April 22, 2016 at 8:42 am #1762Mike KimKeymaster
This is an excerpt from a longer article about LSAT Reading Comp originally published on the Trainer website.
For any passage that caused you a significant amount of trouble (I would say “significant” trouble equates to two or more questions on which you feel uncertain of your answer, or passages for which you felt lost as you were reading them), start by rereading the passage and solving the questions again a second time, before you look up the answers. This second time through, give yourself as much time as you need. Read the passage as carefully as you possibly can, and do your best to get each question correct with 100% confidence.
Now go ahead and look up the answers—think of all results as falling into one of four categories:
1) you thought you got the question right, and you got it right
2) you were uncertain of your answer, and got the question right
3) you were uncertain of your answer, and got the question right
4) you thought you got a question right, and missed it
The first category of questions is the one you need to be least concerned with (obviously) and your priorities escalate from there—the questions you thought you got right but missed are the ones that should cause you the most concern.
Now it’s time to review the questions. Again, keep in mind that the goal isn’t just to make sure you understand them. You want your review to directly impact your actions.
If a passage is relatively fresh in your mind, I suggest going back to the questions to review them without reading the passage another time, or with at most just a minimal re-scan of the passage.
It’s likely that your understanding of the passage will be somewhat imperfect, and it’s likely that your understanding will be incomplete. But, that’s also how you are going to feel about certain passages on the real exam, and you are going to have to still get questions right. Even with this imperfect and incomplete understanding, see if, knowing what the right answer is, you can figure out a way that you could have still gotten the question correct. More specifically, see if you can figure out how you could have still eliminated the four wrong choices, and how you could have still confirmed or vetted the right answer.
Again, you will need to be able to get most questions correct even when you don’t understand a passage as well as you’d like, and the above work can help you get better at this.
Next, return to any passages that you felt you misread and review them carefully in terms of reasoning structure. Take plenty of time to think about every part of the passage in terms of the role it plays, and, if you’d like, mark up your passage with those roles (main point, support, background, etc.).
Return to each question that you’d like to evaluate again in-depth, and think about it in terms of text and task—make sure you understand exactly why the right answer matches up with the passage as a whole, and the details mentioned in the passage, and make sure you see how the right answer addresses the specific task mentioned in the question stem. More importantly, take the time to look for every reason wrong answers are wrong—if you do this correctly, you will often see many clear “tells” for the wrong choices to a question—things that misalign with the passage as whole, specific details mentioned, or what is asked of you in the question stem (the last characteristic is one that test takers consistently underestimate).
As you do your comprehensive evaluation, also think about the easiest tells—the quickest and most obvious ways in which you could have eliminated wrong choices and zeroed in on the right one. When you think about all the answers for all the questions for all the passages, the easiest and most consistent tell is reasoning structure—a great many wrong answers across a spectrum of various question types reveal themselves because they misrepresent the structure of a passage. Walk through efficient and effective ways that you could have solved the question—the easiest and surest methods you could have used for getting rid of wrong choices and confirming the right one.
Finally, for the passages that cause you the most trouble, try them again, fresh, ideally after a bit of a break (a week or two should suffice). The second time through, try to focus on your form—how you try to read the passage, and how you try to answer the questions. You should expect, because you have familiarity with the passage, that you will be able to go a bit faster than you would if it were your first time seeing the passage. If, this second time through, you can’t do this, or if the passage or questions still feel too difficult, review again and try again another time (you can use the notebook organizer sheets to keep track of the passages to try again).
Throughout the review process, remind yourself that the purpose of practice and review is to develop effective skills and habits. Reading Comprehension is all about what you do—what you focus on as you read, what you think about when you see a question stem, and so on, and not what you know.
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