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LSAT®-Level Reading: What’s It Like?

Similar to Law School Reading

As anyone who has attended law school will tell you, the reading load and level involved is no walk in the park. Dense, complex texts with high-level vocabulary and sometimes esoteric rhetorical structure can make understanding what you are reading a challenge. Law texts are not generally bedtime reading material; they require focus and attention. The reading requirements for getting in to law school aren’t much different.

LSAT® Test Sections

The Law School Admission Test, or LSAT®, is a comprehensive assessment designed to measure a candidate’s level of preparedness for the rigors of law school. The test contains two parts: a five-section multiple choice exam and a written essay. Included in the multiple choice section are two Logical Reasoning sections, one Analytical Reasoning section, a Reading Comprehension section, and an unscored Variable Section, where new questions are given a test run or new test forms are tried out. This article focuses on the Reading Comprehension section of the exam, where your ability to read and understand written materials is assessed.

The Reading Comprehension Section

The Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT® consists of four sets of passages and questions (usually five to eight questions per passage). One of the four sections contains two passages, which you are asked to compare. The passages are usually three to four paragraphs in length, but don’t let their relatively short appearance lull you into a sense of complacency. These passages are not nice little entertaining excerpts from literary masterpieces; they are dense, complex, argumentative, and expository passages with high-level vocabulary and complicated rhetorical structure. They cover a variety of topics and disciplines, but the questions do not require that you have prior knowledge or understanding of the subject. All the answers are available based on your reading and comprehending of the passage(s).

Complex Passages and Questions

As with most reading comprehension tests, the Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT® measures your ability to apply high-level skills to a variety of texts. You will be asked questions about the main idea or primary purpose and must be able to distinguish between main ideas and supporting details. Some questions ask about explicit and implicit ideas, the organization or structure of the text, and the impact of new information on claims or arguments presented in the text. Understanding a wide range of vocabulary words, or having the skills to decode as you encounter unfamiliar terms, identifying and understanding analogies, and analyzing an author’s attitude based on tone or diction are other elements that may be assessed by the questions.

Testing Tips

By the time you are preparing to take the LSAT®, you have likely determined what kind of learner you are and what reading strategies and approaches work best for you when you are in this kind of environment. Some people like to read the questions before they read the passage(s) so they know what kind of information they should be looking for. Others prefer to read the passages first and then move on to the questions. No matter your approach, be sure to read carefully. Although there is a 35-minute time limit for this portion of the exam, it is important to read both the text and the questions carefully. Try to distinguish, as you read, between the main ideas and the supporting details, and be able to separate opinions or subjective material from objective or factual information. Consider why an author chooses to use the information or diction they do when they do and the effect it has on the overall argument or text. Looking for transitional words can help you navigate a dense, complex test and figure out the “sections” it contains.

Super Careful Question Reading

Be sure to read the questions carefully so that you can be sure to answer what they are asking. If you don’t read them carefully, you may select the wrong answer choice because the information provided in it is true, but does not answer or address the question being asked. Also, be sure to read all the answer options carefully—don’t just select the first one that sounds like it could be right or addresses something you recognize from the text. Use the information provided in the reading to answer the question, not any prior knowledge or understanding you may have about the subject. If it’s not mentioned, included, or inferred from the text, it’s probably not the correct answer.

For free practice on all sections of the LSAT® exam, check out Union Test Prep’s materials.

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