Rarely has an LSAT student approached me and said, “I’m having trouble with Reading Comprehension.” Perhaps that doesn’t surprise you; after all, reading comprehension is a basic skill that we’re tested on again and again, beginning in elementary school. Of the three sections on the LSAT, it’s the one that’s most familiar and most comfortable for many students (even if they don’t exactly like it).
A funny thing happens, though. That familiarity leads many people preparing for the LSAT (and other standardized tests) to feel pretty confident about the Reading Comprehension section even when their practice test scores in that section aren’t good.
The LSAT, as you knowis a numbers game. Success depends on concrete data, not a general sense of which sections are comfortable and which seem to be hard.
Fixing What Doesn’t Feel Broken
One reason LSAT students tend to neglect the Reading Comprehension section is that it’s not immediately clear how to improve. Analytical Reasoning and, to an extend, Logical Reasoning, present something new for most students. Learning how to tackle that new material makes sense. It may be more difficult to understand how you’re going to improve your ability to read and answer questions when you’ve been practicing those skills for 15 years or more.
A good LSAT course (or even Reading Comprehension explanations) will provide the answer to that question. But, even when it’s offered, it can be difficult to accept. For many students, the approach to Reading Comprehension that works best on the LSAT is alien. It’s uncomfortable, and appears to be shifting the student from a reliable old skill into uncertain new territory, just when it matters most.
Like most new endeavors in life, developing an effective approach to LSAT Reading Comprehension requires a leap of faith. You must suspend disbelief and try something new. And, of course, it probably won’t be successful the first time you try. You have to give it a fair chance and really internalize the approach, which will probably mean reading less closely than you’re used to, marking up the passage much more sparingly (and with a different focus) than you would a textbook and taking a strategic approach to the questions. It may even slow you down at first.
The payoff will come, though, and not just in a higher LSAT score. The reading comprehension skills that will help you score higher on the LSAT will also make your studies more focused and efficient when you get to law school. If your Reading Comprehension scores are consistently near perfect on your practice tests, leave well enough alone. If you have room for improvement, don’t cheat yourself out of that edge on the LSAT or that leg up in your first year of law school because you’re holding on to what’s comfortable.