The September 2014 LSAT appears to have followed recent trends, featuring a Games section that gave a lot of test takers trouble and a Reading Comprehension section that also presented its share of challenges. Let’s take a look at what the RC section had to offer:
Although the first passage deals with Darwin’s theories, natural selection, and random mutation, it’s written in straightforward language and deals with pretty basic subject matter. The author discusses the fact that Darwin’s natural selection doesn’t actually explain most genetic mutation, and that natural selection doesn’t appear to account for the success or failure every species. Like many LSAT science passages, the concepts are not particularly complex, but unlike many, this selection is not filled with overly scientific terminology.
The second passage in the section deals with the “fancy-subject” pictures of Julia Margaret Cameron—still-life photographic reenactments of various scenes from the Bible, literature, etc., whose imperfections are ever-present but, in the author’s opinion, enhance the charm of the photos. Although the middle paragraph seems crafted to lose a few readers, the general theme of the passage is clear—that these pictures’ mixes of “amateurism and artistry” are reminiscent of a delightful amateur theatrical. Some of the questions that follow this passage are challenging, with two specific reference questions that both require an understanding of that difficult second paragraph. As with many Reading Comprehension passages, this one requires a grasp of the specific facts presented and the big picture.
The third passage deals with Marcusian thought, and the potentially difficult distinction between real and false needs. Marcuse believed that people have real needs, but that advertisers deliberately associate goods with real needs, thus creating a “false need” for a given product. The passage gets more difficult in the third paragraph (as the author points the difficulty in drawing a clear distinction between a real need and one that has been manipulated) and in the fourth paragraph, which opens with a potentially confusing double-negative: such theorists, asserts the author, “make a major mistake in assuming that the majority of consumers who respond to advertising do not do so autonomously.” (in other words, most consumers who respond to ads choose to do so). Sometimes these are false needs, says the author, but there is no reason that some products can’t bring exactly the sort of satisfaction alluded to by the advertisers. If you understand this passage, then most of the questions that follow are fairly straightforward, with the possible exception of the Passage Extension question, which requires both an understanding of the overall concepts discussed and a recognition of the direction taken toward the end of the passage.
Last but not least are the two Comparative Reading passages, which deal with the idea of justice in the context of property ownership and transfer. The first author deals with the concept in a more abstract way, discussing the rules that would make for a just world, the fact that not everyone would act in accordance with the law, and the resulting need for some means of rectification as well. The second passage deals with more concrete subject matter: The author discussed the case of the 1790 Indian Nonintercourse Act, a law written to prevent fraudulent acquisition of land from Native Americans. The author says that as its first occupants, Native Americans have a right to land in North America, so land that was illicitly taken during European invasion should be returned to the land’s rightful owners whenever feasible. The accompanying questions require the test taker to fully understand both passages, since not a single question in the group of six fails to reference both.
Overall, while the themes of the passages are not overly complex, this section presented some difficulty for quite a few test takers, as has generally been the case in Reading Comprehension sections from recent LSATs.