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December 26, 2008

LSAT Prep Book Recommendations


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Here's the moment you've all been waiting for: my LSAT prep book recommendations.

Happy holidays to everyone. There WILL be more tips next week too, don't worry - not everyone is on vacation. :D Recommendations below. Stay warm!

PrepTests 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56

Each are only sold individually, as LSAC has not yet published a book of ten exams containing them. Because the exam has changed in recent years, you'll need several of these to study effectively.

When to use: after you've completed the other PrepTests.

The Next 10 Actual, Official LSAT PrepTests
by LSAC (older edition)

Contains PrepTests 29-38 and is the newest book of ten. It's essential that you get your hands on these in order to study effectively.

When to use: during exam prep.

10 More Actual, Official LSAT PrepTests
by LSAC (older edition)

Contains PrepTests 19-28.

When to use: during exam prep.

10 Actual Official LSAT PrepTests
by LSAC (older edition)

Contains most PrepTests from 7-18. Only worth doing if you're studying far enough in advance that you'll have enough time to do the most recent exams as well.

Note: These exams are really old - from 12/92 - 9/95. Don't be concerned if some of the games are a bit difficult. You'll rarely see these types on recent exams.

When to use (if at all): in early stages of preparation to familiarize yourself with the exam.

The Official LSAT SuperPrep
by LSAC (older edition)

Contains a few exams you can't find anywhere else: 2/96, 2/99, and 2/00. The explanations within are the biggest selling point, but most people find them to be confusing and technical.

When to use (if at all): in early stages of preparation.

June 2007 LSAT exam (PDF)

Free sample exam. Treat it as if it were PrepTest 52.5 when making your study schedule.

Logic Made Easy: How to Know When Language Deceives You
by Deborah Bennett (older edition)

Although not explicitly written for test-prep purposes, this book contains several logical reasoning-type questions and reviews several common fallacies. The author is clearly familiar with the LSAT, and this makes the book more relevant for our purposes. I highly recommend reading this because it is clear, full of simple examples, and concise. You can skip the parts on the history of logic.

American Scientist's review.

When to read: Before you begin LSAT prep or when you need a break from practice exams.

Informal Logic: A Pragmatic Approach
by Douglas N. Walton (older edition)

Clearly explains and demonstrate multiple examples of valid and invalid arguments. Walton is obsessed with logical fallacies and covers many of the common ones appearing on the LSAT.

When to read: Before you begin studying or when you need a break.

Elementary Logic: Revised Edition
by William V. Quine

At 144 pages, it's short and sweet. It's also the first-ever logic textbook (originally published 1941, revised 1980). It discusses many basic issues (necessary/sufficient, etc.) relevant to LSAT logic. If you have the time/inclination, feel free to look it up, but it's by no means necessary.

When to read: Before you begin studying or when you need a break.

How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method
by George Polya (Older editions)

Simple advice on problem solving and logical thinking. It's useful because it gives you a framework to identify and analyze the relationship between evidence and conclusion. Wikipedia, this summary, and the following will probably be enough for you.

The book gives you some questions to ask yourself about any Logic Game or Logical Reasoning Stimulus:

1. What information is unknown/provided? Does the evidence/premise satisfy the conclusion?
2. How is this game/stimulus similar to others you've done? Questions do tend to come back in future exams (with different topics, of course).
3. Does a restatement (the contrapositive) of the argument help?
4. What inferences can you make?
5. How can you use these inferences?

Another nice summary.

When to read it: Before you begin studying or when you need a break.

The Little Luxe Book of Sudoku: 335 Easy to Hard Puzzles and The Little Black Book of Sudoku: 400 Puzzles
by Will Shortz

Number puzzles exercise your brain and get it ready for the logic games.

When to use: Before you begin studying or when you need a break.

That's it - see you next year!


Next week: How to study for a retake (or what to do when you've already used too many PrepTests)...
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LSAT Study Partners | Need one?

Join the LSAT Blog Facebook Page on Facebook and post a message! Subscribers in New York, California, Ontario, Phoenix, Nebraska, and Boston have already posted messages looking for study groups.

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December 19, 2008

Law School Admissions | Rankings

Some thoughts on choosing a law school based on the U.S. News rankings.

Here's a list of factors law schools consider when reviewing your application.

Here are the popular U.S. News law school rankings for 2012.

Here's some analysis of the U.S. News law school rankings system from the American Bar Association journal. Continue Reading...»

7 Logical Reasoning Tips: Easy Ways to Solve Difficult Questions

By popular request in the reader survey, this week's tips are about Logical Reasoning, which comprises two out of the four scored sections on the LSAT.

1. Order

Most people find questions 15-21 (approximately) to be the hardest, so try doing 1-15 first in order to build up speed and confidence. Then, skip to the last question and work backwards to build up to the most difficult ones. This strategy does not work for everyone, but try it out a few times.

2. Timing

Since the first 15 questions tend to be easier question-types such as main point, strengthen, and weaken, try to complete them in less than 1 minute 20 seconds per question. This will allow you additional time to get through questions 15-21, which tend to be harder question-types such as parallel reasoning, principle, and role of the statement.

This strategy will ensure you don't get bogged-down by the easier questions. Please note: this strategy works best for people who are already scoring above 160, and it requires a great deal of practice.

3. Read every word of the stimulus.

While Reading Comprehension passages often discuss unfamiliar theories and terms you don't actually need to understand, Logical Reasoning differs in that you must understand every word of the stimulus and question stem. In my experience, students' mistakes result from carelessness and skimming. However, the topic does not matter. I can't stress this enough, particularly with regard to questions about science, The logical relationships between evidence and conclusion being tested in those questions are often simpler than those with "easier" topics.

4. The stimulus topic is irrelevant.

As you learn to see the differences between evidence, conclusion, and all the unnecessary words, you'll see that a dense paragraph isn't so dense after all.

Try this quick exercise:

If a physicist activates a large hadron collider in Manhattan, then the physicist will have activated a large hadron collider in NYC. However, if the physicist activates a large hadron collider in Brooklyn, then the physicist has activated a large hadron collider outside of Manhattan. Therefore, if the physicist activates the large hadron collider in Brooklyn, then the physicist has activated the large hadron collider outside of NYC.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, is this argument valid or invalid?

Ready? It's invalid. Why? Because it assumes that because Manhattan is in NYC, Brooklyn cannot be in NYC, which is invalid reasoning even if you know nothing about NYC. The topic is irrelevant to the logic of the argument. To make it easier, I could have said:

If I take the LSAT in Manhattan, then I will have taken the LSAT in NYC. However, if I take the LSAT in Brooklyn, then I will have taken the LSAT outside of Manhattan. Therefore, if I take the LSAT in Brooklyn, I will have taken the LSAT outside of NYC.

All I did was switch "physicist" to "I" and "activate large hadron collider" to "take the LSAT."

Does the stimulus seem easier? In reality, the logic is EXACTLY the same. The key to understanding the question is to avoid thinking about the topic. Think about the relationship between evidence and conclusion and whether or not they match up. Think of "large hadron collider" as LHC. You don't have to know what an LHC does in order to understand the argument.

5. Cross out unnecessary words.

Although you have to understand every word of the stimulus, this doesn't mean every word of the stimulus is important. The only important words are those that form either the evidence or conclusion of a particular argument. See the following example:

"Tacos often contain a variety of fillings such as chicken, cheese, and beans. No two tacos contain exactly the same proportion of one ingredient to another. Therefore, any two tacos can easily be distinguished by their taste."

The first sentence is neither evidence nor conclusion - it's background information. Although we had to read the entire stimulus to realize this, we now know this sentence is unnecessary, so we can cross it out. By the way, this argument is invalid, for those of you keeping score.

6. Study smarter.

As you do practice questions, distinguish between answers you're sure of and those where you're guessing, even if it's a "confident guess." If you're not fully sure of an answer, put down a "/" next to it. A question where you've narrowed the answer to either "A" or "D" (and you've eliminated "B," "C," and "E") would be "A/D." If you like, write the one you would have picked first, so your answer for a question where you're more confident about "D" than "A" would be "D/A."

This strategy will help you measure your performance more accurately and provide guidance for your review. Keeping track of question-types you consistently miss is essential to effective studying.

If you eliminated the right answer, you should definitely review the question. Some prep companies' books have typos, but the books of real PrepTests don't (despite your frequent protests that there must be a mistake in the answer key). If you spend long enough going over the question, either by yourself or with someone, you'll eventually understand where you went wrong.

7. Should you diagram LR questions?

Yes and no. If you must diagram, only diagram more complicated questions (such as parallel reasoning). However, diagramming is never necessary for any question. As you improve on main point, strengthen, and weaken questions, you'll improve on parallel reasoning questions also.

What do you think? What strategies and techniques have you found that work or don't work on Logical Reasoning?

Next week...LSAT book recommendations
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LSAT Test Center Reviews

Have you booked your exam date for February or June yet? Read about what others have experienced at their LSAT test centers.
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December 12, 2008

LSAT Logic Practice Test

You can get a free LSAT PrepTest PDF from LSAC for download.

Aside from that, you can get many LSAT PrepTest explanations as PDFs, as well as a bunch of free LSAT Logic Games published as blog posts.

For LSAT logic tips, read this post about the inverse, converse, and contrapositive to test your understanding of valid and invalid statements and deductions. Check it out!
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Blueprint for LSAT Reading Comprehension in 2009 | 10 Tips

(Click here for several more Reading Comprehension tips.)

Conventional wisdom says LSAT reading comprehension is impossible to learn. Fortunately, conventional wisdom is wrong.
These tips will show you how to increase your performance on the Reading Comp section. But first, congratulations to everyone who took the December 2008 LSAT exam! From what I've heard, it was easier than usual, and the logic games were similar to those in the most recent practice exams. Please let me know when you get your scores!

For the rest of you, here are ten ways you can improve your LSAT reading comprehension score, including tips for the new Comparative Reading section and how to complete the passages more quickly.

1. Understand the key difference between the passages and their questions.

While the questions are written by the LSAC tricksters, the passages are written by people who are actually trying to communicate information. While not every piece of info in the passages is important, everything in the questions is. Look for the tiny details in the questions and the answers. An extra "s" here or there and words like always, never, most, all, and some can make all the difference.

2. Read with the goal of understanding the passage's main point

*Underline or bracket each time someone's opinion is given. Ex. "While some scientists believe..."
*What pieces of evidence are given for each perspective?
*Does the author agree or disagree with these opinions?

3. Treat each paragraph as if it were a Logical Reasoning stimulus

Analyze it for its stated evidence / premises as well as its conclusion.


What is the paragraph's conclusion?

What evidence is stated to support this?

Does the paragraph advocate any principles?

Are there any sub-conclusions? If so, do they agree/disagree with the paragraph's main point?

Are there any counter-arguments? What kind of evidence supports or dismisses them?

Does the passage's author agree/disagree with the counter-argument?

What kinds of words does the author use to express this?

Look at any examples closely, and note their purpose in the passage.

Connect the paragraphs and consider:

What is the passage's argument / goal?

Look for changes in tone and argument between the paragraphs.

Write down a few words summarizing each paragraph's main idea next to it.

4. Reading Comprehension Question Types
In increasing order of difficulty:
*Main idea/main point
Save these for last, even though at least one of them tends to come at the beginning. After doing the other questions, this one will be easy because you'll already have covered the main idea.

*Specific / "according to"
The most straightforward question-type you'll see. These tend to follow the passage's structure and ask about part of the author's argument.

Require you to infer or predict something based on the argument. Ex. "The author of the passage would agree with which one of the following..."
Look at the passage's structure and remember the different opinions described within it. Return to places where you noted argument and tone.
Alternatively, if the question specifies a particular piece of evidence or references a specific line, think about the role it played in the argument. Read a few lines above and below.

These are the only question-types you'll come across on the three traditional Reading Comp passages. Take out a RC section, and look at it. RC is just as predictable as Logical Reasoning and Logic Games.

5. How to Approach Comparative Reading
LSAC added Comparative Reading to the Reading Comprehension section in June 2007. This means one of the four traditional longer passages is now replaced by two short ones on a related topic.

If you prepare with this change in mind, you'll have an advantage over all the people studying old exams who aren't aware of Comparative Reading.

A few of questions will be similar to those in #4 (above), but most will compare the two passages. The passages do not directly refer to each other, even though they cover similar ideas. They will likely agree on some points and disagree on others, and it's possible for one passage to discuss the specifics of a topic while the other describes or argues about it in a more general sense.

The approach:
*Tackle any questions that only ask about one passage or the other - they're easier and can be solved more quickly.

*As you're answering the questions are specific to the second passage, try to get a sense of how this passage differs from the first one. Read for differences in the passages' topics, think about where the authors agree and disagree, and compare their argumentative styles.

6. Comparative Reading Question Types:

In increasing order of difficulty:

*Common issue / central idea (similar to main idea/main point in long passages). Ex. "Which one of the following issues is central to both passages?"

*Agree / disagree (similar to "specific" / "according to" in long passages). Ex. "It can be inferred from the passage that both authors agree / disagree on which one of the following ideas?"

*Method of reasoning / style (similar to inference in long passages). Ex. "Which one of the following best describes the relationship / style of the passages?"

*Analogy (similar to Parallel Reasoning in the Logical Reasoning section). Ex. "The relationship between the passages is most similar to that of which one of the following?"

7. How to Spot Wrong Answers on Reading Comprehension

Remember that, like Logical Reasoning, wrong answer choices are generally wrong for the same few reasons. They may contain:

*absolute statements unsupported by the evidence, rather than using more moderate and reasonable language

*irrelevant information not discussed in the passage

*exactly the opposite of what the passage says

*small distortions of information contained in the passage

*random and illogical combinations of statements made in the passage

*incorrect attributions of opinions or facts to the wrong person, place, or thing

8. Should You Take Notes as You Read?

Note-taking can keep you active and engaged, preventing your mind from wandering. However, the fewer notes you take, the better.

Just as too much writing / diagramming on Logic Games costs time, the same is true here. You might pause as you read to make a short 3-4 word summary here or there, but you're better off with writing a symbol in the margin where appropriate. For example, you might write "!" where the author expresses an opinion.

Rather than focusing on content, read to understand the structure / flow of the passage and the intent of the author. The details are not as important as the overall argument. Knowing the details and unfamiliar terms is not as important as knowing where to find them if a question asks you about them.

Underlining and circling too many specific words may interrupt the flow of reading and slow you down. However, it may help to underline key individuals mentioned or referenced in the passage because there are almost always questions about them.

Refine your approach to underlining and note-taking over time. As you practice, you will be able to decrease your dependence upon this method as you learn which pieces of information are actually necessary to note.

Here's another way to make the passages easier to read:

In passages with fewer, but longer, paragraphs, break them apart. How? Use brackets. When there are only 2 or 3 paragraphs, the longest paragraph generally contains multiple subtopics or ideas. This technique will allow you to identify the point at which the topic changes. This is likely to be the source of at least one question.

9. Some Words to Watch for

The following is a partial list of words you might consider boxing or underlining:

proponents, supporters, advocates, critics, opponents, others

scholars, scientists, engineers, artists, writers, politicians

some, all, most, never, always, every

first, second, third

on the other hand, however, despite, on the contrary, nevertheless, furthermore, for example, namely, in addition, for this reason, but, according to, in contrast

claim, argue, support, oppose, criticize, reject

10. If you feel, no matter what, you won't be able to read every passage...

Start with the passage followed by the greatest number of questions and end with the passage followed by the fewest. Each passage requires about the same amount of time to read it. If you'll have to guess, why not guess on the passage with the fewest questions?
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December 5, 2008

10 Ways to Get Ready for the Morning of the LSAT

(I've also written several more LSAT Test Day Tips posts - check them out!)

For those of you taking the LSAT this Saturday, chances are you'll be free of it forever - congratulations! For the rest of you, file this away until your turn comes, whether it's in February or June of 2009 and beyond.


1. Check out your test center.

If you haven't done so already, take an hour or two to drive out to the test center. It'll familiarize you with the location and neighborhood, reducing anxiety. Printing out the directions is one thing, but seeing the road itself is another.

2. Plan what to wear.

I'm not saying the LSAT is a fashion show. I'm talking strictly about functionality here. Wear multiple layers of clothing that makes you feel comfortable - your favorite t-shirt/sweatshirt are good choices. You don't know if the test center will be hot or cold. Don't bring a hoodie, though. I had to stash mine in a park outside the test site when I took the LSAT because the security wouldn't let me bring it inside, and there's nowhere in the building to leave banned items.

3. Plan what to bring.

Prepare your clear plastic bag with new sharpened No. 2 pencils, some energy bars, a banana, water, valid photo ID, printed admission ticket, one logic game (see #9), and an analog wristwatch, which you will be able to keep on your desk throughout the exam. It's important to bring a watch because there might not even be a clock in the room. You might also want to bring a newspaper to read on the way there. Check LSAC's test day rules for what's allowed, as the rules seem to change each year. Note that the official rules do not permit you to bring a cell phone, so think about how you can deal with this.

4. Don't study.

If you've spent a reasonable amount of time preparing, you either know or it you don't at this point. So take the day off. Go for a run, watch a movie, have dinner with family or friends. Try to think about the world after the LSAT (yes, it exists!).

5. Go to bed early and set two alarm clocks.

Make sure to get enough sleep so you'll have plenty of energy on test day. Avoid consuming anything with caffeine after 3PM.


6. Wake up early.

You should already be on an early schedule and getting enough sleep - especially if you've been taking practice exams at the time of day when your test will be.

7. Eat healthy, and eat a lot.

Some people advocate eating a light breakfast. However, I believe eating a full meal is important because you'll be sitting at one of those desks for several hours. Test center mishaps are more common than they should be, and some students report spending up to 7 or 8 hours in the test room. While this isn't likely to happen to you, it is possible. You'll probably be there for at least 4.5 - 5 hours. You don't want to be hungry when you already have enough to worry about. Eat foods with protein, and avoid coffee unless you absolutely need it.

8. Allow extra time to get to the test center.

Traffic delays can happen at the most random of times. Arrive early to make sure you get all the time you're permitted, and make sure your mode of transportation is reliable. If you're driving, have the phone number of a taxi handy in case you have car trouble (especially for December/February test-takers).

9. Do one logic game.

Immediately before walking inside the test center, re-do your "favorite" logic game, one you've done before and fully understand. Doing these logic games questions will increase your morale and get your brain in LSAT-mode so the first question you're doing that day isn't the first question of the actual exam.

10. Relax.

The LSAT is just a test. Sure, it matters, but if something goes wrong, you can always retake it or cancel your score.
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LSAT Time Management

Use these LSAT study schedules to help you plan and manage your time between now and Test Day

Blog reader Nicholas wrote an LSAT Diary with some great time management tips to help you schedule time each week to study for the LSAT.

These law school admissions tips contain some great advice on how to take care of those personal statements and law school recommendations you'll need!
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November 28, 2008

Is 10 hours a day too long to study for the LSATs?

(I've also written several more LSAT FAQ posts - check them out!)

This is a question I received from a student recently. The answer, of course, is "yes." Your mind is incapable of processing that much information at once. Even if it were, you can't keep up that kind of study schedule for more than a week or so anyway. Here's how you should study: at a relaxed pace over a period of 2-3 months. It's much more effective, and less stressful, than studying intensively over a period of one week, which might lead to burnout.

A few more questions I've received recently, and my answers to them, are below. Keep them coming!

Do you get a score just for signing your name on the LSAT?

Yes. You'll get a 120 just for signing your name. I'm sorry to say this score won't get you into many law schools. You'll need to answer at least a couple of questions to do better than that.

How many practice tests does it take to increase my LSAT score?

Results vary from person to person. Doing exams 29-54 would be ideal if you have the time. Otherwise, focus more on the recent ones. Exams prior to exam 29 tend to contain some more unusual logic game types like Pattern games. Only focus on those types if you've already mastered the more common game types.

My brain hurts from doing the Logic Games. How can I increase my brainpower?

Sudoku and crossword puzzles are both great tools to improve your spatial reasoning because they help you learn to move pieces of a puzzle around. However, they're really only worth doing if you're planning to take the LSAT several months from now. Otherwise, focus on LSAT logic games and do sudoku/crosswords for fun only if you actually enjoy them. Eating breakfast every day, maintaining an overall healthy diet, and exercising regularly will help get the juices flowing to your brain, too. Also, don't do drugs.

Will you take the LSAT exam for me? I'll pay you.

Anyone willing to take the LSAT for you is probably not smart enough to get you a good score. Aside from being unethical, it's risky and simply not worth it. If you deposit $10 million in a Swiss bank account for me, I'll consider it, though.
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Easiest Way to Study for the LSAT Writing Sample

The writing sample portion of the LSAT is not something you need to worry about. In fact, reading this article is all you need to do to prepare for it. First, let's dispel with some myths.

Myth: The writing sample affects your score.
Fact: The writing sample has no impact on your LSAT score.

Myth: Admissions committees care about the writing sample.
Fact: Many admissions committees don't even look at it. However, this doesn't mean they won't. Some people believe admissions committees compare it to your personal statement to determine if you actually wrote your personal statement.

When is the Writing Sample given?

At the very end of the exam. Law schools know your brain is fried after taking a full LSAT exam, which is one reason the Writing Sample is considered less important than it otherwise would be.

What does the Writing Sample ask?

The prompt is written differently for every exam, but it's always similar in several important respects: every prompt presents a scenario. It asks you to choose between two different options based on a number of considerations. Each option will have some pros and cons, so you can't go wrong by picking either option. As long as you weigh the pros and cons of each, and you pick one option or the other, you've done your job.

How do you start writing it?

Put your conclusion in the first sentence. Don't make the reader dig for it. Say something like: "I believe Option A is the best course of action for an individual presented with scenario X." Scenario X might be choosing a teacher to hire for a school district or choosing one of two marketing plans for a corporation. Then make a statement about the scenario in your own words to show you have a clear understanding of the situation. End your introduction by demonstrating how Option B is worse than Option A for a person in this scenario.

But that's only a few sentences! How do I fill the page?

Begin a second paragraph by weighing the benefits of each option. Show you recognize each one's redeeming qualities. Proceed by arguing that the pros of your choice significantly outweigh the pros of the other. You can also argue that the inferior option's cons far outweigh its benefits.

How do I conclude the Writing Sample?

Rephrase your original sentence (the conclusion of your argument) and demonstrate why it's better when taking the organization's larger objectives into account.

What should I actually do to prepare for this between now and test day?

Well, now that you've read this blog post, your work is almost done. Re-read it and make sure you understand it, look at a few writing sample prompts (they're at the end of each PrepTest), and you'll be ready for whatever they throw at you!

I'd rather take a look at your example. Can you write a fake writing sample prompt for me?


Steve's Entirely-Fabricated Writing Sample Prompt

Steve has been tutoring all day, so he is now very hungry. As such, he is trying to decide what to eat for dinner. Consider the following, and then write an argument in favor of one of Steve's dinner options:

-He wants to eat something delicious.

-He wants to eat something close to his apartment.

Option A: Happy Taco serves delicious chicken tacos, but it is five blocks away.

Option B: Taco Kitchen serves halfway-decent chicken tacos, and it is only one block away.

After reading the above, you'll see I can't go wrong choosing either option. It all depends upon which consideration is more important to me. Option A is delicious but not close. Option B is close but not delicious. I can easily choose one option or the other, and they're both reasonable choices.

Every Writing Sample prompt is written with this structure, although they're a bit wordier. All you have to do is simply pick one option or the other and make a decent argument for it.

That's all for this week, folks. Send me any more questions by email, and I'll post an answer for you next week!
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November 21, 2008

5 Easy Logic Games Tips: How to Solve LSAT Logic Games with Diagrams in Minutes, not Hours

These Logic Games tips will help you to tackle each Logic Game in under 7 minutes. Think it's impossible? Think again! (Click here for several more Logic Games tips.)

1. Draw a diagram.

LSAT prep companies often say you need to draw a grid for each game, rather than a simple slot diagram. What is a slot diagram? I describe it in detail in my free subscribers-only Logic Games tip sheet. I also demonstrate it at my regularly-held free LSAT workshops. However, I'll briefly explain: it's a simple way to map the information in linear and combination games (games with both a linear and grouping element). Grids are time-consuming, but drawing slots for each letter (in a six person/thing game, it looks like: _ _ _ _ _ _ ) requires less space and time.

2. Use diagrams from earlier questions.

Keep your diagrams from the first few questions of each game because they will often save you time in later questions. If you haven't noticed this yet, try something new. Draw a separate diagram for each "if" question next to the answer choices for that question. Use the space at the bottom of the page to sketch your main diagram, which should contain your inferences from all the rules. In the vast majority of games, at least one previously-drawn diagram will help you solve a later question in a particular game. This lets you get through the question without having to draw a brand-new scenario.

3. For all "If" questions, draw a diagram before you look at any answer choices.

If you've look at any LSAT logic game, you'll probably see a question like the following: "If R is placed in the third position, which one of the following must be true?" or "If S is placed last, it could be true that..." I tell my students to stop reading the question right after the first half of the sentence (where the comma is) and to immediately sketch what must be true. More often than not, this bare-bones sketch alone will lead you to the correct answer. Rather than reading through the answer choices and trying each one out, you have effectively predicted the correct answer, saving valuable time.

4. Apply each rule, one-by-one, to the answer choices in the general "acceptability" questions.

The majority of games start with a question like "Which one of the following is an acceptable ordering / grouping / assignment..." etc. Four of the choices will each contain a scenario violating one rule or another, while only one will be acceptable. There are two ways to attack these questions. The first is the slow way - you might look at choice "A" and see if it follows each of the approximately five rules of the game. If it doesn't, then move to choice "B", etc. However, this approach requires you to go back and forth between the rules and the choices, costing you over a minute for what is typically a game's easiest question. The more efficient method is to take an "assembly-line" approach to this question type. Take the game's first rule and check it against each answer choice. After (hopefully) eliminating one or two choices, take the next rule and apply it to the remaining answer choices.

5. When the possibilities in a game are limited, map them all out.

Sometimes a game's rules interact in very restricting ways. For example, in Game 2 of PrepTest 37 (June 2002), which is about placing seven trucks in a certain order, the possibilities for the first three spaces become severely restricted after placing the other four trucks. Trucks X, Z, and U are the only ones left to be placed. Because Z must come before U, the only options are "X Z U", "Z X U" or "Z U X". Of course, you could just map one possibility, and if that doesn't work, start another. However, many students end up trying one possibility, and then they become frustrated when it doesn't work, wasting valuable time.

It's faster to sketch out the "skeleton" or "must be true" aspects of each possibility and then see which of those might actually work. I recommend listing each possibility immediately and then going through the game's questions. The bottom line: do one type of task at a time (diagramming each possibility, then reading the answer choices for each question). This will significantly decrease the amount of time you spend on each game.
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LSAT News and FREE Law School Personal Statement Assistance

I was recently interviewed about the possibility that some law schools will reconsider the LSAT as a factor in admissions. Any widespread changes in admissions won't take place for several years, but it's nice to think that maybe your children or grandchildren won't have to deal with this!

Some good news for you is that I've compiled some free law school personal statement tips, so be sure to use them as you're writing a draft of your personal statement when you have a chance!
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November 14, 2008

Should You Retake the LSAT? Seven Questions to Consider

Many students contact me after they've taken the LSAT once or twice already, and they ask me if they should retake it. In response, I ask them the following seven questions to determine if retaking the exam is in their best interest.

1. Do the law schools to which you are applying average multiple LSAT scores?

Because most law schools no longer average multiple LSAT scores for applicants, retaking it is more advantageous than it used to be. The highest LSAT score will be the only score that they consider in forming your "admissions index" (a combination of your LSAT score and Grade Point Average which is unique to each law school).

2. Will retaking it delay the review of your application?

Law schools practice rolling admissions. This means that admissions officers review completed applications upon receiving them. This means that the earlier you submit a completed application, the better. Think about whether or not your LSAT score after retaking it will be high enough to counteract the disadvantage of applying later in the admissions cycle.

3. Did something out of the ordinary happen on test day or the few days beforehand?

If you had to deal with an illness, family/personal issue, test center mishap, or another issue that impacted your performance the first time around, retaking it may be in your best interest.

4. How did your performance on practice exams compare to your actual LSAT score?

Think about your performance on practice exams prior to the original score and your overall level of comfort with standardized tests. If your actual LSAT score was at least a few points lower than your practice exam scores, you have the potential to achieve a score that more accurately reflects your abilities.

5. Do you have enough time to study again?

Getting your brain back into "test mode" will require a significant investment of time and effort. Can you study in the morning or evening during the week? Can you study on the weekend? Make a study schedule for yourself between now and your test date to determine if you'll have the time to adequately prepare.

6. How did you study for it the first time?

Take a look at the materials that you used to study the first time around. If you didn't use books containing real LSAT exams, then this may have caused you to get a lower score than you deserved. If you studied from real LSAT exams, but you didn't do enough of them, or you didn't spend enough time reviewing incorrect answers, then you might not have fully understood why you were getting certain questions wrong.

7. Do you believe that you're capable of a higher LSAT score?

Law school is "kind of a big deal." If you believe that you're capable of a higher score, your investment in studying again and retaking the LSAT will pay off when you gain acceptance to a better school, receive scholarship money, and, ultimately, snag a better job when you graduate.

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November 7, 2008

Top Ten Ways to Boost Your LSAT Score

Here are some tips that will put you on the fast track to a top score:

1. Take it early.

If possible, take the LSAT in October or February of your junior year. This allows you to do the bulk of your studying over the summer or winter break at a more leisurely pace. You want to ensure that studying for the LSAT will not detract from your junior-year grades. Too many students wait to take the LSAT until the October or December of their senior year. However, since law school applications are reviewed and decided upon soon after they're submitted, early applicants face less competition. By taking the LSAT earlier, you avoid the scrutiny that those taking it in the 11th hour will face.

2. Learn some basic logic.

Students often balk at the idea of memorizing lists of logic laws. However, there are only a few logical relationships that you really need to know for the LSAT - the contrapositive, the inverse, and the converse. Commit them to memory, and you'll start noticing them throughout the Logic Games and Logical Reasoning sections.

3. Be clever.

Skip around on the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections and do what's easiest for you. However, the Logic Games questions are in a specific order within each game, so I recommend that my students do them in order (see tip #6 for the reason). Remember that every question is worth the same amount, and there is no penalty for guessing. You can download the June 2007 LSAT exam for free from the Law School Admission Council (PDF). Many companies sell books with "LSAT" in the title, but they don't include a single real question. Make sure to only use real LSAT materials containing past LSAT exams, because there's nothing like the real thing.

4. Take timed practice exams.

Get used to taking a long exam. The LSAT consists of five 35-minute sections (including one unscored experimental section) in addition to an unscored writing sample. There is only one ten-minute break, which takes place between the third and fourth sections. As if all that weren't bad enough, it's usually administered in the morning. Build your stamina by taking several practice tests. Make sure that when you take a practice exam, splice in a section from another exam to represent the experimental section. With a half hour spent bubbling in your name and address, you'll be there for about over four hours (if you're lucky). Speak with an administrator and try to reserve the classroom where you will actually be taking the exam so that you can take a practice exam there.

5. Study like it's game day.

Practice at the time of day when your exam will be, and try to study under real testing conditions. Make sure that your study area is quiet and without distractions. Silence your cell phone, and log out of Facebook and Gmail. Try to study for at least 1-2 hours at a time to get in the zone. Also take some practice exams in coffee shops and libraries. This will help you get used to distractions and annoyances in case your test center is less than ideal.

6. Make simple diagrams for the logic games.

Creating a solid diagram will save you a great deal of time, so make one on the bottom of the page (there is no scrap paper on the LSAT). For each "if" question in the games, draw a small diagram next to that question. I always tell my students to save their work from previous questions, rather than erasing it. This allows them to look back at it later in the game. A few minutes here or there are crucial in allowing you to finish in the allotted 8 minutes and 45 seconds per game.

7. Don't worry about the writing sample.

Although it's unscored, and your brain is bound to be fried at the end of five 35-minute sections, LSAC still requires it. Otherwise, your LSAT score won't be valid. Make it easy for law school admissions counselors to read. Write in script if you are able to do so legibly. The longer it is, and the more paragraph breaks you use, the better. This is true for college seminar papers as well.

8. Exercise and eat healthy.

If you do not already exercise and eat healthy, now is the best time to start. You might feel like your brain is a machine, but it's actually organic gooky gray stuff. If you take care of it with exercise, which gets the blood flowing, and protein, which gives it energy, it'll take care of you on test day.

9. Only take it once.

Try to make the first time the only time. Don't take it first just to practice. Although most law schools no longer average LSAT scores when formally calculating your chances, they will see everything. You probably wouldn't want a first date to see a picture of you when you first wake up in the morning. Instead, you show yourself at your best. The same goes for test scores.

10. Choose your test site carefully.

Unfortunately, not all test sites are created equal. Students have told me that test centers can be uncomfortably hot or cold, so make sure to wear several removable layers just in case. At some test centers, the desks are too small and the test proctors are incompetent, so ask friends, advisors, and other knowledgeable individuals for advice on which test centers to avoid.
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