Mike's Trainer Thread

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:28 pm

mornincounselor wrote:
heydude wrote:Hi Mike!

I recently started your trainer and love it so far! I've completed going through the Blueprint games book and also dabbled with the Powerscore books (and Manhattan book for reading comp) and I really like the holistic approach you take to the process. I don't consider myself a genius but I do think that I'm fairly intelligent, and I really like the emphasis you place on building a solid foundation of critical thinking rather than a more formulaic approach that involves memorizing numerous copyrighted techniques (if no one's mentioned this to you before, other books are jam packed with copy-right symbols on their "proprietary" techniques).

Anyway, I have just finished the first practice test and wanted some advice on the best way to go about taking the practice tests.

1. Should I be writing in the Prep test book or not? I faintly recall seeing somewhere that said to NOT write in the book because then it would make it more difficult to go back and review. I thought it was in the Trainer, but when I went back to try to find it I couldn't find anything related in the book or on your website. At the same time, I can see how practicing writing in the book would better simulate actual conditions since on the test you aren't allowed any scratch paper.

2. What are your thoughts on practicing in "noise" conditions? I've seen in some places that say it's good to practice in a library or a coffee shop to stimulate test day noise. I understand that near the end of your studies you may want to stimulate test day conditions as a dry run, but when I'm early-midway in my studies and just practicing still, would it better to be in a quieter environment in which I am more focused?

3. Do you have any other tips maximizing the utility from taking prep tests?

Thanks for your time!


Not Mike, but I think I know how he might begin to answer a couple of these questions.

1. Footnote (sidenote) on page 17 says "If you'd like you can use these extra wide margins throughout the book to take notes." Note that many of the pages you will want to take notes on are sized so the margin is much smaller than these initial pages, so you may find keeping a pad to take additional notes helpful. I've found that the type of paper used (at least combined with my black ticonderoga pencils) is easy to erase. For the practice questions Mike will lay out the complete question multiple times (once when you are completing it, and once as he explains the steps a top scorer would use) so marking up the question as you complete it won't necessarily interfere with your ability to reuse the question. All signs point toward writing in the book being acceptable and suggested.

3. Blind review! That is, do not simply grade the test like checking off march madness picks, but rather take the time to evaluate the question fully: figure out the conclusion and support; think about what a correct choice will look like; be sure why incorrect choices can not be correct and why the correct choice is not only the best choice given but a valid response.


I agree w/everything MC said -- additionally,

1) In terms of actually writing on the preptests themselves, I do think, if at all possible, you try to keep fresh versions of q's to try again later -- this either means making copies, buying as pdfs, or doing your work off the book -- you can stop worrying about this when you get closer to the exam, but, for now, I think you want to set yourself up to be able to return to q's and do them over again.

2) If you tend to be distracted by noise, certainly factor that in. In general, you want to go for overkill in terms of ensuring that you mimic testing conditions during practice. It's very, very easy to develop practice habits that are different from test day habits, and you want to do whatever you can to avoid that. So, whatever you need to do to match the experience of test day (and especially the pressure of test day) go for it.

3) I have about a million suggestions, but I'll try to control myself --

Though it's not literally true, I think it can be helpful to imagine the "content" of the LSAT as staying exactly the same test to test -- that is, what underlies each set of 100 questions is the exact same set of challenges --the only difference is the way in which the test writers present these challenges -- they do an amazing job of cloaking this same set of challenges with complex subject matter, etc.

If you think about the LSAT as a moving target, reviewing one test does you little good in preparing for the next test. However, if you think about the exams on the above terms, it helps put your PT's in the right perspective -- your practice exams offer up the best roadmap there is to your maximum score -- what you need to be able to do is correctly recognize what it is that these pt's say about your skill set and habits, and work to adjust what you need to in order to better meet the challenges the test presents. Obviously easier said than done.

Again and again, you will hear LSAT teachers recommend that you not worry too much about your pt scores -- this is another thing that we all recognize is obviously easier to say than to actually do, but the above represents why we all stress this so much -- if you are constantly worried about what your pt's say about you, and in particular your weaknesses, it puts you in a worse position to maximize your learning. If you embrace your challenges -- if you are able to say "I'm glad I struggled with this q -- now that I've uncovered this issue, I can take care of it and it won't bother me on test day" -- and approach your PT's with this plan and mindset, it'll put you in a much better position to review better, and get more out of your review.

In terms of review, here are some more specific suggestions for where you are in your study process --

1) Try to assess and record your issues as accurately as possible -- use the trainer organizer tools or whatever else you'd like to take note of the q's that you struggled with, which wrong answers were attractive to you, and so on.

2) Think about understanding and process -- make sure that when you review q's you not only think about what makes the right answer right and the wrong answer wrong, but what steps you should have taken in order to be as efficient and accurate as possible. Again, keep in mind that you should develop a much, much more specific understanding of correct process as you get deeper into your prep, but it helps to start thinking about it from the get-go.

3) Picture yourself evaluating and using these results later -- this is a big reason I recommend #1 -- if you are following the trainer schedule recommendations, you'll be coming back to many parts of your pt's later on in your prep, after you've had more instruction and practice, so that you can reflect on how much you've gotten better, what still causes you trouble, and so on --

Sorry for the length -- another post that ended up longer than it should have -- but hope you found at least some of that helpful -- good luck, and please don't hesitate to get in touch here or through pm if you need any more help -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:59 pm

lawstudenthopeful727 wrote:I'm going through the trainer, but for some reason I'm not quite getting the hand of required assumption, and strengthen/weaken the argument. Can you please elaborate a little more?


Sure thing --

Do know that a lot of students find those q types to be particularly challenging, so you aren't alone --

As I mention a lot elsewhere, I think a big key to improvement is self-awareness -- the more clearly you understand what causes you trouble, the easier it will be to take care of it -- in fact, even the act of figuring out what is causing you trouble can in-and-of-itself take you a long way toward the solution --

The general drilling cycle I recommend is that you try questions, assess your performance, actively work to improve understanding/strategies/habits, try more questions, and reassess -- often, the key to this cycle running smoothly again and again are your assessment skills --

To that end, here are a few q's to ask yourself about Req Assumption (otherwise known as Nec Assumption), Strengthen, and Weaken --

1) Am I always able to zero in on the correct conclusion and retain it?
2) Am I always able to separate out support from b.g. etc.?
3) Am I able to retain a clear sense of the argument core throughout the problem-solving process?

The above steps are important for all argument-based q's, but they are especially important for the three q types you mentioned, because all of these q types require a lot of steps, and a somewhat longer/more complex thought process -- it's very, very easy during a long strengthen q, for example, to get a fuzzy in your understanding of the argument. You want to make sure you have the ability to see the argument clearly, and you want to make sure you've developed the habit of prioritizing the core of the argument above all else.

It's important to keep in mind that wrong answers are not built out of thin air (otherwise the test would be too easy) -- instead, they are built off of parts of the stimulus that are less important, or misunderstandings of the argument or reasoning. The better you are at separating out and focusing in on the core argument, the less attracted you will be to many of these wrong choices.

4) Am I able to see what's wrong with the reasoning?

Think of the connection between support and conclusion as a bridge. What you know going into q's that require you to evaluate reasoning is that every single one of these bridges will have problems -- you are the bridge mechanic and wouldn't have been called in otherwise. Answer choices address these problems in various ways, depending on the task presented in the q stem.

The "bridges" that accompany flaw q's, sufficient assumption q's and such will tend to have distinct, clearly-definable and limited problems -- problems that can be described as one flaw, or problems that can be "completely patched" with a sufficient answer.

The "bridges" that accompany req assumption, strengthen, and weaken q's often have more vaguely defined, subtle, or diffuse flaws, because for these q's our task isn't to "completely" address the issue, but rather to just have a small and specific impact on it -- figure out something necessary to fixing the issues, or something that will definitely strengthen or weaken that bridge, even if it's just a bit.

All that is to say that Req Assumption, S, and W questions often present more challenging reasoning gaps for you to consider and define. As you review questions, use the correct answer and task to confirm your understanding of the reasoning issues, and make sure your understanding of what is wrong with the argument is as clear as it can/should be.

5) Do I have a clear sense of task?

These question types you ask about are all similar to one another (which is why I teach them together in the book), but it's also very important to remember and utilize the fact that they are in fact very, very specific tasks. This is often most important for the most challenging moments in tough q's -- the most attractive wrong answer to a required assumption q might really strengthen an argument a lot, but not be required, or the most attractive wrong answer to a strengthen the argument q might strengthen the conclusion, but not the argument -- your sense of the task presented in the q stem should be exact and specific, and, per the above, often the wrong answers that you are most attracted to can help you see when your understanding of the task isn't as specific as it should be.

Edit -- the other thing I forgot to mention is that, in comparison to flaw q's, it's important to remember that the answers to these three q types are far less predictable. It's logical why this would be -- for flaw q's, the test writers can change up how they word the issue, but the answer relates directly to what you recognize in the text. For required, strengthen, and weaken, there are a gazillion options for what they could include in a right answer, and your job is more to evaluate how an answer you couldn't have predicted relates to your understanding of the reasoning in an argument.

6) Can I efficiently, accurately, and confidently eliminate incorrect answers?

This is, in large part, a culmination of the challenges presented up to this point in the question -- how well you can eliminate wrong answers is based on how well you were able to separate out the argument, understand it and evaluate it correctly, and how well you understand your task -- problems in one or more of these areas will invariably make certain wrong answers more attractive to you. So, when you have trouble eliminating wrong answers, try to look to steps before this one to see what could have done to make the job easier on yourself.

Additionally, there are certain skills specific to the task of eliminating incorrect answers -- you want to develop the ability to zero in on parts of wrong answers that make it so that you know they don't fit argument/flaw/task, and you want to set the bar at which you feel confident eliminating wrong choices at the right level -- you don't ever want to be so strict that you might eliminate the right answer or waste too much time, and you don't want to be so loose that you often end up with three or four answers to have to evaluate more carefully.

One thing I want to point out is that the solutions in the trainer really represent, as best as possible, my real time thoughts (in better wording) -- I went to some pretty extreme lengths to make sure they represented the experience of solving q's as accurately as they possibly could, rather than some prettied up or idealized version. So, I think you can use those solutions as a gauge against which you can test your own elimination process -- are you thinking about each answer a lot more/less than me, are you expecting same level of proof, etc. Obviously you don't have to solve q's the same way I do, but I think seeing someone else's process can definitely give you some perspective on your own.

7) Do I have the skills to confirm the right answer?

Like #6, this is obviously a consequence of how well you've performed the other steps -- if you've been awesome at 1-6, typically you will be left with one (or at most two) answers that you feel fairly confident in. At that point, it's about matching it up with the argument to make sure it's talking about the same subject matter, etc., and matching it up with the task to make sure it addresses the argument the way it is supposed to.

Hope that helps -- the more clearly you understand what causes you trouble, the easier it is to address those issues -- from there, you want to think about whether it's your understanding, strategies, or habits that need tweaking, then try to improve and reassess. If you need anything else, just let me know --

MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby Motivator9 » Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:52 pm

Hey Mike, back again for another question. I'm currently working on the sufficient/principle assumption drill after chapter 18. My question is regarding the approach to principle conform questions. Should we always look at these questions like arguments... Will there always be an argument with a flaw. One question that I was working on in particular, PT 53, S 1, Q 5, the one about modern medicine. The answer choice do sent seen to be filling a gap but stating the principle underlying the argument. Could you clarify how we should approach hthese questions in comparison to other flaw questions. Thanks for all the help!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby Sgt Brody. » Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:47 am

Hey Mike,

In a reply to another poster's question you mentioned this "the most attractive wrong answer to a strengthen the argument q might strengthen the conclusion, but not the argument"- Do you mean in strengthen the arg q's, sometimes the answer choice will strengthen the conclusion and not the FLAW IN THE REASONING? I was unsure if you consider the argument and flaw in the reasoning the same. My strategy for the strengthen and weaken q's is that I will look for answer choices that strenghten or weaken the flaw in the reasoning (logical gap), and not the choices that strenghten or weaken the conclusion or premise. Is this strategy ok? Thanks!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:46 pm

Motivator9 wrote:Hey Mike, back again for another question. I'm currently working on the sufficient/principle assumption drill after chapter 18. My question is regarding the approach to principle conform questions. Should we always look at these questions like arguments... Will there always be an argument with a flaw. One question that I was working on in particular, PT 53, S 1, Q 5, the one about modern medicine. The answer choice do sent seen to be filling a gap but stating the principle underlying the argument. Could you clarify how we should approach hthese questions in comparison to other flaw questions. Thanks for all the help!


Hi there -- great eye, and great q -- it makes me realize that perhaps I should expand the discussion of these q types a bit more in the next edition of the book --

Conform to principle q's are very much like the other types of questions you'll study in this swatch of lessons -- the main difference is that (to paraphrase) these q's don't represent the reasoning structure in terms of flaws, but rather opinions.

Almost always, just like Strengthen/Weaken, etc, they will have arguments, and that should be your default expectation. It's very unlikely you will run into one without an argument.

However, just like with Strengthen/Weaken, once in a while they will throw in a stimulus with (arguably) no argument -- as they have done here -- so, what you've "caught" is a "twist" to the typical conform q --

A big clue that this is a bit different comes in the q stem (yet another example of why it's so helpful to read the q stem first) -- notice it uses the word "situation" instead of "argument," or some equivalent.

So again, my suggestion -- in general, treat conform principle q's like other q types that require you to evaluate reasoning, with the main difference being that you see the issues in reasoning as being assumptions/opinions (generalized as principles) as opposed to flaws. More specific to this q, keep in mind that once in a blue moon you will run into q's in this "family" that do not have the same sort of argument structure, but in these situations, typically, the q stem will give you a sense of that (as this one has with the word "situation").

In terms of how I would personally approach this q, I'd still try to see it in terms of reasoning structure (modern medicine leads to longer lives leads to population shift leads to potential problems), but since (because of the unusual task) I'm a little bit fuzzier than I would normally be about what I'm supposed to take away from the stimulus, I would approach the answer choices with just a bit more of an "inference q" mentality, where I try to see how justifiable the answer is based on the text.

Again, a pretty unusual situation -- thanks for bringing it up -- I hope the above helps -- and happy to carry this further here or through pm if you'd like -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:59 pm

Sgt Brody. wrote:Hey Mike,

In a reply to another poster's question you mentioned this "the most attractive wrong answer to a strengthen the argument q might strengthen the conclusion, but not the argument"- Do you mean in strengthen the arg q's, sometimes the answer choice will strengthen the conclusion and not the FLAW IN THE REASONING? I was unsure if you consider the argument and flaw in the reasoning the same. My strategy for the strengthen and weaken q's is that I will look for answer choices that strenghten or weaken the flaw in the reasoning (logical gap), and not the choices that strenghten or weaken the conclusion or premise. Is this strategy ok? Thanks!


Hi there --

Sorry if my response caused you any unnecessary confusion -- hope this clears it up --

We can define an argument as the reasoning structure between support and conclusion. A conclusion, in and of itself, is not an argument -- an argument, by definition, is the relationship between support and conclusion.

Flaws are issues with that reasoning structure that prevent that support from guaranteeing that conclusion.

So, when an answer choice strengthens or weakens an argument, it will do so by addressing the weak points -- the flaws.

Hope that clears it up.

One subtle issue to consider, that I discuss in the book, is that strengthen and weaken q's sometimes come w/arguments where the flaws are very tough to define, for a variety of reasons ranging from them being two subtle to too weird/vague --

In situations where you have trouble seeing which specific issue a strengthen/weaken answer will address (that is, situations where you can't clearly define one (or more) clear flaws to yourself) -- you can still survive if you can keep the argument (the reasoning structure) in your head and evaluate answers against it. Once you get really good at these q's, what you will find is that, even when you don't see the flaw in reasoning clearly, you will still be able to get rid of the vast majority of wrong answers because they have nothing at all to do with the argument -- even if you can't quite put your finger on the flaw, you can still commonly see that an answer choice can't have a direct impact on the reasoning.

Additionally, you can often "reverse engineer" or clarify your understanding of the flaw in the argument once you've found an answer that does seem relevant to the reasoning -- that is, once you find an answer that seems to relate to the relationship between support and conclusion, you can ask yourself, "what would this answer accomplish?" and then perhaps you see a problem with the argument that you didn't see before, or you are able to see the problem in the argument more clearly than you could before.

Hope the above makes sense, and hope it helps -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby heydude » Tue Apr 01, 2014 12:59 pm

Hi Mike,

I have question about the "Negation Test" you talk about on page 269 of the book regarding required assumption question. I understand that you should negate the answer choices, but I'm still a little unclear on what else to do.

Can you please elaborate a little more on the thought process I should be going through when doing a negation test?

Thanks for the help!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby Sgt Brody. » Tue Apr 01, 2014 11:43 pm

Hey mike, thank you for your response to my last q, it really helped, and now I have a q about the reading comp passage on page 361.

After reading the passage, when I tried to answser question 17, for me it came down to either choice D or E. I feel like E makes too much sense to not be the correct the answer and the author of the second para strongly felt that that author of frst para was guilty of questionable resoning. And then I read your solution, and was happy that i got it right. But I was not happy that I had answer choice D as a contender as I saw that You had quickly eliminated that choice. So, I feel like i am not on the same page as you. What made D attractive to me was that I saw these words "could not conform or disconform them", and I quickly recollected that I had seen something similar in the second para and i was right. I read this towards the end of the second and the beginnin of the third para.

"Are they right, May be yes, maybe no"- So, I felt that the author did not outright reject the first authors claims, but was also cautious so she did not endorse it either. That really made D a contender for me. And I also wanted to tell you that since, English is a second language of mine, I did not really know when I read the choices, the meaning of the word "vacuous". I then looked it up and realised that it meant silly, or stupid. If I had known thats what it meant, I would not have chosen D. As I feel like at no point the second author thought the claims were stupid or silly. So, my other big question is that can D be eliminated also because not everybody will know the meaning of the word vacuous, as the test makers cannot award people who have a better vocab. Or am i completely wrong?

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Thu Apr 03, 2014 12:32 pm

heydude wrote:Hi Mike,

I have question about the "Negation Test" you talk about on page 269 of the book regarding required assumption question. I understand that you should negate the answer choices, but I'm still a little unclear on what else to do.

Can you please elaborate a little more on the thought process I should be going through when doing a negation test?

Thanks for the help!


Sure -- sorry if I end up just repeating what's already in the trainer, but I know that sometimes hearing it a slightly different way can be helpful --

The idea behind the negation test is that if an answer is truly required and necessary to an argument, the negation of that answer should make the argument fall apart.

The negation test is an extremely effective tool to use for required (a.k.a. necessary) assumption q's, but its effectiveness is dependent on other factors -- namely, how well you perform the other steps in your process, at what point you choose to utilize it, and of course your understanding of what required means --

More specifically, for these q's, we need to --

- id conclusion
- id support
- evaluate and see flaw(s) in reasoning
- eliminate answers that don't need to be true in order for the argument to work
- confirm that a right answer does need to be true in order for the argument to work

The negation test is a key tool for performing the last two steps -- in particular, you can use it to carefully evaluate the most attractive wrong answers, and to confirm the correct answer. How effective the negation test is for you will depend largely on how well you've performed the steps up that point (that is, how well you understand the reasoning issues in the argument) and your understanding of task (that is, you have the ability to clearly focus on what is required, rather than some other characteristic).

Here's a modified version of one of the examples in the book to illustrate some of the above.

Mike has lost a lot of weight recently. He's also been going to the gym regularly. Thus his weight loss must be due to exercise.

The argument above requires which of the following assumptions?

(A) All people who become physically fit do so by exercising regularly.
(B) A change in diet was not the only cause of Mike's weight loss.

We want to start off as we always do -- by identifying the conclusion, then the support, then by evaluating the reasoning to see where it's flawed --

The conclusion is that the Mike's weight loss must be due to exercise. The reasoning? Mike's been losing weight as he's been going to the gym. What's the reasoning issue? Correlation vs causation -- just because these two things have been happening around the same time doesn't necessarily mean they have any causal impact on one another -- even though Mike is going to the gym regularly, it may be something else causing the weight loss.

It's absolutely critical that you have as clear a sense of the argument, and the issues with it, before moving forward -- if you don't have a clear sense of the argument, it's obviously much harder to determine what it requires.

Once we have this clear sense, we want to build on top of that and as we go into the answer choices we want to focus on our task -- we need to find an answer that must be true in order for this argument to work. As I talk about a lot in the book, keep in mind that required does not mean the same thing as important, and, especially on the toughest q's, the test writers will challenge you with that distinction.

Okay, so let's now evaluate each of these answers with the argument and task in mind. Again, we need the answer that must be true if the argument is to eventually be valid:

(A) All people who become physically fit do so by exercising regularly.

Maybe you wrote this out conditionally and tried fitting it into the argument, or thought about whether "all" was really necessary or not -- but in my opinion the most obvious and easiest issue to spot, if you are zeroed in on the actual argument, is "physically fit" -- the original argument is not at all about getting physically fit (for example, I've recently lost a lot of weight, but I'm still as un-fit as always), and so this answer is not relevant.

You could use the negation test for this answer, but hopefully you won't find that necessary -- the negation of this would be "Not all people who become physically fit do so by exercising regularly" -- notice this does not ruin the argument- our argument about Mike can still be valid. Thus, we know that the original answer was not something that needed to be true.

(B) A change in diet was not the only cause of Mike's weight loss.

Does this need to be true for the argument to work?

Here's where the negation test comes into play -- if this is an answer that needs to be true, the negation of it should absolutely ruin the argument. The negation of (B) would be

"A change in diet was the only cause of Mike's weight loss."

Notice how the negation absolutely flat-out ruins the point the argument was making. That tells us this this answer was something that needs to be assumed in order for the argument to work. It's a required assumption, and thus the correct answer.

Again, if you don't have a clear sense of the argument, it's tough to tell what is required, and it's also a bit tough and unnecessary to use the negation test with most answer choices -- that is, you should be able to eliminate most wrong answers without it. The usefulness of the negation test is in confirming the right after at the end of your process.

Hope that helps, and do know you'll see more examples and discussion of it later in the book -- if you have any follow up or any other q's, please let me know -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:46 pm

Sgt Brody. wrote:Hey mike, thank you for your response to my last q, it really helped, and now I have a q about the reading comp passage on page 361.

After reading the passage, when I tried to answser question 17, for me it came down to either choice D or E. I feel like E makes too much sense to not be the correct the answer and the author of the second para strongly felt that that author of frst para was guilty of questionable resoning. And then I read your solution, and was happy that i got it right. But I was not happy that I had answer choice D as a contender as I saw that You had quickly eliminated that choice. So, I feel like i am not on the same page as you. What made D attractive to me was that I saw these words "could not conform or disconform them", and I quickly recollected that I had seen something similar in the second para and i was right. I read this towards the end of the second and the beginnin of the third para.

"Are they right, May be yes, maybe no"- So, I felt that the author did not outright reject the first authors claims, but was also cautious so she did not endorse it either. That really made D a contender for me. And I also wanted to tell you that since, English is a second language of mine, I did not really know when I read the choices, the meaning of the word "vacuous". I then looked it up and realised that it meant silly, or stupid. If I had known thats what it meant, I would not have chosen D. As I feel like at no point the second author thought the claims were stupid or silly. So, my other big question is that can D be eliminated also because not everybody will know the meaning of the word vacuous, as the test makers cannot award people who have a better vocab. Or am i completely wrong?


Hi there -- great q --

One thing to keep in mind is that my solutions represent real-time thoughts -- and it could very well be true that one time I try a passage, I find certain wrong answers more attractive, and another time I try the passage, just because I've read it slightly differently, I might find other answer choices more attractive -- so don't stress at all if you and I sometimes experience a q differently --

In terms of LSAT and vocab -- the LSAT does absolutely reward strong reading skills, and a bit part of that is having a clear understanding of what words mean, so the LSAT will throw tough words in there and reward those who know the meaning.

What they will try not to do is throw in vocab that gives a certain niche of the test-taking community an unfair advantage -- so, for example, they won't use the word "linebacker," without more explanation/context, as the key determinant to a right answer because some people (football fans) have a distinct advantage for knowing that word. Same goes with certain technical science terms, etc.

A word like "vacuous" is definitely a word a lot of people don't understand, but it's not specifically used by a niche community, so it's fair game, and the test most definitely rewards one for understanding the meaning of this word (that is, the answer would be easier to evaluate if you knew what the word meant).

Having said that, it's important to remember that the LSAT is not, primarily, a vocab test (in the way that arguably parts of your SAT were) --it's a reading test -- if they include a word like vacuous in an answer choice, they will also typically give you clues to help figure out, at least in part, the meaning of the word (they are challenging your ability understand things you are unfamiliar with), and also give you other ways to think about the answer.

With (D), even if you weren't sure about vacuous, "no possible..." contradicts "...vanishingly rare" from the passage and that's enough to tell you (D) can't be correct. Furthermore, that statement gives you a clue about the tone/meaning of vacuous -- the author of the passage actually says such situations are rare, then (to paraphrase), the answer takes that idea to an extreme by saying "no possible." In the passage, the author's actual opinion of evolutionary psych is that it's tough to prove (again, I'm just paraphrasing) -- the extreme of that opinion would be that it's unprovable, silly, etc., and vacuous fits into that range tonally.

Hope that helps -- again, I can see from your q that you are working to get into the fine details and really sharpen your sense of the test -- I definitely appreciate that (and also appreciate how carefully you are reading the trainer), so I haven't been clear/if you have any more q's, please let me know here or through PM and I'll be happy to keep going with this --

MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby AbhiJ » Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:35 pm

Hi Mike,

Advice for LR and RC.

As a non-native speaker my reading speed is around 200 WPM on moderately difficult texts. On difficult texts my reading speed is 175 WPM. I believe this is a limiting factor and no amount of strategy/practice would help to break the ceiling unless I can get the reading speed to 250-300 WPM. This would need a long term strategy of 4 months totally focussed on reading. So given the background what should be the optimum strategy

a.) Spending 50% time reading difficult texts and the rest practicing LSAT LR/RC problems/review simultaneously.
b.) Spending 2-3 months focussed on reading and the next 2 months on LSAT specific practice.


Thanks
AbhiJ

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:53 pm

AbhiJ wrote:Hi Mike,

Advice for LR and RC.

As a non-native speaker my reading speed is around 200 WPM on moderately difficult texts. On difficult texts my reading speed is 175 WPM. I believe this is a limiting factor and no amount of strategy/practice would help to break the ceiling unless I can get the reading speed to 250-300 WPM. This would need a long term strategy of 4 months totally focussed on reading. So given the background what should be the optimum strategy

a.) Spending 50% time reading difficult texts and the rest practicing LSAT LR/RC problems/review simultaneously.
b.) Spending 2-3 months focussed on reading and the next 2 months on LSAT specific practice.


Thanks
AbhiJ


Hi there --

I may not be the best teacher to answer your question, but I'll give it a shot -- if you disagree with my response, or it doesn't help you address your issues, I encourage you to maybe discuss this with some other teachers as well -- I know that some of the other ones who post here have opinions that differ from mine when it comes to the impact/benefit of reading speed --

In my personal experience working with students, I've seen little to no correlation between reading speed and LR and RC performance, aside from the natural correlation one would expect between reading speed and general reading ability -- that is to say, in my opinion reading speed is typically not an attribute that directly impacts performance.

The LSAT is of course much, much more difficult for non-native speakers, because it is a test of reading ability. However, for the non-native speakers I've worked with, typically two more significant/impactful challenges are
1) trying to prioritize/see the structural relationship between elements that they don't understand as clearly as they would like -- kind of like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle wearing glasses that make your eyesight blurry and
2) having to guess at the significance/meaning of a lot of challenging words

I think that doing a lot of extra reading of challenging material is certainly healthy for you during your LSAT prep, but I personally wouldn't think of that as part of your actual LSAT prep. Your LSAT prep should be about developing LSAT-specific skills using LSAT material.

I realize that what I experience with my students is tinted with my own understanding of the exam, and by the way I happen to teach it to these students, and so it could very well be that a different instructor feels very differently about the impact of reading speed. You know yourself best, and if you do feel that reading speed is an essential factor for you, I encourage you to seek out other instructors who may be able to give better advice about working on that --

But hope that helps and good luck preparing for the exam --

MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby Tyr » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:30 pm

Hi Mike,
I just finished chapter 26 and I have a question about the approach to answering the logic games questions on the chart on page 373. When it is a "...must be true/false?" question, you say to search for the one right answer instead of going through an elimination process. And when it is a "...could be true/false?" question, to eliminate the wrong choices. Could you elaborate on this a bit more? I find that, on probably all the questions, I go through each choice A, B, C, D, E and either eliminate it or select it after I check it against my diagram. How do you search for the right answer without first testing each choice against the diagram?

For example, if it asks which one of the following "...could be true?" I go through each choice and see if it is possible to be true according to my diagram (same idea if it is a "could be false" question). Then, if it asks which of the following "...must be true?" I go through each one and test if it is possible for it to be false (again, same idea for "must be false" questions).

Obviously what I am doing is wrong and slow.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby fips tedora » Sat Apr 12, 2014 11:19 am

If one is retaking in 5 months, how should they use this trainer in tandem with drilling and preptests for an improvement?

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:48 pm

mornincounselor wrote:These "same effect" questions threw me for a loop. So glad to see them now and not a month before the exam when I would have gotten to the most recent prep tests. Had a few questions (page 392):

On 2:

We are looking for a rule which perfectly replaces [ /F-> L; /L-> F ]

A. I translated to L -> /F ; easy elimination
B. I translated to F -> /L ; another easy elimination
C. I eliminated because it allows for both F and L to be played (GJHFLM / KN)
D. I eliminated because it allows both F and L to be out
E. I chose after eliminating all other choices. I looked to my diagram where N was in and saw: (G(<->)F/L) N (J(<->)H) M / K (L/F) and wrongly concluded that either K is out or else N is out.

Not sure how C can be correct.

On 3:

We are also looking for a rule which perfectly replaces [ /F-> L; /L-> F ]

A. I translated to K OR N not both and left it.
B. I translated to K-> /N; N-> /K and left it
C. I translated to F-> /L, easy elimination
D. I translated to F-> K OR F-> N not both; eliminated.
E. I found a way to use neither: GKNJHM / FL; eliminated.

Then seeing what I translated (incorrectly) to be identical rules I chose B because LSAT writers are smart.


Hey there --

I think the key issue here (and please correct me if I'm wrong, or if you saw something I didn't) is that the original rule also allows for both F and L to be in. I think perhaps missing that is what caused you to get tripped up on #2.

For #3, I think the key issue to consider is that there are four elements for which we are uncertain whether they are in or out -- F, L, K, and N. If you think about the limited possibilities for which pairings could be in and out (considering what I mentioned for #2), I think you'll see that, cleverly enough, (B) gives you the exact same outcome as the original rule.

Glad to see you were able to lean on your elimination skills for #3, and as I mentioned in the book I would not expect to see a q like that on the real exam -- it's just too extreme a challenge under the time restraints --

If you want more instruction on rule substitution q's, you can also check this out this article I wrote for manhattan a while back -- http://www.manhattanlsat.com/equivalent-rule.cfm --

hope that clears it up -- let me know if it doesn't, or if you need anything else --mk

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:07 pm

MTH2 wrote:If one is retaking in 5 months, how should they use this trainer in tandem with drilling and preptests for an improvement?


Hey --

I'm coming out with all new schedules in a couple of weeks (to correspond w/new 62-71 book), and as part of that I'm in the process of creating a diy schedule builder that might fit your needs best (meant to be used by retakers, and will accommodate what work you've already done, what you want to focus on this time around, etc.) -- so, if you don't mind, my suggestion is to just get started with the trainer and wait to build in drills and such until the schedule comes out (I recommend you get through the first 15 lessons of the trainer before you start major drilling anyway, so that shouldn't slow you down). If I get the d.i.y. schedule done before the other ones, I'll be sure to post it here so you can get it early --

In general, I suggest you think about how you'd like to allocate your time between 1) learning, 2) drilling, and 3) PT'ing -- the trainer is mostly for use in the learning/drilling phases, and I suggest you overlap the trainer w/outside drilling work (again, starting for real w/drilling after you get through the first 15 lessons of the trainer), and make sure to leave enough time toward the end to pt as much as you need to/revisit weaker areas, etc. --

HTH -- if you want advice more specific to your situation, please don't hesitate to reach out here or through pm either now or after you see the new schedules --

Mike

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Apr 14, 2014 6:32 pm

Tyr wrote:Hi Mike,
I just finished chapter 26 and I have a question about the approach to answering the logic games questions on the chart on page 373. When it is a "...must be true/false?" question, you say to search for the one right answer instead of going through an elimination process. And when it is a "...could be true/false?" question, to eliminate the wrong choices. Could you elaborate on this a bit more? I find that, on probably all the questions, I go through each choice A, B, C, D, E and either eliminate it or select it after I check it against my diagram. How do you search for the right answer without first testing each choice against the diagram?

For example, if it asks which one of the following "...could be true?" I go through each choice and see if it is possible to be true according to my diagram (same idea if it is a "could be false" question). Then, if it asks which of the following "...must be true?" I go through each one and test if it is possible for it to be false (again, same idea for "must be false" questions).

Obviously what I am doing is wrong and slow.


Hi Tyr --

Thanks for the question -- to me, this is a very important issue -- like a lot of LG strategies, its effectiveness is heavily dependent on how you perform other parts of the process (more specifically, if you think about your general setup in a different sort of way than what I recommend early on in the trainer, these strategies may be less important/effective), but I do know from my experience working with other students that if this is something you can effectively incorporate into your routine, not only will it make these questions, in general, easier for you, it will also help correctly align the rest of your LG thinking --

Hope you don't mind, but I'm going to take a bit of a roundabout route to explain what I mean/justify my recommendations --

On a big picture scale, logic games present a dual challenge:

1) Most importantly, they present a situation, and give you enough information to understand just some of that situation (for example, they give you a game about ordering, then enough information to know just some things about the order of elements). Then, they ask questions about what you know versus what you don't.

If you were to break down every LG question to think about what makes a right answer right and 4 wrong answers wrong, by far the most important differentiating factor -- the thing that over and over again separates right answers from wrong ones, is the difference between what you have enough info to know about, and what you don't -- either what must be true or what must be false, vs that which could be true or false.

2) They make it very, very hard to see what it is you have enough information to know.

And this is what represents the dual challenge of LG -- you are supposed to differentiate between what you know and what you don't, but they make it very difficult to know, exactly, what you know. They do this in a variety of ways, but most importantly they do this by giving you rules that are difficult to understand correctly or notate, and by "hiding" this information in the form of inferences -- by making you figure this stuff out by bringing rules together rather than just by telling you directly.

The latter of these challenges (inferences) are what make it so that one can easily miss key information about a game, and on the flip side, it's what makes it so we are over-eager to see more than what is actually there (which is a terrible motivation to have when your primarily job is to differentiate between what we know and we don't).

So those are the dual, somewhat conflicting big-picture challenges -- how do you overcome them?

In my experience, the simplest and most effective route is by first developing methods to understand the information given (what you can know) as clearly and fully as you can, and then strategies and habits for applying that understanding to the process of solving q's (using what you know to differentiate between right and wrong answers).

Seems simple enough, but a lot of times students, without realizing it, take steps that make the task more challenging. Creating a ton of unnecessary hypotheticals (an action driven by a desire to know more and more, or to fill in the "uncertain" part of the picture), either during setup or questions, is one clear representation/consequence of this.

It's easier to know what you know, and to use that to differentiate between answers, than it is to try and keep track of both what you know and what you don't know, and to use both in thinking about answers. In particular, worrying too much about that vast Siberia of information you don't know is a prime cause of wasted time and energy. Again, seems simple enough, but focus on getting better and better at knowing what you are supposed to know, as clearly as you can, and practice using just this knowledge to differentiate between right and wrong answers, and you'll find that LG questions "unlock" themselves and become much, much easier.

I know that sounds totally abstract and confusing, so let me put it in more practical terms --

Imagine you see a conditional must be true question (same applies to conditional mbf q's as well) -- if you are playing a game well, the typical experience should be that combining that condition with what you already know about a game naturally leads you on a chain of inferences (knowing A leads to knowing B leads to knowing C etc.) -- questions are designed to lead you on particular chains of thought (remember it's a standardized test where your "correct actions" are meant to lead to one of 5 preset answers), and if you perform the steps correctly, what you will find is that what you uncover in this chain of inferences, typically toward the end, is what is mentioned in the correct answer. So, in these cases, you want to run through your inferences, see what you uncover, then look for answers that must be true based on the new inferences you made combining the condition to what you already know. Again, keep in mind that in these situations, the inferences you make will directly link to the correct answer -- the wrong answers are based on what we don't know about, and so it makes sense to focus on the search for the right answer.

If you don't see an answer relate to an inference, most likely it's a sign you missed an inference or two -- that's when you want to go to the more time consuming strategies of playing out answers more completely to see if they must be true or false.

To complete that thought, imagine you see a conditional could be true (same applies to could be true) -- know that per the way these questions are designed, the condition, when combined with the information about the game you already know, should lead you to a lot of inferences.

If you are asked what could be true, you will have four answers that must be false, and typically, most if not all these answers will be false because of the inferences you've uncovered by combining the conditional information w/what you already know about the game (the others will typically be false because of inferences you were expected to see upfront, and these will typically appear when there aren't enough inferences to be made using the q stem). Very commonly, the right answer will be about something you didn't think about during your chain of inferences -- the open spaces, or free agents, that remain after you've done all of your work. So notice, in these cases, the work you do relates more directly to the process of eliminating wrong choices, rather than selecting a right one.

In these cases, if you have a clear sense of what inferences you made by combining the conditional with what you already know, you should be able to eliminate all the answers that must be false because they will directly contradict these inferences.

Then, if get down to two or three possibilities (and this will happen because you missed an inference, which happens to everyone), that's when you again might go to the more time consuming strategy of playing out each answer to see what happens.

For unconditional must be true q's (and again, same applies to mbf) --

Know that the majority of the time, the right answer will represent an inference you could have/should have seen during your setup. The better and better you get at making inferences, the more and more this will happen.

So, for these questions, your first line of attack is to run down the answers seeing which one must be true based on something you originally uncovered during your setup (or, if these appear later in the set of q's, maybe while you were solving other q's) -- this is the fastest and most direct way to a right answer, and again, if you are great at the other steps (setup and seeing inferences) this should work for you the majority of the time.

The unconditional could be true will have four wrong answers all wrong because of inferences you could have/should have seen during your set up. So, if you were strong through the setup and have a good understanding of the inferences you made, you should be able to use those inferences to get rid of those wrong answers quickly.

Again, it's when these systems break down, when you don't see inferences (which is typically due, in large part, to not having a clear enough big picture understanding of the game, not having enough mastery to be able to play around with the rules easily enough, and simply not giving yourself enough time to see them) which happens to everyone, that's when you go to the more time-consuming strategy of playing each answer out.

A bit longer and more complex than I wanted, but I hope that it was still helpful -- if you are still confused on the subject -- again, to me it's an important issue, so please don't hesitate to follow up here or through pm -- Mike

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby Tyr » Mon Apr 14, 2014 9:28 pm

Wow, thanks Mike! I have an exam tomorrow so I can't do it tonight, but after the exam I'm going to carefully go over your post and then go back to The Trainer and think deeply about what you said. Maybe I'll see where I'm missing something. With such a long and thorough response that you gave, I need some time to absorb it all. Thanks again!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby WaltGrace83 » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:57 pm

Mike,

I am reviewing a strengthen EXCEPT question (PT39-S4-Q13 "Nearly every criminal...") and I am a little confused by it. There really isn't a core in this strengthen EXCEPT question, just a hypothesis that states that, "misidentification by eyewitnesses is a common reason for mistaken convictions in criminal trials." Now my first thought was to strengthen the idea that eyewitness' identifications actually mattered, that judges oftentimes will convict someone primarily on the grounds of a eyewitness testimony.

I still don't understand how (B) and (C) strengthen :? . It seems to just strengthen the idea of misidentification but we are not really concerned about strengthening that, are we? What I mean is that we are supposed to strengthen the connection between "misidentification" and "mistaken conviction." We already know that the misidentification happened - do we need to know why it happened? Does this question even have a core? Whenever a strengthen question talks about strengthening a "hypothesis" or a "claim" then usually a core is not in place. Does that have something to do with what is going on?

    (A) seems like the ideal strengthener because it gets at this gap. It says that the misidentification actually means something. What if eyewitnesses misidentify but the jury doesn't take it seriously anyway? (A) rules out the idea that this hypothetical would happen more often than not.

    (D) doesn't do much (which is why it is right). It just says that judges will say when eyewitnesses are fallible. But this doesn't answer the question of how misidentification leads to convictions. We want to STRENGTHEN that misidentification actually leads to convictions. Can the courts know when someone is being misidentified? If so, do we know when misidentifications are fallible? There are just too many further questions to ask and the only way to strengthen the hypothesis would be to add unwarranted assumptions.

    (E) this also strengthens quite well! If unreliable witnesses (those who misidentify) → usually appear confident → jurors very likely to believe them, then this would help solidify the idea that misidentification leads to false convictions. Why? Because apparently those who misidentify appear confident! Those who appear confident usually win over the jury! If you win over the jury, it seems very reasonable to conclude that the jury would then falsely convict someone.

So I wonder about (B) and (C). I just don't see its function but I knew that they were wrong because they were both similar and (D) was clearly wrong. (B) and (C) just seem like premise boosters - which I know don't strengthen the argument. I just feel like there is something here that I am missing.

Thanks

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby ruffolom » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:51 pm

Hi Mike,

I'm sure this is obvious to everyone but me but I can't seem to understand the diagramming for complex or rules on page 192.

I understand diagram 6, 7, and 9 but 8 is killing me. How should I read it? Left to right? Bottom to top? Top to bottom?

I really appreciate the help!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby heydude » Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:49 am

Hi Mike,

I've been studying the LSAT almost 3 months now and am still very slow at the games (I average about 15 minutes a game) and often get tripped up by questions. I read your earlier post on things to focus on to improve speed however I was wondering if you could offer some advice on the best practical way to engage in that practice.

When I go back to questions I have previously done I am able to make the correct inferences since I already know the answers, however when I get to a new problem I often get stuck. As a result, even though I'm putting in time I feel like I am just spinning my wheels and not really improving.

Anyway, if you had any insight on ways that I may be able to re-focus my studying that would be most helpful. Should I just keep re-doing questions i have previously done? Or should I try to engage in a wider variety of questions? Should I spend more time on re-doing the problems or should I spend my focus on the diagrams that I had previously drawn?

Thanks!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby ruffolom » Thu Apr 17, 2014 3:31 pm

mornincounselor wrote:
ruffolom wrote:Hi Mike,

I'm sure this is obvious to everyone but me but I can't seem to understand the diagramming for complex or rules on page 192.

I understand diagram 6, 7, and 9 but 8 is killing me. How should I read it? Left to right? Bottom to top? Top to bottom?

I really appreciate the help!


Number 8 shows the way to diagram the rule "J will arrive after M or before N, but not both."

So what does this mean? Well, lets think about the first part of it first. "J will arrive after M or before N."

M-J (N)

OR

J-N (M)

See this partial rule only tells us J's relation to one of the other elements. It leaves the third element as a floater, or a piece that is unrestrained.

But when we add in the "but not both" part of the rule it eliminates the possibility of:

M-J-N

Thereby leaving only the two possibilities:

M--\
.... | J
N--/

OR

../--M
J|
..\ --N

I read this as both M and N will come before J OR ELSE J comes before both M and N. Note that M can come before N, vice versa or they may even occur at the same time (if the rules so allow) this diagram only shows there relation to J not to each other.


Got it. Thanks for the explanation!


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