from the various resources above.

Success to RC = a seamless integration of 1. active reading + 2.reading for structure.

My strategy is on how to INTEGRATE the two. I'm not going to go into details on explaining what is each, because there are many resources out there already.

Before I go over my strategy, I will still briefly mention what active reading and reading for structure are.

What is an active reading? It is engaging with the reading as if one is having a dialogue. Think of it as active listening; it is about being totally present, but mindfully detached. We all know some of the crucial techniques to actively read well. Below are the especially effective techniques for me.

1) Reference phrasing- cannot emphasize this enough. If you don't know what this is, go to CC and watch the part on it
2) Visualizing- I find this technique priceless. Basically, try to visualize the abstract material you are reading, if you have a hard time processing. Treat the difficult sentence as a scene in the movie and try to picture it in your mind. This helps with retention and understanding.
3) What question is a sentence responding to? This is another technique that I find extremely useful in capturing the essence of each sentence.
Here's an example sentence. "LSAT passages are like paper tigers: they appear to be formidable at first, but get easier over time."
When you encounter the sentence, think about what question would prompt the above sentence as an answer. My question would be, "how difficult are the LSAT passages?" Here, it helps you to articulate the essence of the sentence: It is about the difficulty of the LSAT passages.

Reading for structure
- Basically reading for relationships.
- How do the concepts/ themes interact with one another?
- How do the sentences interact with another? what are their relationships?
- How do the paragraphs interact with one another?
Like I said, I won't get into the details of reading for structure.

Now here's the crucial integration piece I'd like to share with you- how active reading and reading for structure integrate and feed off from one another.

The key is to
Step 1. find the central theme (the key subject matter that forms a basis for an argument, hypothesis, claim, finding, problem) in the opening paragraph and treat each sentence as revealing the aspects of that central theme. Compile the aspects of the central theme as you are reading, and add them on to the central theme. This is pretty abstruse, so I will use an example (PT 32 Passage 4 opening paragraph) to explain.

sentence 1: something about wine. - (hold this in thought as you are reading. Something about wine is the central theme)
sentence 2: wine - distinct. (Here's an aspect of the central theme, wine: it is distinct. try to utilize the active reading techniques mentioned above. What question would the sentence be answering?
sentence 3: wine- distinct b/c of health benefits (there's another aspect. It is distinct. Why? Because it has health benefits)
sentence 4: wine- distinct health benefits- obscured by the scientists.

Do you see what I am doing? I am simply adding on and connecting the previous information to the new information. Going from simply "wine," the central theme as revealed by sentence 1, I now have a more clear picture about this central theme and its aspects by sentence 4.

The paragraph ends here. What do I have now in sentence 4, the last sentence?
The scientists (who? go back to sentence 1) have obscured the healthful benefits of wine that other alcoholic beverages do not have.

Step 2. Find the structure.
What does this compilation of the central theme + its aspects signify? What does it mean? Why did the author write this?
Simply try to articulate using this mantra, "the author is trying to..." with the compilation that you have at the end of the paragraph.
The author is trying to... 1. suggest that wine has a health benefit that other alcoholic beverages do not have (this is the author's position) 2. counter "the scientists."

So think of having 2 mental columns as you are reading.
The left column: find a central theme--> find the essential aspects of this theme in each subsequent sentence and add on to the central theme found. (like what I did above. wine-> wine is distinct -> wine is distinct in x way -> wine is distinct for x way but that distinction has been obscured by Y)
The right column: after each paragraph, think about the final compilation in the left column and simply ask, "why did the author write this?" Why did the author write that "wine is distinct for x way but t hat distinction has been obscured by Y?" The answer to this question = the purpose of each paragraph.

Repeat this for each paragraph.

Using this strategy, I read the passage in about 4:15 min and answered the questions in 4 min. Total: 8:15 and 30 seconds under the allotted time / passage.


  • partyondudespartyondudes Alum Member
    424 karma

    Thanks @TheoryandPractice! This is great! Do you take notes as you go or is it more like JY's memory method?

  • tanes256tanes256 Alum Member
    2573 karma

    @TheoryandPractice whoa! This is great broken down like this. How in the world did you come to this and then be able to articulate it so well? I understood everything word for word without even looking at a passage. Kudos!

  • AlexAlex Alum Member
    23929 karma

    Great Job! In many ways reminds me of The Trainers approach sprinkled in with some 7Sage. But you definitely added your own touch. I'm very big if you look at my previous posts on the method of LOCI for RC. That is basically the visualizing part. It totally helps me keep track of the important things you are laying out!

    Again, great strategy! :)

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Mellow_ZMellow_Z Alum Member
    1997 karma

    Awesome write up. I've been looking for some RC inspiration lately and this is definitely it.

  • sarahmelton6sarahmelton6 Alum Member
    169 karma

    I think this is going to help me have a better mindset while reading a passage. Awesome job explaining this process. Thanks so much!

  • poohbearpoohbear Alum Member
    496 karma

    Absolutely love how you break it down. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  • annewr253annewr253 Legacy Member
    439 karma

    Thank you for this!

  • dennisgerrarddennisgerrard Alum Member
    1639 karma

    Thanks for sharing.

  • flashyyyyflashyyyy Legacy Member
    29 karma

    ah! Well met

  • PomegranatePomegranate Alum Member
    572 karma

    Thank you for sharing this!

  • TheDeterminedCTheDeterminedC Alum Member
    1009 karma

    Thank you for this!

  • TheoryandPracticeTheoryandPractice Alum Member
    1008 karma

    @partyondudes Hi! I try to notate minimally, but more with arrows. For example, in the example passage above, I would simply draw arrows directly on the passage from lipids to heart diseases to visually show that they are related.
    @tanes256 Thanks! It took countless trials and errors to refine the strategies and countless hours explaining to myself what works and what doesn't.

  • RRH1616_RRH1616_ Alum Member
    45 karma

    Thank you so much for sharing! I'm struggling with RC and welcome all tips/advice :smile:

  • BigshootsBigshoots Alum Member
    84 karma

    Thank you!

  • pigmentosapigmentosa Alum Member
    6 karma

    I do something similar to this, IE read the paragraph and integrate it into a coherent picture or argument, ie looking at the big picture except I also highlight salient points and details that stick out. The idea is that I have a coherent meta-idea, but when I highlight a point I can acknowledge how it can modify the argument, but without focusing too greatly on it.

    Since a fair majority of RC is drawn from introductions of academic papers, it more or less makes sense that the author is trying to give you enough information to understand an argument, but wants you to stick to the argument in itself. The highlighted points would be referential/background detail while the bigger picture is the argument that is being made.

  • beyondsblue-1beyondsblue-1 Alum Member
    30 karma

    This is really great. As English as is my second language, RC is especially a formidable section. Thank you @TheoryandPractice taken the time to break this section down, and share it with the rest of us.

  • meletzyoshermeletzyosher Member
    66 karma

    I do not have the CC. What exactly is Reference Phrasing?

  • Redentore3337Redentore3337 Alum Member
    350 karma

    Can you do one of these for LR? LOL... No seriously please

  • tlathher12tlathher12 Alum Member
    26 karma

    @meletzyosher said:
    I do not have the CC. What exactly is Reference Phrasing?

    A phrase or word that stands in place of somethings that has already been said.

    Typically, these are pronouns.

    Tigers are beautiful but vicious animals. THEY hunt and kill their prey..blah blah blah.

    Who/what is "THEY" refering to? It's refering to tigers. This was a very simple example. The LSAT writers are much more creative and deceptive in the way they use referential phrasing.

  • LCMama2017LCMama2017 Alum Member
    2134 karma

    @"samantha.ashley92" thought this post may interest you.

  • meletzyoshermeletzyosher Member
    66 karma

    @tlathher12 thx
    @Redentore3337 a big timing issue for me was spacing out while reading. Working on reading comp helps for this. But the most important thing ever in LR was to identify the conclusion. Always have the conclusion in your head and then identify the evidence to support it. So you should be thinking in your head "conclusion because etc." This is paramount when doing strengthen/weaken. You really have to know what part of the stim you are attacking or supporting.

  • AshleighKAshleighK Alum Member
    786 karma

    @Redentore3337 said:
    Can you do one of these for LR? LOL... No seriously please


  • samantha.ashley92samantha.ashley92 Alum Member
    1777 karma

    @LCMama2017 thanks for thinking of me! I'm definitely going to try this. I should also be getting my LSAT Trainer book in the mail soon (mostly interested in RC speed tips).

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