By Peg Tittle, LSAT Tutor • November 27, 2014
The three things I’ve already mentioned (see part 1) are things you should do as you go through the passage. They help you see the trees.
The next two things are things you should do at the end of each paragraph and at the end of the passage as a whole. They help you see the forest.
1. At the end of each paragraph, articulate to yourself the main point of the paragraph. It helps if you use as a template “The main point is that … .” If you have trouble, articulate first the topic, then ask yourself what is the author saying about that topic. The main point sentence you formulate will be content-specific; that is, it will apply only to that paragaph.
2. Also at the end of each paragraph, articulate to yourself the main purpose of the paragraph. Use as a template “The main purpose is to … .” The main purpose sentence you formulate will be general enough to be usable for any paragraph in any passage. So start keeping a list of purposes: to introduce a topic, to present a hypothesis, to provide evidence in favour of a theory, to present evidence against a theory, to present an example that illustrates a previously made claim, and so on.
3. At the end of the passage as a whole, articulate to yourself the main point of the passage as a whole. Be sure to account for each of the paragraphs in your main point sentence. (Often one of the wrong answers for the main point question is a minor point—the main point of one of the individual paragraphs.) It helps to use a complex (two-part) sentence (for example, ‘Although blah-blah X, blah-blah Y’).
4. At the end of the passage as a whole, articulate to yourself the main purpose of the passage as a whole. This is less important than the main point, but it does come up from time to time in a question. Again, use your prepared list of generic purposes/functions. Is the main purpose to present an alternative to a standard approach? To compare two different theories? To show the contributions of a particular artist/scholar? And so on.
Peg Tittle used to work at LSAC writing the questions that go on the LSAT; she’s the author of a logical reasoning textbook (Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason, Routledge 2011); she has an M.A. in Philosophy (we’re all about argument!), a B.A. in Literature (there’s my RC!), a B.Ed. (so I know pedagogy), and ESL certification; and she has over ten years’ teaching/tutoring experience.
She has set up an FAQ page about her LSAT tutoring (which she does by phone or skype) .