Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Top 10 Ways to Increase LSAT Reading Comprehension and Speed

"I just don't read fast enough, I can't finish the sections on time."

We get LSAT timing issues with a lot of our Zen students, so we compiled this list:

The Top 10 Ways to Increase LSAT Reading Comprehension and Speed
(before ever taking the LSAT)

1) READ DAILY, and be selective in what you read. We suggest the New York Times, as it is high quality writing in a brief format and free to read online and print. We read the paper on the iPhone at least 40 minutes every day on the subway, but you should focus on certain article types for LSAT purposes.

2) RE-READ any sentence or paragraph if you can't explicitly answer the question, "Why did the author put that here?" This metacognitive process is one of the best ways to make sure you are still on the same track line the author laid down for your train of thought.

3) USE op-ed contributions as proxies for analytical reasoning stimuli because they feature explicit arguments and are shorter, like the LSAT prompts.

ASK yourself questions while you read the op-ed pieces:

"What part of the argument is this sentence? Conclusion, bridge, detail, context, tone, or irrelevant?"
"Are all the numbers cited accurately? How do the raw numbers and ratios interact?"
"How is the author trying to convince me?"
"Are there any gaps in the argument that make me doubt it?"

4) USE science, business, arts, and technology articles as proxies for reading comprehension, as they often feature opinions from disagreeing experts in the same fields as the passages in the LSAT.

6) ASK yourself the same questions as in the op-ed pieces, but include some new questions at the end of each paragraph or section:

"Whose opinion did I read and what did they say?"
"How did the author's tone differ from their sources?"
"How do the sources disagree
with or compliment each other?"

5) PRE-PHRASE your own title and see how close it is to the actual title and subtitles (so don't look too hard at the hyperlinks until after you've read it!). The Times has solid, succinct, and interesting titles, which also means this strategy is great for checking whether or not you nailed the main idea of the article.

8) CHECK the answers to all of the above questions and mark the evidence in the text. This will not only make sure you are correct, but also hone your skill to reference back to specific parts of the text.

9) TELL someone about the articles and opinions you read, as it forces you to verbalize the most important and compelling pieces. If they stay interested, you're doing a good job.

10) TRANSFER these skills and questioning techniques to your LSAT practice and start using all of them while taking the test. Actively reading--not just processing but concurrently analyzing--LSAT prompts during the first read-through will reduce confusion, eliminate the need to re-read, and allow you to quickly eliminate incorrect choices.

Each of which translates into more time for getting your Zen on at the end of the 35 minute sections!