Mike's Trainer Thread

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:19 pm

jaylawyer09 wrote:Hello Mike!

can you please give me some input on this? (I made a thread, but i will post it here anyways)

-Hello tls community,

I have been studying for the June 2014 lsat, and am almost done drilling the LR cambridge packets. (I will be done in 5-6 days.) However, I still feel a little weak in some types. --Would it be helpful to drill them all again? (I have already drilled RC and LG, btw, so it will be straight to PTs after LR drilling) -

Edit: was also wondering if I should begin PTing now, and drill while PTing. - perhaps it is too early?

Thanks.


Hello! --

First off, I'm awfully impressed with your work ethic -- I think it's very hard for someone like you not to be successful and I'm excited see how you do on test day --

Here are some thoughts u mind find useful (you are taking in June, right? if you are taking in feb, this advice would be different) --

1) In general, I think drilling improves your score a whole lot more than pt'ing does.

You need practice tests in order to get experience jumping from one type of q to another, and you need practice tests in order to habitualize sectional habits (such as timing strategies). And these things do most certainly impact your score. And of course you want to take pt's from time to time to assess strengths/weaknesses and remind yourself of the real-test experience.

However, ultimately, I think you can of pt'ing as the action that a)lowers the standard deviation in your scores -- that is, makes you more consistent and b) helps ensure that you perform toward the upper end of your capacity, rather than the lower. I don't think pt'ing does a whole lot in terms of significantly raising the ceiling for how high your score can potentially go.

So, all that is to say you want to make sure to get in plenty of pt'ing, but there is no need to rush into it, and, if I were you, I'd prioritize drilling for now.

2) Understand that drilling can reinforce both good and bad habits; work to ensure you are promoting the good and eradicating the bad.

I know I've mentioned using notecards before, but I think they are really effective as a study tool, and I think they can be very useful for someone in your exact situation --

What I suggest is --

Create a notecard for each LR q type -- do this without looking at your notes, or a list of q types, etc. -- on one side of the card, write out a few simple steps for how to solve that q type and on the other side write out just a few, very basic things that are important to remember about that q type ("negation test!" for nec assumption, for example).

Before you do a drill set of a particular q type, review the notecard. After you do a drill set, assess how effective/relevant the strategies/key points actually were, and change the card as need be (avoid the temptation to keep adding more and more to the card -- remember it's meant to help you prioritize, not keep track of everything).

I think doing this notecard exercise will have numerous benefits for you, including --

1) if you forget to make a notecard for a question type, don't know what to write down as strategies for a question type, or don't know what to write as "key understanding" for a question type, those are some really strong indications that you aren't ready enough and haven't put yourself in the best position to succeed -- you need to study these q types more.

2) when you think about your weaknesses, especially after you finish a set, you want to decide if they have to do with your understanding/strategies, or if they have to do with the actual way you are solving q's. The notecards will help you get a strong sense of that. Either you'll see that the things on the notecards aren't helping you, or that you aren't utilizing the information.

3) modifying the notecards after a drill set will help you maximize the learning/change you get from that drill set.

Hope that all helps -- Mike

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:21 pm

Straw_Mandible wrote:Mike,

Thank you so much for your response above! I really enjoyed your hundred meter dash analogy (I am a serious track & field nerd), and it makes a whole lot of sense! Here's my own extension, and let me know if I'm understanding your point correctly:

Sprinters often practice their form by doing "striders," an exercise in which they are told to run the length of the track without a watch, going as fast as they can while still maintaining perfect form. The object of this exercise is not speed, but speed can be viewed as a means to an end. It would be very difficult to practice perfect sprinting form with a light bounce jog. To practice perfect sprinting form, one must sprint.

The connection to RC is clear--it is an exercise in reading dense material quickly which compels us to prioritize the right information. We stand to benefit from doing untimed RC only when we are able to maintain perfect form. Going too slowly in our exercises might hinder our form--kind of like the difference between a bounce jog and a sprint.

A long winded way of saying thank you, but thank you! Your advice is golden as usual.


That's absolutely perfect -- the piece my analogy was missing -- next time I'll send u over a draft for thoughts before I publish :) -- mk

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Postby 10052014 » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:28 pm

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Last edited by 10052014 on Sun Oct 05, 2014 12:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:35 pm

thevuch wrote:mike do you recommend reviewing answers you got correct? ive been PTing and i am only reviewing the ones i miss, and usually the whole test is kind of a blur when im done and i only remember specific questions that really baffled me. how would you recommend reviewing for LR mainly, and maybe some RC review tips too.


I think the more review the better, and reviewing is never a bad thing -- however, you also have to weigh this against keeping your motivation up -- for most of us, spending hours reviewing a question we easily got correct in the first place can be a real motivation killer --

As I mention in the trainer, one thing I strongly suggest is that as you are originally solving q's in a section, drill, or pt, make sure to mark the ones that gave you a lot of trouble or that you feel uncertain about. When you review, the most important q's for you to consider are

1) the ones you got wrong but didn't mark -- these are the greatest cause for alarm -- a significant sign that you are preparing correctly for the exam is that this happens to you less and less.
2) the ones you marked and got wrong
3) the ones you marked and got right

Chances are, q's that fall into the above three categories will be the most illuminating in terms of showing you big holes in your understanding or strategies.

When you do review q's you got correct, you want to focus on process, and, in particular, you want to think about ways you could have gone faster/made the q's easier on yourself (so, if you do review q's you got right with certainty, pay the most attention to the ones that took you the longest). Imagine, for example, a LR q where you got down to three attractive answers, and used a variety of smart reasoning skills to figure out one answer was absolutely correct -- in reviewing the problem, perhaps you notice that you didn't do a good enough job of separating out the supporting info from the background, and, if you had done that, the other two answer choices would have never been attractive to you in the first place. This is some of the hardest self-assessment to do, but if you can do it, it can certainly be really useful --

In terms of RC, not sure if you've seen it, but I have an article about reviewing your RC work on my website -- http://www.thelsattrainer.com/articles/ ... prehension -- not sure if you are looking for additional information, but go ahead and check that out --

Hope that all helps -- as always, if you need anything else just let me know -- Mike

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:43 pm

Baby_Got_Feuerbach wrote:Mike, who is Sharon in your life? That name seems to pop up quite often in the book, which I'm loving so far.

Also, how strongly do you advise against powering through the chapters / lessons without doing the 10 Actuals? My goal is to give myself a month to do nothing but drill from Cambridge and take PTs. (Which means I'd need to finish each of your lessons in the next two or three weeks.) FWIW, I've been doing each of your own drill sets and have been writing the answers in the space provided.


I have no idea who Sharon is -- I WILL say I always have a desire to come up with names that start with S -- so it's really funny to me that you mention that --

Glad you are liking the book -- if you want to go straight through it, and you think that will be helpful, by all means go for it (and I'd love to hear about your experience, so that I know what the +/-'s of that are for future students) --

My concerns are that you won't have enough time to develop your skills and habits in drills and pt's -- just like with exercise, drilling is more effective when you can spread it out a bit and do it over a period of time, rather than trying to cram it in --

I also think, though it's perfectly find to backend pt's and do the majority of them toward the tail end of your prep, you don't want to only do them at the end of your prep -- I think that's a little too scary, and you should at least sprinkle a few throughout the early part of your process, so that you have a consistent and fresh sense of the exam.

So, I think your plan can definitely be good, but I would just recommend that you keep the above two factors in mind --

Mike

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:45 pm

DaveShady wrote:Hi Mike,

I purchased your book a few days ago, after accepting that although I've improved from a 149 on my first PT in september to a 168 on my most recent that I haven't worked as efficiently as I could have and won't be ready for February.
I received it yesterday and there are two things I wanted to say:

1) Although I've only read the introduction, I can already tell that this is a well written book and much different than all the others I have previously used.

2) I REALLY like how the front cover feels lol. I literally made people in my house feel the front cover lol.


I love the feeling of it too! I also had people feel it but they all thought I was nuts. Glad you like the first chapter, and hope you feel the same way about lesson 40.

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Dec 22, 2013 3:07 pm

flash21 wrote:Mike hows it going?

Reading comp is beginning to click for me a bit better now - however, timing is an issue. I often find when drilling, I'll end up spending literally like 2-3 minutes on two questions of the set, usually for other questions I'll answer them almost immediately. any advice for this aside from just reviewing and trying to figure out why they are taking me forever and when its right/ wrong?

Also, whats your view on drilling indiv. passages vs whole secctions of rc? I made a thread and there seemeed to be some disagreement about this. thanks.


Hey! --

I don't have much of an opinion about individual passages vs whole sections -- a few things to keep in mind
- I think it's very helpful to review as soon after your performance as possible, so you can best remember the processes you went through. For this, individual passages are better --
- Individual passages do not give you a sense of overall time -- because some passages will take you 6 minutes and others 11, it's very tough to gauge whether you are getting faster overall, and it's tough to gauge how you are doing relative to the 35 minute mark --
- stamina is most certainly an issue in RC (more so than, in say, LG) -- especially if you don't read a lot regularly. Obviously sections are better for that.

So again, both are useful, but I'd keep the above factors in mind.

In terms of your first q, certainly you want to improve your chances at getting those tough 2 or 3 q's right, BUT...

I'm willing to guess you would be very happy with getting all the other q's right and just missing those.

So, you've got two issues -- you want to get better at those few q's that take a ton of time, and you also want to get better at making sure that those few tough q's don't negatively impact the rest of your performance --

Until you get up to the 165+ level, at which point every single q starts to count a lot more, I think mitigating the negative consequences is a whole lot more important than trying to get those final few correct.

A point I make in the trainer that I think is relevant to this is that it can be helpful to tie your timing strategies to processes, rather than to actual time -- What I mean by that is that, instead of saying something like "I'm going to spend 2 minutes max on any one problem," you say "I'm going to go through a maximum of X steps when I run into a tough q."

One thing that happens to virtually all of us is that under pressure our sense of timing literally changes, and so we get much worse at gauging how long we take on a problem. The least useful time during a section is the time you spend staring at two or three answers not knowing which one is right, and not knowing what to do -- you want to do what to can to limit this waste and stress, and again, tying timing strategies to processes can really help with this.

You have to figure out what strategies are best for you, and I suggest writing out "What to do when I get stuck" --

For a lot of students, "2 attempts" is a good gauge --

1) read q stem and do what you can with it (go back to text if appropriate)
2) eliminate wrong answers
3) confirm right

If you find you've eliminated all five, or can't see why one answer is right, start all over from the point of uncertainty and try again one more time --

If you still don't see right answer, force yourself to pick one and move on. For most q's, this should take you 2 mins or less.

Keep in mind that if this were a different type of exam, I would suggest very different strategies. It's important to consider that harder LSAT q's are not worth more points -- you don't get anything more from spending 2:30 on a killer q and getting it right than you do from spending :45 seconds on an easy q and getting it right. Most test takers suffer from over-investing time in the hardest q's and shortchanging time on the q's they should get right -- so, my biggest advice about those two or three q's is to do your best to limit the time you spend on them, and to do so by relying on a serious of steps and then making tough decisions, rather than trying to just work off of a timing limit for the q. --

Hope that helps and glad to hear that all the hard work you've put in to RC is starting to pay off for you -- as always, follow up if you need anything else -- Mike

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

Postby flash21 » Sun Dec 22, 2013 3:45 pm

thanks mike, appreciate the thorough response.

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

Postby cloy26 » Sun Dec 22, 2013 7:34 pm

Mike,

In chapter 20, the "one argument 10 answers" drill is absolutely eating me alive. The flaws seem so much more difficult to spot and I'm mis-categorizing about 2 or 3 answer choices for each question. I've been drilling Flaw and SA/NA questions and felt pretty good... Are these drills intentionally tough?

ETA: ending up reading the section at the end of the drill that says the questions are actually more challenging, but still I am a little taken back. I guess it's back to more drilling.

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

Postby alexrodriguez » Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:27 pm

Should I start the sixteen week study schedule right now? My LSAT TRAINER arrived minutes ago.

I'm taking in June 2014.

What's really on mind though is that I had planned on using 52-68 as full PT's because I thought that would be best.

Is that line of reasoning flawed?

I suppose I would still have PT 38-52 to do full PT's with.

I guess I'm just going to start it now.

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Dec 23, 2013 12:51 pm

cloy26 wrote:Mike,

In chapter 20, the "one argument 10 answers" drill is absolutely eating me alive. The flaws seem so much more difficult to spot and I'm mis-categorizing about 2 or 3 answer choices for each question. I've been drilling Flaw and SA/NA questions and felt pretty good... Are these drills intentionally tough?

ETA: ending up reading the section at the end of the drill that says the questions are actually more challenging, but still I am a little taken back. I guess it's back to more drilling.


Good! Glad I'm finally challenging you :) --

This is definitely meant to be one of the toughest drills in the book, and I think it's tough mostly because there is a whole lot of extra distraction -- stimuli are long, wordy, and convoluted, and you have to think about 10 answer choices, and multiple tasks, as opposed to 5 answer choices and 1 task.

I think it might be helpful for you to think about your difficulties as falling into one or more of the following categories:
1) had trouble isolating the argument core
2) had trouble clearly understanding fault in reasoning
3) had trouble retaining sharp sense of core through the answers
4) had trouble retaining a clear sense of task through the answers

My guess, from reading the little bit you wrote, is that you found some of the earlier exercises in the book easier because the core was, in many instances, already isolated for you, and so maybe your struggles are a sign that you have to work a bit more on your reading -- extracting the core from the rest of the stimulus and focusing in on it -- could definitely be something else holding you back, but I wonder if that is snowballing into you having trouble with the rest of the steps.

Hope that helps -- let me know if you think your issues had to do with something else, or if you need anything else --

Mike

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:00 pm

louierodriguez wrote:Should I start the sixteen week study schedule right now? My LSAT TRAINER arrived minutes ago.

I'm taking in June 2014.

What's really on mind though is that I had planned on using 52-68 as full PT's because I thought that would be best.

Is that line of reasoning flawed?

I suppose I would still have PT 38-52 to do full PT's with.

I guess I'm just going to start it now.


Hey Louie --

I think starting the 16 wk schedule right now is a great way to go -- that'll leave you plenty of time should you need to slow down in your studies, and plenty of time to do additional work after the trainer schedule/before the exam.

If you want to use 52 - 68 for full PT's, that's fine -- you can just substitute drill sets from 38-52 when those hw assignments come up (so, for example, if it says to do flaw q's from 52-56, you can just choose to do flaw q's from 38-42).

Another way for you to go would be to use 52-56 for drilling (that way, you can follow most of the trainer sched as is) and 57-68 for pt's, and make up for that difference with 38-52. I personally think it's nice to sprinkle some more recent exams into your drilling, but I understand the instinct to do otherwise and keep them all for pt's, and again I don't think it makes a big difference, as long as you get in the work necessary --

I also think it's a good idea to repeat q's, especially ones you found challenging, and I discuss that a lot more in the book. There are also free notebook pages on my website that you can use to keep track of q's that you want to return to --

The only q's from 52-68 actually used in the trainer are ones for comparative passages, and I had to do that because c.p.'s didn't exist before 52 (you can check out the appendix for a full list of OG q's used in the book).

HTH -- glad u picked up the book, and look forward to hearing how it goes for you -- don't hesitate to reach out if you need me --

Mike

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

Postby alexrodriguez » Mon Dec 23, 2013 11:25 pm

Just wanted to say that I have found your book really helpful so far. I really enjoyed Lesson 6 and I thought the exercises were great. I opened up my Manhattan book after and I wanted to see how they broke down flaw questions and although I didn't really give it the time of day it somewhat seemed inferior to your methods.

Gonna go start Lesson 7.

I have a feeling I'm going to fly through this book out of enjoyment.

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

Postby alexrodriguez » Tue Dec 24, 2013 9:55 am

Just finished Lesson 9. I honestly think my entire method of viewing a stimulus has been changed.

It really struck me when you said something along the lines of "imagine every argument on the LSAT to be one made by that Uncle of yours always asking for money. Or that politician that you despise and are constantly looking to undermine."

It's a really solid way of looking at it.

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

Postby cloy26 » Tue Dec 24, 2013 11:30 am

louierodriguez wrote:Just finished Lesson 9. I honestly think my entire method of viewing a stimulus has been changed.

It really struck me when you said something along the lines of "imagine every argument on the LSAT to be one made by that Uncle of yours always asking for money. Or that politician that you despise and are constantly looking to undermine."

It's a really solid way of looking at it.


The "radio host" or whatever idea really stuck with me.

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

Postby chaoticx5 » Wed Dec 25, 2013 8:47 pm

The LSAT Trainer wrote:Hey --

Thanks for using the trainer and for filling me in on your situation --

Here are some thoughts -- as always, keep in mind that I'm working off of very limited info, so, in order to try to be helpful, I have to be presumptuous (and I try to offer a variety of suggestions, to put one out there that you might find relevant) -- please feel free to ignore anything you think doesn't apply to you, and if I don't address something that is important to your situation, please don't hesitate to follow up --

First -- in general, I think you should always keep track of your timing, and you should always try to improve your timing, but you should never (not until the very last weeks of your prep at least) decide to sacrifice accuracy for timing (meaning, don't shortchange a part of the process - such as eliminating wrong choices, for the sake of timing) -- rather, you should always strive to get faster as you get more accurate.

I know that in real time accuracy and pace seem to be directly opposed to one another (especially when you have to decide whether to spend extra time on a question to make sure you got it right, or move on), but when you think about it a different way, getting better at the test and getting faster at the test are very closely related to one another (I'll discuss this more below), and during the bulk of your prep, I think it's a really good idea to focus on how accuracy and pace can and should enhance one another, rather than focusing on how to make decisions about sacrificing one for the other.

Based on what you've written, I think strengthening one or more of the following three skills/habits may be the key to you taking the next step forward --

1) The ability to read for structure and prioritize the important information

Put simply, the better you get at reading the LSAT, the easier it becomes to recognize and prioritize the right information. This in turn makes it easier to think about the reasoning and relate it to the answers, and leads to improved pace.

Part of the reason I strongly recommend always timing yourself and always pushing the pace is that it forces you to try and improve your reading ability -- to put it another way, if you don't worry about timing, you will have a tendency to not focus as much on prioritizing -- this makes the reasoning challenges even more difficult, and, furthermore, it's often very difficult to recognize, in your review, that reading issues are what caused you trouble -- we all naturally tend to focus on the reasoning, and we all tend to focus on what we do, rather than what we fail to do --

Here's an example to illustrate more clearly what I mean --

Person A has really strong reading/prioritizing skills and really strong reasoning skills -- when he reads LR problem X, he zeros in on the exact conclusion and the exact support. This allows him to see clearly that 4 of the answers don't relate directly to the argument, and then he confirms the one answer he has left.

Person B has really strong reasoning skills but not the reading skills -- when he reads LR problem X, he is not as clear in assigning roles, and in particular, he has mixed up and brought together in his mind some of the secondary background information with the support. This makes it so that 2 of the answer choices seem attractive. He carefully reasons through both, sees that one is stronger than the other, and selects the correct answer.

Better reading skill means Person A spends less time on the q, and that the thinking he has to do is easier.

Furthermore, it's very easy for Person B to say "Wow, that's a really tough problem with two attractive answers. Glad my reasoning skills got me through it." It's also very easy for Person B to continue on reading problems the same way as he continues his prep, and to just focus on getting better and better at the reasoning. However, Person B is consistently making problems harder / taking longer than he needs to, and eventually, may have to decide between taking the time to make such reasoning decisions, or moving on in order to finish the section.

So, all that is to say, make sure you prioritize your reading skills, and that you recognize their importance in terms of helping you join together and improve accuracy and pace. When you take too long on problems, think about it in terms of your reading process and what you chose to prioritize, and see if better reading could have helped ease your workload.

2) An ability to utilize a clear understand of task in order to evaluate answers

When you evaluate answers, you do so by comparing them against your understanding of the stimulus, and of the task presented in the q stem. As I talk about a lot in the trainer, most test takers undervalue the second of those criteria. The clearer your understanding of task, the easier it becomes to see that answers are wrong or right.

One challenge of utilizing task well is that the LSAT presents a lot of very similar tasks, and it's very easy to be lazy, even without realizing it, about how you think about what each type of question is asking you. For example, a Must be True and a Most Strongly Supported are very much alike, and most of the thoughts you are going to have for the two question types are similar. Furthermore, strong reasoning skills can often allow you to make up for not having as sharp an understanding of task as you should (for example, for both of those q types, the four wrong choices will always be very far from provable -- so, you could conceivably always be 100% correct on these q's even if you don't pay attention to the distinction in those tasks). However, on the hardest questions (and at your score level, most of your misses are the hardest q's), knowing the subtle distinctions between the two question types can be the difference between you feeling confident about your answer and you feeling just a bit uncertain. To me, that's a big deal.

One of the reasons drilling like-q's is so effective is that is helps you build up question-specific skills. My advice is to try to go over the top in terms of understanding and utilizing the q stem, and see if that helps make q's easier and helps improve pace.

3) Habits

Finally, if you know all the right steps to take, what you are supposed to focus on, and so on, but you are inconsistent in terms of your actions (you'll solve the same q two different ways on two different days), you need to work to translate your skills into habits -- this is another reason that drilling of like-q's is so effective -- because it's a great way to build up habits.

For most students, drilling is a necessary part of getting better, but depending on your strengths and weaknesses, you may also want to spend some extra time confirming/strengthening your understanding and strategies, and you definitely want to spend a certain amount of time doing q's mixed together (full sections, pt's) -- so that you are comfortable bringing your various skills together and jumping from one q type to another.

Way longer than I intended and perhaps a bit off topic -- sorry! But I really want to encourage you to relate accuracy and pace, rather than juxtaposing them, and to try and work in such a way that you improve both. Hope that helps and again, if you need anything else, please let me know here or through PM --

Mike


Mike! Thank you so much for the detailed response! I think you hit everything on the head with your advice. I will be more aware of the time/accuracy relationship in the future. I will also reread the LSAT Trainer and cement strategies. I cannot tell you how much you've helped me. I recommend you to all of my friends!

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

Postby jckund » Fri Dec 27, 2013 10:40 pm

Hey Mike,

Not sure if this has been answered before, but are there any other books you would recommend using in conjunction with yours? I know the LSAT Preptests 52-61, and then the most recent ones for additional review... but from your experience, have any of the other books been worthwhile? I'm looking at Manhattan, Powerscore, etc... just for additional practice.

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

Postby proviso » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:15 am

I feel like I've hit the 170 ceiling and need help getting past that! I've been studying over the summer and read the Powerscore and Manhattan prep books, and now I'm drilling Cambridge while waiting for my copy of LSAT Trainer to arrive! Timing is okay (still need to work on it) but I always miss the hardest LR questions or have some careless mistakes.

What's your advice on breaking that score ceiling?

Thanks Mike!

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:18 pm

jckund wrote:Hey Mike,

Not sure if this has been answered before, but are there any other books you would recommend using in conjunction with yours? I know the LSAT Preptests 52-61, and then the most recent ones for additional review... but from your experience, have any of the other books been worthwhile? I'm looking at Manhattan, Powerscore, etc... just for additional practice.


Hey --

I feel extremely comfortable recommending The Trainer as a stand alone study guide, and in my very biased opinion it is by far the most comprehensive study guide available to students, but I also understand that you might definitely benefit from taking a look at some other materials. I think that those who have actually studied using the various products together might have more valuable insight (and if anyone else wants to chime in, please feel free) but here are some of my thoughts --

A couple of general suggestions before we get going --

1) Think of your study time/energy as your most valuable resource, and make sure you proportion your time wisely between learning, drilling, and doing practice tests (always + review, of course). A danger of spending too much time in the study guides/classes and such is that you don't have enough time for practice and review.

2) When you run into issues or spot weaknesses, consider whether they are due to not understanding something well enough, or not having the right strategies, or whether they are due to not being consistent enough at implementing what you know about the test, and about how you are supposed to solve questions. If it's the former (learning, strategies) you want to lean on the trainer and/or look toward other learning materials (to be discussed shortly) -- if your issues have more to do with implementation, careful drilling and pt's are probably where you want to focus more of your energy.

If you feel you need more practice -- and a lot of people on this forum who are going after top scores will tell you they needed 30,40 + exams to feel totally prepared -- definitely get yourself additional PT's. The more recent exams are just a little bit more exactly like what you will face on test day, but the LSAT changes very little over time, and older exams are fine to use for prep.

The cheapest way to get the older exams is to purchase the 10 LSAT books -- if you already have 52-61, you can get 29-38 as your next set. If you want more exams, or if money is less of an issue, I think it's a great idea to purchase your PT's as downloadable PDF's from Cambridge LSAT -- I'm a big fan of doing problems over and over again, and being able to reprint tests is a big benefit. (BTW, a lot of hard-core TLS folks will invest in very cheap laser printers for all their PT printing.)

As far as other prep books go -- if you want another resource outside of the trainer, probably the first place you should look is Powerscore -- it has been, overwhelmingly, the most popular study guide for top scorers for the past decade -- I'm doing my best to end this trend, but you probably owe it to yourself to take a look.

As you probably know, I co-created Manhattan LSAT, so if you are looking for additional resources that are more consistent with the Trainer, Manhattan is the way to go. I wrote a far more detailed response about differences between Manhattan and the Trainer somewhere waaaay back in this thread, but basically I think the big advantage of the Manhattan materials is that they have been influenced by more voices than the Trainer has; the advantage of the Trainer is that, in my opinion, my understanding of the LSAT, and how to teach it, grew exponentially between the two projects.

BTW, the 3rd edition Manhattan Logic Games book is the first book that was created and released after I left, and so I didn't write it, and it's the book least influenced by me (though I did create the Logic Chain, a popular subject of discussion here on TLS). I imagine that in the years to come the manhattan materials and the trainer will become more and more divergent.

If you are open to video prep, you may also want to look into 7Sage. Especially if you need a bit more instruction with LG, I think 7Sage offers very high quality strategies that work well as a contrast to those in the trainer -- the trainer is more minimalist, and 7Sage more structured, but both are, in my mind, effective ways to go -- if the trainer doesn't nail it for you in terms of making you totally comfortable with games, I think using the two in combination will give you a really nice, well-rounded perspective.

If you want my thoughts on any other materials, I'm happy to give them -- I hope you found that helpful and let me know if you have any follow up or need anything else --

Mike

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:15 pm

proviso wrote:I feel like I've hit the 170 ceiling and need help getting past that! I've been studying over the summer and read the Powerscore and Manhattan prep books, and now I'm drilling Cambridge while waiting for my copy of LSAT Trainer to arrive! Timing is okay (still need to work on it) but I always miss the hardest LR questions or have some careless mistakes.

What's your advice on breaking that score ceiling?

Thanks Mike!


The classic enviable but tough spot --

It's an impossible question to give a specific answer to -- I picture it kind of like Ray Allen asking "How do I make sure I hit 19 out of every 20 free throws, instead of 18 out of every 20?" --

My advice is to go for overkill -- don't think of it as needing to get just a tiny bit better -- do everything you can to try and get significantly better on a variety of fronts --

More specifically --

1) Work to get faster and more automatic at the questions that you are already good at

At your score level, I'm guessing that on any one exam there are about 80 q's that pretty much go as you expect, where you end up extremely confident of your answer, and 20 or fewer q's that really challenge you --

It's much, much easier to get faster at those 80 than it is to get faster at those 20. Often, the key to getting faster is just getting better and better at focusing on the right things -- thinking about less as you read an argument, for example, or not worrying about things you shouldn't by worrying about as you eliminate answers -- hopefully your work in the trainer will help you with this.

At the same time you work to get faster and faster at these easy q's, you also want to build in steps that allow you to be more cautious -- it's natural to think building in more steps might slow you down, but in really it doesn't, because it can help you think about the right things -- always eliminating wrong answers before selecting the right answer for an LR q is a classic example of this -- when you are starting your prep, it may seem like "there is no way I have enough time to eliminate wrong answers all the time!" -- however, you need this step built in in order to have the level of consistency required for 170+, and, for top scores, the process of eliminating wrong choices ultimately saves time and helps them go faster (the better you are at eliminating wrong choices, the fewer answers you will find attractive -- it's the answers you find attractive that end up wasting all your time).

2) Making a careless mistake is no excuse for missing a problem

You need to have systems built in (like getting to an LR answer by eliminating wrongs then picking a right or saying to yourself what an LG diagram means and double checking that against the written rules before moving on to the q's) that help you catch when you've thought about something incorrectly/done something wrong and help you overcome it. This is a tough test and there will absolutely be times when you don't think about things the right way -- the key is to have safety measures to offset these issues.

3) Try to push your pace as much as possible, with the goal of being able to finish sections, on average, in 30 minutes or less

Obviously, don't do this by rushing through q's or skipping steps -- you want to get faster by getting better -- but do keep working to get faster and faster. What happens when you start consistently being able to finish sections well before the 35 minute mark is that you can stop worrying about time/making compromises for it -- this gives you a giant advantage over every other person taking this exam -- for the type of score you seek, you need giant advantages.

As discussed, you will run into tough problems on the test, no matter what, and having as much time as you need to think through them carefully is an amazing luxury. Considering where you are already, I think it's something you can strive for.

4) Try to objectively gauge if your reasoning props up your reading and approach, or vice-versa.

Here's what I mean -- when you run into a tough LR q', you might get it right by
a) reading it correctly and focusing in on the right issues, being able to spot characteristics that clearly show you why four answers are wrong, then confirming that the right answer is right
or
b) reading it mostly correctly but paying too much attention to background info, eliminating a few obvious wrong answers but getting attracted to a few, then using your superior reasoning skills to figure out which of the answers is actually correct.

Obviously, (a) will lead to more consistent and easy success than (b) will -- however, this is one of the toughest types of situations to gauge for ourselves -- especially if you get the question right, you'll think about it as a tough question, and you will likely think about the key reasoning skills that allowed you to pick the right answer, but it's much tougher to see, if you are this type of student, what types of reading skills, or what tweak in approach, may have made the problem easier to solve.

I think the real-time solutions that are in the trainer can be a useful tool for evaluating your own process -- see if you shortchange certain parts of the process and "overcome it" with your strengths. When you find situations where this is true, pay more attention to the instruction about those aspects you may have neglected previously.

I can go on and on, but I have to stop myself at some point -- there will be a lot more info in the trainer that is far more useful, I promise --

I hope you found at least some of that helpful - again, I think the key point I want to stress is to really go for overkill - at 170, you are the top scorer in a room of 40 LSAT takers -- at 175, you are the top scorer in a room of 200 LSAT takers -- in order to get to that level, you have to try to attack the test from as many angles as you can --

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy the book -- if you need any more help along the way, please reach out --

Mike

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

Postby Baby_Got_Feuerbach » Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:19 pm

Mike, I've just hit the pages with the "good" v "great" solutions. Thus far, I fall into the former camp. My diagrams and initial inferences are only good enough that I can get each problem right but it takes me significantly more time than 'allotted' (especially on the tougher ones). As I posted in the Feb. '14 thread, if I want to go (-0) - (-3) then it takes me, on average, 40 minutes. What do you suggest for shaving that down to 33-35 minutes? [Broken down even further: some games will take 7:30 while another might take close to 15:30.] Of course, there's still a lot left for me to read in your book -- but only 5 1/2 weeks left 'til Test Day. I hope it's not a problem with my habits.

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

Postby boosane » Mon Dec 30, 2013 6:13 pm

IF I need to re-take I'm gonna buy the trainer, do you recommend I also purchase the Manhattan LR guide as well?

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:11 pm

boosane wrote:IF I need to re-take I'm gonna buy the trainer, do you recommend I also purchase the Manhattan LR guide as well?


I'm obviously totally biased here -- keep in mind that other students may offer a better perspective on this than I can --

It depends on how much time you have, and what your needs are --

In general, I would say no --

To master LR, you have to develop your understanding and strategies, and then spend the bulk of your energy turning that information into skills and habits --

In my opinion, I think the trainer should give you everything you need in terms of LR understanding and strategies, and my concern is that if you also go through the Manhattan LR book, you won't have enough time/energy to do all the drilling/pt'ing/reviewing you need in order to be fully prepared --

I do think it can be beneficial if
a) you feel like the trainer didn't quite fill you up 100% in terms of understanding/strategies -- this happens, of course, and even though MLR says a lot of the same stuff, sometimes just reading it in a different format is what will make something "click." So, again, if you feel you have any understanding or strategy needs after the trainer, MLR is a great option.
b) time is less of an issue for you, and working through MLR won't hinder you from doing all the other work you need to do -- then of course it won't hurt to go through it, and will certainly make you wiser/stronger --

HTH -- whatever u decide to do, if you do retake and need me for anything, just let me know -- MK

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

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:33 pm

Baby_Got_Feuerbach wrote:Mike, I've just hit the pages with the "good" v "great" solutions. Thus far, I fall into the former camp. My diagrams and initial inferences are only good enough that I can get each problem right but it takes me significantly more time than 'allotted' (especially on the tougher ones). As I posted in the Feb. '14 thread, if I want to go (-0) - (-3) then it takes me, on average, 40 minutes. What do you suggest for shaving that down to 33-35 minutes? [Broken down even further: some games will take 7:30 while another might take close to 15:30.] Of course, there's still a lot left for me to read in your book -- but only 5 1/2 weeks left 'til Test Day. I hope it's not a problem with my habits.


You are on the cusp of mastery -- let’s get that timing down! --

You can get richer in one of two ways -- by making more or spending less --

You can get faster in one of two ways -- by getting rid of the weaknesses that are slowing you down or by utilizing tools that help you go faster -- let’s try to use both --

Get rid of weaknesses slowing you down:

See if one or more of these ring a bell --
1) You sometimes have trouble “seeing” the design of the game. Playing logic games is kind of like playing a bizarro version of chess where each time you sit down the shape of the board is different, and the rules for how the pieces move are different. It’s tremendously important that you be able to clearly “picture,” both on paper and in your head, exactly what each of these situations looks like. If you don’t have a clear picture, it makes it markedly more difficult to visualize elements going into positions, moving around, and so on.

Check up: go through old games you’ve done, only reading scenario and rules; see if you can easily picture each situation, and see if you clearly understand how you would lay out the base for each game. If you have trouble doing this, it’s a sign that picturing is holding you back.

(BTW, I think the two recent infographics on my website categorizing games can help you, once you recognize a game you have trouble categorizing/visualizing, relate that game to others most like it.)

2) Your notations are not automatic. Diagramming is like shorthand -- you want it to be so habitual that you don’t think about how you diagram -- so that you are free to just think about the actual game. This has huge timing ramifications not only during the setup, but also (and even more so) during the q’s -- over and over again you have to move elements around, and if your diagramming isn’t automatic, you’ll have a lot of trouble going through these thought processes fast enough.

Check up: go through those same old games again -- look at your diagram for each game, say to yourself what your notations mean, and check them against the original rules. Take note of any situations where your notation isn’t a perfect match for the rule as stated.

3) You don’t use efficient systems for solving questions. Do you always try to attack a “could be true” by eliminating four wrongs? Do you always try to attack a “must be false” by identifying the one answer that must be false? Are you consistent and correct in following chains of inferences off of conditional q stems? Consistently aligning strategies with the way questions are designed will help limit the likelihood you waste time thinking about things that aren’t necessary (like wasting time eliminating wrong choices in a situation where it’s far easier to spot the right choice).

A big part of not having efficient systems is not having backup systems/not knowing when to stop and move on -- make sure your strategies include plans for what to do when you struggle.

For almost every student I know in your situation, propping up one or more of those three areas can be a huge benefit in terms of improving timing.

Take advantage of ways to speed up

1) Make sure you are really good at seeing the “crux” of a game. A strong majority of games have one rule, or a combination of rules, that is most impactful in terms of determining all assignments. Most of the time, you should be able to recognize it during your initial read of the scenario and rules.

Being able to see the crux of a game has a huge impact on overall “flow” -- when you prioritize the key rules, it’s easier to relate the other rules, and the process of diagramming, and answering questions, tends to go more smoothly / as you expect. On the flip side, if you were to evaluate all those games that take you 15 minutes, and where you have to seemingly use hypos to solve every q, chances are very likely that for a great many of them, you missed the crux.

Check up: go through old games reading just scenario and rules, and see if you can easily see this crux.

Tip for improvement: I think awareness and focus go a long way here -- keep reminding yourself to prioritize key rules for every game you face, and to start your diagram with the key rule(s). Then, when it comes time to review your performance, see if your assessment was indeed correct.

2) Split up a game into multiple diagrams (frames) should the need or opportunity arise. Creating multiple diagrams can be a bit more work and can open you up to more opportunities for error or misunderstanding; also, if you aren’t adept at recognizing when you should set up these frames vs not, they could end up costing you a lot of wasted time and energy. However, when used appropriately and in the right situations, frames can seriously cut down on your time -- for some games, an extra :20 setting up multiple diagrams during your prep can save you 3:00+ when it comes time to answer questions.

For a variety of reasons, I am a minimalist when it comes to framing -- for a look at how it’s done well on the flip side -- with tons of frames -- check out the 7sage explanations.

3) Utilize work done on previous questions. Going back to “flow,” you will notice that when you play certain games really well, it’ll often be true than an inference you ID’d for one question, or a thought you needed to eliminate an answer for one question, will then become relevant to another question. I think that there is a very careful organization to the questions (which is why I do not suggest solving questions out of order, though occasionally it does make sense to hold off certain q’s you get stuck on until you have more info), and if you are mindful about doing so you can take great advantage of previous work.

4) Don’t be too precious on easier games -- one thing you mentioned that stood out to me was 7:30 as a benchmark for slowest games. With your level of command, there should be some games that, if you really push yourself, you should be able to solve in 6 minutes or less. Sometimes we have a tendency to be too deliberate when we face easier situations -- never cut corners, but always practice going as fast as you are comfortable going.

Having said that, the last thing I’ll say is to make sure you give yourself enough time to understand a game really well before moving on to the questions. Go as fast as you can, especially when you feel in control of a game, but don’t rush steps, and don’t put the cart before the horse (examples would be drawing a diagram right after reading just the scenario, or notating rules in the exact order in which they are given -- these are actions that really hurt you in terms of seeing / taking advantage of the big picture/key priorities). Give yourself time to read the scenario and rules and think about the situation carefully before setting pen to paper. And give yourself time to pause before going into the questions to make sure your notations are crystal clear to you, and that you’ve caught all the key inferences that you can -- keep in mind that spending an extra :30 in your setup can save you many minutes in the questions, as long as you are using that extra time to strengthen your understanding of the game. (Again, sorry if #4 and this paragraph seem to contrast -- you want a very quick overall pace--especially when you are comfortable, but also a careful, planned, multi-step process, and time given to thinking when thinking is required).

For most top students (and I would consider you a top student for the level you’ve already achieved) -- getting rid of things that slow them down is really the key to speeding up -- however, per the information you mentioned (accurate but slow, 7:30 on fastest games) I wonder if the speed up issues are more relevant. In any case, I strongly suggest you attack it from both angles.

Hope that helps -- if you have any follow up, let me know, and if you don't mind, please let me know how you progress! --

MK

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

Postby CocoSunshine » Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:27 am

Hi Mike!

I have a general question concerning Strengthen/Weaken question. Is an answer choice that strengthens/weakens the conclusion while has nothing to do with the premise a valid answer? Or it has to address the reasoning of the argument?

Thank you in advance and happy new year!


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