Mike's Trainer Thread

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caterpillar
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby caterpillar » Mon Sep 02, 2013 10:23 pm

Hi Mike,

I love your book so far. I'm just wondering if it's worth going through the entire book. I am on page 98 so far. I have gone through Powerscore LG twice and should complete the Powerscore LG workbook soon. I have also completed the Manhattan RC and Powerscore LR books. I took my first practice LSAT on Saturday and got a 155. It was test 19 so I may do worse with a newer test. I am aiming for 170+. Since I am taking the October LSAT and I work full-time, I have limited time to study. I've been studying at least two hours each day. Do you think it's worth reading through your entire book or should I focus on practice LSATs? I could also skip around to the LG sections.

Thanks.

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Marshmallow
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby Marshmallow » Tue Sep 03, 2013 3:56 pm

My Trainer was delivered today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am too excited!!

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coolbean2013
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby coolbean2013 » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:29 pm

Hello Mike,

First, I just wanted to say that your book is wonderful, I have been recommending it to all my friends who are prepping for the LSAT.

I have a question about PT 56 Section 2 Question 20. I kept going back and forth between C and E, and I'm still trying to justify exactly why E is correct and why C is wrong. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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The LSAT Trainer
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:04 pm

Hi everyone -- sorry I've been away from TLS for a few days -- I've been visiting family in hotlanta -- but I am back, and I'll be spending the next couple of hours responding here and also responding to your pm q's -- mike

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:53 pm

objection_your_honor wrote:I'm having trouble with PT55, S3, #24. Here's how I see the argument:

DISCUSS AESTHETIC VALUE --> AT LEAST TWO READERS AGREE
OBJECTIVE EVALUATION POSSIBLE --> MEANING ASSIGNED BY READER

Since the conclusion is a conditional, it's not enough to just point to one of the terms in the conditional. This is what I'm struggling with. I think D is saying:

OBJECTIVE EVALUATION --> DISCUSS AESTHETIC VALUE

This triggers the conditional in the premise, meaning that if D is assumed, then AT LEAST TWO READERS AGREE on the correct interpretation of the poem. But how does this help the conditional in the conclusion? I feel like the argument wants me to assume that AT LEAST TWO READERS AGREE somehow contradicts or negates MEANING ASSIGNED BY READERS, which would help the conclusion. But if I'm understanding this correctly, these two terms can co-exist, i.e. two readers can agree on the correct interpretation that is also assigned by those readers.

How far off am I on this one?


Wow, you sure picked a killer q --

I think your understanding of the stimulus is correct, but the way you saw it is a bit more technical than how I would see it during the test (not sure if you meant to represent your real-time thoughts, or if you broke things down more than you would in real-time so that I could understand your thought process) -- here's how I'd think about it --

Conclusion:Objective evaluation possible only if poem does not have whatever meaning is assigned by reader.
Support: Aesthetic value cannot be discussed unless it's possible for at least two readers to agree on the correct interpretation of the poem.

I think that's pretty much how you saw it(correct me if I'm wrong), just a bit more raw --

In terms of validity, this is a terrible argument, in that there are multiple gaps between the issues discussed in the support and the issues discussed in the conclusion.

I think (again again, please correct me if I'm wrong) where things may have gone a bit astray for you was in your thinking about the question task --

Do most necessary assumptions feel like they help the argument? Sure. But that doesn't define a necessary assumption is -- a necessary assumption is something that needs to be true if the support is to be used to justify the conclusion, and I think it helps to keep a narrow focus on your task (that is, don't use "helping the argument" as a determining characteristic).

I think the second issue is a much more subtle one, but perhaps the key to making this type of killer q a bit easier for you -- do not just think of the answer as something that needs to be true for the conclusion to be true -- think of the answer as something that needs to be true for the argument to be valid--that is, for the support-conclusion relationship.

I definitely understand where you were going with your thinking, but if I saw this on the exam I wouldn't have gone as "deep" as you did.

My thinking would be:

The conclusion is about objective evaluation.
The support is about discussing aesthetic value.

In order for this support to connect to the point, discussing aesthetic value needs to be relevant to objective evaluation -- (D) gives us that.

And, when we negate it -- "It doesn't have to be that a poem's aesthetic value can be discussed for a poem to be objectively evaluated" -- notice that this would pretty much destroy the connection the author is trying to make.

D doesn't make the argument perfect by any means -- there are still big gaps (between assigning meaning and agreeing on correct interpretation, for example) but it is something that needs to be true for this support-conclusion relationship.

I hope that makes sense and that it's the help you needed. If it isn't quite on the mark in terms of what you were asking about, please let me know and I'll be happy to discuss further.

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby Fianna13 » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:32 pm

Hey Mike, whenever the conclusion of an argument is "something is probably A rather than B", how should I interpret it? Am I suppose to interpret that it's A? or it's A and not B? or it's more likely to be A than to be B? The only example I can think of it's Pt 61, s2, #14.

Another question, I feel PT 60, S1, #15 and PT 61, S2, #16 are both have ambiguous conclusions. Although I understand the reason for the correct answer for each one. I get confused on whether they are suggesting there's a save on bills only or overall net saving. For example, #15 says that their claims are not exaggerated, and their claims refer to the amount of money that faucets can save. To me, this suggest the net amount of money that those faucets can save, but it actually only refers to the bills. Then for #16 on PT 61, the conclusions says reduce electricity bills, thereby saving money. Here, I thought the saving money is just another description of the save on the electricity bills. Again, the key to this problem is to understand they are talking about net savings. This is really frustrating.

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:49 am

coolbean2013 wrote:Hello Mike,

First, I just wanted to say that your book is wonderful, I have been recommending it to all my friends who are prepping for the LSAT.

I have a question about PT 56 Section 2 Question 20. I kept going back and forth between C and E, and I'm still trying to justify exactly why E is correct and why C is wrong. Any help would be greatly appreciated!


Another tough question -- and another necessary assumption question cloaked in language that is also used in suff. assumption questions ("to be properly drawn") and has the added element of being a "principle."

But it's the necessary part that you really want to focus on -- we are looking for the principle that must be assumed.

Even with that focus, it's plenty tough to see the differences between C and E.

The first subtle difference is "psychotherapy" vs "psychotherapists" vs "provide psychological help" -- in real time during the test, I would a) wonder if this was a significant difference and probably not be too sure and b) know that in any case (E) matches the exact language of the stimulus better. This makes me suspicious of (C), but of course that's not enough to make a determination --

The far more significant issue is "any chance that..." If this were a sufficient assumption question, the any would be just fine. However, the argument does not need the absoluteness of that any.

Here's an analogous argument to illustrate:

Mike almost always gets hurt when he tries to play new sports. Therefore, he should never try to play new sports.

A principle that must be assumed here is "If something almost always causes Mike to get hurt, he should never do it."

The equivalent of (C) would be "Mike should never try anything where there is any chance of getting hurt."

Note that that is far more extreme than what my argument needs. This doesn't have to be true for the argument to work -- we just need to know that I should stay away from things that are likely to cause me to get hurt.

Hope that makes sense, and as always, please let me know if I missed the mark in terms of addressing your specific issues --

And thank you so much for the comment, and for spreading the word about the Trainer -- reach out here or on pm if you need anything else --

Mike

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Wed Sep 04, 2013 2:21 am

caterpillar wrote:Hi Mike,

I love your book so far. I'm just wondering if it's worth going through the entire book. I am on page 98 so far. I have gone through Powerscore LG twice and should complete the Powerscore LG workbook soon. I have also completed the Manhattan RC and Powerscore LR books. I took my first practice LSAT on Saturday and got a 155. It was test 19 so I may do worse with a newer test. I am aiming for 170+. Since I am taking the October LSAT and I work full-time, I have limited time to study. I've been studying at least two hours each day. Do you think it's worth reading through your entire book or should I focus on practice LSATs? I could also skip around to the LG sections.

Thanks.


Just erased version one -- here's what I really think, knowing very little about you -- I apologize in advance for the bluntness --

I don't think you've put yourself in an ideal position to reach your maximum score by October. And I am strongly, strongly in favor of doing whatever you can do to get to as high a score as you can, and of taking as much time as you need to in order to get there (within reason, of course) -- I know that at this point a few months, or even a year, may seem too long, but I think that in 9/10 situations (and probably far more than that, even) the impact that those extra points will have on your career will absolutely make however long you take worth your while.

It sounds like you've given yourself a good start in terms of learning about the exam, but significant improvement comes from applying what you learn -- and from what you've written to me, I don't think you've given yourself enough of a chance to do this -- a proven path to maximum improvement is to
a) use the books to develop your understanding and strategies
b) using drill sets to improve and solidify skills
c) use PT's to polish everything off and get ready for test day

It sounds like it's going to be very tough for you to get through all of this before Oct -- 155 to 170 is an enormous leap -- again, I really think, because of the fair or unfair significance of the LSAT to your legal career, you owe it to yourself to take enough time to do the work you need --

So, I've not really answered your question and then given you an opinion -- I hope you don't mind, but I think it's how I can be most helpful to you. If you absolutely need to take it in October, I'm happy to help you figure out the best way to get as high a score as you can, but otherwise, I suggest you give yourself the time to read the trainer entirely, and reread it and redo it as much as you feel you need to, and that you also get in tons and tons of drill work, and lots of practice tests.

HTH -- Mike

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby coolbean2013 » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:28 pm

Hello again Mike,

Thank you very much for the prompt response! Your explanation was very helpful. As I looked at the two answer choices, I too felt that E matched the text better but I didn't feel like I could 100% say that it was the correct choice. I think I was tripped up by the wording of the question stem and didn't realize it was a necessary assumption question, your analogy was helpful as well! :)

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:00 pm

Fianna13 wrote:Hey Mike, whenever the conclusion of an argument is "something is probably A rather than B", how should I interpret it? Am I suppose to interpret that it's A? or it's A and not B? or it's more likely to be A than to be B? The only example I can think of it's Pt 61, s2, #14.

Another question, I feel PT 60, S1, #15 and PT 61, S2, #16 are both have ambiguous conclusions. Although I understand the reason for the correct answer for each one. I get confused on whether they are suggesting there's a save on bills only or overall net saving. For example, #15 says that their claims are not exaggerated, and their claims refer to the amount of money that faucets can save. To me, this suggest the net amount of money that those faucets can save, but it actually only refers to the bills. Then for #16 on PT 61, the conclusions says reduce electricity bills, thereby saving money. Here, I thought the saving money is just another description of the save on the electricity bills. Again, the key to this problem is to understand they are talking about net savings. This is really frustrating.


Hi Fianna -- sorry for the delay --

I can understand the frustration -- you're not the first person who's felt some frustration toward this test :) --

But frustration does often present or reveal a great opportunity for improving and ultimately making things easier on ourselves.

I'm going to waste your time with a short story before I get to your questions --

In order to publish these books and such, I've had to learn how to do a bunch of stuff on the computer. I am terrible on a computer, and so every part of my learning process has taken far longer than it should --

Throughout the entire writing of the lsat trainer, I was frustrated because I had an incredibly tough time drawing straight horizontal lines in a program called indesign -- every line I drew was like .01 degrees off and I probably wasted a total of 40+ hours overall trying to get these lines to align as much as possible. I cursed this specific aspect of the program's design.

A few weeks ago, working on another project, I got so fed up that I finally (duh) thought to google the issue -- turns out all I have to do is hold down the shift key while I draw a line, and it will align perfectly. :) --

Okay, thanks for reading my story -- here's how I think it relates to your questions (and unfortunately nothing on the LSAT is as easy as just holding down a shift key) --

Keep in mind that the LSAT is a test of your reading ability, and that the reading issue most important to the test writers is your ability to organize and prioritize information -- for example, how to organize and prioritize the different parts of an argument. And the LSAT is an incredibly well-made, and carefully made, exam--the test writers do not mince words, and they are not casual about how they phrase anything --

So he's my (long winded) point, which relates to your comment about ambiguity and the second and third questions -- when you feel this ambiguity-- know that they have made things ambiguous in order to test your reading skills -- see this ambiguity as a tough test of your reading ability, and attack it on those terms. As you'll see, these reading issues will have a huge influence on the rest of the problem-solving process (eliminating wrong answers/picking right) --

Okay -- here we go --

61.2.14 -

I think I know exactly what you are asking -- I think of the conclusion as the entire phrase - "the marks are probably the traces of geological processes rather than of worms" but with a more significant emphasis on the first component -- here's what I mean --

Imagine these two arguments --

"Fianna is in great shape but she doesn't run. Therefore, she must be a dancer."
"Fianna is in great shape but she doesn't run. Therefore, she must dance, rather than run."

I think of them as pretty much being the same. In both cases, the key to the conclusion is that I'm assuming you dance -- and in both cases, the flaw in my thinking is about the relationship between dancing and running -- that I'm assuming that since you don't run, the only other explanation is that you dance, and that I'm failing to consider that there are many other ways to get in great shape.

The flaw in this actual LSAT argument is the either/or relationship the author assumes exists between worms and geological processes.

If you are of the mindset that the author hasn't provided enough evidence to show that it must be geological processes, and if you are thinking "why is he/she jumping to that one possible way (geological processes)? what about other ways these marks could have been made?" I think it puts you in a much better position to be attracted to (D), and to ultimately select it. (BTW, (D) is not the most common way in which this type of argument would typically be weakened, and that's a part of what makes this particular q so tough - the most common way would be to suggest an alternative way the marks could have been made - this tendency is what makes (C) so attractive. The reason (C) is wrong is that that it does not give us any sense of the timeframe for these other forms, which is what we need in order to relate the answer to the key issue). On the test, I'd definitely be attracted to (C) before picking (D).


61.2.16

Okay, so you are in the middle of solving this question, and you get to the point of thinking about "reduce their electric bills, thereby saving money" -- your reaction here (that they pretty much go together) is, I believe, what made things go astray for you on this problem, so let's play it out --

In real time, what you want to do is ask yourself "are these two things really the same, or are they different?" and you want to be hyper-hyper-critical, and you want to expect that in most instances, they won't be -- so from that mindset (note, btw, that technically speaking the word thereby creates a reasoning relationship between those two elements) -- does "reducing electricity bills" have to be the same thing as "saving money?" Can you imagine a situation where it's possible to reduce an electric bill but not save money (I can -- I have gas and electric at my house, and when my electric goes down, my gas often goes up, and vice versa, and I can also imagine that if I bought some $1,000,000 solar power device for my house, I would lower my electric bill but not save money overall) -- you obviously don't have to have the same types of thoughts -- the point is that you should expect there not be such ambiguity, and in those moments where you feel ambiguity you want to be hyper-critical of the differences -- recognizing these differences, and recognizing the specific conclusion, will often be your key to success.

Again, in this case, notice how thinking about and sorting that ambiguity -- and having thoughts like "no, there might be more to total cost than just lowering electric bills" makes it so you gravitate toward an answer like (C) more easily.

60/1/15 --

There is a difference between amount of money saved and water bill, but these are not the key issues for this question (if they were, the stimulus would be structured more like "Camille: Faucets don't save money. Rebecca: But my bill is lower." )

Instead, as you mentioned, the point is about exaggeration, and so that is what you want to focus on. Camille: They exaggerate how much $ you can save. Rebecca: I saved money in this particular way (lower bill). Therefore they did not exaggerate."

Does the fact that Rebecca saved money validate the conclusion that they didn't exaggerate? No. Maybe they claimed she would save $100 a month but she only saves $1 a month -- and this is the problem with the argument. Again, notice that the key is to use your reading skills to focus in on the right issues (in this case, how the evidence relates to exaggeration, not how money saved relates to the water bill). (B) states as much.

Hope that all made sense, and that it helps, and sorry for the length -- if I'm off in terms of what issues you happen to be asking about, please let me know! -- take care -- MK

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby 0913djp » Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:09 pm

Mike,

The book has been great. I'm on the last few lessons of Reading Comp.

I did want to ask if you had any tips outside of the Trainer that you would suggest for LR? It is still my weakest section and I know I'm capable of doing well given my proficiency in getting as low as -7 and -8 on a LR section.

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:12 pm

0913djp wrote:Mike,

The book has been great. I'm on the last few lessons of Reading Comp.

I did want to ask if you had any tips outside of the Trainer that you would suggest for LR? It is still my weakest section and I know I'm capable of doing well given my proficiency in getting as low as -7 and -8 on a LR section.


Glad to hear that the book has worked out for you -- let me ask, before I ramble on about things that might not be relevant to you -- what do you think your issues are with LR?

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby 0913djp » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:22 am

I'm good at eliminating answers based on modifiers or too absolute or too weak but I still struggle in the very dense stimuli, usually ones with science, and questions based on assumptions. I find flaw questions easy but then the answer choices are not the ones I predict. I end up getting suckered into a choice because it "sounds good" and not because it's "credited."

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Sep 06, 2013 1:29 pm

0913djp wrote:I'm good at eliminating answers based on modifiers or too absolute or too weak but I still struggle in the very dense stimuli, usually ones with science, and questions based on assumptions. I find flaw questions easy but then the answer choices are not the ones I predict. I end up getting suckered into a choice because it "sounds good" and not because it's "credited."


Thanks for that --

I'd like to
a) comment on some of the specific things u mentioned
b) make some suggestions about how to get ready for drilling
c) make sure suggestions about how to review your work --

(A) --

"I'm good at eliminating answers based on modifiers or too absolute or too weak" -- too absolute or too weak are general tendencies that you ought to be aware of, but those thoughts are not particularly important, nor should they be the driving force for how you look at and think about q's in real time--

Imagine being in a classroom of boys and girls. It's likely that most of the girls will have longer hair, and most of the boys shorter. However, if you needed to separate out boys and girls, you probably wouldn't use hair length as the determinant --

Make sure you are selecting and eliminating answers based on how they relate to that particular stimulus and that particular task -- working off general tendencies will not give you the same type of accuracy.

"I still struggle in the very dense stimuli, usually ones with science" -- I think that's natural for everyone, but of course you want to keep getting better and better. I think the one thing to consider that, for me, is very helpful is that when you are given a lot of material, typically, it's not your job understand any more of it than when you are given shorter material -- that is, the "core" of what you have to focus on isn't any bigger -- it's just that they've thrown more distractions and fluff in your way. So, when you see a dense stimulus, don't think "how do I take in all of that!" but rather, think of it as a reading challenge, and work to focus in on just the parts that you know are important.

"questions based on assumptions" -- most q's involve arguments with assumptions -- I think you are talking about the assumption questions? And if so, you are, I imagine, getting tripped up on the unique thought processes that are required to zero in on something that is necessary for an argument to work, or sufficient to make the argument completely valid -- make sure you have a very specific sense of these tasks and make sure you are using these specific sense to think about and evaluate answers.

"I find flaw questions easy but then the answer choices are not the ones I predict. I end up getting suckered into a choice because it "sounds good" and not because it's "credited." -- there are two distinct potential issues here -- you are either not actually seeing the flaw correctly/well enough, or you are getting tripped up on the language they are using to describe the flaw in the answer choices. It may be a bit of both. Make sure you evaluate your misses on these separate terms -- if it's the reasoning -- to me, that's a bigger issue, because it's something that also significantly impacts how you solve other question types as well. If it's the wording of the answers, make sure you are being diligent about eliminating wrong choices, and make sure you familiarize yourself with the common flaw terms (I discuss them a bit in lesson 16 if u need a refresher).

(B)

This is something I mention in the book, but I think it's a great idea to create, for yourself, a 3X5 notecard for each type of question, and on this card write as little as you possibly can -- the basic steps to take on that question type, and the most important things to remind yourself of.

Review these cards before doing practice sets and (here's the extra credit part) -- after you do sets, think about whether the cards did indeed represent your key steps necessary to arrive at the answer, and the most important things for you to think about, and, if they didn't, modify them.

Something I've stated many times elsewhere is that top scorers, despite the different systems they use, tend to all think about the same types of things while they are solving q's -- average scorers also very commonly think of these very same things -- the difference is that the average scorer also thinks about 100 other things, and has more difficulty prioritizing.

I think now's the stage where you really want to simply what you do and sharpen your focus -- I think the notecards are a great tool for that.

(C)

When you review your work, keep in mind the "I missed it because I read it wrong, thought it wrong, or solved it wrong" stuff that I discuss throughout the book, most specifically on pg. 120. In what you mentioned, you discussed things that are typically reading issues (getting lost in dense scenarios) reasoning issues (flaw) and solving issues (assumption q's). Use the trainer notebook organizer tools or some other system to keep track of your misses so you can see patterns -- the more specific you can be about seeing your weak points or bad tendencies, the faster/easier it to get rid of them.

Hope some of that helps -- obviously, not knowing a lot about you and not being able to sit next to you and watch you work, I can't get as specific a sense for what you need as I'd like, so if I've missed the mark or if you think you need something else, please let me know --

Mike

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby 0913djp » Fri Sep 06, 2013 2:47 pm

Thanks for the incredibly detailed post, Mike.

I definitely need to just focus and stop being lazy while evaluating arguments. I know all the question type stems by heart and it's just a matter of keying in on the central purpose of the question and not straying away, as you suggest I do with the note cards. With PTs 61-69 left, I plan on doing a mixed LR problem set untimed before each test (of which I plan to do a notecard for the ones I have trouble with) and then take the test.

I want a 160, and I am confident I can do that with four weeks left. Averaging 158 is miserable but it could be worse.

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby Marshmallow » Tue Sep 10, 2013 3:39 pm

Just a little bit of background: Prior to the Trainer, I'd gone through PS LG and LR, and Manhattan LR. PS was definitely a great place to start, and Manhattan LR really helped me to get a solid grasp on argument cores and thinking about arguments in terms of the flaws (also, reading the ? stem first totally changed my life). My RC and LG still need work. Enter LSAT Trainer.

I'm just wrapping up ch. 11 of the Trainer. I'm so excited about chapter 11 and implementing some of the diagramming techniques. They aren't crazy- very intuitive really- and I could kick myself for not having come up with them myself. But that's also why they're genius. I think by re-working my diagramming methods just a little bit with the help of the Trainer, I can start to be way more efficient and less distracted (by my sometimes clunky diagrams) when working through LG. I'm a little less than a third into the book, but can't wait for the rest of the chapters on LG and RC (and more LR)!

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby modernista » Tue Sep 10, 2013 7:01 pm

How helpful would a diagnostic practice test be if I'm just beginning my studies?

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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:16 pm

modernista wrote:How helpful would a diagnostic practice test be if I'm just beginning my studies?


Hi modernista -- I know you asked this and another q through pm as well -- if you don't mind, I'll answer here, and if you need any more specific help, I'm happy to continue on here or in pm (whatever u prefer) --

In terms of your q about how to combine the trainer with other materials -- the general tls experience has been to go to the trainer after powerscore and mlsat, but i think that this is mostly due to the fact that the trainer is new -- the trainer is not meant to be some sort of advanced book -- if I've done my job well, it should be useful to you from the very beginning of your study process to the very end of it. I don't think the other books are necessarily meant to work that way. I personally think that if you are going to use multiple resources, the most efficient way to do it would be to start with the trainer, which begins with a lot of general/foundational information, and then to fold in the other books (which are broken up by question/game types) either after the first Trainer games lessons (which start on 10) or after the first question-specific LR lessons, which start in lesson 17. But of course a different study path might be more effective for you -- at the least, I recommend that you read the first four intro chapters of the trainer before starting the other books, or in conjunction with the start of the other books. I'm sure at that point you'll have some strong instincts about what order is best for you.

In terms of taking a practice test at the beginning of your studies -- please bear with me through an analogy --

Imagine that you've never played Monopoly before, and you've decided to devote a few months of your life to getting really good at it. At the end of this time, you will enter a Monopoly contest, and you want, and expect, to do very well in this contest (a 170+ score, for example, means you are roughly the best out of every 40 contestants).

So, you go about learning the rules of Monopoly, and strategies, and you drill specific situations and whatnot --

Would it make sense to hold off on actually playing Monopoly until the very end of your preparation process? No, absolutely not -- there is very little to gain, and a whole lot that you would lose --

All of the major learning systems agree that the LSAT is a skill-based exam -- that is, your outcome is not directly dependent on what you know (the rules of the LSAT are relatively simple, straightforward, and easy to learn), but rather your ability to perform -- to utilize your understanding in the moment. So, it's really important to experience what taking an LSAT, in test-like conditions, feels like early on in your process, and it's very important to periodically take practice exams throughout in order to constantly remind yourself of what the end outcome of all your work will be -- you'll get more out of your work this way -- additionally, especially if you are looking at various sources and making decisions about which specific strategies to choose and whatnot, having a visceral sense of the test will make you more likely to prioritize and pick wisely (which typically means relying on systems that are dependable and consistent, rather than slick systems that make some questions / games seem easy, but too often fail you under pressure).

Some things to keep in mind about your exams at or near the beginning of your process --

1) your score is a poor indicator of your starting point --

In large part this is because, at the beginning of your process, you don't have systems for taking the LSAT, and like the first time you try hitting a tennis ball, your results are wildly inconsistent -- to put it in more concrete terms --

Imagine that instead of taking one test, you took two, and mixed up the sections --then, at the end, graded them -- it's likely you'd have something like 145 and 153, say, which is a pretty huge difference. If after a lot of prep, you were to do the same thing with two exams, you'd likely end up with two scores far closer to each other (let's hope something like 173 and 175) -- that's because the design of the test is remarkably consistent, and by the end of your study process the way you process questions should be pretty consistent.

So, depending on if you luck out or have bad luck with certain logic games or rc passages or whatnot, the initial score can give you an overinflated, or underinflated, sense of your starting point -- best to understand it on those terms and really discredit it.

2) your score is a poor indicator of your ending point --

for most people, that is -- if you start at 175, then it's a very good indicator of your likely ending point -- but for most folks, it involves some luck of the draw in terms of whether your initial instincts (many of which can be easily corrected) about how the test is designed are more correct or less correct. (To give an example, a lot of people are used to looking for the "main point" of an RC passage in one particular sentence -- LSAT RC doesn't tend to work that way -- this one instinct, which is easily correctable, can cost you several points and make the section seem much more difficult.)

You'll have a much better sense of your potential / how hard you are going to work to get to your goal score about a month or two into the process -- at that point you'll likely have a good enough understanding of the exam to be able to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are, and to what degree they are fixable. In my experience, most people have the potential to improve their score significantly. Some are able to do so with very little work, and for others it takes a lot more work. But for most folks, the ceiling is pretty high, and the biggest differentiating factor is how much of that potential you actually utilize.

So, worry less about the score, and focus more on what you learn from the experience (of course a teacher would say that, and of course it's easier said than done). Use the initial test to get a sense of where you are starting off with a bit of a head start, and what you may want to pay extra attention to. And again, use it to start developing a specific sense of exactly what it's going to take to perform at a high level --

HTH-- very excited to hear that you are going to be using the trainer -- please don't hesitate to get in touch whenever you think you need me --

Mike

SexualSalad
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby SexualSalad » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:33 am

Hey Mike,

I was wondering if I could get your advice on a little dilemma. First, a little background info: I've been studying full time since June for the Oct. test, and I'm aiming for a 173+ on test day. Over the past three weeks, I've taken 13 PT's (39-42, 44, 45, 49, 53-63 odd), scoring around 168 +/- 3, hitting a max of 171 only twice, and I'm starting to panic a little since I'm not within 173 range. Mistakes tend to be in LR (-2 to -9) and RC (-3 to -8) and don't seem to be concentrated in any particular question type. As a result, I bought LSAT Trainer, which should be arriving here on Saturday.

Question: Do you think it's realistic for me to expect enough improvement to be PTing around the 173 range before the October test? Again, I'd be studying full-time until Oct 5. If so, are there any sections/pages of LSAT Trainer in particular that you would suggest I focus on to break into the 173 range? I think I have the fundamentals of the LSAT down for the most part, and I'd rather not spend time going over material I'm already familiar with.

If it's not realistic, I'd probably delay until the Dec. test (deadline is this Sunday), which would give me enough time to go through LSAT Trainer thoroughly, and I'd still have the even PT's in the 50s and 60s to use. Though, after 3 and half months of studying full-time, I'm really eager to get this over with and would definitely prefer not to draw it out until Dec. if I can help it.

Any advice is much appreciated!

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The LSAT Trainer
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:21 pm

SexualSalad wrote:Hey Mike,

I was wondering if I could get your advice on a little dilemma. First, a little background info: I've been studying full time since June for the Oct. test, and I'm aiming for a 173+ on test day. Over the past three weeks, I've taken 13 PT's (39-42, 44, 45, 49, 53-63 odd), scoring around 168 +/- 3, hitting a max of 171 only twice, and I'm starting to panic a little since I'm not within 173 range. Mistakes tend to be in LR (-2 to -9) and RC (-3 to -8) and don't seem to be concentrated in any particular question type. As a result, I bought LSAT Trainer, which should be arriving here on Saturday.

Question: Do you think it's realistic for me to expect enough improvement to be PTing around the 173 range before the October test? Again, I'd be studying full-time until Oct 5. If so, are there any sections/pages of LSAT Trainer in particular that you would suggest I focus on to break into the 173 range? I think I have the fundamentals of the LSAT down for the most part, and I'd rather not spend time going over material I'm already familiar with.

If it's not realistic, I'd probably delay until the Dec. test (deadline is this Sunday), which would give me enough time to go through LSAT Trainer thoroughly, and I'd still have the even PT's in the 50s and 60s to use. Though, after 3 and half months of studying full-time, I'm really eager to get this over with and would definitely prefer not to draw it out until Dec. if I can help it.

Any advice is much appreciated!


Hello SexualSalad! --

Thanks for picking up my book --

I know a lot of people are in the same boat as you, and thinking about the same things, so, if you don't mind, I'm going to post a fairly general response --

It takes just a few more right answers to go from where you are to where you want to be -- there is no guaranteed or easy way to get there, but you can definitely do it --

From a practical perspective, if you assume the LSAT to be a consistent target, you improve your score in one of two ways:
1) by getting better/more consistent at what you already do or
2) by doing something different -- focusing on a different issue, for example, or going into the answer choices for a certain question type with a different mindset --

Continuing practice tests, and reviewing them carefully, will help a lot with #1, and hopefully the consequence of that is that you'll see a bit more consistency and a bit more/faster accuracy, which may raise your average a bit.

However, my sense is that there may be something more going on here -- the range of scores you are experiencing is unusual for this late in the process (that is, most people tend to be far more consistent in their performances) and I wonder if that's a sign that you are still working mostly off natural abilities and instincts, and that you haven't completely adjusted your mindset to best match the design of the exam --

I think #2 is where, potentially, you can make significant jumps more quickly -- imagine for a minute (I know this is an extreme case) you've been approaching inference q's all wrong, and that they account for a majority of your misses -- obviously, fixing that one issue could, by itself, give you that final boost that you need --

I know you mentioned your misses are spread out among question types, but I guarantee there is great commonality to the questions that you miss -- look for and identify these issues, and you may get as significant a boost as the inference extreme case mentioned above.

Off the top of my head, here is a checklist of issues that a consistent 170+ scorer should consider -- when you go through this list, you are likely going to have three different types of experiences--
1) at your current score, I imagine that for most of the questions, your reaction will be "yeah, I'm good with that."
2) for some of the questions, your reaction might be "oh, I should work on that a bit."
3) finally, maybe, for some of the questions, your reaction might be "I haven't thought about that / Oh that doesn't seem important"

The ones that fall into the third category are the ones that, potentially, offer you the greatest chance for rapid improvement -- all of the things I mention here are significant -- if you don't think about any of these things, chances are you are making the exam harder than it ought to be -- so, notice the ones for which you have this reaction, and I suggest you look to those areas for quick improvement --

For LR

Do I have a very clear sense of what each question type is asking me to do?
Are my steps/actions consistently based on my understanding of that task?
Am I consistently able to prioritize the information in the stimulus that is most relevant to selecting the right answer?
Can I consistently eliminate, on average, 3 or 4 wrong answers, for concrete reasons, and with confidence?
Do I have strategies for when I am stuck between two answer choices?
Do I have systems various methods for confirming the right choice?

For LG

Am I easily able to understand and visualize all scenarios?
Am I comfortable handling any and all rules?
Am I consistently able to prioritize the most important rule, or combination of rules?
(optional, depending on methods) Am I able to create frames that effectively represent limitations of the game?
Do I instinctually use specific and efficient methods for each of the different types of questions?
Do I have secondary methods for when I get stuck on questions?
Do I know when to skip answers, and when to draw out hypotheticals?
Can I recognize when my diagram is wrong/when I’ve missed a key inference, and am I able to recover?


For RC

Do I know what I am supposed to prioritize as I read?
Do I have a reading strategy that helps me prioritize the right things?
Can I intuitively apply this correct reading strategy without conscious effort, so that I can just focus on the passage?
Do I always make sure that I understand the structure of a passage completely before going into the answers?
Do I understand how the different questions are designed, and do I use this to correctly anticipate the characteristics of right and wrong answers?
Am I consistently able to eliminate incorrect answers with confidence?
Am I able to follow the steps that are necessary to confirm the right answer?

I'm sure I'm missing some important stuff, but that will get you started --

Again, I encourage you to use the above list to make sure you've covered all your bases, and, if you haven't thought of something as a priority thus far, see if doing so now makes it easier to solve questions.

In terms of how to best utilize the trainer in these final few weeks --

You are likely not going to have enough time to go through it all, especially considering that you should be spending most of final prep doing and reviewing actual LSAT q's --

You'll notice that LR is split based on general/fundamental, then groupings of related q types -- I suggest you at the least read through all of the general/fundamental (even if you don't have time for all the drills), then read sections on the particular q types for which you think your understanding or strategies aren't as sharp as they could be.

For RC and LG, you'll notice that the sections are split up in terms of what you do in the first part of your process (read the passage / diagram) and what you do in the second part of the process (answer specific types of q's) -- if you think your final small issues have to do with reading/setup, focus on those sections -- if you haven't given enough thought to strategies for specific question types, make sure to focus on those sections.

Finally, I definitely recommend you carefully review the vocab chapter (31) and the final review chapters (37, 39, and 40) -- in particular, please pay attention to the timing suggestions (in fact, you may want to skip ahead to those timing suggestions, so that you can start applying them to your PT's) -- in my experience, most students can gain at least a point or two by allocating their section time more wisely.

Sorry for the length -- at this point, you are at a score where, relative to other test takers, you are so strong that it's tough for me to offer you a magic bullet. However, I hope the above is helpful in terms of you assessing yourself, and I hope the above gives you some ideas of some areas where you can devote a bit of time and gain the points you need --

Hope that helps -- If anything wasn't clear, or if you need any more specific advice, please don't hesitate to get in touch, here or through pm, and good luck! -- Mike

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Dr. Dre
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby Dr. Dre » Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:12 pm

Mike, what is your favorite Arcade Fire song?

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The LSAT Trainer
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Sep 13, 2013 6:41 pm

Dr. Dre wrote:Mike, what is your favorite Arcade Fire song?


My favorite question ever --

I realize that not everyone loves arcade fire, but...

Since you asked...

I'd say my favorite would have to be tunnels --

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RArTVnHslok

but power out and antichrist television blues are right up there too --

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5jKwMnW3Y8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz9JrdR_BI0

When I was writing the trainer, I got on this extreme (for me) schedule where I woke up at 5 am every day -- my routine was to start by listening to various versions of ready to start --

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JP7BpmAPCYU

-- i think of ready to start as the unofficial theme song for the lsat trainer -- if i could afford to license it, i would.

you a fan? curious to hear what u like best.

orioles21
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby orioles21 » Sat Sep 14, 2013 2:22 am

Hey Mike, I have two quick questions (that may have been answered before already):

1) As someone completely new to the LSAT (I have just started studying for it), should I use the LSAT prep test (10 new actual, 10 more new, etc.) plus:
the LSAT Trainer? the Manhattan LSAT Set of 3 strategy guides? or both?

2) Are there any differences between the LSAT trainer offered on Amazon.com and the LSAT trainer offered on Amazon.ca?
The .ca one has 2 additional pages and was published at a later date.


Thanks!

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The LSAT Trainer
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sat Sep 14, 2013 2:53 am

orioles21 wrote:Hey Mike, I have two quick questions (that may have been answered before already):

1) As someone completely new to the LSAT (I have just started studying for it), should I use the LSAT prep test (10 new actual, 10 more new, etc.) plus:
the LSAT Trainer? the Manhattan LSAT Set of 3 strategy guides? or both?

2) Are there any differences between the LSAT trainer offered on Amazon.com and the LSAT trainer offered on Amazon.ca?
The .ca one has 2 additional pages and was published at a later date.


Thanks!


Hi there -- I knew my love of Arcade Fire would rope in some Canadians -- I'll start with your second q first --

The versions sold through Amazon.com and Amazon.ca have the same content -- the 602 page version sold on Amazon.ca is of a much nicer print quality, but I'm sure that's not what is important to you --

More importantly (and this is going to hurt my wknd sales for sure) -- a cleaned up version of the book (I recently hosted an open call for typos on tls) will be going on sale on Amazon.com on Monday, and on Amazon.ca mid-week -- if you can afford to wait, you may want to hold off for the cleaned up version --

In terms of #1, what I would recommend is that you start off with The LSAT Trainer, the 10 New Actuals, and one of the standard schedules, available here -- http://www.thelsattrainer.com/schedules -- once you get knee deep into your prep, you may find that you want to add more practice tests (most people on tls practice with a lot more than 10 pts, and their results speak for themselves) for drills and full exams -- it'll be fairly easy for you, once you've started your prep and have a certain level of understanding about the exam, to figure out how to fold in any extra work (or you can switch to one of the schedules to more practice q's and tests), and if you need any advice you can always reach out to me.

I don't think it's necessary to get The Manhattan guides if you are using The Trainer --

Hope that helps and best of luck -- don't hesitate to get in touch if you need anything, and thanks again for trusting in my book --

Mike

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neprep
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Re: Mike, author of the LSAT Trainer, answering questions

Postby neprep » Sat Sep 14, 2013 3:02 am

Hi Mike,

Hope I'm not jinxing my October test by saying this ( :shock: ) but it would be great if you could provide some scheduling tips for retakers as well. It might be good as a project for a rainy day, haha.


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