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Changes in RC difficulty over time?

LSAT Apprentice
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:52 pm
Points: 9

I've heard that the reading comprehension sections have gotten more difficult in recent tests. Is there any merit to this? And if so, in which Prep Tests did the increase in difficulty start?

I'm trying to run through more RC sections, but am wary of using older tests if they're significantly less difficult than the present day.
Jonathan Evans
PowerScore Staff
PowerScore Staff
Posts: 681
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2016 2:12 pm
Points: 570
Location: DFW, Texas

Hi, Wulflov!

Excellent question, and I'm happy to have a chance to write about a recurring fear of LSAT students, that some part of the test is trending harder or that perhaps we can expect a certain section of the test to be easier than past equivalent sections.

At a global level, some have postulated variations in frequency with which LSATs offer a more forgiving curve, i.e. that perhaps we can expect more -13 or -14 curves to score a 170. However, ultimately most of these purported "trends" have turned out to be little more than statistical noise with little predictive validity.

On a more specific level, it is even more difficult to draw conclusions about what to expect on upcoming LSATs. For instance, when I began teaching LSAT preparation roughly ten years ago, we frequently informed students not to expect pattern-style games or spatial arrangement scenarios. While these game types remain in the minority, they continue to appear intermittently and it would be far more sound advice to understand that certain scenarios are less likely but by no means unheard of on a modern LSAT.

Likewise, to muse about RC difficulty levels is a frequent hobbyhorse of students and LSAT enthusiasts, and not to put too fine a point on it but there are no significant predictive trends in RC difficulty. Sometimes we get slammed with a particularly difficult passage (or two), but given any five sequential LSAT tests, I would suggest that overall performance across multiple tests has remained somewhat stable.

Further, any outlier or extremely difficult section will be offset by either a concurrently easier section elsewhere or (more likely) a more forgiving curve.

Lastly, it is crucial as a student that one focus on one's own strengths and weaknesses in the different sections. At the risk of cliché, what is hard for someone may not be hard for someone else and vice versa. Focus on your approach and strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths. Pick and choose your battles. Feel free to skip a passage and come back to it if it looks like a time suck.

For a good primer on some of the most difficult passages of all time, check this article out: