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 rachel_fs03
  • Posts: 2
  • Joined: Jan 29, 2024
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#105108
I've been having a difficult time figuring out how to improve my Reading Comprehension timing. I took a PowerScore class and have been self-studying since it ended. I've been using the diagramming techniques I learned in class, and they are helpful in tracking the structure of the passage, but I take way too long to diagram and then can't finish the section in time. I think this problem is partly because of the online format of the questions. In class, we learned the diagramming techniques using the questions in our books, so I grew accustomed to diagramming in the margins of the passage. Now that I'm practicing using online questions via the online student center (and because the actual test is online), I have to diagram separately on a piece of scrap paper, which takes much longer because you have to go back and forth between the passage on your screen and the paper right next to you. The notations are also much less helpful when they are not directly next to the content they are referring to.

Additionally, I find that diagramming distracts me from truly understanding the content and arguments of the passage. I am constantly on the lookout for the next viewpoint, definition, question, etc to jot down and find it hard to actually focus on what I am reading at the same time. I've tried first reading and then going back to diagram after, but that also takes too much time. If I don't diagram at all, it's much harder to find the information I need to answer the questions.

So I'm at a loss for what to do. Would it be better to try using the online highlighting and underlining tools and skip the paper diagramming altogether? If so, should I use one color or multiple? What should I do about trying to understand the content while also trying to track the VIEWSTAMP elements? Any help would be appreciated.
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 Jeff Wren
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
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  • Joined: Oct 19, 2022
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#105160
Hi Rachel,

First, as someone who took the paper test back in the good old days, I sympathize with you and others having to take the digital test. I do prefer being able to write my notes in the margins of the passage rather than having to use separate scratch paper. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the current digital test, so we just have to do the best that we can with a combination of highlighting/underlining in the text and making notations on the scratch paper. On a positive note, the one advantage that the digital test offers that the paper test didn't is the word search feature, so that's something at least.

While I think it's fine to diagram your notes in the book during the lessons (so that you have them right there in the book for future review), for your homework and practice tests, you should definitely be practicing with the digital highlighting tools and scratch paper.

What I recommend is a combination of the digital highlighting in the text and writing notations on the scratch paper. In other words, whenever you highlight a key word or two in the passage, jot down a quick symbol on the scratch paper to correspond to that highlighted term. While it isn't necessarily as ideal as writing it right next to the passage, it's arguably the next best option.

If you number your scratch paper to represent the paragraphs in the passage, and write your notes in order, then it should be fairly easy to match up your notes with your highlighted words. For example, if you have 3 different terms highlighted in paragraph one, and three notes written on your scratch paper under paragraph one, then you can easily match them.

Another option that can be really helpful for visual learners is to actually create boxes on your scratch paper that correspond to the size of the paragraphs in the passage and put your notes approximately where they appear in the passage.

Diagramming should be a tool to help you focus your understanding rather than be a distraction. With practice, diagramming should become second nature and should not require much time or effort. From your question, it sounds like you may be so worried about completely/accurately diagramming that you're losing sight of the big picture. The goal of diagramming is to capture the big key ideas in each paragraph.

What works best for diagramming varies a lot from person to person, so try to find what works best for you. For example, while I generally recommend only using one color of digital highlighter, some people may prefer using more than one color. Having said this, the most common mistake that students make is over-diagramming, and you may be over-diagramming if it is taking you a long time to diagram the passage. Remember that less is more.

One strategy that I recommend is to take a few seconds after each paragraph just to do a quick mental recap of what you just read before moving on to the next paragraph.

Here is a link to our PowerScore podcast episode on RC Skills tests. These should help improve your diagramming as well as other RC skills.

https://powerscore.com/lsat/podcast/41

You may also find "The PowerScore LSAT Reading Comprehension Bible" a helpful resource.

One final note, an important step in improving your diagramming skills is re-checking your diagram after you've finished the questions (and checked your answers) to see how effective/helpful it was. In other words, could you have diagrammed better? Were there questions for which you couldn't easily find the answers, etc.?
User avatar
 rachel_fs03
  • Posts: 2
  • Joined: Jan 29, 2024
|
#105192
Jeff, thank you so much for the advice!
User avatar
 TootyFrooty
  • Posts: 74
  • Joined: Oct 13, 2023
|
#105410
Jeff Wren wrote: Thu Feb 01, 2024 9:16 pm Hi Rachel,

First, as someone who took the paper test back in the good old days, I sympathize with you and others having to take the digital test. I do prefer being able to write my notes in the margins of the passage rather than having to use separate scratch paper. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the current digital test, so we just have to do the best that we can with a combination of highlighting/underlining in the text and making notations on the scratch paper. On a positive note, the one advantage that the digital test offers that the paper test didn't is the word search feature, so that's something at least.

While I think it's fine to diagram your notes in the book during the lessons (so that you have them right there in the book for future review), for your homework and practice tests, you should definitely be practicing with the digital highlighting tools and scratch paper.

What I recommend is a combination of the digital highlighting in the text and writing notations on the scratch paper. In other words, whenever you highlight a key word or two in the passage, jot down a quick symbol on the scratch paper to correspond to that highlighted term. While it isn't necessarily as ideal as writing it right next to the passage, it's arguably the next best option.

If you number your scratch paper to represent the paragraphs in the passage, and write your notes in order, then it should be fairly easy to match up your notes with your highlighted words. For example, if you have 3 different terms highlighted in paragraph one, and three notes written on your scratch paper under paragraph one, then you can easily match them.

Another option that can be really helpful for visual learners is to actually create boxes on your scratch paper that correspond to the size of the paragraphs in the passage and put your notes approximately where they appear in the passage.

Diagramming should be a tool to help you focus your understanding rather than be a distraction. With practice, diagramming should become second nature and should not require much time or effort. From your question, it sounds like you may be so worried about completely/accurately diagramming that you're losing sight of the big picture. The goal of diagramming is to capture the big key ideas in each paragraph.

What works best for diagramming varies a lot from person to person, so try to find what works best for you. For example, while I generally recommend only using one color of digital highlighter, some people may prefer using more than one color. Having said this, the most common mistake that students make is over-diagramming, and you may be over-diagramming if it is taking you a long time to diagram the passage. Remember that less is more.

One strategy that I recommend is to take a few seconds after each paragraph just to do a quick mental recap of what you just read before moving on to the next paragraph.

Here is a link to our PowerScore podcast episode on RC Skills tests. These should help improve your diagramming as well as other RC skills.

https://powerscore.com/lsat/podcast/41

You may also find "The PowerScore LSAT Reading Comprehension Bible" a helpful resource.

One final note, an important step in improving your diagramming skills is re-checking your diagram after you've finished the questions (and checked your answers) to see how effective/helpful it was. In other words, could you have diagrammed better? Were there questions for which you couldn't easily find the answers, etc.?
On that note, do you recommend taking the paper exam instead? I worry because I'm now so used to taking it Digitally wonder if I would be able to transfer this easily?
 Robert Carroll
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 1787
  • Joined: Dec 06, 2013
|
#105662
TootyFrooty,

The paper exam is not an option unless you have special accommodations. So if you are used to the digital test now, that's good! That will be the only choice you have available anyway.

Robert Carroll

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