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General questions relating to LSAT Reading Comprehension.
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  • Joined: Aug 02, 2019

I have been preparing for the September LSAT for the past couple months and have been struggling with the reading comprehension section. I am consistently able to score 80%+ accuracy on logical reasoning and analytical reasoning, but I have difficulty scoring 60%+ accuracy on the reading comprehension sections. Specifically, I struggle with the humanities passages, especially when they're highly abstract and talk about subjects such as culture and art. A couple examples of passages I have had difficulty with are prep test 73, passage 2, and prep test 79, passage 2.

My strongest section from the outset was logical reasoning (I scored 70% accuracy on my first test of the section). I find law and science passages the easiest to follow because they seem to be the most concrete. I try to actively read and get myself interested in the humanities passages, but I just feel like there's no point to the them and I wind up just glossing over the information without understanding the purpose. I am really trying hard to score a 170 on the September LSAT (studying 40+ hours/week) but can't seem to improve on the humanities passages.

I've thought about reading some humanities books over the summer or watching documentaries on art that will get me interested and knowledgeable about the subject. I think if I became more knowledgeable about art and culture I would be able to contrast the passages to things I know about and also visualize what the passages are discussing.The major obstacle for me is all the descriptive and fluffy language and not being able to distinguish between all the subtleties in the passages and answer choices. How should I plan to attack the humanities passages?
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PowerScore Staff
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Hi Anthony!

I hear ya about your frustrations with more abstract topics in Reading Comprehension passages. RC is my least favorite section--I have a short attention span and I like things to be concrete!

I'm not sure if you've checked out PowerScore's (or someone else's) approach to Reading Comprehension passages or if you're just kind of going it on your own. But I find that it's really helpful to have a structured way to how you read and approach the passages to make sure you're focusing on what's important and not just getting bored or distracted by flowery language. Basically, there are certain things you need to be looking for in every passage. This hones your approach to the passages so that instead of getting frustrated with abstract, fluffy language, you zero in on what's important.

Let's walkthrough one of the passages you said gave you some trouble--Prep Test 73, Passage 2. We'll take it paragraph by paragraph because it helps to break it into smaller pieces.

Let's start with paragraph 1. What is this paragraph about? What is its main point? What does the author want us to take away from it? Paragraph 1 introduces us to Cameron's "fancy-subject" pictures. It describes what they are and then points out that there's this underlying comicalness to them. The author tell us they're more like awkward family photos than painting masterpieces. And he tells us that because they are not seamless works of art, they are among the "most vital images" of Victorian photography. So what I'm taking away from this paragraph is that Cameron's photographs were kinda awkward and far from perfect, but this is exactly what makes them such interesting and vital works of art.

Moving on to paragraph 2. This paragraph focuses on the inherent "realness" or "truth" of photography. Cameron was going for theatricality when she dressed up her models as legendary figures. But because they are photographs and not paintings, you can't totally escape the idea that these are real people, who have to sit very still. So what I'm taking away from this paragraph is that a key component of Cameron's art was that even though she tried to insert a lot of artificiality by dressing up and staging her models, there's an underlying truth to them that was outside of her control.

Paragraph 3 tells us that the "special quality" of Cameron's work is that it combines amateurism and artistry. The author illustrates this with an example of a specific work of Cameron's, The Passing of Arthur, that is both clearly amateurish, but still captures some of the magic and mystery the artist was trying to convey and can delight audiences. So what I'm taking away from this paragraph is that Cameron's photographs are both amateurish and artistic, resulting in delightful artworks.

Ok I've made it through the passage! Pausing after a paragraph to consider what the key takeaways from it are really helps in terms of breaking down the passage and focusing on what's important. This author uses a lot of descriptive language and is at times redundant. So my goal is to pinpoint what the actual important points are and focus on those.

Now that I've analyzed each paragraph, I see that this is a fairly simple passage. It is discussing the work of one artist (Cameron), describing the underlying (and unintentional) comicalness and amateurism of her theatrical photographs, attributing those qualities to the inherent truth of photography (as opposed to paintings), and arguing that these amateur qualities combined with the theatricality are precisely what makes Cameron's art interesting and delightful. Taking the passage as a whole into account, I would prephrase the main point as something like: Cameron's photographs are delightful because they combine the theatricality of recreating legendary characters and scenes with the realness of amateur human models.

So basically, I think that yes, reading more about humanities subjects can help sustain your interest and get you used to the types of language that authors tend to use when discussing those subjects. However, I think the most important thing for you to do is to make sure you have a consistent and structured approach to the passages. When reading, always focus on what you need to know about any RC passage (things like main point, viewpoints, structure, etc.) rather than on the actual subject itself. Taking it paragraph by paragraph is a great way to help you break it down and focus on what's important without getting distracted by flowery language.

Hope this helps!


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