LSAT Prep Guide

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The LSAT is Learnable[edit]

The first thing to understand about the LSAT is that you can prepare for it by honing the mental skills required by the exam as well as becoming familiar with the format of the test. Many people think that since it is an aptitude test, it is largely a matter of innate ability. Granted, some innate ability is necessary to get a perfect score on the LSAT, but many with sufficient ability will get lower scores because they do not prepare effectively.

This is not to say that learning the LSAT is easy. However, with sufficient time and effort, most students are able to learn the skills necessary to significantly increase their LSAT score.

Attack the Analytical Section First[edit]

Note: the analytical section has become significantly easier since the writing of the instructions below. It is no longer nearly as highly timed, i.e., there tend to be fewer problems than there were five years ago.

Basically, you should understand that if you attack the analytical section in your preparation, then the logical reasoning section should follow easily. The reading comprehension section will come to you easily as well, so long as you are a fast reader. If you are a slow reader (as I was a few years ago), then you will need to do some deliberate practice in your reading in order to improve.

In order to beat the analytical section, you need to see the differences between the types of questions that occur repeatedly. Some of the questions involve ordering, others involve pigeonholing, others both of these at once. Usually, expressing the rule system in a diagram is essential to solving the problem quickly. A pigeonholing problem usually implies a grid diagram, with a spot for each possible assignment of variables. Ordering usually involves a 1 by X grid, with the ordering rules expressed (in shorthand) alongside the grid. In a hybrid game, you will have the X by Y grid along with ordering rules expressed in shorthand.

If you immediately see some further implications of a rule set, then you should express them immediately in shorthand along with the given rules. For instance, if the rules say:

 John always must go before Sarah
 Sarah must go with Martin
 Ralph goes after Martin

then you should write out that John must go before Ralph in some form of shorthand. This example is very simple, but the LSAT questions will often give you something more complex which results in some implications that are key to solving the problem set quickly. The reason you should take a moment to write out these implications is that you will solve five or six problems, not just one, under these rules. You want to work out the intricacies just once, write them down, and then refer to your shorthand as you proceed.

Because the analytical section is highly timed, if you see an answer that appears absolutely correct before you've read all alternatives, I recommend you just circle it and move on. Often, if this is not the last problem in the section, you will recognize any possibility of error later, as you work out the other problems. It generally seems that the harder questions come toward the end of the section.

Analytical Section Game Types[edit]

The game section consists of several different types of games. The linear, grouping and linear/grouping hybrid games are by far the most common. By one analysis, they make up 75% of all the released LSAT games. You must master these two types thoroughly because they are going to appear on your test for certain.

Linear[edit]

Also, known as ranking, the game asks you to arrange different elements in a certain order. Here, the order is important. Let's look at one example.
Simple Linear Game
During Wikimania 2007 conference, the seven participants, Albert, Bart, Ciara, Don, Ellen, Fred and Greg signed the guestbook consecutively.

Albert signed the guestbook before Greg.
Greg signed neither first nor last.
Ciara signed either before or after Bart.
Fred signed second.

Grouping[edit]

Unlike the linear (ranking) games, grouping games do not specify the order of the elements. In these games, how the elements are paired is what matters.


General Method of Preparation[edit]

You may or may not wish to buy a "Study Guide" book. I've recommended Master the LSAT for that purpose. But what is essential is that you obtain some of the official PrepTests. If you have thirty days to prepare, buy at least twenty PrepTests, and start working on them immediately.

At first, you must work untimed. The time factor would otherwise distract you from your ability to understand and solve the problems. You must also keep records of which problems you missed, and keep them with the idea that you will be reviewing these particular problems very intensely toward the end of your preparation. You will be looking for patterns in the problems you missed throughout all your tests. Granted, the questions you miss early on will be less relevant than the ones you still miss toward the end of your preparation.

You can get one official PrepTest for free from the LSAT website. You may wish to take this first test under simulated test conditions, just for the sake of gauging how much improvement you make over the study phase. In any case, you want to answer all the questions and see how many you got right (timed or not).

At first, instant feedback on a problem is better than feedback on the whole section after you've completed it. You don't want to go on solving more problems if you're unsure whether you understood, for example, #1. In this case just make sure you have the solutions to #2 and later covered up (credit card works nicely), then check the solution to #1 and move on (if you got it right). If you got it wrong, classify your mistake, (don't get too upset about it), and move on to #2. When you've finished the section in this manner, give an honest assessment of how many you missed, and then give an accurate assessment of why you missed each problem. You should find a surprising number of misread mistakes. Generally, this problem is corrected as you take more PrepTests, and get better at noticing when a problem says, for example, "all of these are true EXCEPT," versus "all of these are true:".

Other types of mistakes may reflect genuine misunderstanding, or a rift between your thinking and that of the test-makers. In the end, in my opinion, what makes LSAT questions answerable is that the test-makers picked an answer. It has nothing to do with actual truth (except in AR). They generally follow rules of logic, but in the end some questions are misphrased. Fortunately, you can learn enough about the test writers, through taking their official tests, that you can distinguish between their traps and their solutions.

If your mistakes were due to genuine misunderstanding, then you need to review the basics. For instance, in Logical Reasoning, you must understand the rules of logic impeccably. The same is true for Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning, but these two have other issues surrounding just the application of logic, (reading quickly and diagramming, respectively).

At least have your problems classified before you attempt another test. At best, go and remediate any major problems before attempting another. But eventually, do move on to another exam. For the second and third test it is still okay to be taking them untimed. By the fourth test, you should definitely be able to take the Logical Reasoning section under a timer and complete it. The Reading Comprehension will either be right with your Logical Reasoning or behind it.

Every aspect of the test is improvable. And every aspect of the test evaluates your ability to make logical deductions and (in the case of Logical reasoning) figure out logical flaws. Contrary to popular opinion, the Reading Comprehension section is most definitely improvable. It is a question of figuring out the way the different points were explicated and proven to you through the passage. It's like reading one big (and slightly less challenging) Logical Reasoning passage. If you do enough of these, you will eventually max this section out.

Another misconception is the hardness of the Analytical Reasoning. It is by far the section you can improve the fastest on. All it requires is several months of diligent games practice and understanding how certain groups of games are similar to others and how they connect with respect to deductions.

Understanding the Basics of Logical Reasoning[edit]

If you want to get a score higher than 160, then you have to have a basic understanding of logical reasoning. An argument contains premises and conclusions. Think of premises as the evidence upon which the conclusion is made. The conclusion is the specific point that you are trying to make. For example, take the simple argument: Jenny must not like apples, because I've never seen her eat one. The premise: I've never seen her eat one, and the conclusion: Jenny must not like apples.

Another part of an argument are assumptions. Assumptions are simply unstated premises. They have to be true in order for the conclusion to be true. Think of an argument as a table. The legs of the table would be the premises and assumptions and the table top would be the conclusion. The conclusion rests upon the premises. This is true of all simple arguments.

Finding the conclusion in each stimulus is important. Most of the questions on the Logical Reasoning will have some effect on the conclusion. On the LSAT, some questions will contain conclusion indicators. Not all questions in the Logical Reasoning section will have conclusion indicators, especially Main Point questions. There are also premise indicators. Make sure to memorize the following lists.

Premise Indicators Conclusion Indicators
because thus
since therefore
for hence
for example consequently
for the reason that as a result
in that so
given that accordingly
as indicated by clearly
due to must be that
owning to shows that
this can be seen from conclude that
We know this by follows that
for this reason

On Test Day[edit]

There is a lot of basic and very true test advice out there. Don't drink alcohol in the days leading up to the LSAT. Get a good night's rest. Eat a healthful breakfast. Drink a little coffee if you need to. Don't drink too much coffee. Bring a snack to keep the brain active. Common sense stuff, but it counts.

Digital devices are not allowed, but analog watches can be used. The best way to use a watch is to adjust the minute hand and point it at the 12. When it reaches the 7, your time should be up.

On the LSAT, you can cancel your score before you hand in the test if something went wrong. They also allow you to cancel your score by mail.[1] If you finish taking the exam and do not feel comfortable with your performance, it is recommended that you take a day or two to sleep on your cancellation decision rather than canceling your score before you hand in the exam and regretting the decision later. If you ultimately decide to cancel your score my mail, ensure that you send your cancellation request via overnight mail, and retain documentation of the correspondence and tracking information.

"LSAC recommends that you keep proof that your score cancellation request was received by LSAC by the six-calendar-day deadline, as well as a photocopy of your score cancellation request. If you cancel your score, you will not receive a score or copy of your answer sheet. You will receive written notification of a score cancellation and, if you took a disclosed test, you will receive a copy of the test questions and the credited responses for the scored sections as well. Law school reports will reflect that your score was canceled at your request; this advises the law schools that you were exposed to test questions. There are no refunds for canceled scores. Valid score cancellation requests are irreversible and cannot be rescinded." [1]

Additionally, know that you will be taking an extra, experimental section on test day, which is ungraded. However, they will not tell you which section is experimental, so it is imperative that you take each section seriously. The experimental section is used to try out new questions for use on future exams. The additional time required to complete the 4 graded sections of the LSAT along with an additional experimental section and writing sample can be exhausting for unprepared test-takers. Consider occasionally adding a 5th section to your LSAT prep tests to simulate the experimental section and build up your stamina for test day.

References[edit]

  1. a b http://www.lsac.org/jd/lsat/lsat-cancellation.asp