Reading comprehension strategy

I don't believe in complicated "techniques" for the LSAT's Reading Comprehension. Actually, I think most of the "strategies" being taught to LSAT students are at best hot air, and at worst counterproductive. (I've seen students so attached to underlining, for example, that they carefully underline 90% of the passage and by the time they're done they have no effing clue what the passage actually said.) It's not an art project! For me, Reading Comp is a simple two-step process. Ready? Step one:  Read.  Step two:  Comprehend.

Maybe I'm being a bit of smartass, but the primary goal is pretty simple: Understand the author's main point. Without any bullshit "techniques," most people can do that. And if they can't, then no amount of "strategy" is going to help them. So: Get the main point, above all else.

That said, the timed 35-minute section does give rise to some subtle section-management questions. Here are a couple, from one of my current students:

On reading comprehension, if I try to finish four passages within 35 minutes, I will miss several questions in each passage. But if I give myself 30 minutes to read the first three passages, no matter how hard they are, I can get almost everything correct. I don't know what to do with the remaining 5 minutes. Should I read the last passage and try to at least answer the main point question or should I go back to check the answers I'm not sure about in the first three passages? 

Obviously, the proper strategy is to do less passages if it leads to much higher accuracy. I'm very glad this student has realized this. So, what to do with five minutes left, and an unattempted passage? For me, this is a no-brainer. If I had five minutes left on the clock, and I had the choice between turning the page to a new passage or returning to the previous questions, I would definitely plow forward even though I knew I wasn't going to reach every question in the next passage. The point isn't so much that I think I'll get a ton more points on the new passage, it's that I've already probably gotten as many points as I'm going to get on the previous passages. On the LSAT, I never go backward and "check the answers." That's because I know that on all the previous questions, I wouldn't have moved past them unless either 1) I was sure I was right, or 2) I'd narrowed it down to my best guess and decided that it would be a complete waste of time trying to reach 100% certainty. Once I'm done with a question, I am done with that question. The only time I would ever go backward is if I've already finished the section and I have time to burn. And even then, I really wouldn't expect to pick up too many extra points. The questions I've already answered are either already right, or they're impossible. So, again, if there's five minutes on the clock and I haven't yet started passage four, I'm going to go ahead and read passage four, hoping to answer a main point question or two.

Also, when you are answering the questions, do you often go back to the passage to make sure that your choice is correct, or do you do so by memory? I'm struggling between the two methods, because the former will cost too much time but the latter will lead to mistakes.

Generally, most students read the passages faster than I do. But I read them once, and most students find themselves reading, and rereading, and rereading. But this doesn't mean I don't ever return to the passage. It just depends on the type of question. On a question that's asking me about the main point, or the author's "primary purpose," or the author's "tone," I would never need to go back to the passage. If I do, then I didn't read the passage carefully enough in the first place! But if the question asks "in line 35, what did the author mean by the term 'Fahrvergnugen,'" then, if I'm not absolutely certain, I'd be forced to go back to reread that section. But I wouldn't have to reread the whole passage, just 5 or 10 lines. I'd also frequently have to go back to the passage on a question that asks something like "which one of the following was not mentioned as a reason why Donald Trump is a douche." On a question like that, I'd go back to the passage and tick off the reasons that were mentioned, to end up with one correct answer that was not mentioned. Again, I wouldn't have to reread the whole passage, just the list of reasons.

I hope that's helpful! Please don't hesitate to call or email with questions... or post them in the comments.