My previous posts, especially those concerning Mastering the National Admissions Test for Law by Mark Shepherd, reveal flaws, lapses regarding English questions 'of comprehension, analysis and, to some extent, logical reasoning' and 'reasoning skills ... critical necessity for a legal career.'. I ask about English, and not law; that test involves everyday knowledge topics; no specialist knowledge of law is required'.

To help me find other resources to correct my miscues and oversights, what's this type of reading called? (There are only a limited number of mock LNAT questions.) It's surpassingly trickier and more nuanced than regular 'reading comprehension'. I can comfortably read English and even those passages in the LNAT questions, but I couldn't discriminate or infer the hidden, indirect, intricate, subtle, and thorny.

Would something like http://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Book-Intelligent-Touchstone/dp/0671212095 help with my weaknesses? Is it apt?


3 Answers 3


The term you are looking for is "close reading". A close reading is a careful examination of a text to understand all of its connotations, beyond just deciphering the text on the page.

I know nothing about the text you linked to, so couldn't say how well it would meet your needs. Camile Paglia has a fantastic book called Break, Blow, Burn which teaches how to do a close reading of poetry. I realize that your goal is not to read poetry, but the book is very informative, and you might find it helpful.


I really do believe it is "reading comprehension" you are asking about, and working through a good book or study guide on that topic would allow you to answer every question I've seen you ask here and on EL&U.

With that said, to answer the question as asked (which I'm obliged to do), if you want to go "one level down", you'd have to engage in "critical analysis", and beyond that, "literary criticism" (which, to be honest, sometimes gets so deep, it wraps back around to shallow and vapid).

But be warned: these are serious, deep fields, and in certain ways endless. Developing an expertise in critical analysis will take at least as long as you're intending to expend on obtaining your law degree, and even dipping your toe in it is probably significant overkill for studying for an entry-level exam like the LNAT. I say this in part because the fields are focused externally, on the work being analyzed, as much as internally, on improving your reasoning skills and reflecting on your own processes of thought.

My advice: look into "reading comprehension" again; do a more detailed search for study guides or introductory works on that topic. If you still feel un- or under-equipped for the LNAT, you may try looking into "critical thinking" (but again, that's a deep field, and you only have limited time for study).

  • +1. Thank you effusively. To clarify though, in your last sentence, you wrote 'critical thinking', but in your para 2, you wrote 'crtical analysis'. Was this difference intended?
    – user8712
    Oct 23, 2014 at 1:38
  • @LePress, yes, those are two different fields; my apologies for supplying no links or definitions. My recommendation is to leave "critical analysis" and "literary criticism" on the shelf, for now, and focus more deeply on "reading comprehension"; if you think you've hit a wall there that you cannot get around, you might look into "critical thinking", which will help you develop a specific set of tools of thought (which will not inky help you pass the reading comprehension section of your LNAT, not only help you excel in your law career, but indeed will bear fruit for your entire life).
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 23, 2014 at 10:04

I notice the following things about your LNAT practice questions:

  • They were about the passages that made the least sense to you.
  • The passages that did not make sense to you were often making fallacious arguments. They were arguing for things that were not true, or only seem true if you agree with certain ideologies -- so they made illogical arguments.

I would describe many of the passages as "rhetoric masquerading as analysis". Here are some ways to learn the strengths and weaknesses of rhetoric:

  • how to write rhetoric
  • logical argument
  • how to detect fallacies; a catalog of fallacies
  • how to write case studies (especially for business)
  • how to write pattern languages (especially for architecture and computer programming)
  • How to Lie with Statistics
  • close reading (as suggested by Michelle)
  • learn to identify "hidden assumptions"
  • recognize some common approaches to searching for truth. For example: The scientific method -- deductive reasoning -- Catholic theology -- Calvinist theology -- "original intent" legal interpretation
  • become familiar with some common clumps of hidden assumptions. Recognize what kinds of problems each philosophy ignores or denies.

You must log in to answer this question.