Hi Kara —
Oh boy! – Well, one possibility is that I’m messing you up in some way and you shouldn’t be taking reading comp advice from me 🙂 — buuuut, of course that won’t stop me from sharing some thoughts —
1) RC passages have, on average and as a whole, gotten a bit more dense (harder to read) on more recent exams, and that may explain some of the discrepancy. Keep in mind that in large part the denseness is a distraction, and the fundamental issues that determine reasoning structure in the passage and the right/wrong answers in the questions haven’t changed at all — they’ve just kind of made it harder to see / focus in on what you are supposed to see / focus in on. Also keep in mind these passages are more dense for everyone, so, even if you find them a bit more difficult, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will negatively impact your overall score.
2) Two things that can negatively impact performance are nervousness (which changes our focus) and distraction. The most common form of distraction you want to avoid is trying to do too much on a conscious level (micromanaging how you read every word and sentence). Even a goal as seemingly innocent as “find one main point for each paragraph” can be a detriment to correct reading (because, well, lots of LSAT paragraphs are not structured that way).
So, before or after an RC section, it can be good to think about such strategies, but, during the section, you really want to be careful about adding on unnecessary considerations.
3) Here’s my main thought — having said all the above, getting distracted, wasting time, etc. is unavoidable for everyone — otherwise the test would be easy —
When it happens — when you find yourself lost, wasting time, etc. — what you want to avoid is panicking / getting angry at yourself, etc. (which would commonly be my natural reactions in real life) — instead, I think it’s really helpful to remind yourself to bring your focus back to where it ought to be, and to me, the two points of focus should be:
a) The overall reasoning structure of the passage — this is the “‘big picture” you are trying to retain as accurately as possible throughout a set of RC q’s — so, when lost in your reading or in thinking about reading, you can always say “okay, how does this all relate to the overall reasoning structure” and center yourself again that way.
b) The exact task presented in the q stem — I have found that when students underperform, very, very often, it is because whatever else they might be doing inadvertently takes them away from focusing on the exact question presented —
RC questions are designed to be very similar to one another and often the most tempting wrong answers are ones that could have been right for a related question stem — and for whatever reason, when students have a million things to think about, the exact task of the stem can often get overlooked.
So, whenever you feel stuck on a problem or noticing yourself spinning your wheels / getting lost — you might way to try taking a second to reread the q stem and to think of each word in it exactly, and, combined with the act of trying to correctly understand and remind yourself of the overall reasoning structure, that can often get you off of the wrong train of thought and onto the right one.
Again, you may very well want to ignore any rc advice from me and I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you, but if you find any of the above helpful you may want to try implementing it your next pt —
Good luck Kara! — wish you the best — MK