LSAT Reading Comprehension

Written by: Will Bond

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LSAT Reading Comprehension

With how central the ability to read and comprehend dense, complex texts is to a lawyer’s daily life, it’s unsurprising that Reading Comprehension is one of the four core sections on the LSAT. While many students struggle with this skill, it’s just as learnable as the LSAT’s other sections with the right resources.

In this article, we’ll walk you through what you can expect from the Reading Comprehension section, detail some useful tips to help you excel, and provide you with some official LSAT Reading Comprehension practice questions so you’ll be comfortable with their format by the day of your exam.

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What is LSAT Reading Comprehension

The Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT will test how well you can sort through and synthesize a number of lengthy, complex, and information-dense passages. These texts are sourced from a variety of different subjects (such as the sciences, arts, or humanities), and are designed to emulate the difficulty of content you’ll encounter both in law school and in legal practice.

These passages, which are typically between 450 to 550 words in length, will require you to quickly process the information they contain in order to understand the argument’s structure, identify patterns, and answer a series of related multiple-choice questions.

In this way, the LSAT Reading Comprehension section demands a number of particular abilities from candidates, including attention to detail, a range of critical thinking skills (e.g., analysis, synthesis, and comparison), and the ability to apply the deductive reasoning necessary for law school in everyday scenarios.

Reading Comprehension Structure

The LSAT Reading Comprehension section lasts 35 minutes and consists of four passages, each having between six and eight of their own questions. There is also one Comparative Reading passage that’s made up of two distinct, shorter texts you’ll be expected to analyze the relationship between.

Since there’s no predetermined order in which these passages are presented, the questions do not necessarily get harder as you move through the exam. Instead, the questions have all been created to be objective and only test you on information that can be found within the passage.

It’s typical for most question sets in the Reading Comprehension section to begin with one that asks about the main point of the related passage. All questions should have five answers for you to choose from, though only one of them will be correct — no matter how many may seem true.

Reading Comprehension Question Types

Generally, the questions that you’ll face in the Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT will fall into one of three broad categories, which we’ve broken down below.

Review

These types of questions typically inquire about the following aspects within the passage:

  • The primary purpose or main idea
  • The author’s attitude (e.g., his tone or language used)
  • Information that is explicitly stated

Function and Role

These will typically test your ability to answer questions related to:

  • The contextual meaning of certain words or phrases
  • The principles at play
  • The passage’s organization or structure

Inferences

Questions revolving around inferences will typically ask you to determine:

  • What information or ideas are being inferred
  • How this information could be applied to a new context
  • The effect of new information on the passage’s claims
  • Any analogies to claims made in the passage

While it’s helpful to be familiar with these different question types that you could face in the Reading Comprehension section, taking advantage of quality study resources is a far more effective way to ensure that you perform well in all of the LSAT’s questions.

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Interested in getting started? We recommend Kaplan’s LSAT preparation courses, which come with over 200 quizzes and practice tests, one-on-one tutoring, and interactive online lessons.

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How to Get Better at LSAT Reading Comprehension

Now that you have a basic overview of what the LSAT Reading Comprehension section is and the types of questions you could face, we’ll walk you through some strategies to help you excel.

LSAT Reading Comprehension Tips

Though the Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT may initially seem quite daunting, there are a number of effective strategies for answering questions you can utilize to improve your performance, which we’ve outlined for you below.

All Questions “Must Be True”

A common misconception among many students preparing for the LSAT is that the Reading Comprehension questions will expect them to make their own assumptions about what the author might be trying to say, or “read between the lines”.

However, this is not the case. You’ll find that you score a lot higher in this section of the LSAT when you stop trying to make these interpretations about what the author could be saying and instead look for explicit support of what they are saying.

Generally, the right answer should be unequivocal — if you find yourself having to negotiate with an answer, it’s most likely incorrect. Rather, the correct answer should become apparent after reading the passage critically and focusing on the evidence provided.

Simplify the Language

The passages found in the LSAT Reading Comprehension section are often extremely wordy and unnecessarily complicated. A quick and easy strategy to overcome this and prevent it from tripping you up in the real exam is to paraphrase anything that’s too wordy in a clearer way.

For example, the following sentence from the passage in the next section appeared in the official LSAT paper in September 2014:

“But while this scenario explains why dinosaurs died off and mammals fared relatively well, it does not conform to the strict constructionist view of the adaptive reasons for the success of the species.”

However, it’s much clearer and understandable when rewritten like this:

“This explanation tells us why dinosaurs died out and why mammals did okay. However, it doesn’t fit the idea that some people have about why species succeed.”

Rewriting confusing excerpts from the passage in your own words like this is great because it allows you to think about what is actually being said in simpler terms, rather than getting bogged down by jargon.

Make the Passage Interesting to You

Just like actual legal text (including statutory law, legal case studies, and judicial decisions), the passages in the LSAT Reading Comprehension section can often be quite convoluted and difficult to follow — especially when the topic being discussed doesn’t interest you at all.

If one of the passages involves a topic that’s struggling to maintain your interest, it’s important to try and find a way of connecting it in a way that does — make it personal to you.

Ultimately, these passages aren’t designed to be entertaining; their purpose is to gauge your readiness for law school. If boredom strikes when faced with a passage, remind yourself why you’re pursuing this test in the first place.

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LSAT Reading Comprehension Example Questions

In the section below, you can find the first Reading Comprehension passage (and some of the related questions) that appeared in the official September 2014 LSAT exam. Practicing with authentic examples like these is essential when preparing for your LSAT as it helps ensure you’re familiar with the typical format and style of these questions for your actual exam.

Be sure to mimic exam conditions as much as possible when doing this test. Don’t rely on outside research or write as if you have all the time in the world.

Passage

Questions

Question 1

Question 2

Question 3

Question 4

Practice Question Solutions

You can find the answers to the Reading Comprehension questions in the table below. Keep in mind that while some questions may present two seemingly correct choices, the actual answer will be the one that best addresses the question.

Question Answer
1B
2C
3B
4E

LSAT Reading Comprehension FAQ

Is LSAT Reading Comprehension hard?

The LSAT Reading Comprehension section can be challenging as it requires solid critical thinking skills and the ability to quickly analyze complex texts and select the correct answers for five to eight questions. In particular, many test takers struggle with finding the choice that most accurately answers the question, as there are often multiple choices that could be true.

How can I improve my LSAT Reading Comprehension?

To improve your performance in the Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT, it’s essential to practice regularly and actively engage with the passages when reading them. For strategies to help you select the correct answer choices in this section more consistently, check out our comprehensive LSAT Reading Comprehension article.

How long should you spend on LSAT Reading Comprehension?

The recommended time for LSAT Reading Comprehension can vary, but around eight to nine minutes per passage is a good guideline. You’ll have to manage your time effectively to complete all questions within the allotted time for this section. To find out more about the other sections of this exam, see our What is the LSAT article.

What is the Reading Comprehension format for the LSAT?

This section typically consists of four comprehension passages, each followed by between five and eight questions. These passages can cover a variety of topics, ranging from the humanities to biological and physical sciences. Questions will test your understanding of the text and ability to critically evaluate these passages under time pressure.