Hands wrote:Hey Mike,
I just ordered your book and am expecting to begin your lessons a few days from now. I'm having a bit of anxiety over the prospect of transitioning to a new method of attacking the test, namely the games. Last month, I had a very unfortunate encounter with the LSAT: I had been practice testing at 168-171 (having scored a cold a 163 on what I thought to be a throw-away first attempt), but got flustered on test day and performed very poorly (lower than my cold submission) due to my botching the games.
Do you believe your methodology to be particularly compatible with the Powerscore methods? Also, does your book at all reference reducing test day anxiety?
Hi there --
Sorry to hear about the poor performance, but I'm excited you decided to pick up the trainer and I hope it helps you perform closer to your max potential --
I have never read the Powerscore guides,and the trainer wasn't around when they were written, so there will surely be some differences between the two. Having said that, there have been tons and tons of students who have used both products together, and I haven't really heard of any issues—I think that it can be helpful to see different teaching perspectives, it'll be easy enough for you to bring them together, and in general the benefits far outweigh any complications.
I don't know what it was exactly that caused you LG trouble on test day, but for most test takers, when it comes to games, there are three big (and obviously related) common issues:
1) Running into a game they have trouble visualizing -- they can't quite "picture" how the game works, so they notate things inefficiently, have a harder time seeing inferences etc.
2) Not being able to prioritize the key information -- they don't recognize which rules/characteristics are most important to a game and to the inference chains, and they can't see whether they ought to make multiple diagrams or not. This leads to constantly spinning wheels on problem after problem.
3) Not being as in control of the rules as they ought to be -- either they don't know how to notate a rule, or make a mistake notating it, or just in general notate it awkwardly, and then can't utilize the notation very well in trying to make inferences.
And so you want to keep all those concerns in mind, and make sure that you are prepping in such a way that you address them. So with that in mind, here are some specific suggestions --
1) Constantly work to develop a big picture sense of how all games relate to one another
In order to initially understand games, we have to break them down and categorize them, but once you get comfortable with all the different types of games issues, you really want to work to develop a big picture sense of how all of the different types of games relate to one another.
There are no games that exist in a vacuum -- and unusual because they either a) combine characteristics that don't commonly go together or b) put some sort of twist on a standard game.
The stronger your big picture understanding, the better you'll be able to contextualize and react well to that seemingly strange game that will be freaking out every other test taker in the room with you.
So again, as you play and review games, always try to think about how they are related to one another.
2. Work to develop a stronger understanding of priorities, and work to develop the right habits in regards to these priorities --
Two actions that go together and really help with this --
a) Make sure that every game you play, you always try to figure out which rule, or which combination of rules, is most critical for the game's design, and, as you start notating the rules, always start with these most important issues, then build your diagram off of them (or use these most important issues to set up multiple diagrams when appropriate).
b) When you review your work, always think about the most efficient ways to solve problems, and doing this will invariably clue you in on what part of the game was most critical. So, you can then always review whether the things you prioritized were the things you should have prioritized.
Practice prioritizing for each game you play, and critically review your actions for each game you play, and soon enough the most important rules/characteristics of games will start just jumping out at you.
3. Work to develop automatic and universal notational systems --
I overuse this analogy but I think it's right on -- when your notations are not automatic, it's the equivalent of trying to read in a foreign language -- you have this other layer of work that invariably makes you slower and less accurate -- two things you can't afford on the LSAT.
If you were to go through every single game you've ever played, and list every type of rule you've ever encountered, what you'd discover is that this list is fairly finite -- they just come up with different ways of giving you the same types of rules again and again -- work to make your notations so automatic that you don't even have to think about 90+% of them, and you'll have a giant advantage over pretty much every other test taker, and you'll be totally free to focus on just understanding the game correctly and seeing inferences.
One thing that I think is important for developing such systems is making sure that your notations are universal -- that is, that they are consistent across different categories of games.
I think students who develop a "unique" diagramming strategy for each "category" of game really shoot themselves in the foot -- for example, if the way you notate subsets for an ordering game is different from the way you notate subsets for a grouping game, then when you run into that ordering+grouping game, or that game that is somewhat ordering or somewhat grouping or somewhat neither, you're going to have to make tough decisions and your notations won't feel automatic. So, I think a big key to making it easier on yourself is to make sure that as much as possible your notations are consistent across game types.
Finally, at your score range, and for what you are seeking (I'm guessing you'd like a perfect or something close to that on the games section) there are two other things I want to mention --
1) Make sure you are good enough so that you don't have to be perfect
If you go into the section thinking that you have to do everything perfectly in order to get the score you want, you're probably not going to get the score you want --
Chances are, even if you are world-class at games, you'll "nail" a couple of them and get through those super-quickly, but not notice a thing or two maybe on other games, and have to struggle a bit more to fight through q's. You want to get good enough so that you feel you don't have to be perfect to get a top score. That sort of confidence is priceless on test day.
2) Make sure you feel like you "own" your own games systems
You don't want to feel like you are trying to solve games the way David Killoran does, or J.Y. Ping does -- you really want to feel like you've taken these various learning tools and developed a system that works best for you.
Finally, in terms of whether my book helps with anxiety -- everything about the book is designed for the purpose of helping you performance at your very best on test day (as opposed to being designed to telling you everything you need to know
for test day, for example), so I sure hope it does --
One final point I'll make regarding this -- for lessening anxiety, I think it's very helpful to think about your prep in terms of skills and habits -- so that instead of thinking about getting better at the test in terms of learning more and more, you think about it in terms of getting more and more consistent at taking the right actions.
If you think about your prep on those terms -- your prep is about developing habits for applying the right skills at the right time -- and you prioritize this in your prep, and you feel you accomplish this in your prep -- that is, you feel like you've gotten much better at habitually reacting to the test correctly -- you can go into the exam more confident in your own instincts. I think that such confidence and trust makes it much more likely you will perform at your best on test day, and much less likely that you will underperform on test day. On the flip side of that, if you go in and feel like you constantly have to fight your own instincts, or have to force yourself to go through some 7-step method for a question because that's what a book told you to do -- chances are that more and more pressure is going to make you perform worse and worse.
Oh my goodness look how long this thing has gotten! It was light out when I started it and now it's dark! Anyway, sorry for the length and I hope that at least some of that is relevant to you and helpful --
Look forward to seeing how the trainer works out for you -- reach out if you need me -- Mike