Mike's Trainer Thread

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:34 pm

topdreg wrote:Hi Mike, I'm on chapter 6 of your book now. First off, I just wanted to say that this book screams quality. I'm enjoying my read so far, and I feel like I finally made the right choice with regards to LSAT studying.

I have a couple nitpicky questions, if you'd be willing:


On the first Flaw Drill question, you gave the following scenario:

"Since Billie got a cookie, I should get a cookie."

Your flaw solution for this is, "Takes for granted that she should get everything Billie gets." Wouldn't that come off as too general a statement? It could be the case that she only thinks that with regards to cookies, that is, "Takes for granted that she should get every cookie that Billie gets." Maybe I'm being overly nitpicky?


For the question PT36, S1, Q4, the first LR problem on the Sample Questions section for chapter 2, the answer is C. I understand why the others are wrong, but I don't think C is necessarily true. What if all patients taking antidepressant drugs were to take only those drugs that do not cause weight gain? Should I assume that because an antidepressant drug exists, someone is taking it? I notice that this question is a Most Strongly Supported question, instead of a Must Be True question. So, for questions like these, am I to make small inferences like this?

Finally, in the book, you claim that there is no LR passage where a piece = puzzle. Is that indeed the case?


Hi there --

Thanks so much for your comments and I'm glad to hear that you are finding the book useful --

And I also encourage you to continue being nitpicky -- with every aspect of your prep -- I think you'll often find it's true that those nitpicky sort of things are what determine right and wrong on some of the toughest questions (or otherwise indicate that you want to shift the way you think about something ever so slightly)-- so I definitely want to promote such "nitpickiness" (not sure if that's a real word), and along with it, of course you want to work to develop a sharper and sharper sense of which issues are more important and which ones are less so --

For the first flaw q -- you are definitely right I over-generalized and should have been more careful w/my wording -- I don't think "every cookie that Billie gets" is quite right (it might be mistaken to mean they get the same actual cookie) but I know what you mean and I'll get that cleaned up for the next version -- thanks for the correction --

For your statement, "you claim that there is no LR passage where a piece = puzzle" I'm not sure exactly where you saw that -- but my guess is wherever it was, it had to do with the fact that the LSAT does not have any categories of questions that ask you to judge whether or not the argument in a stimulus is valid or not. Questions will either ask you to objectively evaluate reasoning structure (such as q's that ask you to Id the conclusion, etc.), or, if the question does require you to pass judgement on the reasoning, that judgement will always be about why the reasoning is flawed (or how come the support doesn't guarantee the conclusion, if you want to see it that way), and never about whether the reasoning is flawed (or whether the conclusion is guaranteed), if that makes sense. Again, my guess is that's what I meant wherever you saw that, but let me know if you saw it in a different context.

Finally, for 36.1.4, you are absolutely right that (C) is not 100% guaranteed, and your reasoning about why is absolutely correct. You are also right about what this suggests -- "most strongly supported" q's don't need answers that are 100% guaranteed, and so requiring or expecting that in the right answers for these q's will get you in trouble. I'll discuss the range of inference q's -- from must be true to most supported -- in much greater detail later in the book, but one thing to keep in mind is what I call "the test writer's burden" -- basically, the test writer has to have absolute reasons why one answer is right and the other four wrong -- so, for a q like "most supported" where the right answer will not necessarily be guaranteed, the certainty that you got the q correct comes from knowing for sure that the four wrong answers can't be right.

Hope that helps, and best of luck with your prep -- if you have any follow up or need anything else, just let me know --

Mike

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Oct 10, 2014 9:16 pm

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

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby topdreg » Sat Oct 11, 2014 7:29 pm

Hi Mike, thanks for the earlier response. That cleared up what I needed to know. I read your post about drilling, and just need a bit of further clarification. I just finished chapter 8, and am on the 16-week schedule, preptest 39-68. Regarding the short drills you assign, I was wondering as to if I should time each question individually or if I should do each drill exercise all at once, while keeping time, and then review? Also, soon enough, after finishing section 9, I'll be drilling 3 full LR sections. From your post about drilling, am I correct in understanding that, at this stage, it would be better to do, say, 5 questions at a time and review every 5 questions, rather than attempt to do the whole LR section and then review?

Oh, and one more question. I was curious as to how you would use the Organizer Passage Notes? For LR, I've been using them for every question I've come across, and for A, B, C, D, E, I write down why each answer choice is either right or wrong. Does that seem like a good use of those notes and time to you?

Thanks so much!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Thu Oct 16, 2014 2:56 pm

topdreg wrote:Hi Mike, thanks for the earlier response. That cleared up what I needed to know. I read your post about drilling, and just need a bit of further clarification. I just finished chapter 8, and am on the 16-week schedule, preptest 39-68. Regarding the short drills you assign, I was wondering as to if I should time each question individually or if I should do each drill exercise all at once, while keeping time, and then review? Also, soon enough, after finishing section 9, I'll be drilling 3 full LR sections. From your post about drilling, am I correct in understanding that, at this stage, it would be better to do, say, 5 questions at a time and review every 5 questions, rather than attempt to do the whole LR section and then review?

Oh, and one more question. I was curious as to how you would use the Organizer Passage Notes? For LR, I've been using them for every question I've come across, and for A, B, C, D, E, I write down why each answer choice is either right or wrong. Does that seem like a good use of those notes and time to you?

Thanks so much!


Hey TD --

Sorry for the delay -- I should have seen that your q was time sensitive and moved it up the list -- hope this gets to you in time to be helpful --

If you haven’t done the drills yet -- I think doing q's individually, doing 5 q’s at a time, or doing full sections, are all fine --

The primary purpose of drills 4-6, in addition to the shorter ones before that, is to just give you a little taste of LR and start the process of linking the lessons you’ve just completed in the book w/the experience of taking the LSAT -- my hope is that as you solve the spectrum of q’s in a full section, you see again and again how the issues discussed in chapters 5-9 come up again and again for all different q’s, and then also that there are some q’s that don’t seem flaw-based at all. I see benefits to getting this exposure as a full section, or in group sets of 5 -- I think both are useful (if it’s not too late, based on where you seem to be in your prep, I might lean just a bit toward full sections, just so you can get a sense of where your timing is at at this stage,but again either is just fine) --

Starting with drill #15, you will start to get assigned much more question-specific work, and a lot more drilling -- drilling will become a much bigger part of your study process. It is at that point that I recommend you definitely go w/solving and reviewing 5 q’s at a time (at least to begin with) -- because that’s when you want to get really, really specific in terms of evaluating your process for each and every question.

Regardless of how you choose to drill, I always recommend that you time yourself, and that you push the pace as much as possible. This doesn’t mean you rush, and it doesn’t mean you take unnecessary shortcuts -- however, it’s very important that you develop skills and habits that will allow you to perform efficiently and effectively in real time under pressure. It’s extremely common for students, without realizing it, to develop two sets of habits -- a way that they take the test when they are relaxed, and a way that they take the test when the pressure is on, and in my experience this is one of the most common reasons for underperformance on test day. Make sure you always practice the way you intend to play, and you’ll have a much better chance of performing as well or better on the real thing as you do in your practice.

In terms of the organizer pages -- it’s up to you whether you want to use them to take notes on every problem you solve, or if you want to take note of the questions that cause you the most trouble or that you find most interesting (maybe you start w/one system and move on to the other as you get more and more comfortable with q’s) --

Either way, I recommend you make sure you highlight and separate out the problems you found most challenging/interesting and that you return to these again and again until you feel mastery over them -- my hope is that by doing this you get two big benefits --

1) You will see patterns in the problems that cause you trouble, and you’ll be able to able to address them faster.

2) You will have a known and specific set of LR concerns -- I think this is extremely valuable for peace of mind and confidence -- so many people are negatively affected on test day by the fear of the unknown or unexpected -- if you’ve gone through 30 exams with of exams, separated out every problem that has caused you trouble, and eventually conquered each of those problems, you are not going to have that fear --

Sorry again for the delay but hope that helps -- reach out if you need anything else --

Mike

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PT6-S2-Q17

Postby MightiHeidi » Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:53 pm

Hi Mike,

I've been using the LSAT Trainer for my studying and have been putting a lot of work into Flaw questions as I struggle with them.

I recently ran into a question that I can't make sense of, as the correct answer doesn't seem like the most correct answer choice.
It is from Practice Test 6, Section 2, Question 17; regarding a book reviewer's criticism against various methods of storing energy.
The correct answer is B, but based on how I interpreted the text, I felt like either C or D would be the answer.
Could you explain how the argument should have been interpreted and why answers C and D did not fit as the actual flaw?

Thank you.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby deant286 » Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:18 pm

Hi Mike,

I'm looking into buying the LSAT trainer as my first prep book. I'm just beginning my study process for the June 2015 test. I wanted to know your thoughts on my plan, which involves your schedule and trainer.

I intend on using your 12 week plan to make it through the book, with potential cambridge packet drilling mixed in. After I i finish the book and plan I would move on to intermittent drilling and PTing as I head into the second half of my study time. I imagine I would then potentially buy other books to hone my skills in the specific sections. What're your thoughts on starting off with the trainer, rather than ending with it, and drilling cambridge packets during the schedule?

Thanks in advance.

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Re: PT6-S2-Q17

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Oct 20, 2014 3:04 pm

MightiHeidi wrote:Hi Mike,

I've been using the LSAT Trainer for my studying and have been putting a lot of work into Flaw questions as I struggle with them.

I recently ran into a question that I can't make sense of, as the correct answer doesn't seem like the most correct answer choice.
It is from Practice Test 6, Section 2, Question 17; regarding a book reviewer's criticism against various methods of storing energy.
The correct answer is B, but based on how I interpreted the text, I felt like either C or D would be the answer.
Could you explain how the argument should have been interpreted and why answers C and D did not fit as the actual flaw?

Thank you.


Hi Heidi --

I think the key issue here may be how you are interpreting the task presented in the question stem. The question stem is not asking us to "figure out" the flaw in a presented argument, but rather to simply identify information presented in the text.

Here are some overly simplified illustrations to prove the difference:

Stimulus: "Mike doesn't exercise. Therefore, he must be fat."

Q: What's the flaw in the argument?

A: Takes for granted that just because Mike doesn't exercise, he must be fat.


Stimulus: Mike: "I think exercise is terrible, because it makes me sweat."

Q: What's a criticism Mike makes of exercise?

A: It makes him sweat.


So, 6-2-17 is not a question that asks us to find an argument and then recognize the flaw in that argument; rather, it's a question that asks us to simply represent as correctly as possible the information given in the text.

Notice the two statements the author makes after "however" -- the first seems to call into question electricity being a valid answer, and the second lists other ways to store energy. (B) represents these two facets fairly accurately.

(C) might be a tempting answer if you are thinking about it in terms of "what's this reviewer doing wrong?" but again that's not our task here. The reviewer doesn't claim that (C) is something the authors are doing wrong. We don't know if the authors think effectiveness is unrelated or not.

(D) is also tempting -- especially because he does bring "effectiveness" into the conversation. However, the book reviewer does not juxtapose effective with basic and he doesn't claim that thinking about whether an energy source is basic or not should not be done.

Hope that helps clear things up for you -- if you have any follow up just let me know -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Oct 20, 2014 3:35 pm

deant286 wrote:Hi Mike,

I'm looking into buying the LSAT trainer as my first prep book. I'm just beginning my study process for the June 2015 test. I wanted to know your thoughts on my plan, which involves your schedule and trainer.

I intend on using your 12 week plan to make it through the book, with potential cambridge packet drilling mixed in. After I i finish the book and plan I would move on to intermittent drilling and PTing as I head into the second half of my study time. I imagine I would then potentially buy other books to hone my skills in the specific sections. What're your thoughts on starting off with the trainer, rather than ending with it, and drilling cambridge packets during the schedule?

Thanks in advance.


Hi there --

Thanks for your question -- I realized when I read it that a lot of students may be planning something similar to what you are, so I'm glad I get a chance to discuss this (btw, before I move on, I’ll mention that I think the cambridge packets are great and work very well w/the book).

The trainer schedules are designed to help you incorporate your work in the book with the drilling, pt, and review work you should be doing outside of it -- so, basically a schedule is designed to take you through your entire study process, and a 12 week schedule is designed for someone planning to study 12 weeks overall for the LSAT, and so on. Additionally, because the schedule is designed to be all encompassing, it utilizes the latest exams.

For all these reasons, instead of starting w/the 12 week schedule and moving on to something else, I recommend that you use the D.I.Y. schedule and design it to fit your needs. You can find the DIY schedule here --

http://www.thelsattrainer.com/assets/d.i.y.lsattrainerstudyschedule(beta).pdf

I designed this schedule mostly for retakers and people like you who have more than the typical amount of time to prepare (which I think is awesome, btw). You can use it to plan out your 20+ weeks of prep, and I’ve designed it so that it’s very easy to adjust along the way if you feel you need to.

Some more specific information / tips --

1) I think it’s a good plan to, as you mentioned, add in additional learning tools as you feel you need them. In terms of timing, I think it’s helpful to keep in mind that your entire study process will involve learning, drilling, and pt’ing, roughly in that order (with lots of review throughout) and the way the trainer schedule is set up, the second half of your book work overlaps with the first half of your drill work, so that you can get plenty of practice putting into play the stuff you are working on in the book.

So, my suggestion is to ideally add on additional new products in that same first half of your drilling process -- either as you are doing equivalent work in the trainer (for example, maybe you work on flaw problems in the trainer, then flaw problems in another book, then drill flaw q’s) or right after you are done w/my book (for example, maybe after finishing the trainer, while you are still in the middle of drilling, you find you’d like a bit more help with LG and so you turn to the bibles or 7Sage etc. at that point).

Again, you may or may not feel like you need additional products, but if you do, I think the earlier the better, and I think integrating them in the time period mentioned above will produce the best results.

2) The d.i.y. schedule includes a breakdown of all LR and LG questions from exams 29 - 71 -- this makes it very easy for you to plan which tests you want to use for drilling and which for pt’s.

A simple way for you to split it up would be to use roughly 20 tests for drilling and 20 for pts -- maybe pt’s 29-51 for drilling / 52- 71 for pt’s.

If you want to get a bit more complex, you can --

a) switch things around a bit so that you are exposed to some of the more recent exams during drilling (or as pt’s earlier in your process) -- maybe you swap out 62-64 for 42-44 or something like that.

b) plan ahead and repeat q’s for pt’s and drilling -- I think repeating problems is very good for you and I discuss it in the trainer quite a bit -- if you plan ahead, you can design some overlap so that you see some q’s in both pt’s and drilling --

for example, maybe you use pts 52-54 as diagnostic exams fairly early in your prep, then reuse those q’s as “warm-up” when it comes time to do question-specific drill work.

The schedule has been designed for you to work this all out very easily.

3) I recommend you build in some open review sessions, open weeks, etc.

I haven’t done the exact math for how much time you have, but if we imagine 30 or weeks, maybe you build in a review day per week, a free week every fifth week or so, and maybe you design the schedule to end at 26 weeks or something like that. This will give you plenty of cushion to make adjustments as need be -- if you find you want to try integrating another learning source, or find you’d like to do some extra drill work on a particular q type, or if you simply struggle with something and want to study it some more.

Hope that all helps and I wish you the best -- if you run into any trouble along the way, please feel free to get in touch --

Mike

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby deant286 » Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:47 pm

Mike,

That was incredibly thorough and exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much for your advice. You've definitely earned another customer in me and I will be recommending your book and services to my fellow LSAT preppers at my UG. I'll let you know if I run into any hiccups; i think it's great that you reach out to the community like this.

All the best.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby tweedledee » Mon Oct 20, 2014 10:12 pm

Hi Mike,

I just wanted to drop a quick thank you! Using solely The Trainer, this thread, and every preptest available, I scored a 174 on the September LSAT. Your book and this thread are both insightful and motivating, and I'm so thankful that I used it for my prep. Thank you, thank you!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby paulam68 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:05 am

Hey Mike,

I just received my results from the September LSAT and was not happy with the result considering it was about 11 points lower than my PT average. I was averaging around 170 and felt relatively comfortable but I have no idea what happened with the test; clearly I am missing something. I have signed up for the December LSAT, and am looking for something I can do that will really help me to get the score I was practicing at on the real exam. I used the Powerscore Bibles previously. I have decided to just review practice tests and now am considering trying a new prep book. I was reading about yours and the reviews all seem great, however, between now and December 6, do you honestly recommend I use this book? If so and you truly believe it will help, I would intend to read it cover to cover and would only invest in this book so I would not want to waste that time if you think this is not enough time to grasp the contents of the book.

Thank you!

Paula

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Tue Oct 21, 2014 12:29 pm

tweedledee wrote:Hi Mike,

I just wanted to drop a quick thank you! Using solely The Trainer, this thread, and every preptest available, I scored a 174 on the September LSAT. Your book and this thread are both insightful and motivating, and I'm so thankful that I used it for my prep. Thank you, thank you!


That's fantastic news!!! Congrats and thanks so much for sharing it with me --

When I picture how the trainer must look from a student's perspective, what I see is something like this -- you go to buy a car, and on the lot there are toyotas and volkswagons, etc. ... and then there is this guy standing there next to some strange looking car you've never seen before and he says, "Hi!I built this thing all by myself! Don't you think it's cool? Do you want to take it for a drive?" Amazingly enough, again and again, students have said yes -- they've given me a chance and eventually put their faith in my work -- it's been a life-changing experience on my end to say the least --

Sorry for getting a bit sappy there -- but thanks for putting your trust in my book, and thanks for the thanks -- wish you the very best with the rest of the application process (though you should probably take a few days off to enjoy your score before you get back to it) -- Mike

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:55 pm

paulam68 wrote:Hey Mike,

I just received my results from the September LSAT and was not happy with the result considering it was about 11 points lower than my PT average. I was averaging around 170 and felt relatively comfortable but I have no idea what happened with the test; clearly I am missing something. I have signed up for the December LSAT, and am looking for something I can do that will really help me to get the score I was practicing at on the real exam. I used the Powerscore Bibles previously. I have decided to just review practice tests and now am considering trying a new prep book. I was reading about yours and the reviews all seem great, however, between now and December 6, do you honestly recommend I use this book? If so and you truly believe it will help, I would intend to read it cover to cover and would only invest in this book so I would not want to waste that time if you think this is not enough time to grasp the contents of the book.

Thank you!

Paula


Hi Paula --

I’m so sorry to hear about the score -- I can imagine how disappointed you must have felt, especially considering how high your ceiling is. I’m also impressed at how quickly you are bouncing back and thinking about the retake. I think the best possible ending for your story -- the thing that I’m sure will make it all worth it for you -- is if you end up scoring even higher on the retake than you could have had test day gone perfectly -- and I’d love to try to help you make that happen --

I do think the trainer can be useful for someone in your situation, and if you did a search of past study groups and such on tls I think you’d find a lot of inspiring stories of retakers using the trainer and eventually ending up with scores that are much better representations of their full potential --

Having said that, the effectiveness of the book is really based on how well it fits your situation, and, as you mentioned, the big challenge for you is that there is a limited amount of study time between now and December, and you’re going to have be very smart about how you allocate it. And before you do anything else, you want to decide how much time you want to invest into learning more about the exam, and how much you want to invest into more practice -- in both drill sets and pt’s. If you don’t feel you need a ton of drilling and pt’s, and if you have available study time, you should be able to study the trainer thoroughly. If you feel that you need to allocate more of your time to drilling and pt’s, then I recommend that you be a little more strategic about how use the trainer -- I still recommend going straight through it front to back (as opposed to skipping around in it) but perhaps you choose to go a bit faster through material you already feel comfortable with, and focus in more on what you feel you need most.

Either way, I think the trainer can help you --

1) fill in gaps. I think a big challenge for students is to know exactly what they are missing -- a lot of students underperform because for various reasons they fail to cover all their bases. At the least you’ll know that the trainer provides a unique perspective on the exam, and it may help fill in some holes that perhaps you didn’t notice before.

2) become more accurate and automatic. Success on the LSAT requires that you be very accurate at utilizing certain micro-skills again and again -- an obvious example would be something like a conditional-based grouping game -- not only does a game that like require that you understand conditional logic correctly, it requires that you quickly translate a series of conditional states accurately, and that you be comfortable enough with them that you can “play around” with the rules and see what inferences they yield -- all under intense pressure. A lot of these micro-skills feel a bit like mental tongue twisters, and it’s not so easy to feel automatic at them even when you understand them (for example, even now, I still have to carefully think through certain “unless” rules to make sure I understand them correctly).

I’ve done my best to identify as many of these micro-skills as possible, and whenever possible, developed drills and such that you can do to strengthen your speed and accuracy. Since you are already scoring at such a high level, chances are that you are already great at pretty much everything the test requires -- however, you may be a bit more inconsistent or a bit slower than you’d like in certain areas, and these drills can help with that.

3) see the big picture. One issue students sometimes face in their prep is that they over-compartmentalize, and then, during the pressure of the exam, have trouble bringing everything together. This is especially evident when the category-obsessed test taker runs into a game or question that seems to not fit into their overly-defined expectations.

One thing I think I perhaps emphasize a lot more than some other teachers is the importance of developing a correct, big picture understanding of how all of the various challenges on the LSAT come together.

I think such an understanding is critical for high-level success. Here’s a situational example to illustrate why -- strengthen questions and necessary assumption questions share a lot of overlap -- if you were to put numbers on it, depending on how you view it you could argue that they are maybe 70% alike, and 30% different. In order for as a student to maximize her success, it can be incredibly helpful to understand exactly how they are alike and how they are different. This will help you carry over certain skills from one q type to another (for example, both q types require you to isolate the argument in the stimulus and figure out the gap in reasoning), while also allowing you to retain an essential level of discernment that will serve you well when you are trying to make tough decisions (especially for tougher q’s, they will make tempting wrong answers to nec. assumption q’s that seem to strengthen the argument but don’t actually need to be true, for example).

Additionally, a cohesive big picture understanding helps you react better to unexpected challenges. For example, if you are overly-obsessed with categories while studying lg, and develop one way to notate subsets for grouping games and one way to notate subsets for ordering games, and you run into a game that is somewhat ordering, somewhat grouping, with a strange subset situation, it’s going to be more of a challenge for you to adapt correctly in the moment. If you have a universal system for notating subsets, and a strong understanding of how characteristics such as ordering and grouping can come together, you put yourself in a much better situation to react well to the more unusual situations.

So, those are three ways in which I think the trainer might be beneficial for you. Having said all that, as I mentioned earlier, the effectiveness of the book is really going to be based on how well it fits your needs, and it could be that the things emphasized in the book are things you are already strong at and it could be that your time is best spent on other resources. I encourage you to read through some of the free sample chapters available on my website, and they should give you a better sense of whether the book will be worth your time. Finally, the promise I’ll make to you is that if you feel you have certain concerns that you wanted the trainer to address that you feel aren’t addressed in the book, you can always come to me here or through email and I’ll do my best to help -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby paulam68 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:19 pm

Thank you for the very thorough response, it is greatly appreciated and very helpful. I am also going to school full time it's my senior year so I have to factor in studying with school. I already purchased your book last night because I do not want to waste any time, I am going for December because I do not want to take a year off.

I'm not sure if you can answer this question, but how would you suggest I use the book? To relearn the lessons or drill? And I don't really have time for both I assume? Since I used the powerscore bibles and read them twice, I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the information they had to offer. I had also taken about 35 full practice tests (most of them timed) before the September LSAT. My worst section is reading comprehension unfortunately, and slightly less on logical reasoning (but it could still use work for sure). I have a pretty solid understanding of logic games and was scoring perfect on my practice tests. Would you say that adopting your approach to logical reasoning questions would really help to boost my score in those sections? Because I feel that if I can raise my logical reasoning score alone, my score would greatly improve.

Sorry for so many questions, I am just really stressing out over the best way to use the limited amount of time I have to get the score I was practicing at and I am willing to put in whatever it takes to do so.

Thanks again!!

Paula

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby WaltGrace83 » Thu Oct 23, 2014 10:06 am

Hi Mike,

Quick question. How do we interpret "if" statements in the conclusion? Are they premises? Are they not? Do we assume that the "if" statement will be satisfied? Take example 11.2.15, "a standard problem for computer security...voice recognition." The conclusion is "Clearly, if this result can be repeated in an operational setting, then there will be a way of giving access...". Should I try to poke holes in that by thinking, "well maybe it WON'T be repeated."

When I did this question many many months ago, I originally picked (E) because I thought that this "if" was "heavily qualifying" the conclusion.

Thanks.

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Re: PT6-S2-Q17

Postby MightiHeidi » Thu Oct 23, 2014 11:28 am

The LSAT Trainer wrote:
MightiHeidi wrote:Hi Mike,

I've been using the LSAT Trainer for my studying and have been putting a lot of work into Flaw questions as I struggle with them.

I recently ran into a question that I can't make sense of, as the correct answer doesn't seem like the most correct answer choice.
It is from Practice Test 6, Section 2, Question 17; regarding a book reviewer's criticism against various methods of storing energy.
The correct answer is B, but based on how I interpreted the text, I felt like either C or D would be the answer.
Could you explain how the argument should have been interpreted and why answers C and D did not fit as the actual flaw?

Thank you.


Hi Heidi --

I think the key issue here may be how you are interpreting the task presented in the question stem. The question stem is not asking us to "figure out" the flaw in a presented argument, but rather to simply identify information presented in the text.

Here are some overly simplified illustrations to prove the difference:

Stimulus: "Mike doesn't exercise. Therefore, he must be fat."

Q: What's the flaw in the argument?

A: Takes for granted that just because Mike doesn't exercise, he must be fat.


Stimulus: Mike: "I think exercise is terrible, because it makes me sweat."

Q: What's a criticism Mike makes of exercise?

A: It makes him sweat.


So, 6-2-17 is not a question that asks us to find an argument and then recognize the flaw in that argument; rather, it's a question that asks us to simply represent as correctly as possible the information given in the text.

Notice the two statements the author makes after "however" -- the first seems to call into question electricity being a valid answer, and the second lists other ways to store energy. (B) represents these two facets fairly accurately.

(C) might be a tempting answer if you are thinking about it in terms of "what's this reviewer doing wrong?" but again that's not our task here. The reviewer doesn't claim that (C) is something the authors are doing wrong. We don't know if the authors think effectiveness is unrelated or not.

(D) is also tempting -- especially because he does bring "effectiveness" into the conversation. However, the book reviewer does not juxtapose effective with basic and he doesn't claim that thinking about whether an energy source is basic or not should not be done.

Hope that helps clear things up for you -- if you have any follow up just let me know -- MK


I do understand now; I think I erroneously set a precedent that it would be a flaw question because it turned up in a Cambridge LSAT flaw drill packet.
But I do see what you're saying and answer B does make the most sense. Are these types of "characterize criticism" questions common on the LSAT?

Thanks so much for the help!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Thu Oct 23, 2014 11:33 pm

paulam68 wrote:Thank you for the very thorough response, it is greatly appreciated and very helpful. I am also going to school full time it's my senior year so I have to factor in studying with school. I already purchased your book last night because I do not want to waste any time, I am going for December because I do not want to take a year off.

I'm not sure if you can answer this question, but how would you suggest I use the book? To relearn the lessons or drill? And I don't really have time for both I assume? Since I used the powerscore bibles and read them twice, I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the information they had to offer. I had also taken about 35 full practice tests (most of them timed) before the September LSAT. My worst section is reading comprehension unfortunately, and slightly less on logical reasoning (but it could still use work for sure). I have a pretty solid understanding of logic games and was scoring perfect on my practice tests. Would you say that adopting your approach to logical reasoning questions would really help to boost my score in those sections? Because I feel that if I can raise my logical reasoning score alone, my score would greatly improve.

Sorry for so many questions, I am just really stressing out over the best way to use the limited amount of time I have to get the score I was practicing at and I am willing to put in whatever it takes to do so.

Thanks again!!

Paula



Hi Paula --

Thanks for giving me some more information -- here are some thoughts that come to mind that I think might be helpful for you --

1) In the trainer, I break down the challenges presented on the exam into three big categories -- tests of reading ability, reasoning ability, and mental discipline (there is a lot more specific discussion about this topics in lesson 1 of the book) -- I think most high-quality LSAT learning products do a good job with reasoning issues, but in my experience retakers who come to the trainer after using another guide generally get the most benefit out of the reading instruction and the instruction on mental discipline (which you can define as the ability to stay on task). In particular, I have a feeling that trainer may discuss the reading issues presented on the exam in a way that you haven't seen before, and this may make things easier for you both in RC and in LR. So, if you think this advice fits you well, I encourage you to perhaps focus a bit more on the lessons / parts of the book that discuss reading or mental discipline (and btw all strategy discussion falls under mental discipline) -- and perhaps, if you feel comfortable, go faster over the parts that have to do with reasoning issues.

2) You'll also notice that the trainer consists of three main forms of work: instruction that you read, drills, and practice problems.

I tried my best to make the instruction part as simple and easy-to-reference as possible. You'll see that every main point is bolded, quoted, emphasized with examples, etc., and it's not the type of book where you have to worry that if you skim, you'll miss out on some critical piece of information that's hidden in the middle of some random paragraph (to test this out, try taking any chapter from the book and go through it in just a couple minutes looking at the bolded parts, etc. -- I bet you can get a pretty good gist of the main points of emphasis and the takeaways). So with the instruction I encourage you to play it by ear and go slow and careful in the parts that sound useful to you, and feel free to go faster through the parts that seem to be about things you are already very comfortable with.

The drills in the book are there for you to practice certain micro-skills that are required again and again on the LSAT -- such as translating conditional statements correctly, identifying the right conclusion, and so on. Just like with the instruction, I encourage you to play it by ear when it comes to investing time in these drills. If you try the first few problems and the last few and the drill seems to emphasize something you are already good at, feel free to skip it or only do part of it -- if a drill hits on a weak point or makes you think about the LSAT in a way you haven't before, give it its full due, and even repeat and spend extra time when need be.

Finally, for the real LSAT problems in the book -- you should definitely make sure you spend the time to solve and carefully review each of these. And, as a side note, going forward until test day, you want to do your best to approach every single LSAT problem as if you were seeing it on the exam.

So, to summarize, pick and choose where u spend time w/instruction and drills (and the book is designed for you to be able to do that fairly easily, I believe) but make sure you do take the time to carefully solve, and get the most out of, every actual problem.

3) Finally, to me, it sounds like you could use just a little bit of everything in your prep -- learning in the trainer, drilling, and pt work -- as a rough guide, I'd suggest something like the following for the next six weeks --

1) do your best to get through the first 15 chapters of the trainer as quickly as possible -- within the next two weeks if you can.
2) after that point, start integrating drilling into your work (you can use the d.i.y. schedule available on the trainer website to help organize how you will fold the drilling in) -- and through week 4, focus on mixing together learning in the book and drilling (w/the expectation that you should see improved performance during the drilling per what you've learned).
3) then, for the final two weeks, get back to full practice exams, with drilling in weaker areas and trainer instruction mixed in as needed.

I know the above is very general, but hopefully it gives you a starting point for thinking about how to organize things best -- again, I strongly encourage you to stay flexible -- you should have a pretty good sense by this point about what areas you feel weak or nervous, and what instruction/use of your time seems more effective -- trust in those instincts and, as you seem to be doing now, make sure to consistently reassess along the way whether you are truly using your study time best.

Hope that helps, and please don't hesitate to follow up if you have any other q's -- I appreciate you putting your trust in the trainer and I'd love to see you get that killer score -- MK

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Re: PT6-S2-Q17

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:13 pm

MightiHeidi wrote:
I do understand now; I think I erroneously set a precedent that it would be a flaw question because it turned up in a Cambridge LSAT flaw drill packet.
But I do see what you're saying and answer B does make the most sense. Are these types of "characterize criticism" questions common on the LSAT?

Thanks so much for the help!


Hi MH -- I would generalize it as a question that essentially asks "which of the following was mentioned in the text" and this type of q is very very uncommon on the LSAT.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:34 pm

WaltGrace83 wrote:Hi Mike,

Quick question. How do we interpret "if" statements in the conclusion? Are they premises? Are they not? Do we assume that the "if" statement will be satisfied? Take example 11.2.15, "a standard problem for computer security...voice recognition." The conclusion is "Clearly, if this result can be repeated in an operational setting, then there will be a way of giving access...". Should I try to poke holes in that by thinking, "well maybe it WON'T be repeated."

When I did this question many many months ago, I originally picked (E) because I thought that this "if" was "heavily qualifying" the conclusion.

Thanks.


Hey WG -- great q --

The answer is that it depends on the situation:

The entire "if/then" can be the conclusion, as in this example --

Premise: If Ted wears a tie, he will not get the job.
Faulty conclusion: Therefore, if Ted wears does not wear a tie, he will get the job.

Or the if can be the premise and then the conclusion, as in this example:

Premise: So if every child promised to do their homework...
Faulty conclusion: Then it must be true that every child did in fact do their homework.

For the q you asked about -- 11/2/15 -- The "if" component is part of the conclusion -- it's a qualification that limits the context -- the author only claims this result to be true if it can be repeated in an operational setting.

Imagine a conclusion that said: "Clearly, if it rains, Mike will wear a hat." A situation when it doesn't rain wouldn't help or hurt this point, and the same thing is happening w/this problem.

Hope that makes sense -- let me know if u have any follow up or have any additional q's about this problem.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby fakeacct12 » Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:28 pm

Hi Mike,

Just wanted to say how impressed I am with your book. It's written very well and I appreciate the effort you put into creating/writing it.

I wanted to seek further advice from you regarding how to best utilize your book in preparing for a retake. I plan to take the test in about 6 or so weeks. I would say that I am well versed in the fundamentals and scored a 160 on the September LSAT(below my PT avg). However, I was recommended by several close mentors/friends to utilize your book in order to fix my approach. They suggested that your book can help me out a lot in LR.

Since I have 6 weeks remaining, of which I plan to spend 1-2 purely on your book and drilling, what is your advice? I already followed through on your notecard advice and evaluation before starting to read your book. I read through a lot of your posts in this thread last week.
edit: your posts above have answered my 1st question regarding how to utilize your book for the retake. If you have anything else add, feel free
Also here is another comment regarding how you solve Necessary Assumption questions. I was telling this to my friend but I will copy paste it here to seek feedback/your thoughts.

Really mind blowing to see how he solves necessary assumptions. He is almost treating it like a flaw, like looking for the flaw in reasoning. I never treated Necessary assumption like that. I would just read it and try to find a gap. If I could not find an apparent gap (such as term shift/scope shift/logical force shift) , then I just try to understand the argument as in correctly ID the conclusion and support, and then hit the answer choices looking for something that has to be 100% true, something absolutely required to derive the conclusion.

It was just completely mind blowing for him to read it and treat it like flaw but then hit the answer choices trying to find something required for the argument


I haven't read your necessary assumption chapter. I am still on flaw but I am one drill away from your assumption chapter. I am not reading your book for LG advice as I did very well on that section on the real exam. I did read through it though however just to get your opinion. I am mostly utilizing your book for LR and RC help.

Thanks

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Thu Oct 30, 2014 12:47 pm

fakeacct12 wrote:Hi Mike,

Just wanted to say how impressed I am with your book. It's written very well and I appreciate the effort you put into creating/writing it.

I wanted to seek further advice from you regarding how to best utilize your book in preparing for a retake. I plan to take the test in about 6 or so weeks. I would say that I am well versed in the fundamentals and scored a 160 on the September LSAT(below my PT avg). However, I was recommended by several close mentors/friends to utilize your book in order to fix my approach. They suggested that your book can help me out a lot in LR.

Since I have 6 weeks remaining, of which I plan to spend 1-2 purely on your book and drilling, what is your advice? I already followed through on your notecard advice and evaluation before starting to read your book. I read through a lot of your posts in this thread last week.
edit: your posts above have answered my 1st question regarding how to utilize your book for the retake. If you have anything else add, feel free
Also here is another comment regarding how you solve Necessary Assumption questions. I was telling this to my friend but I will copy paste it here to seek feedback/your thoughts.

Really mind blowing to see how he solves necessary assumptions. He is almost treating it like a flaw, like looking for the flaw in reasoning. I never treated Necessary assumption like that. I would just read it and try to find a gap. If I could not find an apparent gap (such as term shift/scope shift/logical force shift) , then I just try to understand the argument as in correctly ID the conclusion and support, and then hit the answer choices looking for something that has to be 100% true, something absolutely required to derive the conclusion.

It was just completely mind blowing for him to read it and treat it like flaw but then hit the answer choices trying to find something required for the argument


I haven't read your necessary assumption chapter. I am still on flaw but I am one drill away from your assumption chapter. I am not reading your book for LG advice as I did very well on that section on the real exam. I did read through it though however just to get your opinion. I am mostly utilizing your book for LR and RC help.

Thanks


Hi there --

Thanks so much for the comments and I'm really glad to hear that you are finding the trainer helpful --

I think that seeking gaps in an argument and looking for flaws in reasoning are two sides of the same coin -- you could argue that in both instances you are going after the same goal (trying to understand as clearly as possible why the support given doesn't guarantee the truth of the conclusion), just with a different mindset. I've taught it both ways and I've come to firmly believe that it gives test takers an advantage to think of reasoning issues in terms of flaws rather than gaps for the following reasons --

1) It's a better mindset for the design of the q's -- all q's that ask you to evaluate reasoning require that you be very critical of any issue that exists between support and conclusion, and seeing any such gap as a problem (more on this later) puts you in a better mindset for being discerning and specific.

To give a very loose analogy -- imagine one person who really wants a top score and tries to think of everything she should do to get there vs. a student who absolutely must get a top score and is obsessed with identifying and getting rid of anything that might prevent her from getting there -- anecdotally speaking, I think looking for gaps is a bit more like the former and looking for flaws like the latter. Thinking that conclusions need to be guaranteed, and seeing anything that gets in the way of that as a flaw, helps you to be a bit harsher and a bit more aggressive, which is what you want.

2) I think that for most students, looking for flaws is a better match for the way that they think naturally

As I mentioned before I've taught it both ways, and in my experience it's generally much easier for students to gain mastery thinking in terms of flaws as opposed to gaps --

When we hear claims in real life, I think the two most common mental tasks we face are
a) to think about whether they are true or not
b) to figure out why they are false

It's less common for us to think about "what might fill the gap and make them true." And, the instances that require this are typically ones where you are trying to make something work -- when you are trying to be open-minded, supportive, or resolution-oriented -- mindsets that aren't a great match for the LSAT.

So, again, for most people, I think it's just easier and more natural to see reasoning holes as flaws, and it's also better for your test-taking mindset.

3) Top scorers see gaps as flaws

During my five years or so developing curriculum for Manhattan, I spent a lot of time studying the exam, but I actually spent even more time (and a lot more energy) studying students, in order to figure out which actions/characteristics lead to success and which ones don't.

And one thing I noticed, whether the high scorer realized it or not (without much reference, the vast majority of top scorers have a very difficult time explaining or understanding what it is that gives them an advantage over others), is that pretty much all of them thought of gaps as "problems" that needed to be addressed, and they would all naturally and instinctively focus in on these problems, and then think about how particular answers might strengthen or weaken, or be necessary for addressing the issue, per whatever task the question presented.

So those are some of the main reasons why I emphasize flaws so much in the book, and why I genuinely believe that thinking about arguments in terms of flaws (for all q's that require you to be critical of reasoning) is a great way to make it much easier on yourself to perform at your best.

Hope that helps -- I've got about a million other things to say about Nec. Assumption q's but I'll stop myself there -- hope you enjoy that lesson when you get to it in the book, and if you have any q's or follow up afterwards, let me know and I'll be happy to help --

Thanks again for the comments -- Mike

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby ILikeKneadedErasers » Sun Nov 02, 2014 9:11 pm

Hi Mike,

I was wondering if you had any advice for someone having a lot of trouble with abstract language. I've read the bit in the Trainer and I can usually end up deciphering them with time but they always take me much longer than they should (and I usually end up skipping 1-1 LR q's each PT because of it and rushing on 2 or so more q's on top of that. Pretty huge considering I'm at that tricky 168 to low 170's and hoping to eventually get around the 175+ range). I've been reviewing q's with abstract lang from PT's I've already done but I think I've mostly memorized the answers to them by now and I'm not exactly sure how useful it is?

I'd actually really appreciate advice on how to review questions you seem to have memorized answers/thought processes for in general. I tend to remember correct answers for every single LR and RC question I've reviewed even if it was weeks ago and I feel like it's making my review sessions less useful because I'm not sure how much I'm relying on my actual abilities and how much it's just "well I've already reviewed the thought process for this problem before so these are obviously wrong because of X and this is clearly right because of Y" without really thinking it through properly so to speak.

I've been stuck in the same range for the past few weeks so I feel like maybe I'm just doing something wrong.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:31 pm

ILikeKneadedErasers wrote:Hi Mike,

I was wondering if you had any advice for someone having a lot of trouble with abstract language. I've read the bit in the Trainer and I can usually end up deciphering them with time but they always take me much longer than they should (and I usually end up skipping 1-1 LR q's each PT because of it and rushing on 2 or so more q's on top of that. Pretty huge considering I'm at that tricky 168 to low 170's and hoping to eventually get around the 175+ range). I've been reviewing q's with abstract lang from PT's I've already done but I think I've mostly memorized the answers to them by now and I'm not exactly sure how useful it is?

I'd actually really appreciate advice on how to review questions you seem to have memorized answers/thought processes for in general. I tend to remember correct answers for every single LR and RC question I've reviewed even if it was weeks ago and I feel like it's making my review sessions less useful because I'm not sure how much I'm relying on my actual abilities and how much it's just "well I've already reviewed the thought process for this problem before so these are obviously wrong because of X and this is clearly right because of Y" without really thinking it through properly so to speak.

I've been stuck in the same range for the past few weeks so I feel like maybe I'm just doing something wrong.


Hi there --

I have a few suggestions you might find helpful --

In terms of abstract language --

(If you don't mind, I'm going to talk in general about "difficult" language, with abstract language being a big sub-category of difficult language) --

The challenge of hard words is two-fold -- first, of course it's more difficult to understand them correctly, which makes it harder to evaluate the reasoning accurately, and secondly, they are very distracting -- so, instead of prioritizing parts of a stimulus because of the role they play, you end up paying more attention to certain parts because they are more difficult to understand.

This happens to everyone, and I think a big key to handling it better than others is to have a good sense of which words to pay more attention to, and in what way. In thinking about this, it can be very helpful to remember that the LSAT is a very advanced test of reasoning ability, but at the same time, it's a test that doesn't reward or punish based on a test taker's understanding of advanced or unusual subject matter. With that said -- some general rules of thumb are --

1) When abstract or difficult language is used to describe the subjects -- the actual people, places, ideas etc. being discussed -- you shouldn't expect yourself to know the exact meaning of these words and shouldn't stress too much when you don't. With these words, what you want to pay most attention to are differences -- changes in wording between premise and conclusion, for example -- to give a super-simple example, a shift from the people involved in an arbitration to the arbitrator herself.

2) When abstract or difficult language is used to describe actions or relationships (think of verbs), you want to do your very best to use context to understand these words exactly and correctly. For example, imagine you run into the verb "mollify" on the exam and you have a fairly good sense of the word but you are not 100% sure. You want to use the given background, premise/conclusion relationship (what you know of it), and your best sense of what the reasoning issue most likely is to try to understand the word as accurately as possible, and hopefully the elimination and confirmation process will also help confirm that understanding.

3) When abstract or difficult language is used to describe the general reasoning structure (think flaw q's or q's that ask you directly to describe the reasoning structure of the passage) you are expected to know the meaning of these words exactly. Make sure your sense of these words is automatic. I have a bit about these terms in the trainer (specifically in the flaw q's lesson, the sufficient assumptions lesson, and the lsat vocab lesson) but I also encourage you to keep a running list of the words and phrases you've found challenging, and review it from time to time. If you do so, I think you'll find that the same words and phrases show up again and again.

Finally, one tip I have for reviewing repeat q's (and I totally understand the challenge of keeping them fresh) is to, as silly as it may feel, force yourself to write out in words, or speak out loud, exactly what the proof is that the right answer is right, and (more importantly) at least one issue that allows you to know with certainty that each of the wrong answers is wrong.

If we do this work in our heads, it is so, so easy to get just the tiniest bit lazy, especially when an answer seems "obviously wrong" we let ourselves off the hook a bit in terms of being exact. However, when you think about the fact that you are trying to build correct habits (think about the way Steve Nash shoots free throws, or used to anyway), being exact is absolutely critical. The second, third, fourth time through a problem, force yourself to be clearer and clearer about exactly what you are thinking. The more articulate you can be, the sharper your thinking will be, and, especially if you go through the extra, grinding work of writing out specific issues for every wrong answer, you will put yourself in a better position to see the same issues show up again and again --

Hope at least some of that helps -- best of luck and let me know if you have any follow up --

Mike

jimmymac
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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby jimmymac » Tue Nov 04, 2014 9:35 pm

Hey Mike- I haven't seen this thread bumped since I learned of my September score back, but I wanted to say a huge thanks. Went up from a 168 in June to a 174 in September using your book alone with PTs. THANKS!

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The LSAT Trainer
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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Wed Nov 05, 2014 3:04 pm

jimmymac wrote:Hey Mike- I haven't seen this thread bumped since I learned of my September score back, but I wanted to say a huge thanks. Went up from a 168 in June to a 174 in September using your book alone with PTs. THANKS!


Wow - that is so great to hear! I know you don't need me to tell you that 6 point improvement represents a HUGE shift in law school prospects -- I'm sure there are a lot of retakers who are trying to pump themselves up right now who appreciate hearing about your success -- thanks for sharing, and congrats again! -- Mike


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