LSAT Reading Comprehension Section

LSAT Reading Comprehension Basics

The amount of reading that students do in law school and later in their law careers can seem like a test of endurance in itself. Legal contracts and decisions can be dense and complex, and must be read with precise attention to detail. Therefore, while most standardized tests have reading comprehension sections, it should be no surprise that the LSAT takes reading comprehension to a new level.

The LSAT Reading Comprehension section contains four passages followed by five to eight questions each. As lawyers are often required to delve into reading the fine points of unfamiliar situations, the subjects of the passage can vary greatly, and familiarity with the subject is not expected. The passages are universally complex and often contain dense text, several points of view and advanced vocabulary in both the text and the following questions.

In addition, since laywers often have to compare documents and cases, one of the four Reading Comprehension passages is actually called "comparative reading" and includes two related passages instead of one. Test takers must read both passages and compare them. The questions that follow refer to both passages and the relationship between them.

Essential LSAT Reading Comprehension Technique

While there is no scratch paper for use during this section, writing in the examination book is okay. Be sure to read with a pencil in hand and underline, star or otherwise note points in the passage that seem important to remember. Marking the text and/or taking notes in this section is critical. Some test prep copmpanies refer to note-taking as "scholarly reading" or "active reading" but the bottom line is that since this is a timed exercise, test takers must find some way of flagging important parts of the test. Reading back through an entire passage to find a lost name or detail would waste valuable time.

It is also a good idea to skim the questions that follow each passage before reading the passage. This will not take a lot of time and it will help test takers keep in mind what information they are looking for as they read the passage.

LSAT Reading Comprehension Question Types

They types of questions in the Reading Comprehension section can come from several different angles. Some of the question types have similarities to the types of questions found in the Logical Reasoning section, though they apply to much longer passages.

There are always some questions that focus what the author is trying to say. This may be a question about the main idea of the passage or it may be a question that asks test takers to choose which statements the author would most likely agree with. There will also likely be an "inference" question that asks test takers to identify the author's thoughts on something that is implied but not fully articulated.

If the passage contains a story that affects several parties, there might be questions about the different perspectives in the passage. Readers might be asked in different questions how each side is affected by the situation presented in the story.

There are usually a couple of questions on form and syntax. For example, a question might isolate a word or term used in the passage and ask test takers to select the choice that best defines how the term is used in the context of the story. Questions about form might be similar to the "argument form" questions in the Logical Reasoning section, asking readers to indentify the choice that best describes how the passage is structured.

Finally, there might be questions that ask readers to choose which statement would support, or which statement would undermine the author's conclusion. These questions are directly related to the strengthen or weaken and argument questions in the Logical Reasoning section.

Comparative Reading

The comparative reading exercise contains two reading passages, each about half as long as one of the single reading passages. The two passsages will be related. They might not create a direct point-counter point situation, but there will be some conflict between their positions. There will always be at least one question asking test takers to compare or contrast the position between the two. There might be a questions asking what position the author of each would take on a related topic. There will also probably be a couple of questions asking about each of the two passages individually.

When taking notes while reading the comparative reading passages, be sure to mark points in the second text where the second author's view diverges from (or converges with) the first author's. Since the test will surely ask a comparative question, taking notes on the areas where the passages overlap will be useful.