Examinees have, no doubt, dealt with reading comprehension problems if they are at, or considering, the law school level of their academic career. Interestingly, the reading comprehension problems that await LSAT examinees are very similar to the reading comprehension that they have experienced in many other forums.
Specifically, the LSAT assigns one of its scored sections entirely to reading comprehension (recall that one of the sections on the LSAT is a practice section and could be comprised of any category of problems). The reading comprehension section is composed of four passages. Each passage is roughly between four hundred and five hundred words. Each passage is also the subject of five to eight questions. Therefore, the reading comprehension section of the LSAT usually contains about twenty-five to twenty-eight questions overall.
As one might guess, the reading comprehension passages cover a wide breadth of topics. While there are no formal rules governing the examiners, typically the passages cover natural science, legal, social science, and humanities. Additionally, the various passages may be written in different tones and in different styles. For example, some reading comprehension passages may be written in an argumentative tone with the author trying to convince the reader that the author’s position on a particular issue is correct. Meanwhile, another reading comprehension passage may be purely informational. Another important factor to note regarding reading comprehension problems is that the answer choices are similar in nature to those found in logical reasoning problems. That is, there could be one or more answer selections that seem fairly on point, but the examinee is charged with selecting the best answer.
As a general rule, reading comprehension problems test the examinee’s ability to determine one of several things. First, the problem may require the examinee to determine the course of action taken by the author of the passage. This requires the examinee to wade through the content of the passage and understand the methods employed by the author to get across his/her point. Second, the problem may require the examinee to decipher the point of the passage. Unlike the first category, this type of reading comprehension problem requires the examinee to truly get into the subject matter of the passage and understand its nuances. Third, the problem may require the examinee to understand how the passage is put together. Again, in these types of problems it is not as important that the examinee understand the subject matter of the passage, as it is that the examinee understand the composition of the passage itself.
Because of the timed nature of the LSAT, it is important that the examinee develop the ability to work through the reading comprehension passages quickly and diligently. Most experts advise that the best way to approach reading comprehension problems is to actively read the passages on the first run through and take notes of critical items as they appear. This process will allow for quick reference points for the examinee when answering questions, and keep the examinee from having to reread large portions of the passage, or worse still, the entire passage.