Comparative Reading questions concern the relationships between the two passages, such as those of generalization/instance, principle/application, or point/counterpoint. — LSAC
Comparative reading was introduced to the LSAT in 2007. For the comparative reading portion of the reading comprehension section, you are required to read two passages and answer questions about those two passages. Many test takers find this portion of the test to be particularly frustrating as it requires a very good working memory and the ability to compare and contrast difficult passages. But the comparative reading portion does not need to be any more difficult than the rest of the section. The right approach can make a big difference here.
Skim the Questions
Before you begin reading the two passages, take a moment to look through the questions. To be clear, this advice only applies to comparative reading; I don’t suggest skimming the questions before reading any other passage in the section. But skimming the questions at the beginning of the comparative reading portion is definitely worth your time.
As you skim, you are looking for questions that deal with only one of the two passages. For example, you might see a question that asks:
The author in Passage B mentions each of the following EXCEPT
The above question references Passage B, but it in now way references Passage A. That’s the kind of question you need to find in advance. Not every comparative reading portion of the test will have one of these questions, but many do.
If you’ve identified a question (or two questions on rare occasions) that references only one of the two passages, read that passage first. And then answer the question you identified immediately after reading the one passage. So if you saw the question I used in the example above, you would read Passage B, answer the question, and then read Passage A so you could answer the remaining questions.
This strategy is good for those single passage questions because it allows you to focus only on the passage in question. Often, the wrong answers will only be tricky because they reference the other passage (and your mind can sometimes have trouble remembering exactly which details came from each passage). But if you have only read one of the passages, this trick won’t work on you.
This strategy also helps clearly separate the two passages in your mind. By answering the question in between reading the two passages, you create a clear barrier that your brain can use as a means to remember which details belong to each passage. Thus, this strategy also helps with questions concerning both passages.
Immediately Summarize Each Passage
After you finish reading one of the passages, take a moment to mentally summarize the material you just read. This summary does not need to be long of complex; a sentence for each paragraph works well. Your goal here is to briefly put the passage in your own words. That last part is important; you must use your own words here.
This strategy is useful for a few reasons. First, it helps you remember the content of passage you just read. By putting the information in your own words, you are signalling to your brain that the information is important and worth holding onto for a little while. Second, this strategy helps point out any portion of the passage that you do not fully understand. If you can’t put it in your own words, then you don’t really understand what’s going on and you likely need to take another look at what you read. And third , this strategy helps you maintain keep in mind the big picture view of the passage you read, which comes in handy with many common questions.
Compare and Contrast Before Approaching the Questions
Once you’ve read both passages, take a moment to think about how the passages are the same and how they are different. You need to be able to say in your own words how the two passages are alike and how they the differ. An easy way to approach this is to answer the following questions after finish the passages:
- Why does the LSAT have these passages together?
- Do the authors deal with the same topic or similar topics?
- What would the authors agree of disagree about?
Taking 10-15 seconds to think through these questions before answering the questions will likely earn you better answers and faster answer times. The majority of comparative reading questions deal with comparing and contrasting the passages, and the question will often attempt to mislead you. So you need to solidify your understanding of how the passages relate to each other before tackling these questions.
LSAC Quotation Source: http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/prep/reading-comprehension