- What is Reading Comprehension?
- The Basics
- Common Passage Topics
- The Passage
- Every Question is a "Must Be True"
- Finishing the Section
- How to Improve Your Score
- Read More Carefully
- Feign Interest
- Break Down Sentences
- Discover the Main Point
- Predict Answers
- Don't Depend on Gimmicks
- Practice Sample Passages
- Sign Up for Live Classes
What is Reading Comprehension?
LSAT Reading Comprehension tests your ability to read a densely written passage and answer questions about its content, tone, and organization.
The value of honing your reading comprehension skills extends far beyond getting a good LSAT score. A huge part of a lawyer’s daily life consists of reading dense, boring text and understanding every detail. This is what you’re signing up for if you want to be a lawyer, so you’d better get used to it. If you find that you’d rather poke your eyes out than read another convoluted passage about the solar system or jurists or some obscure poet you’ve never heard of, you might want to reconsider whether lawyering is a job you’ll actually enjoy.
With determination, focus, and consistency, Reading Comprehension is just as learnable as the rest of the LSAT. Start with the articles below to kickstart your journey toward Reading Comprehension mastery.
Reading Comprehension: The Basics
Common Passage Topics
LSAT Reading Comprehension topics fall into the following categories: law, social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. However, the LSAT does not test external factual knowledge of these topics.
You are equipped to answer the questions on any Reading Comprehension passage—as long as you read it carefully—because everything you need is on the page.
Reading Comprehension passages can be either informative or persuasive. The author often presents an argument based on lengthy technical background information. They might evaluate opposing perspectives or try to advance their own position. The author frequently introduces other voices, such as those of experts or social groups, and popular opinions. As you read, keep track of these other voices and whether the author agrees with them.
On modern tests, each Reading Comprehension section contains one “comparative reading” passage, which requires students to compare and understand the relationship between two shorter passages, often about the same topic.
Every Question Is a Must Be True Question
Many students harbor the misconception that LSAT Reading Comprehension questions require them to “read between the lines”—that is, draw their own conclusions about what the author might be thinking. This is never the case. Never put words in the author’s mouth.
In a sense, all Reading Comprehension questions are Must Be True questions. If a question asks you to determine which answer choice the author would be “most likely to agree” with, there will be exactly one correct answer that is unequivocally supported by the passage.
If you have to bargain with an answer choice, then the answer is probably wrong. The correct answer should require no bargaining. To improve at Reading Comprehension, read critically and identify clear support in the passage for the answer you choose.
Most Students Shouldn't Finish the Section
It’s okay if you don’t finish the section. What’s not okay is blundering through every question while constantly checking the clock. Rushing leads to sloppy mistakes. Accuracy is more important than speed.
How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension Score
Slow Down and Read More Carefully
On every section on the LSAT, the best way to improve your score is to slow down first. This cannot be stressed enough: Focus on accuracy, not speed. Read more here.
Feign Interest in the Passage
Much of what you read in LSAT Reading Comprehension passages is poorly written and difficult to follow. (Spoiler: So are legal documents.) A great way to overcome boredom is to fake it till you make it—in other words, pretend to be interested in the passage. Make the subject matter meaningful to you.
If you loathe science, you might groan at the sight of a passage about microorganisms. But maybe, while you’re reading about how our immune system battles viruses, you can visualize Roman gladiators in your head battling lions. Maybe you can connect information about viral transmission to a pandemic you may, hypothetically, be living through.
The passages are not meant to be interesting to you. They’re meant to be challenging and to help predict your ability to succeed in law school. If you find yourself overcome with boredom while practicing Reading Comprehension, remember why you’re bothering with this test in the first place.
Break Down Sentences
Just because LSAT Reading Comprehension passages are convoluted, wordy, and dense, that doesn’t mean you need to think in such terms yourself. Did your ninth-grade English teacher ever have you paraphrase Shakespeare into contemporary language? You can apply a similar strategy on the LSAT.
Here’s a sentence from an official LSAT Reading Comprehension passage:
Those with knowledge and expertise in multiple areas risk charges of dilettantism, as if ability in one field is diluted or compromised by accomplishment in another.
How would you rewrite this in your own words? Can you communicate the same information in a way that would make sense to a 10-year-old? Take a moment to try this now.
Here is one way to break down the sentence above in simple terms: “If you have expertise in more than one thing, you might get criticized.”
Discover the Passage’s Main Point
The first question on almost every Reading Comprehension passage asks you to identify the author’s main point. The correct answer to this question is always predictable.
Practice active recall. When you finish reading a passage, look away from the page and ask yourself: “What did I just read? Why did the author write that? What’s their point?” If you can’t answer those questions without looking back at the passage, then you didn’t read it well enough the first time.
Predict the Answers
Main Point questions aren’t the only predictable questions on LSAT Reading Comprehension. Making strong predictions before reading the answer choices is a helpful strategy for most Reading Comprehension questions.
Let’s say a question asks what the author means by the word “resolution” in this sentence: “Some photographs are of higher resolution than others.” You can predict what the correct answer will be. Although the word “resolution” has several definitions, context indicates that the author is referring to image quality. With this prediction in mind, you can quickly eliminate answer choices that say things like “determination” or “a goal you make for the new year.”
Don't Depend on Gimmicks
Our sincerest apologies if you’ve made your way through a university degree without learning this at some point: Highlighting and underlining are ineffective learning techniques.
You won't improve your Reading Comprehension skills by using Ctrl+F, learning fancy highlighting techniques, or skimming passages for keywords. The Thinking LSAT approach isn't about shortcuts or quick fixes. It's about understanding and accuracy.
Practice Free Reading Comprehension Passages and Questions
The more Reading Comprehension passages and questions you practice, the more comfortable you will become with them.
Try a free sample Reading Comprehension question set here, or open an LSAT Demon account to practice questions from every official LSAT ever released.
Sign Up for Live Online Classes About Reading Comprehension
A Live subscription to LSAT Demon offers students daily opportunities to learn about and practice Reading Comprehension with professional support:
- Reading Comprehension classes at all levels are offered throughout the week. Check out LSAT Demon’s RC Foundations class to build a strong knowledge base, or push yourself in one of several more-advanced classes.
- If you still struggle with Reading Comprehension, you may benefit from one-on-one tutoring. Check out our tutors’ availabilities here.
Thinking LSAT and the LSAT Demon are here to help you master this test. Get started today.