Sometimes the difference between getting a point right or wrong on the LSAT test is simply a matter of being able to eliminate the wrong answers. During the extreme pressure of test day, you may not even know why the right answer is right. But thanks to your steady preparation, you know why the wrong answers are wrong. A point is a point, anyway, and know one is going to ask how you got your 172 after the fact.
While it is true that the best way to a high score on the LSAT Reading Comprehension section is to study and practice as many passages as you can, many of our students have told us that the tip contained in this article may be the best LSAT reading tip they learned.
This is the third article in a series of articles about reading on the LSAT test. The series includes:
The Best LSAT Reading Tip
What is the best LSAT reading tip? Stop unnecessary rereading.
One of the most common errors test takers make is rereading a passage or a sentence over and over until they feel comfortable with their understanding of it. This forces a detail-oriented mindset and not a main-idea mindset.
You should never reread a passage. You simply don’t have time and if you missed something important, the LSAT will ask you about it and you’ll know where to find it later.
This takes discipline and lots of practice. Each time you allow yourself to reread a passage, you’re training your mind not to pay attention the first time around. If you actively refuse to reread you will force better concentration habits to emerge. It will be tough at first because you’ll think you’ll be lost if you didn’t catch the first sentence or two right out of the gate. Just start paying attention earlier.
Rereading is often the result of panic. First, you panic that you’re taking the LSAT so you’re not concentrating on the passage. Second, since you missed a sentence or two, you panic and reread them several times. There are two things to keep in mind about LSAT passages that will help you give up on your habit of rereading.
First, realize that most LSAT passages are truncated anyway, so you’re missing big parts of the passage to begin with. So what’s the harm if you miss a couple more sentences or details here or there. When you read an article in a science magazine, the introduction to that article will typically start with a clear description of the topic, scope, and purpose of the article and might even throw in some nice definitions of terms and jargon. The LSAT lovingly cuts those user-friendly sections out so you start in midstream. So if you start a sentence or two late, don’t sweat it, just move on.
Second, remember this is an open book test. The passage is right there in front of you to reference later – if you need to. There are tens or maybe even hundreds of little details in every passage, but you’ll only get six to eight questions about each passage. What are the odds that the little detail you missed being worth a point later? Very slim. So don’t waste time rereading, just know the main idea of each paragraph so you can find the details later.
You’ll be surprised how many correct inferences and guesses you can make about a passage without reading and rereading every detail. Train yourself in every thing you read – read once and move on.
Active Reading Includes the Questions
Another reason you don’t need to spend time rereading difficult passages is that the Reading Comprehension questions on the LSAT test contain valuable information. Don’t give up on your active reading skills when you’re done with an argument or passage. A key part of active reading and the TestSherpa method in the Logical Reasoning section involves reading the question stem before you read the argument. With six to eight questions for every passage, you don’t have time to read all the questions before you read the passage. Besides, you’d be missing the main point of the passage by concentrating on all those questions while you’re reading.
But active reading continues into the questions. If you’re still a little shaky on the main idea of the passage, the main idea question will help you firm it up. The test is handing you the main idea over in one of those answer choices. Read them actively to see what matches your paraphrases and guesses, and then use that information to understand the passage even better. Some students read the main idea question after reading only a paragraph or two because find the main idea in the test-maker’s language helps them understand the rest of the passage.
Your understanding of tone and scope will also be firmed up in the questions since many of the wrong answers involve the wrong tone or a scope that is either too broad or too narrow.
Summary LSAT Reading Tips
- Active reading is a critical skill for all the sections of the LSAT – practice it everyday in every thing you read
- When reading a passage, remember the LSAT is in a vacuum — don’t worry about technical terms, jargon or what’s true in the real world
- Don’t worry about the many details in a passage, just make your own paraphrases of the main ideas
- Pay attention to how the author forms the passage, especially key words, tone and scope
- Make guesses about why the author wrote the passage and where the passage is going
- Train yourself to never reread a phrase if you weren’t paying attention the first time – it probably won’t matter later anyway
- Continue reading actively into the questions
Now that you’ve finished our series on reading on the LSAT test, return to our LSAT learning lab to read another lesson series.