The LSAT and Reading Speed

Do you ever find you don’t have enough time to do LSAT reading comprehension or logical reasoning sections?

You’re probably reading too slow…but you can learn to read faster.

My students who score 167+ generally have 5-7 minutes left over at the end of each section. They’re never rushed, and they can double-check hard questions afterwards.

Learning to read faster is a critical life skill. Law school has a lot of reading. And most jobs (including law) require you to read mounds of documents.

How Reading Faster Will Help You On The LSAT

Almost every reading comprehension question can be solved by finding the appropriate information in the passage. If you can read quickly, it’s easier to find this information and be 100% sure of your answer.

On logical reasoning, you can often answer a question by noticing a nuance in the stimulus. I sometimes read questions 3-4 times. I can read at 400-500 words per minutes (wpm), so I have this luxury.

Typical reading speed is 150-300 wpm for technical materials, but you can learn to increase your speed.

In this post, I’m going to teach you how to read faster while still maintaining full comprehension.

How To Read Faster On The LSAT

I’m going to teach you how to do the following things:

1. Find your baseline reading speed.
2. Read without pronouncing words in your head.
3. Read faster by starting from an indented position.

All of these things are easy to do once you get used to them, and you’ll get a permanent boost in your reading ability.

But you have to actually try the things I’m going to show you. If you’re not prepared to spend 20-30 minutes learning to improve your reading, then please don’t bother with the rest of this post. I don’t want anyone saying these techniques “don’t work” if they don’t even bother to try them.

Alright, let’s get started!

Step One: Check your reading speed.

You need to set a baseline to know if you’re making progress. There are some good, free reading speed calculators on the internet.

http://mindbluff.com/askread.htm
http://www.readingsoft.com/index.html
http://www.free-speed-reading.com/

(some of these are trying to sell speed-reading software, but the measurement is still accurate)

You can also use LSAT reading comprehension passages to test your reading speed. I checked the June 2007 LSAT (free), each passage has between 430-460 words. Other LSATs tend to be in the same range.

To calculate your wpm using an LSAT, us the following formula: words/time (minutes).

Suppose you a 444 word passage in 2:37. You have to convert 2:37 into the fraction of minutes that represents.

First, get the number of seconds in 2:37 –> 157 seconds. Then divide 157 by 60. This equals to 2.62 minutes.

444/2.62 = 169 wpm

That’s not very fast, but it’s a pretty standard reading speed for a reading comprehension passage. And most LSAT students only retain about half of what they read. More on that in step 3.

Here are the lengths of the passages from the June 2007 LSAT, if you want to time yourself using them.

Passage 1: 443
Passage 2: 444
Passage 3: 458
Passage 4: 432

If you use another LSAT reading comprehension passage, you can either use 450 as the number of words, or count the average number of words in a line and multiply it by the number of lines in the passage.

Use a few passages, and you should have a good idea of what your current reading speed is.

Step 2: Reduce Subvocalization

Sub-what? Subvocalization is the word for pronouncing words in your head as you read. Fast readers don’t do this as often.

Most people don’t even realize that you can read without pronouncing the words, but it’s true. Fortunately, there’s a very useful, free online tool to help you break the habit: Spreeder.

Spreeder takes a text, and displays it to you one word at a time. Here’s the fun part: you can change the speed it displays words. The default is 300 wpm. If you’re comfortably with that, increase the speed. I can do 650, which is faster than my normal reading speed.

If you pick the right speed, you’ll notice you’re understanding most of the content without pronouncing the words.

The next step is to try some LSAT passages. The free June 2007 LSAT allows you to copy-paste. Copy a passage, and paste it into Spreeder. Then try reading it on a fast speed.

You should practice with Spreeder until you notice an increase in the speed you can comfortably read. If you break the subvocalization habit, you’ll be able to read faster on paper, too.

Step 3: Starting From and Indented Position, and Use Your Index Finger

Try an experiment. I want you to start reading the next line at the word “need”, and stop reading at the word “everything”.

“You don’t need to read every word to see everything on a line.”

Notice how you were able to read the line, even though you didn’t look at each word. That’s your peripheral vision at work. And you avoided looking at 5/13 words from that line.

I do this when reading LSAT reading comprehension passages. They’re perfect for it, because the LSAT uses narrow columns. You won’t lose any understanding of the material if you do this right. Try it on a passage.

If you find it difficult, one tip is to use your index finger or a pen to scan underneath each line, starting from an indented position. This also prevents you from looking backwards.

I took these techniques from Tim Ferriss’ guide to speed reading (blog post). If you’re really serious about improving your reading speed, go through that post using reading comprehension passages as source material.

The indenting is the trick I’ve found most useful, and the index finger method is useful for many students.

Conclusion

Try these techniques, and you should be able to get at least a 20-30% boost to your reading speed for the LSAT.

Remember that I am not talking about skimming. You should be able to increase your speed, while understanding as much as you did before.

Keep track of your reading speed on a few passages, and post your results here. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

——

Update: This article’s still valid. Just a quick announcement to let you know that I also have a new site. There are free explanations for LSAT preptests. And here’s an article about reading comprehension: https://lsathacks.com/guide/faq/how-to-go-faster-reading-comprehension/

 

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “The LSAT and Reading Speed

  1. Amazing post. Phenomenal results.

    I just started today and I have already experienced a jump. The trick is that I need to keep up with it even in my post-LSAT reading.

    I read one article from each of the following publications every morning: The Economist, Scientific American, Foreign Policy, and The New Yorker. I plan to use these articles as practice for mastering the strategies.

    I started at 267 WPM with 73% comprehension (Aug. 22)
    My goal is to reach 400 WPM with 100% comprehension (Sept. 5)

    Right now my RC passages average 20 minutes, 1 wrong.
    Do you think it’s possible to be able to finish RC with time leftover and close to 100% accuracy by the Oct. 6 test date if I read my above 400 WPM and 100% comprehension goal by Sept. 5?

    • Im in the same boat and am going to use this and Spreeder to increase my wpm (and take the little voice out of my head). I’m hoping by Oct 6th with continued practice I will be able to increase my wpm in a matter of days not even weeks.

  2. I calculated my Reading Speed at 167 wpm. I was only getting finished with 20 of the 25 questions on the LR section and 3 passages with RC Section on the LSAT. I has awesome score that would put me in the high 160s or 170s if I could have the same accuracy and was able to get to every question. I used Ace Reader Pro. I knew I didn’t have to get to 400 wpm to complete section so I shot for around 350 wpm. Within 3 days I was hitting 312 wpm with 100% comprehension. You don’t even realize you are increasing this fast until you take their comprehension test, which gives you a score and WPM. It has given me a great boost in my confidence for Feb 2013 LSAT. Just a note: I have found that my comprehension is better at a increased reading speed than it was when I was dragging along at 167 wpm. I can be done and rather easily.

  3. I have been preparing for the LSAT since December and identified my reading speed as the bottle neck. I just can’t get through the passages fast enough, and I have issues with doing all the questions on time correctly; if I slow down enough I usually get almost all of them right, but then run out of time. So, I have bought the 7 speed software, as well as, practiced speed reading while counting out loud. My question is: how long does it take to learn to speed read faster, as in how much time should I allocate to practice each day with the remaining four month? Also, to stop sub vocalizing, I know this questions might be out of scope here, when I read and count out loud or read on the 7 speed reader I still pronounce some words in my head while getting little comprehension, is this normal? How to cancel out the effect? I need to get past the 160-200 WPM. Are there any tips on how to learn faster, since on the 7 speed reader on almost all exercise when they ask me to recognize the words I still sub vocalize them in my head. I am willing to put in as much effort as needed to get better please help.

  4. I think the link to Tim Ferriss’ technique was very helpful.
    I went from 153 WPM to 486 WPM, in less than half an hour!
    This was the difference of roughly a paragraph to a page and a paragraph.
    Training myself to follow a pen has helped me increase my focus. Also, skipping words at the beginning and end of each line has dramatically improved my WPM.

    Thank you

  5. I started this article at a lower reading speed and finished it with a higher reading speed within minutes. Didn’t spend a dime, learned something major.

    Genuinely.

    Subvocalization man… I never realized I did that when I read. What a cool little trick haha.

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