JervillianSwike wrote:Hi Mike,
I've been preparing for the LSAT over past 6 months. I have a 4.0 GPA and my goal is to attend a top 6 school, so I've been aiming for a 172+. My range over the past month has been 168-176, but I'd say that I've plateaued at around 171-172 in terms of average performance. I don't do poorly in any one particular section, so it's more of a slow bleed of points throughout the test. I feel like I have a good fundamental understanding of the logic games and reading comprehension and that my mistakes on those sections are simply due to carelessness. However, I'm consistently in a rush to finish the logical reasoning sections. I have trouble finding flaws in a large proportion of the stimuli, so I rely greatly on task-specific searches through the answers.
I guess my questions are:
1) What were some cautions/checks that you have to avoid carelessness? In your book, you say that you had a number of checks built in to your logic games process. What exactly are they?
2) I know that my logical reasoning process is not 100% fundamentally sound in that I have difficulty finding a lot of the flaws in the stimuli, but do you think that that flaw is something that will prevent me from consistently getting the toughest questions right? If I were able to somehow improve my flaw-seeing abilities, would that enable me to eliminate incorrect answers more quickly?
3) At what point do you consider postponement? The June test is a little over a month away and I don't want to face a retake with no fresh preptests available.
Thank you very much for taking the time to look through this!
Hi JS --
First off, congrats on the 4.0 GPA -- that is amazingly impressive --
Here are some thoughts that you might find helpful -- as always please utilize whatever you think applies to you and discard the rest.
Your goal score requires a great amount of consistency, and to achieve that consistency I think it can be helpful to forget about the concept of a "careless error." The entire exam is designed for you to make careless error after careless error, and a great way to combat that is to overcompensate and care a whole lot about each and every tiny mistake you make.
Pretty much every error that gives us that "oh gosh, I can't believe I missed that" sort of feeling can be defined as a reading issue (misunderstood meaning or failed to prioritize/focus in on the right info), or an issue of mental discipline (didn't match task/go through your steps as we ought to have). If you think this is relevant to you, see if thinking about your errors on these terms is helpful.
Q1) Here are some ways to double-check/verify your work on the various sections -- some of these are quite subjective but I figure they might still be useful for you --
1) expect to have a certain level of "visualization" for each game. If you can't mentally picture the game's design, you are likely going to have a tough time working through the q's.
2) double-check your understanding and notation of each rule by, at the end of your setup, saying to yourself what each rule means, and then checking your understanding against the rules as they are actually written.
3) use the rules q (first q of the set) as a triple check of your understanding of the rules -- the expectation should be that going down the list of rules should eliminate 4 and leave 1 answer -- if it doesn't, it might be an unusual question, but it could also be an indication that your understanding of one or more of the rules isn't complete or correct.
4) personally, i find that conditional cbt/mbt/mbf q's have generally been a very solid indicator of whether I'm really in the right groove w/a game or not -- if I am, I expect that for these q's the conditional info will typically lead me on a fairly "obvious" chain of inferences--boom, boom, boom, boom--and this chain will invariably give me the answer I need. If I have trouble making inferences, knowing what types of inferences to make, or using inferences to arrive at an answer, that's a fairly strong sign I'm missing something about the game that will also impact me on other q's.
5) And finally, for LG q's, I typically recommend arriving at the right answer by either confirming the right answer or eliminating the wrong, but when you are uncertain you should certainly take the time (if you have it) to confirm each answer both ways -- that is, for a mbt, the default I recommend is to search for the right answer, but maybe you also verify by making sure all wrong answers, or at least some of them, could be false, etc.
For LR -
1) it's extremely helpful to have a very clear sense of exactly what you are looking for in the right answer for each type of question, and it can also be extremely helpful to be mindful of the common tendencies for the right answers to these q's, in particular the versions of these q's that are twisted/more difficult/less common. For example, it's helpful to know exactly what it means for an answer choice to be a required assumption, and it's helpful to know that the common way in which the test writer will hide the right answer to this question is to provide one that is unexpected, or unimportant, but nonetheless required (for example, an answer that gets rid of an alternative option or consideration that you didn't feel was very important in the first place).
2) For argument-based q's, the ability to correct id the point-support relationship, and the ability to zero in on that and understand it correctly, is probably the greatest tool you have against making careless mental errors.
3) And, should they occur, having a habit of always arriving at LR answers two ways -- by finding specific reasons why wrong answers are and by verifying that the right answer matches the task presented and the information in the stimulus -- can help you sniff out when you've made a mistake. Without such a habit, it's much easier to fall for a trap answer, or overlook a well-hidden right answer.
For RC -
1) if you've recognized the reasoning structure correctly, this should have a tangible impact on the way that you solve a majority of the problems that you see. Having your understanding help you again and again is probably the surest indication that you read correctly the first time.
2) just as with lr, arriving at the right answer two ways -- by finding reasons why wrong answers are wrong and the right answer is right -- decreases the risk that you will miss a problem because of a tempting wrong answer or an easily overlooked right answer.
3) finally, I know this is obvious advice, but you always want to make sure to verify your final answer against the text and the question stem. The most tempting wrong answers to the hardest questions are often ones that stray just a little bit from the text, or just a little bit from the task presented, and having a habit of being really exact in verifying against these two things, and developing a sense as to when an answer doesn't seem to fit quite as well as you'd like, can help you gain just a bit more accuracy.
Q2) Flaws --
If you've read the trainer I'm sure you know I stress the ability to find flaws as the most important reasoning skill required by the exam -- so, most definitely, I think that if you strengthen your ability to recognize flaws correctly, you'll increase your comfort level across the board.
My guess is that you are performing a lot of the thought processes that I associate w/finding the flaw, but you aren't thinking about them on those terms, or you are doing a lot of "reverse-engineering" work where, after you find an answer that seems relevant to the argument, you then see what reasoning issue it could have related to.
Regardless, getting better and better at seeing the reasoning issue is helpful for pretty much everyone -- one exercise I suggest is to periodically go through old sections you've used for drilling, previous pt's, etc., find all the argument-based q's that require you to be critical, and, without solving the problems fully, for each stimulus, just work on finding the conclusion, finding the support, and thinking, in a general way, about why the support doesn't guarantee the conclusion. If you are using problems you've seen before, and if you happen to have marked the correct answer, you can, after noticing the flaw, confirm your understanding by making sure the right answer relates to the reasoning issue that you saw.
Q3) If I were you, I would not consider postponement. If you want to keep a few tests fresh just in case, that's fine (I'm certain you don't need all of them to get ready for June anyway), but I think you are exactly where you want to be, and, if you prepare effectively this final month, it's entirely possible that you can go into the exam expecting far better than 172.
Now is the time for you to eliminate weaknesses, gain stamina and consistency, and firm up your test-day habits (especially your timing strategies) so that you can be totally focused on the problems themselves on test day. I think your goals are completely within reach, and you can do this!
Again, very impressed w/the 4.0 -- I honestly cannot remember, from elementary school on, ever getting straight A's even one semester -- hope at least some of the above was helpful, and if you need anything else at all, please let me know --