paglababa wrote: The LSAT Trainer wrote:
I've done extensive drilling for LG and LR and have those done good enough. I'm PTing between 174 and 168 now which is quite a big range. I'd like to get it consistent in the upper 170s. My main weakness is RC. If I could get that down to a -1 through -3 I would be ecstatic and have 175+
I've been studying since the last week of June and writing the exam in October. Tips for improving RC? Being killed by inference questions. I'm thinking of buying the lsat trainer but only if it will help me in RC. To be honest, the only studying i did for RC was reading the entire MLSAT book and doing the sections on my practice exams.
I have to admit I've been following the RC conversation on the Oct thread and really enjoying it --
In terms of buying the trainer only for rc -- I think you can guess, from some of my previous posts, that I'm not going to answer that for you -- but I will say that the best way to decide will probably be to take a look at the RC Review chapter available for free on my website -- it summarizes the topics that are covered in the book (and gives you timing strategies as well) -- I'm sure you'll be able to tell after that whether looking at the book will be worth your while. In my head, it's very different from MLSAT RC, but I'm probably not as good a judge of that as you guys are.
In terms of offering specific tips, more than happy to give some here, but let me ask you first --
What have you tried to change
about how you approach RC?
How effective have these changes been?
Other than a specific question type, what do you think is holding you back?
I've got to get off this forum and get my work done, but if you have a chance to respond I'll get back to you later today --
I've only done one change. I realized I was running out of time to reach all the questions missing some easier ones, so I started reading the sections much quicker and not getting caught up on difficult questions. Spending less time on the passage is a good thing because I never really miss the main point or structure of the article. I think MLSAT really pushes that, but the problem is I'm missing questions that then need inference from specific parts of the article. Spending more time on the questions isn't helping me get them right. Looking at the stems of a few I got wrong recently: 1.What would weaken/cast doubt on the author's assertion about X? 2. Which is the most strongly supported by blah blah? 3. The author would most likely agree with blah blah?
Occasionally one of these will trip me up: "The authors use of XXX in line 32 serves to/is used primarily to..."
Am I just not retaining enough details in my read? Would love to know what I should be doing for the next few weeks to address this. BTW I've read the sample RC chapter in your book and placed the order today on amazon. I figure even if skimming the RC content helps a tiny bit it will be worth it. Thanks!
Hi there --
As I'm mentioned before, it's pretty much impossible to predict what students at your level need in order to get over that final hump -- to me, it's kind of like helping a pitcher with a 94 mph fastball get to 97 mph -- so, as always feel free to utilize whatever advice you think is relevant, and to discard whatever advice isn't.
1) Make sure that, in looking for structure, you expect a lot out of yourself -- not only should you have a strong sense of the main points, but you should also have a very strong sense of how the other parts of the passage are meant to relate to those main points.
Structural understanding doesn't just impact general questions -- it impacts the vast majority of questions. Even for questions that ask about specific details, a strong structural understanding can typically help you at the least get rid of a few answers. I have said before, and I think bp shinners has said something similar -- that if you gave me a short summary of the structure of each passage, I'm confident I can get at least 80% of the questions in an RC passage correct. If you don't feel that your understanding of structure (as well as question tendencies) is that helpful, I encourage you to either expect more in terms of your initial understanding, or make more of an effort to notice how structural understanding comes into play even on q's that don't ask about structure directly.
2) Make sure that a fundamental aspect of reading for structure is thinking about the author's intentions. I think the ideal mindset to have while reading a passage is "Why
did the author include this part, and this part, and..." The author's intention is typically (though not always) to present two somewhat opposing viewpoints, and information relevant to those viewpoints, and the author will typically tip his/her hat as to which side he/she favors -- on tougher passages, the author's opinions will commonly be more subtle, but regardless, author's intention and opinion typically plays a large role in a large number of questions (and it seems it's related to many of the question types that are causing you trouble).
3) Make sure to have question-specific strategies. A recent trend for both RC and LG is that there tend to be some harder backend problems -- questions for which the challenge comes more at the point of the question (or answer choices), rather than at the point of the passage or scenario. It makes sense why the test writers would do this, and I fully expect this trend to continue (though of course I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't).
I do not think that the solution to solving these backend q's is to try and predict what information they will ask for inferences about, and I do not think it's an effective reading strategy for you to try and absorb more details as you read. Other than for the components that are critical to understanding author's purpose/structure, it's not that easy to predict what they will ask inference q's about (I could probably come up with 20 different and random inference q's that they could ask for any one passage), and reading for the trees will hinder you in your attempts to see the forest/big picture.
These backend RC q's are tough, but again I think the tough work to be done is at the point of the question, not at the point of the passage. I do think a strong understanding of author intent/purpose is still relevant to the vast majority of these q's (at the least enough so so that you can knock off a few answer choices), and, again, I encourage you to keep thinking about how different types of questions, and answers to all different types of questions, relate to structural understanding.
I also think you need to allow yourself extra time for these types of q's, and that you need specific strategies for them -- I break down each type of q in the trainer, and hopefully that'll give you a good sense of what to work on. Speaking of which...
4) On these tough RC q's that require some reasoning skill, I think it's always very helpful to remember the test writer's burden. They have to make it so there is one correct answer and 4 incorrect answers. Most of the q types you asked about, and many of the toughest RC question types, are ones that have vague, not-exact sort of right answers -- right answers that mostly fit, but don't match the text word for word in such a way that you can feel like it's "absolutely correct." It doesn't mean the answers aren't right-- it's simply the way those questions work. If you look for perfection in these right answers -- the same type of perfection you should expect for right answers to questions that only test reading ability and not reasoning ability, you will go mad.
How does the test writer get away with writing a somewhat vague right answer? By making sure the four wrong choices are absolutely incorrect. This is a big reason why having elimination skills is so so important for consistent success in RC -- any time a question doesn't have a slam dunk right answer, it has to have slam-dunk wrong answers. Keep that in mind, and for questions that tip you off about "imperfect" right answers (for example, if the question stem says "suggests" rather than "states") know that it's the incorrect choices, rather than the correct choice, that will give you that 100% certainty that you got a question correct.
5) If you don't change, you can't expect to get better
For reference, think about how different your process is now for LG or LR than it was when you first started to prep. For both of those sections, I'm sure you learned about the q's, and changed up how you approached them in order to seek improvement. Change is also required in order to improve at RC --
I know we don't think of RC in that way -- for one, reading is something we all know how to do, and for another, reading is something most of us do best when we aren't conscious about how we're doing it -- we're probably at our reading best when we are sucked deep into a novel, and at that point I'm sure you aren't thinking about how
However, it's also true that we naturally know to read differently in different situations -- you will read a menu differently from how you read an essay, and again, you don't have to consciously tell yourself to read any differently.
What you want to do during your LSAT prep is to align your reading instincts to best match the exam, and you want to work at this very actively. Whether you follow the advice in the trainer, or in another book, or you just follow your own instincts, make sure that...
1) in your review, you always think about how you read (what you paid attention to, etc) and how that impacted your performance on the questions. Equate a good read with one that helped you answer the questions, and a bad read with one where, even though maybe you thought you understood everything, the things you thought about didn't align with what was relevant to the majority of those questions. Be hyper-critical.
2) Before the next RC passage you try, actively remind yourself of a few things you want to focus on during your read, then, again, in your review, carefully consider how well they way you read matches up to the nature of the questions.
Again, I really like the metaphor of "alignment" here -- you are constantly working to align your reading process to the design of the LSAT, with the goal of being as "in tune" before the test as possible.
Whew -- waaaay too long -- sorry about that -- to summarize --
1) make sure you see how understanding of structure impacts far more than just questions that ask directly about structure
2) make sure that a fundamental part of reading for structure involves reading for author's intentions
3) make sure you've got question-specific strategies
4) make sure to take advantage of the test writer's burden
5) (perhaps most important) make sure to think about your prep as work that allows you to better align your reading process with the design of the questions, and try to be aggressive about shaping how you read.
Again, I don't mean to say you need to do all of the above -- please pick and choose whatever you think will help you most -- if you'd like, feel free to follow up here or in pm if you need anything else -- HTH