LSAT Reading Comprehension Study Guide
LSAT Reading Comprehension Review
If you’re on this page, you’re more than likely seeking help on how to tackle the LSAT exam. First of all, we’d like to congratulate you on making it as far as you have! Alongside the applications to your law school of choice, the LSAT is an extremely important next step to launching your law career. You will need to earn a great score in order to move on in your law studies, but don’t fret over whether you’ll be able to succeed. We at Mometrix Test Preparation are here to help you in any and every way possible! This is why we have published this overview—to help you get ready for the exam by giving you a detailed glimpse of what will be on it, what you can expect, and how you can approach each element of the exam from the best possible angle.
The LSAT—otherwise known by its full name, the Law School Admission Test—originally launched in the year 1948, and is under the direction of the Law School Admission Council. As you know, the LSAT’s purpose is to evaluate just how prepared you are for the law school environment by testing you on the subjects most important to common law school curriculum. The test has an incredibly wide reach now among the law community, due largely to the fact it has been administered for so many decades. Hundreds of thousands of students take this important exam every year for the sake of getting into law school. While you have likely already encountered much of the materials presented on the test through your pre-law courses, the Law School Admission Council wants to be sure you’ll be able to handle this same curriculum on a more advanced level.
The most recent version of the LSAT is made up of three distinct subtests: Analytical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Logical Reasoning. This specific overview will cover the Reading Comprehension portion of the LSAT. Don’t worry about whether you’ll have enough time to review for each section! You will have four separate opportunities to take the test throughout the year, meaning you can schedule your testing date in a way that allows you enough time to go over everything you’ll need to learn.
So what is the Reading Comprehension section? It is quite similar in concept to the other Reading Comprehension tests you’ve taken early on in your academic career. Like these others, the LSAT version seeks to evaluate your ability to read a selected passage and recognize its main idea and various other properties that may or may not be explicitly stated by the text. You will undoubtedly have to do a lot of reading once you make it into law school. It makes up a large portion of the curriculum, just as it will make up a large portion of your upcoming law career. Law schools want to make sure you will be able to digest the materials presented to you.
Since you’ve already read so many materials throughout your undergraduate studies, you may have little to worry about when it comes to approaching this section. Regardless of how prepared you feel, it will be more than worth your while to study as much as you can before the exam. To help you formulate the best possible study plan, we have put together not only this overview, but an LSAT Reading Comprehension study guide as well as LSAT Reading Comprehension flashcards and an LSAT Reading Comprehension practice test for deeper studying. We at Mometrix Test Preparation care about your success just as much as you do. This is why we strive to give you every possible tool to perform well on this important exam. Read on to learn about this particular subtest and how you can best approach it.
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What Can I Expect to Find on the Reading Comprehension Section?
Compared to other parts of the LSAT, the Reading Comprehension subtest is fairly uniform. There are only two sections on the exam, but every question follows the same basic format: you’ll be presented with a passage to read, accompanied by questions you’ll be expected to answer based on what you have read. There will be four passages total featured on the Reading Comprehension section. These passages will be kept short, averaging between 400 and 500 words. Alongside each passage comes questions in groups of anywhere between five and eight. You can expect to find no less than 26 and no more than 28 exam questions on the full section. Additionally, the passages presented to you will not pertain to just law-related subjects alone. You will find passages covering a wide array of topics featured on the exam, including sociology, science, and the arts. This does not mean you have to have any outside knowledge pertaining to these subjects, however. The only information you will be required to rely upon is whatever is given to you by the passage.
Like its sister subtests, the Reading Comprehension section has a time limit of 35 minutes. This means you will have to juggle your time wisely in order to do well and answer every question. While this section of the exam is fairly cut and dry, you still do not want to fritter away any of your time on one passage and end up having to rush to finish the rest.
While the passages on this section are short, they will not be an easy read. Rather, they will be packed with an elaborate amount of information which you will be expected to parse accordingly for the important details. The questions on the test will ask you for the usual elements: the organization of the passage, the central themes being communicated through the text, any conclusions that can be drawn based on the evidence supplied to you, and going back through the passage to directly reference information from it. There will also be another question format, known as “Comparative Reading,” which we will discuss a little later into this overview.
As you work through the Reading Comprehension section, you will probably notice just how much its questions vary in terms of how it is asking you to examine the texts. While the test is unpredictable in this way, you can always expect to see questions with the same basic objectives, including picking a declaration that would harm the author’s original argument; what the central themes of a passage are; picking a declaration to bolster the main argument; deciding from a list of options a declaration that would most closely align with the author’s stance; detailing the organization of the main argument; using subtle clues from the text to figure out how the author feels about a different topic related to the main one; providing a definition for an underlined word based on the passage’s context clues; and using information from the passage to contemplate multiple perspectives, if there happens to be more than one group of characters (and, as a result, more than one point of view).
The Comparative Reading category of the Reading Comprehension subtest is a bit similar in format to the rest of the exam’s questions, but not entirely. To help you know what to expect from this unique section, we will now go over its contents.
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More About the Comparative Reading Category
While this portion of the test is the shortest, its format is markedly different from anything else you will encounter on the LSAT Reading Comprehension section. For this question category, you will be given two passages with similar subject matter. They will both be much shorter than any of the other passages on the test; the length of both of these passages will essentially be split in half. It is more than likely that the two passages will oppose one another to some degree, and their differences will reflect upon the questions you’ll answer.
Questions for this category of the exam will relate to how these reading passages interact with one another. You will likely have to consider the reading with respect to their separate meanings and information; what the authors’ stances are on the particular issue both passages discuss; and how both passages differ and/or connect with one another.
What Are Some Ways I Can Approach the Reading Comprehension Section?
It is worth noting, first and foremost, that it is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged to take notes on this exam section. This will be vital to making sure you pick up on any and all relevant information featured on the exam. While you read the passages, be sure to highlight any portions that seem to contain crucial information. You could easily have to refer to any of these sentences you find in an accompanying question. Underlining any sections of the passage you think may be important will also help you in terms of time management, as you’ll more easily be able to go back to those sections you’ve marked rather than having to search back through the reading to find the information you need. This is also one way to display your proficiency with reading closely and critically, which the Reading Comprehension section of the exam seeks to evaluate you on.
This same advice holds especially true for the Comparative Reading category. As you read, you should pay attention to how the texts interact. Make note of how the two passages conflict and how they match up.
Be sure to read as carefully as you can to make sure you don’t miss any relevant information. This may sound like stating the obvious, especially since this section of the test is aptly named Reading Comprehension. However, it is all too easy to slip into scanning through the text—whether through lack of time or any other factors—and miss an important detail or two in the process. Again, you do not want to risk missing any information from these passages. While they are short, they are so heavy with information that you will need to slow down as much as you can in order to absorb the passages’ contents.
At the same time, you should not become so focused on deciphering a passage that you lose track of time. If a reading selection is significantly hard to read, skip it. Work on the easier passages first, then use your remaining time to tackle the problem passage. Doing this will ensure you do not cheat yourself out of other valuable and less difficultly obtainable points. While your logical side may want you to work through the exam in order, it is far better for you to work through the test according to which passages and questions are easiest for you to figure out.
There are several textual elements you should keep track of while you read, including the meaning of every passage; what the central argument of the passage is; the conclusions made by the author and the ways they arrive at these conclusions; the general organization of the reading selection; which statements within the text are subjective and which are objective; and what statements the author is using as evidence versus what statements are their own distinct opinions. When you get to the Comparative Reading category of the exam, you’ll want to look out for any ways the passages align with one another and where their opinions become incongruous.
Before you tackle the actual passages, we suggest glancing at the questions tied to them first. This is another element of time management that will also grant you some idea of how to approach each passage in terms of which bits of information will be the most relevant. Additionally, we would advise you to try out this strategy during your study time to make sure it aligns with your testing style. Ultimately, there is no wrong way to approach the test, so long as you remain efficient with your time and are able to arrive at the correct answers. As long as you study the passage closely and keep track of the information provided within each of them, you’ll have nailed a major part of the Reading Comprehension section’s assessment goals.
Just as you’ll want to devote special attention to the reading selections on the text, you’ll want to examine its questions just as thoroughly. Read not just the question you’re solving, but all the possible answers from which you can choose, as thoroughly as possible. Remember: while the text selections will cover a wide range of subjects, you will only be expected to rely on the information provided to you within the passage. Use just the passage to tackle each question you come across throughout the exam. Any pre-existing knowledge you have about the subject may be misleading in terms of figuring out the answer, and is irrelevant to doing well on the exam. The test is not about the accuracy of the statements, but your accuracy in being able to read a text and then identify certain aspects about what you have read. Focus on the objective of the question you’re answering and decide on an answer that only corresponds to that objective.
Before we close out this overview, we have one final, highly important suggestion for you to bear in mind. We know the importance of this exam to your law career. Every law student seeking higher education will have to contend with this exam. However, you should not be nervous or afraid. Use every resource possible to prepare as thoroughly as you can, and allow yourself to an ample window of time to do so. You have already made it this far by obtaining your undergraduate degree. Because of this prior preparation, you already have most of the tools you’ll need to excel on the exam. Your other tools for success will be understanding how the test works, knowing how you can approach it effectively, and efficient studying that leaves you with a plan of attack and complete confidence when testing day arrives. This overview (and the LSAT Reading Comprehension study guide also featured on this page) is meant to help you know how to sharpen those tools further and create an effective study plan.
While this overview is now 100 percent comprehensive, we hope it will give you some idea of how the LSAT Reading Comprehension section works and how you can begin to study for it. We care about your success and want to give you every possible resource to succeed. For extra help as you prepare for this important exam, you can also refer to our LSAT Reading Comprehension practice test and LSAT Reading Comprehension flashcards.
Study hard, and good luck!