The first LSAT administration that included comparative reading was in 2007, and it’s been a daunting task to test takers ever since. However, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed about LSAT comparative reading. You just need to use the same skills you’ve developed for the other reading comprehension passages, with a little twist.
Here we’re going to cover the basics of LSAT comparative reading, provide tips for how to approach these passages, and show you where to find practice comparative reading passages. By the end of this post, you’ll be hoping for even more comparative reading passages!
What is LSAT comparative reading?
First things first: let’s define comparative reading. As you learned in the LSAT Reading Comprehension basics, there are always three passages and one pair of passages on the exam. It’s the pair of passages that we are considered with. This pair is considered comparative reading.
Your task with the pair of passages is to contrast and compare the passages—the tone, purpose, and the author’s point of view. What makes these passages harder is that you have not one, but two passages to read. Double the reading, double the fun? If you answered yes to that question, I have good news—law school and the practice of law are full of reading!
The questions on comparative reading passages are similar to the questions you’ll see on the other passages. The main difference is that questions focus on comparing and contrasting the two passages, so the questions will mostly be about tone and purpose and less about particular details.
Tips for LSAT comparative reading
1. Read thoroughly and actively.
As mentioned above, the key difference between the comparative reading passages and the other reading comprehension passages will be recognizing how two passages differ. This means that you will need to read each passage carefully and make good notes in the margin about each paragraph. You should be able to effectively summarize the main point, the tone, and the purpose of passage A before you move on to passage B.
When you move on to passage B, make sure to note any similarities or differences with passage A in the margins. You can use a simple notation, like a check mark for similarities and an x for differences, or any other way that makes sense to you. Just pick something easy to remember and start using it right away as you study. These simple marks will help you quickly identify points of contention or agreement between the authors of the passages and help you snag some points!
2. Always refer back to the passages.
Since you have twice the information to keep track of with comparative reading, always be sure to go back to the passage to confirm your answer. Questions on comparative reading will state something like, “Which one of the following is mentioned in passage B but not in passage A as a possible consequence?” You shouldn’t try to rely on your memory of each passage to eliminate answer choices—go back to your margin notes on each passage to confirm your answer.
Don’t miss a point because you confused the tone of passage A with the tone of passage B. This leads to our third tip which tells you how to keep in mind which passage the question is referring to.
3. Read the question carefully.
With two passages to keep track of, be sure you read the question deliberately and, most importantly, understand which passage the question is referring to. Many of the comparative reading questions will only ask about one of the passages, and there will likely be a trap answer choice that answers the question about the other passage. Don’t be fooled! Be sure to note which passage the question is asking about and then confirm by reviewing your notes.
You also want to make sure you understand whether the question is asking about something the authors agree or disagree over related to their writing. While this may seem like an obvious difference, it’s easy to get confused or miss the point of the question if you’re working too quickly. Don’t let all your time spent reading the passage and making notes go to waste by misreading the question.
LSAT comparative reading practice is critical
To ensure you have these tips down for test day, you’ll need to complete a lot of LSAT Reading Comprehension practice. Remember comparative reading was only introduced to the LSAT in 2007, so be sure to practice with the exams that have been administered since then. You can get started by reviewing the sample passages and questions provided by the LSAC—the comparative reading questions start at question 8.
Now that you’ve learned all the tips for the comparative reading passages on the LSAT, be sure to review our Tips for Acing LSAT Reading Comprehension to improve your score even more. Practicing these tips and strategies is crucial to improving your reading comprehension skills and score.
While comparative reading can be challenging, you can do well on these passages by applying the same skills you use on other reading comprehension passages. The trick is to read even more carefully, denoting any and all differences between the two passages. By approaching comparative reading deliberately and strategically, you’ll do just fine.
To increase your LSAT reading comprehension score even more, be sure to learn How to Read LSAT Passages Faster!