Adverbs and Author's Attitude

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Adverbs and Author's Attitude

Postby Blueprint LSAT » Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:47 am

It shouldn't be news that the author's attitude is important in Reading Comprehension.

Very often, a question about the author's attitude will have several answers that sound ideologically in line with the piece you just read. But be careful. The question didn't ask: "What would someone LIKE the author most likely agree with?"

The right answer can be something that sounds counter intuitive or opposed to ideals that people with opinions like the author often also hold. We take shortcuts all the time when assessing what people say. For example, if I profess a belief strongly associated with a major religion or political party, people will often assume I hold most or all of the other beliefs often associated with that group. Obviously we don't want to do that on the LSAT, but avoiding it can be tricky since it is so deeply ingrained.

When you are reading RC passages, watch for these little, counter intuitive positions as well as specifically stated exceptions to strong positions.

Lets say a passage is all about environmental conservation. Everything the author is saying is leading you to believe that they are an environmentalist, but the subject is confined to urban and suburban land use. Then they state the following: "When developing land for residential use, the natural ecosystem should always be preserved unless it would deprive residents of a basic need such as water or prevent reasonable access."

On the surface, this sounds like a pretty pro-environment position, but lets say you get to question 5 and it asks you to pick the answer choice the author is most likely to agree with. Often the LSAT will give you several pro-environment options, but they will be too strong or about topics not discussed in the passage. The right answer could easily be something like:

"It is sometimes okay for residential developers to sacrifice the local ecosystem."

This answer is correct. If preserving the environment would cut off access or water, it is okay not to preserve it. But if you are moving quickly, using the skimming and analysis tools that were best for undergrad, you could easily fall into the trap.

Another thing to watch for if you are struggling to find the author's attitude are adverbs. If a paragraph begins with "unfortunately" or "justifiably" you have a pretty good idea how the author feels about what follows, even if they don't express an opinion more overtly in the rest of the passage.

Authors also sometimes let people off the hook this way. If a whole passage is about how messed up a situation is, but early on one party "justifiably" created the situation, chances are the blame for the problems lies elsewhere.

Andrew McDonald, Blueprint Instructor


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