Law schools love applicants with backgrounds in science and technology who bring useful skills and perspectives to the classroom and the courtroom.
Most law school applicants, however, have backgrounds in the humanities or social science. Many of them feel confident with literary analysis or political debate but nervous when asked to work with scientific terms and concepts.
Knowing this, the LSAT includes many reading comprehension passages that relate to science, technology or technical aspects of law or philosophy. Such passages can seem daunting, with a dry tone and dense technical jargon.
If you are unaccustomed to reading scientific writing, you should devote practice time to science and technology passages. While such passages are not always among the four passages in a reading comprehension section, they are common enough to be unavoidable.
Here are some tips to shake off any fears about science passages:
— Don’t assume you need background knowledge.
— Don’t panic at technical jargon.
— Look for the evidence.
— Consider doing science passages last.
Don’t Assume You Need Background Knowledge
The LSAT is intended to be accessible to people from all backgrounds. Thus, the test will never assume you know anything that is not common knowledge. Each passage will include the information required to answer questions.
The test should be equally approachable whether you have a doctorate in biochemistry or don’t even know what biochemistry means. Expert knowledge may even be counterproductive or distracting. For example, an astrogeologist reading a passage about extrasolar planets may have trouble sticking to the arguments and evidence contained within the passage.
Don’t Panic at Technical Jargon
LSAT science passages use scientific terms frequently but superficially, since they lack the space to dive into complex ideas.
Too many LSAT test-takers fear technical terms. They see a word they have never heard of and have no idea how to pronounce and then jump to the conclusion that the test is too hard for them.
Here’s the secret: These terms are intended to be obscure and inscrutable, and no one will know or care how you pronounce them.
When confronted with an unfamiliar term, settle on a pronunciation for it in your head or abbreviate it with an easy shorthand. Highlight the definition so that you know exactly what it means, if asked.
For example, imagine a science passage about oogenesis. How do you pronounce oogenesis? Who cares, just call it OG. What is OG? The process by which an ovum becomes a cell that can be fertilized. What is an ovum? If you need to know, the test will tell you.
Look for the Evidence
LSAT passages almost always make arguments. The arguments in science passages may not be as forceful as they are in more political or critical passages, but they are important.
If you can’t find the main argument after reading a science passage, trace the evidence the author presents.
For example, if a passage contrasts different geological theories for the existence of a crater, look at the evidence and counterevidence given for each theory. If the author seems to favor one theory or offers a potential resolution to the debate, that is likely the main argument.
Pay close attention to any causal processes presented, because scientific theories often explain how and why things happen. Such causal explanations are likely to come up in the questions.
Consider Doing Science Passages Last
With practice, you may find that science passages are no harder than others on the LSAT. However, if you still find yourself performing poorly on them, or even if they just stress you out or require extra focus, simply save them for last.
The digital LSAT makes it easy to do questions out of order by flagging questions for later review and skipping ahead. Complete other passages at your usual pace and then come back to a science passage with fresh eyes and full attention. It is much easier to focus on science passages when you know exactly how much time you have for them.
The work you put into getting comfortable with science passages will serve you well in your legal career. One day when an expert witness tries to intimidate you with a flurry of scientific jargon, take confidence from how you learned to master science passages on the LSAT and stay focused on the evidence.
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