The LSAT reading comprehension section requires active reading skills and correct interpretation. To learn more about how to ace this section of the LSAT, read on!
The LSAT is a challenging exam that pushes students’ reasoning skills to the maximum. The reading comprehension section (RC) requires students to be able to read, decipher, and deconstruct several passages in a very limited amount of time. The answer choices often contain tricky language that can throw off test-takers.
To ensure you know how to best prepare for the LSAT reading comprehension section or to improve your RC score, you’ll need to work hard. This guide will break down the format of RC questions, go over tried and true tips, and provide you with sample RC questions and answers!
There is one scored reading comprehension section on the LSAT. This section contains around 26-28 questions divided over four different readings. Students can expect three of these passages to have a single text and the fourth to be a comparative reading with two texts.
The format will be as follows:
While there is only one scored RC section, there’s a possibility you will have to complete two RC sections on test day. This is because there is an unscored experimental section on the LSAT that can be any type of section. You will not be able to discern which section is scored and unscored, so you’ll have to put equal effort into both!
The LSAT is a difficult exam, so you’ll need to be as prepared as possible. Before we delve into the RC question types you should become familiar with, here are some helpful reading comprehension tips for the LSAT!
Given that you only have 35 minutes to go through four passages, you might think learning how to read faster is an effective strategy to improve your score. In reality, reading faster can actually cause you to miss key information and waste more time!
Instead, learn how to read better. Learn how to discern what is important and what isn’t in a passage. You should also deconstruct the passage as you read it so you don’t have to keep re-reading it for each question.
With the previous tip, you should be marking your passages as you read them as well. Be an active reader! Find the strategy that works for you and keep it consistent throughout your practice sessions to have it locked down by test day.
For instance, you may highlight the main point, underline supporting details, and circle strong/weak words like “must,” “always,” “cannot,” or “never,” or important transition words like “but,” “however,” or “although” that mark the degree of certainty and direction of the argument.
The LSAT reading comprehension section can be tricky because of how answers are worded! You should always look out for words like EXCEPT in the questions and focus on meaning rather than content. While some answer choices may sound good and look right, they must also have the correct meaning.
Many incorrect choices will be almost correct but will have one major or minor flaw that can be easily missed if you aren’t reading the questions carefully.
Since there are often tricky incorrect choices, you should always read through all the answer choices before making your final decision. It may take you a few more seconds, but these extra seconds can boost your LSAT score by several points!
Even if the passage is about a topic you’re very passionate about and have knowledge in, don’t make any assumptions or bring your own opinions into the question. If the passage asserts that the sky is green and an answer choice suggests it’s blue, it’s incorrect, regardless of what you know to be true!
You must only rely on the passage to find your answers.
The seemingly logical answer to the best way to study for the LSAT reading comprehension section would be to read in your spare time. While you can brush up on your analysis and deconstruction skills by reading complex articles, the actual best way to study for this section is to keep practicing different RC questions until you get the hang of them.
Active reading and interpretation are skills! The only way to truly develop and perfect any skill is to keep practicing it.
You should also create a solid LSAT study plan to ensure you’re prepared in time. It’s important to schedule intentional studying time so that you can track your progress.
If you find you’re still having trouble with this section, know there are resources to help! For instance, Juris has 99th percentile LSAT tutors who can focus on any weaknesses and help you hone your reading comprehension skills!
To help you learn how to improve your LSAT reading comprehension speed, you’ll need to practice and develop specific skills. Having a strong set of skills will help you feel more comfortable with reading comprehension, which will not only increase your speed but also decrease your LSAT-related stress!
Here are some skills you should work on to ace the RC section:
It can be intimidating to look down at your paper and see a massive wall of text that you need to decode. Luckily, we’ve got some strategies to help you break down the LSAT passages.
Graphic organizing refers to creating maps, charts, diagrams, etc., that will help you organize the information on the page into a structure that you understand well. This can help you see the flow of the argument more clearly and pinpoint important ideas.
If you’re a visual learner, graphic organizing may be helpful for you. You can use your scratch paper to sketch a quick chart or diagram to visualize the argument before you.
Highlighting is a great practice to help you identify the main argument or point of a passage. A good highlighting strategy is to use different colors for different keywords or parts of a sentence. This will help keep you more organized. Remember to use the same color scheme when taking the LSAT as when you were studying.
To learn how to highlight well, practice picking out important keywords in LSAT practice questions. This helps you zero in on the most significant ideas and makes them easier to recognize.
If you’re overwhelmed by all the information presented to you, it may be helpful to break the passage down into the simple outline of a paragraph: topic sentence, supporting evidence, and concluding/transition sentence. Summarizing the passage and putting it into a simple outline on your scratch paper may help it feel more manageable.
Once you’ve read the passage, it’s time to take on the questions. Here are some strategies for you to use:
Read the question in full and pay attention to every word, as even one word can change the meaning. Make sure you read each answer option as well.
Remember to consider questions only within the framework of the passage. Pay attention to your biases - don’t let that one related article you read a few weeks ago influence you. Use only the provided information to draw your conclusions.
You can use the process of elimination to narrow down your options. The correct answer will be supported by the text and will not contradict or go against it. It will also be directly relevant to the question and passage. If any of this is untrue about an answer choice, it is incorrect.
As you begin practicing for the LSAT, you should do your best to become familiar with the common RC question types. Each question type should be approached differently to get the most accurate answers.
Big idea questions will ask you to choose the answer that describes the author’s main point. These questions are typically the easiest but can still be tricky! Some of these answers will be explicit, and some implicit, so it’s important you have a good grasp on what the author is trying to argue.
To figure out the main point the author is trying to convey, you’ll have to look at the structure of the question. Main points are always the ones that are most supported by the other parts of the passage.
If you believe you’ve figured out the main point, see whether it has evidence supporting it. If it seems the rest of the paragraph is supporting this one claim, it’s likely the main point. However, if it seems the point you’ve chosen is actually evidence supporting another claim, it’s likely not the main point.
Sample questions of this RC question type include:
These types of questions will ask you to recognize parts of the text that are stated on a literal, explicit level. The answers to these questions will typically be a close paraphrase of a part of the passage.
You should focus on the idea behind what’s stated rather than the particular wording of it. Focusing on the vocabulary can cause you to choose an answer that just has similar wording but a different meaning.
Examples of these questions are:
These LSAT reading comprehension questions ask you to determine what a certain word or phrase means in the passage.
Meaning questions can be misleading because students may think they’re being asked to simply define the word or phrase. However, you are meant to contextually describe the meaning of the words/phrases according to the author.
Sample questions include:
You may also be asked to find a replacement word or synonym for certain terms in the passage. Such questions will be phrased like “If substituted for the word… in line…, which of the following would convey the same meaning?”
Function questions ask why the author included specific phrases, ideas, or words in the passage and what their function is with respect to the larger point being argued. The majority of the time, the terms being questioned act as supporting evidence for the main point.
The best way to find the answer is to look at the terms in comparison to the main point and see how they fit into the overall argument. What do they add to the argument? How is the argument changed without them?
Examples of function questions include:
Structure questions ask you to identify the role of different parts of the essay and how they work together. To properly answer these questions, you must understand the structure of the passage(s), know the main point, and the evidence used to back up this point.
You must also identify the relationships between certain parts of the passage. For instance, one paragraph may provide recent evidence to back up the claim being made, while the other may present outdated evidence that refutes the claim.
Pay attention to the order of the structure as well. For instance, if the author makes their main point in the final paragraph, an incorrect yet tempting answer choice may say the author makes it in a different part of the text.
Common examples of these questions include:
There are multiple types of inference questions you’ll see on test day. For all of these questions, it’s important to focus on language and see the degree to which the author makes their main claim.
For instance, if they use words like “must” or “always,” they strongly agree; if they use words like “sometimes” or “may,” the degree of their argumentation is not as strong. The correct answer will have the same degree of certainty.
While these are inference questions, you won’t have to jump through hoops to find your answer. The correct answer will always be the one that is most supported by the evidence presented in the passage.
These questions ask you to pick a side, point, or opinion that you could reasonably infer the author or group of people in the passage would agree or disagree with.
Typical question examples are:
These types of LSAT reading comprehension questions focus on what can be inferred by particular information or facts within the passage(s). These questions ask what else could be or must be true according to the facts presented and require test-takers to make strong inferences.
Sample questions include:
These questions are not to be mistaken for inferences about views. They are simply asking what the author’s attitude would be towards a thing, idea, or person mentioned in the passage.
This type of inference question requires you to first decipher if the author has a positive or negative attitude towards what’s being asked about and how strong this attitude is. If they show a strong negative attitude, then a choice that contains the right ideas but a neutral tone is incorrect.
You can expect to see questions such as:
These questions tend to be tricky because they ask you to apply the principles discussed in the passage to a different, new context. You must focus on picking out the main ideas in the passage that can be easily transferred to other texts. Rephrase the points to make them more general so you can more easily match the ideas.
Application question examples are:
These questions will ask you to consider a particular part of the text and find which answer choice is similar. You may be asked to determine a principle or to pick the choice that has an analogous scenario as the one described in the passage(s).
To answer these questions, you must understand the main points described in the text and rule out any choices that don’t match.
Example questions are:
These RC questions ask you to decide which answer choice can either strengthen or weaken the claim made in the passage if it was added to it.
Remember, these answer choices don’t have to refute or confirm the claim being made. They must simply make the argument stronger or weaker, even if just by a little bit. There will be certain answer choices that have no real impact on the argument at all. Keep an eye out for these incorrect choices!
Samples of these questions are:
Main purpose questions will ask you to identify the purpose of the passage(s) as a whole. These are more overarching questions and shouldn’t be confused with big idea questions that ask what the central idea is itself.
Ask why the passage was written in the first place and what purpose it has to find your answer. Try to come up with your own answer before looking at the choices and seeing if any match!
These questions tend to be worded as:
Now that you know the common question types, here are a few practice questions you can try identifying and answering!
To read the passage corresponding to the questions below, please review “Passage for Questions 4 and 5” on the LSAC website.
Answer: This is a Big Idea question! The answer is C.
Answer: This is an Inference On Views question, as it asks which proposal the author is most likely to approve. If you got B as your answer, you’re correct!
To read the passage corresponding to the questions below, please review “Passage for Questions 6 and 7” on the LSAC website.
Answer: This is a meaning question, and the correct answer is D.
Answer: Hopefully, you figured out this is an Analogy question! The correct answer is also D for this question.
If you have any more questions about the LSAT reading comprehension section, read on to find your answers.
Learn the different question types so you become familiar with solving them, and continue practicing under test conditions until you can get the majority of the questions correct.
You should aim to receive at least a 150 on your LSAT. Higher-ranking schools expect scores in the 160s to 170s.
There are generally at least 26-28 LSAT reading comprehension questions. However, it could be 52-56 if you get an RC unscored section.
You’ll have 35 minutes per RC section.
While some argue it’s nearly impossible to improve your RC score because reading is a difficult skill to improve, this isn’t true! Improving your RC score may just take more time than other parts of the LSAT, like the AR section, which is typically easier to improve in.
Passages are typically drawn from subjects like law, science, social science, and humanities. You will not be tested on your knowledge on these subjects. Everything you need to know to answer the questions will be provided in the passages.
You’ll have to read five passages in the LSAT reading comprehension section. There are four sets of reading questions, three containing one passage and the last one containing two shorter passages.
Now that we’ve broken down the LSAT RC section and how to improve your reading comprehension, you hopefully feel more prepared and can start or continue studying for the LSAT with a little more ease!