After having gone through quite a good number of PTs and practicing RC I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing that is super special (special diagramming, reading questions first, having a cigarette.. etc.) that you can do to do well in this section. BUT BE NOT AFRAID.
I was doing so poorly at first missing about 2-3 in each section when giving myself even 20 minutes on a passage.
Now, I am able to miss only 1 every 2 sections which is a nice feeling because I have been able to replicate these results for over 30 passages now.
What then is this about? Well really, it is about reading well. Yes, I understand that they are testing for a special type of reading that law students will have to utilize. Reading for structure and referring to points in whatever you are reading. This is nonetheless not beneficial if your reading skills are poor. Many people (I included) begin to read a passage, and then half way through we say... "holy mother, what the heck did I just read about". Continue and wait for the questions and answer choices to refresh our memory? (Not a good idea..) Go back and re-read it again? (There goes your time for your 4th passage). From this, I hope that you can achieve the ability to better create a mental road map of the passage.
For more tips, you can refer to Voyager's RC Strategy. I found his guide quite helpful and really my way is just to make the practicing of RC more enjoyable/comfortable. I find that most people do not enjoy the RC section because they feel that they are "bad readers" or they are "slow readers" which somewhat goes hand in hand, but let us not delve into that. Practice makes perfect! I honestly believe that if you practice the things mentioned in Voyager's strategy and most importantly internalizing/mastering the strategies you can do well. But more importantly, to employ these strategies we have to cut to the chase. If you are a sub-par reader, these strategies will not benefit you the same way that they would benefit someone else.
[Note: I am not saying "Do not make notes are diagrams or underline anything in the passage"]
For me personally, I have come to minimize the amount of notes on my RC section to pretty much a very short 1-3 words so that I know which paragraph to refer to (sometimes I even go through whole entire passages without writing anything, mostly science passages for me though) and only indicating shifts in scope or tone or idea while circling any definitions and proper nouns.
Now the good stuff.
Firstly, you must be at a level where if you had an infinite amount of time, you could pretty much answer any question thrown at you correctly. This means, with an infinite amount of time, you can identify the main point, author's attitude, author's purpose, and then answer the descriptive questions that usually refer you to a line in the reading. I can't stress enough the first 3 of these. Go ahead, look at every single RC passage you can find and you will see that these are tested in one of the 7 or so questions. What more is that even on the descriptive questions, you will find that knowing these will actually allow you to eliminate many of the answer choices thus increasing your chances of picking the correct answer. IN ANY CASE, (this was not the purpose of my thread actually lol) looking for this in the passage like your life depended on it (which it actually does if you think about it) will increase your RC score substantially.
Example: (Some of you may know this example) If you are on a plane where the pilot just died and you found a manual on how to fly a plane, you would be hastily reading to find what is more salient to your survival. To survive RC you MUST know what is salient.
Okay so you are at the stage where pretty much, if you had unlimited time, you could score perfectly on RC. Great, now what?
Well, now more practice of course!
How exactly do you cut down on time? Most people advise understanding the "general structure" of the passage and referring back to the passage whenever needed. However, this takes most people 3.5 minutes anyways. In 3.5 minutes, you only have to read at 125 words per minute. That is roughly 2 words per second... in this kind of time you could actually understand the passage, create a mental road map and answer the BIG3 (main point, purpose, author's view on the subject). It might sound impossible at first, but do not underestimate yourself! You are much smarter than you think. When you first started logic games, you had to actually write down on your diagram to test some inputs. After much practice, you gained the ability to do many of the tests without the actual writing down which increased your speed without lowering your accuracy.
So big thing, practice reading for what is salient.
Now this might be a bad analogy, but remember when we first learned how to do algebra. Our teacher wanted us to always show our work for problems such as y = x^2 + x + 2 when plugging in 5 for x. Ugh, come on teacher. I could do this in my head. At one point, we probably could not keep track of the squared function while adding 2 different numbers to it. After much practice with squares and familiarity with addition, we were able to do this in our head. (And the analogy part of it)
This may sound annoying at first, but after reading each paragraph, just on a separate piece of paper write down in about 1 to 2 sentences what that paragraph was about. (By sentences, I don't mean like 5 word sentences. I mean truly comprehensive sentences as if you were explaining to someone what the paragraph was about but because you didn't want to bore them you condensed it into 2 sentences. You might add a few extra sentences to indicate something like "Homer Simpson likes beer" "Lisa likes saxophone" just to make sure you did recognize the fact that these were here) Make sure that you take as much time as necessary to make a well written summary about the paragraph. If it is one of those first paragraphs that are super long but contain 2 ideas, make sure to note this calling idea1 P1.0 (sentences here) and idea2 P1.5.
Doing so every time will get you to start "pre-phrasing" (as you would do in logical reasoning) for each paragraph and thus make you more of an active reader. After much practice (actually after only about 15-25 passages) you will find that you don't exactly need to write it down anymore.
Remember! Baby steps is key! So what now?
Well now, do the same thing, but read through the paragraph only ONCE as slowly as you want to. And then force yourself to write sometime down about the passage. You should be better now that you have had some practice. This makes you understand on a more local scale how each sentence is connected to each and allows you to build a "sub-road map" for a paragraph.
Once you have gotten better at this, you of course need to do so a little faster, but by then you have had a large amount of reading practice so it should come naturally. Now, you should start visualizing in your head sentences or ideas that came up when pre-phrasing each paragraph. Are you starting to see the flow of the article? You will notice (after you review the same passages over and over) that your sentences will contain key words. "Da vinci had a problem when trying to put his chair up on the desk." "He solved it by asking his apprentice to do it". A lot of passages have a problem that needs to be solved, someone offers a solution, the author says that the solution is stupid and offers a better one.
Other fun ways to practice RC
Now, I actually found the previous method really fun to practice RC. Most people don't like RC because it feels long and cumbersome (not to mention the fact that you have to finish all of the questions before you can go on break!). Making mental road maps makes a new challenge that is quite fun because your goal now is to remember in your head how the passage went while answering the BIG3.
You can first try reading the whole entire passage in one go comfortably(the sub-road maps should still be created mentally). Try answering all of the BIG3 questions first or any of which pertain to something you do not have to revert back to the passage for. After this, answer the problems that do refer you back to a particular line in the passage. (Sometimes you might even be able to answer the problems that does pertain to a line in the passage) If for any reason you miss any of the BIG3, shame on you. It is crucial as stated before to get these. I personally noticed that I do not miss any of these questions after passing the earlier levels of this strategy.
People may call this a waste of a test, but I find that learning to believe in yourself after all of the practice you have endured is what will help you do well on game day. Basically, you do the same thing but at a very rushed pace say 6.5-7.5 minutes. This pretty much means that you can't go back to the passage to review each answer choice. You can do well without the waste of time! Wasted time is time that you can use for reading the other passages! Once you understand this and halfheartedly accept this, you can have a better chance of replicating your score on the real exam.
No I have not taken the official LSAT yet. I have gone through quite a lot of PTs though. I know that there will be some people that do not agree with my method and all I can say is that it is not really a method. Really, I just wanted to help people become better readers. Many people come here asking, should I be reading the Economist or the Wall Street Journal to improve my reading? But I say no no, don't waste your time on that. You have over 220 reading passages for you to practice with. It does not sound like a lot, but really it is. Anyways, to whoever is reading this and is having trouble with RC, I hope that this was helpful and that with practice you do well.
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This is good advice overall. I think that the premium on actually understand what you're reading is too low normally. However, the LSAT also tests for speed... this particular method doesn't really allow you to increase your speed within the passages. The other important aspect is being able to have an idea where to look for a particular answer, even if you don't know off the bat where the answer lies. To this end, I sometimes recommend trying to complete an RC section without reading the passage at all. The passages on the LSAT are predictable, the authors structure them in similar ways. As a result it becomes easier to answer specific questions because you have a good idea of where to look.
As for the structure and flow of the passage, I think this method is spot-on. Well done.
As for the structure and flow of the passage, I think this method is spot-on. Well done.
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