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RC not improving as much as hoped

Caroline Field
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We received this question by email, but thought that others could benefit from the response, so we are posting it here:

"I'm taking the February LSAT, but am concerned that my RC scores have not improved as much as I would like. Aiming to have at least a 175 and was scoring on average about 177 on older preptests, but my scores have slipped on the more recent ones I have tried (PT 62, 74, and 75). I'm taking work off for most of this week, so I'd be happy to do long and/or multiple sessions if you think it's feasible for me to improve. I generally finish RC right as time runs out (which is a little too close for comfort) and have often found myself trying to decide between two answer choices neither of which seem exactly right."
Nikki Siclunov
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Thanks for the question! When you say that your scores have "slipped" on a few of the more recent tests, how big of a slip are we talking about? After all, you are looking at a point in the curve where only 2-3 wrong answers can bring you down 4-5 scaled points. The margin of error is so small that what you interpret as a "slip" could be statistically insignificant (as is the difference between 174 and 176, for instance).

Now, if you've slipped below the top-1% on some of those tests, this might be due, at least in part, to the increasingly complex language in RC passages that we've come across in recent years. A good way to tackle this problem is to practice exclusively with very difficult RC passages in order to 1) isolate the elements that make each passage difficult; 2) analyze how they use these elements to design above-average difficulty questions; and 3) parse through the incorrect answer choices in order to determine what makes certain answer choices attractive, but incorrect.

At your level, tutoring can also make a huge difference, especially since you seem to have identified the problem areas that still need fixing. A little tinkering with the way you approach the passages (and/or the questions) might be all you need to get your score solidly in the high-170s.

I'm sure you'll get other feedback too, but hopefully this helps a bit! :)
Nikki Siclunov
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Are those more difficult RC passages available somewhere for people with the full length online course? My RC score hasn't improved, and I'm taking the test on Saturday. I have worked my speed up to where it needs to be, but theres always one passage (usually the 3rd or 4th) that I tend to miss a lot on, making my overall score for the section significantly worse. In the next couple of days, I'd like to really focus on RC, but I'm struggling with how to improve. I miss about 9 or 10 questions every time on RC, and on LR and LG I only miss about 1-4.
Adam Tyson
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Hey starre, thanks for asking. Yes indeed, those passages should be available to you in the Online Student Center. Click on the link in Nikki's response and you'll see which tests those passages are from. Then, dig into the OSC - you will find some of those inside some of the practice tests we have made available, some in test sections, and some in RC problem sets. You may also be able to find some in the homework sections in your course books.

For example, the infamous "Waterbugs" passage from October 1991 is the 4th passage in Reading Comprehension Problem Set #1, which you will find by clicking the link in the OSC for "Supplemental Test Sections and Questions."

Hunt around and you should find plenty of passages to practice on. Good luck! Be careful not to overdo it this close to the test!
Adam M. Tyson
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