The December 2014 LSAT Reading Comprehension Section Reviewed

    12567832365_8f2e807da3_zThe December LSAT was a challenging one for many students, and with the scores’ having just been released last week, many are now reviewing their results. Earlier this week we reviewed the Logic Games section of the test, and the following is a basic overview of the Reading Comprehension section.

    The first passage in the section deals with the creation of great perfumes, an undertaking which, in the author’s opinion, should be taken much more seriously. Why should such artistry not get the same sort of attention as that paid to great oil paintings? After all, the author points out, both painters and great perfumers blend elements to form complex creations that have the potential to spark the imagination and elicit long-lost memories. One answer, provides the author, might be that the majority of perfumes are created by large corporations, whose cost-cutting concerns drive them to search for cheap substitute ingredients, focusing less on quality and more on marketing and public relations.

    The second passage is all about “stealing thunder,” the courtroom strategy of revealing negative information about a client before the information can be presented by the opposing side. Not much empirical research exists, but the author suggests reasons that the strategy might be effective: It can help establish credibility, allow juries to preview and thus question upcoming arguments, and allow one to frame the information in his or her own terms.

    Next comes the comparative reading passage set, in which both authors explore the issue of reconciling free will with a world that in some cases can seem deterministic. The first author points out that people can be completely rational, yet still have their actions determined by factors outside of their control, and decisions may be based on emotion rather than reason. This suggests, according to the author, that retribution for freely chosen wrong acts should no longer be considered a justification for punishment, and that deterrence of future harm should be the focus. The second author also deals with the issues of free will and determinism, but offers a different perspective. “Soft determinism” is the idea that free will can exist to some extent even in a deterministic world, and that free actions can be distinguished from constrained actions.

    In the final passage in the sectin, the author discusses a writer named Mario Garcia, who claims that the “Mexican American Generation” in the United States from 1930 to 1960 was more radical and diverse than generally depicted by historians. The author of the passage, however, believes that Garcia’s study is flawed: The claims regarding the group’s diversity are inconsistent, referring to general consensus while downplaying significant differences, and the “Mexican American Generation” on which Garcia focuses may not have been representative of the ethnic Mexican population in the country during that period.

    Overall, the Reading Comprehension section of the December LSAT presented a fairly standard mix of passage types and questions. The language of the passages was generally considered accessible (although many found the subject matter of the comparative reading passages challenging), and the passage types represented were Humanities, Law, Science, and Diversity, respectively.


    Image: The Color of Water, courtesy of Steve Corey.