LSAT Reading Comprehension Basics Video

By Mike Kim.

In this video, I offer some basic strategies for how to approach LSAT Reading Comprehension passages and questions.

Here are links to some relevant documents:

» PDF of the passage discussed
» PDF of video slide deck
» Related: Article on how to review Reading Comprehension
» Related: LSAT Trainer excerpt about Reading Comp

Summary of Key Points

About LSAT Reading Comp

» We can think of LSAT Reading Comp as being designed, primarily, to test your reading ability and your mental discipline.
» The primary reading challenges involve correctly understanding the meaning of words and correctly understanding reasoning structure.
» Reasoning structure is the way in which an author has structured a passage to serve its intended purpose.
» Mental discipline can be defined as your ability to stay on task.
» It can be helpful to think about the structure of LSAT Reading Comprehension passages in terms of tendencies and twists.
» The standard passage involves a two-sided issue and an author opinion on the issue one way or the other, and less common structures can be thought of as variations on this tendency.

Basic Reading Strategy Suggestions

» Focus on reasoning structure.
» Don’t try to do too much else.
» Assess between paragraphs.
» Assess when you are done reading.
» Use questions to critique your understanding.

Basic Question Strategy Suggestions

» Use the stem to determine your exact task.
» Use the stem to determine your scope.
» Use the stem to decide when to return to the passage.
» Use the stem to anticipate what you will see in the answers.
» Eliminate incorrect answers first, then confirm the right one.

General Suggestions For How to Study LSAT Reading Comp

» Work to grow your understanding, develop strategies, grow skills, and develop habits.
» Use resources such as study guides, courses or tutors to grow your understanding and develop effective strategies.
» Focus on drills and practice tests to grow your skills and to develop effective habits.

Suggestions for How to Try and Review Passages

» First try it timed and as realistically as possible.
» Then try it again untimed and review it as carefully on your own.
» Only then look up the right and wrong answers.
» Reassess your understanding and your performance.
» Repeat until you feel mastery over that passage.

Problem Solutions

Finally, here are solutions for questions 16, 18, 19, 20, and 22, which were not discussed in the video.

16. (A) is the correct answer.

Question Stem: “Strengthen” is a general term that can be used to mean different things in different contexts—our task is to understand exactly how it’s being used here. With that in mind, we want to return to the passage and determine as best we can, for ourselves, how it was used, before we go into the answer choices.

We know from the text that owners claim that unless the laws are strengthened, intellectual property won’t be adequately protected — from this we can infer that strengthening the law would be related to increasing protection from copyright infringement. The next sentence gives us the other side of the discussion, which is that reducing access to information will limit the usefulness of the web — from this we can reason that laws meant to increase protection would likely do so by in some way reducing access to that information. With that in mind, let’s…

Eliminate: The test writers cannot provide us with two plausible answer choices, and so we can expect that the four wrong choices will be clearly incorrect, because they either give us the opposite of what we expect strengthen to mean, or because they focus on issues that were not discussed in the passage.

(A) is a great match for what we anticipated, so we can leave it for now.
(B) uniformity is not a central issue of the passage, and the author makes no link between strengthening laws and making them more consistent, so we can cut (B).
(C) discusses the amount of penalty involved; the author does not discuss increasing the penalty for breaking copyright laws on the web at any point, and so we can cut (C) as well.
(D) How consistently or how well the laws as they exist are enforced is not discussed and we can cut (D).
(E) Whether the laws are viewed as legitimate or not is not a point of discussion and we can cut (E) as well.

Confirm: (A) matches well with the theme of the passage as a whole. If you didn’t consider some of the issues mentioned above in the Q stem discussion, now would be a good time to do so, and you could use the two bolded parts to confirm that (A) is the correct answer.

18. (C) is the correct answer.

Question Stem: We are asked to identify, among the answer choices, the relationship most similar to that between strengthening copyright laws and relying on passwords for access to web pages. We want to think about this relationship carefully before evaluating the answer choices.

Both are methods of restricting access (and if you weren’t certain of your answer for #16 your thought process here could help you feel more confident that (A) is correct), the first is more absolute (applies to everyone in a harsh way) and the second is more specific, and in the control of the person who puts something on the website. With that in mind, let’s…

Eliminate: Here what we can expect is obviously that the wrong answers will represent a different type of relationship between elements; often the most tempting wrong choices here can be those which present the exact opposite of the situation.

(A) Allowing access to everyone would be the opposite of strengthening laws (which would be akin to restricting access) and so we can cut (A).
(B) The first part of (B) works okay, but then (B) makes the distinction about “use” and “sale” — it’s unclear what theme would underlie that distinction, and use vs sale is very different from limiting access generally vs limiting access in specific ways, and so we can cut (B) as well.
(C) “Prohibiting” is perhaps a bit too strong — maybe those that want the laws strengthened don’t necessarily want to prohibit access, but otherwise (C) is very attractive — relying on the participant to employ, for herself, the proper safety gear, is very much like relying on the person who puts something on the web to employ the proper restrictive measures, such as passwords. We can leave (C).
(D) As we discussed for #16, the enforcement of copyright rules is not discussed in the passage, and so the analogy to the enforcement of laws is a poor match. We can cut (D).
(E) Is an extremely attractive answer, but allowing unrestricted access is actually the opposite of strengthening restrictions, and so we can cut (E) as well.

Confirm: Again, I’m not crazy about the connection between “prohibiting” and “restricting” but they are not too terribly different, and otherwise the rest of (C) works perfectly as a match for the passage, and with all other answers eliminated being clearly incorrect, (C) is right answer.

19. (B) is the correct answer.

Question Stem: We are asked to find an answer that offers the most reasonable inference based on the given passage. Unfortunately, we aren’t given much direction about where in the passage we might find this inference, and let’s just move on to the answer choices.

Eliminate: Since the right answer will be something we can reasonably infer per what we are explicitly told in the passage, we can expect that the wrong answers will discuss things not discussed in the passage, or offer inferences that contradict the passage or in other ways are not reasonable per what we are told.

(A) makes an extreme claim—that there is no person who makes things placed on the web who also happens to put things on the web—this is not discussed in the passage and cannot be inferred based on any part of it so we can cut (A) quickly.
(B) is a great match for the author’s general viewpoint; let’s leave it.
(C) discusses “Rights of Privacy” —it’s unclear how this relates to what we are given are we can quickly cut (C).
(D) gives us an inference that runs counter to the view expressed in the passage; the author feels it is the person who puts something on a web page, as opposed to the person who links to that web page, that is responsible. So, we can cut (D) as well.
(E) discusses converting a web document to a physical document, which goes well beyond the text—additionally, the author doesn’t state that copyright infringement can’t take place on the web, and so (E) is an unreasonable inference and we can cut (E) as well.

Confirm: Once again we are left with just one attractive answer choice. The passage separates out two players in the exchange of web documents—those who put information onto pages and those that link to that information, and he or she implies the opinion that it is the person who puts information on the web who is responsible for it. The author continues to discuss ways in which that person can restrict access if he or she wishes—restricting access is certainly related to control of distribution, and enough to confirm that (B) is a reasonable answer to infer.

20. (E) is the correct answer.

Question Stem: We are asked to identify the answer that is, “according to the passage,” “most relevant to the debate.” Thus, we should expect to identify a right answer that is explicitly discussed and central to the overall point of the passage.

We understand the answering machine analogy well and by this point have thought about it through multiple questions, so if you felt like just jumping into the answer choices you certainly could. Otherwise, you could return to the passage and reread the part about the answering machine message.

If you did, some key things points were that it is the person puts up the message that is responsible, anyone can call in, and thus a person giving out a number is not. With that in mind, let’s…

Eliminate: We can expect incorrect answers that include things not discussed in the passage, as well as incorrect answers that mention a characteristic clearly not relevant or central to the debate.
(A) The fact that answering machine messages are on machines that run on electricity is neither discussed nor relevant and we can cut (A) quickly.
(B) We do not know whether answering machine messages have any legal protection or not. This answer goes into things the passage does not and so we can cut (B) as well.
(C) The speed of answering machine messages is not discussed and the speed of web links, while mentioned, is not central to the debate over copyright infringement laws. We can cut (C).
(D) We are not told what people do or do not care about, and this does not relate to the debate, so we can cut (D).
(E) Seems to match what is told in the text. Let’s…

Confirm: Line 36 of the passage tells us, “Anyone who calls can listen to the message; that is its purpose.” And this point is central to determining that the person who puts up the message to begin with is responsible. Thus (E) does represent something mentioned in the text, and it mentions something that is central to the debate, and so (E) is the correct answer.

22. (D) is the correct answer.

Question Stem: This question also asks for an answer that is correct according to the passage, and so we should expect that the primary challenge will be in identifying and matching up with the relevant part of the passage.

A quick scan of the passage for text close to “present copyright laws” helps us identify a relevant part of the passage in the middle of the second paragraph: “Current copyright laws give owners of intellectual property the right to sue a distributor of unauthorized copies…”

I don’t see another part that mentions current laws directly, but with so much of the passage connected to changes in laws, I certainly could have missed something and I want to keep an open mind about what the right answer could involve. With that in mind, let’s…

Eliminate: And we know that the four wrong answers will not have been mentioned in the passage.

(A) goes above and beyond what we are told in the passage; we know there are ways for web page authors to restrict access. (A) is not mentioned and does not match the passage, and so we can cut it.
(B) The author’s view is that those who put up documents, not those who link, are in control of distribution, and we are not told anything about current laws that give control of distribution to those who link, so we can cut (B).
(C) discusses profitability—this is not discussed in the passage, and we can cut (C) quickly.
(D) seems to match the part we found initially so let’s leave it.
(E) goes above and beyond the text—the author is saying current laws shouldn’t be made more restrictive; this is not the same thing as saying that current laws should be made less restrictive, or made to allow for more complete exchange of ideas.

(E) is perhaps the most tempting answer, especially if you lose sight of the task, which is to find something discussed in the passage, rather than something that can be inferred from it. Still, per what we discussed, we can cut (E).

Confirm: We can double-check (D) against the part of the passage we found initially; it matches remarkably well, and thus (D) is correct.

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