Newer LSAT Reading Comp Tips And The Truth About Reading Comp

If you have limited time, reading newspapers to prepare for Reading Comp might not be the best idea.

Most newspaper articles fit one of two formats:

Hard news stories
1. Hard news stories tend to include the key details first, then zoom out to give the context

Ex. President Obama signed a bill into law yesterday to _______. The article then continues by giving other parties' reactions, then some reflections on why or why not this new law might be important and/or good.

Human interest stories
2. Human or public interest stories with more of a local spin usually start with a short anecdote, then zoom out for larger story.

Ex. "Yesterday, a giant squid attacked Joe as he relaxed in his in-ground swimming pool the other day. Sadly, this attack is only latest in a long string of giant squid attacks. No one knows how the giant squids are getting into these pools. Local law enforcement officials say they are doing everything in their power to prevent future attacks. The mayor recommends that citizens carefully check their swimming pools before entering. The evil scientist at the local marine biology research laboratory was not available for comment."

Okay, maybe a giant squid attack is more along the lines of hard news, but it just sounded like fun. You know what I mean.

People have short attention spans, so newspapers want to get most important info to readers first. This goes for The Economist, NYTimes, etc.

Newspapers generally choose one of the two models I mentioned for one main reason: they know that most people probably won't read the entire article, but they want to keep the public informed, or at the very least, give people the impression that they're learning something important.

The Truth About Reading Comp: The Passages Are Not From The "Real World."
I don't blame you for thinking they are, given LSAC's acknowledgement of "source material" in each PrepTests. You can find this acknowledgment by turning to the page after Section 4 but before the Writing Sample.

It'll say something like:
Acknowledgment is made to the following sources from which material has been adapted for use in this test booklet.
The key word there is "adapted."

LSAT Reading Comp passages are actually written by LSAC. As I've said before, they're actually structured like big Logical Reasoning stimuli.

The passages' source material is not written with the intention of confusing the reader (one passage in PrepTest 32 is even "adapted" from Cosmos by Carl Sagan, an excellent book if you ever have the chance to read it).

However, LSAC "reworks" (I'd say "remixes," but LSAC isn't that hip) the source material and paraphrases it in the most boring way possible.

Take PrepTest 30, Section 3, Passage 4, associated with Questions 22-27. (It's in The Next 10 Actual, Official LSAT PrepTests.) I looked at the source material to compare it to the actual passage.

The source material was a book review from the May 8, 1994 NYTimes (titled "The Secret of the Marshes"). My finding: LSAC purposely "boring-ified" the article for the LSAT.

In fact, almost none of the article itself appears in the passage, and I had difficulty finding any direct quotes. LSAC basically took parts of the article and paraphrased them with the purpose of making them uninteresting. The same goes for the Cosmos passage I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.

The NYTimes article included things like:

Naturally, she would ask, "Do you remember anybody growing rice?"


Here is another discussion that I wish the author had placed in the text

You'll never see language that simple in these books:

Newer LSAT Reading Comp Tips and Truth

What does this mean for you?
If you haven't read anything longer than a "tweet" or the back of a cereal box in the past few years, RC passages might be too difficult for you to start on. However, if you actually know how to read, it's probably best to stick with RC passages. With over 60 LSAT PrepTests, there's probably no need to use non-LSAT material for practice.

Photo by clotho98 / CC BY-NC 2.0


  1. I never thought that reading the NYT or WSJ or any of those publications were good practice for the LSAT. I don't why people think that it is. It get your eyes used to reading for along time. Maybe it's more of a conditioning thing?

  2. That is a very interesting point. I was actually just doing some RC studying and this came to mind. I have read elsewhere that reading articles from the economist, smithsonian and scientific america will help to improve RC sections. I already read the economist- so I added smithsonian and SA to the mix. The key difference that I found was that the articles I was reading in these magazines were actually engaging me and did not leave me feeling bulldozed as some RC passages do. You really hit the nail on the head.. they are different. The only benefit could see of reading SA and smithsonian (for myself anyways) is to conquer my phobia of reading about stuff I don't fully understand. I am always overwhelmed by passages that are contextually unfamiliar- reading these magazines could help make that transition a little smoother.

  3. Interesting.. I always heard that reading The Economist or New York Times ar both very helpful for RC...I guess not.

  4. I would think better practice would be trying to read challenging books - especially logic heavy books (philosophy). Aren't newspapers written at an 8th grade level or something? There is nothing difficult about reading a NYT article, so I don't see how that would help, unless you are really not a regular reader at all.

  5. For those who haven't read anything longer than a tweet or a Facebook status for years now, what do they do to do well on the RC??

  6. I wouldn't recommend philosophy books simply for the timing issue difference. For philosophy, you read, reread and then reread again to fully digest and break down the content whereas RC is mostly about timing. I think history would be a better subject area to practice with.

  7. In response to aboveMay 30, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    nope i am a history major who has done pretty well in my studies and still struggle on the RC section... in fact i think four years of reading like a historian actually makes me not care to retain information... perhaps not a good habit for the LSAT... science passages literally become just some squiggles on a page and my brain just doesnt comprehend...