Emily Holleman is a Content Developer at Knewton, helping students with their LSAT preparation.
If you read my friend Chris Black’s great post on passage wording last week, you already know how important language is on the LSAT. However, it’s especially important to pay attention to language use when you’re asked about an author’s attitude.
Attitude questions—you know, those pesky ones that pretty much ask you how the author feels about something—may be the trickiest questions on the Reading Comp section. If only those authors would just come out and say how they felt about the topic (I think that Yeats’ poetry is crap)! Luckily for us, these attitudes do come across loud and clear, as long as you know what types of language to look for.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Eliminate any answer choice with the words indifferent or neutral—if the author didn’t feel anything about the subject, the LSAT writers wouldn’t be asking the question.
- Check out the adjectives and adverbs that describe the topic: are these mostly positive (comprehensive, informative, insightful, etc) or negative (disappointing, unfortunate, incomplete)?
- Check out the verbs that are associated with the topic. Does the author say that it attempts, succeeds, or fails at anything?
- Unless your findings are OVERWHELMINGLY positive or STAGGERINGLY negative, eliminate extreme answer choices (outright disdain, ardent admiration, unmitigated criticism, unconditional acceptance, etc).
Let’s take a look at this excerpt to see if we can figure what the author’s attitude toward Albertson’s study is:
Albertson’s study provides one of the more enlightening accounts of the Great Migration. Unfortunately, it fails to fully address the reaction of Northern whites to this sudden influx of African Americans.
Okay, so the author describes the study as one of the more enlightening accounts. That’s pretty positive! However, he then adds a negative qualification: it unfortunately fails to fully address something. So, the author has a somewhat positive attitude about Albertson’s study. We’ll keep this in mind as we go through the answer choices:
A. Enthusiastic reverence
This is an extreme answer choice. We know that the author feels positively about Albertson’s study, but we also know that he has some reservations about it. So this one is out.
B. Complete indifference
This choice claims the author doesn’t have an opinion on the subject—we can eliminate it right off the bat.
C. Qualified rejection
This suggests that the author’s attitude is mostly negative, but we know the author’s feelings are generally positive.
D. Reserved admiration
There’s our correct answer! The author shows admiration for the study (it is one of the more enlightening accounts.) We know this admiration is reserved, because the author points out one of the study’s unfortunate shortcomings (it fails to fully address…)
E. Pointed skepticism
Here’s another extreme answer choice. Plus, it’s overwhelming negative, while we know the author has somewhat positive feelings about the study.
Now, go solve those attitude problems!