Mike's Trainer Thread

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The LSAT Trainer
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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Dec 05, 2014 3:59 pm

Sherlock1122 wrote:Hey Mike,

First off, thank you for writing this book. I just started it a few weeks ago, but finally feel like someone is writing to those of us trying to bump up from the high 160's to the 170s. In my experience over the past few months, it's harder than I anticipated especially with cookie cutter courses and other materials.

For some reason I am really struggling on a particular type of complex "or" rule: the if and only if.
As an example: H will go before J if and only if H is after M.

I keep breaking it down to:
IF M-H, THEN H-J
and
H-J ONLY IF M-H

The answer to the drill is MHJ or JHM.

It has to do with a contrapositive right? I run through the rule in my head and continually end up with:

M-H-J/M-H-J

Sorry for the seemingly simple question I just can't seem to wrap my mind around it. Thanks in advance!


Thanks for the thanks and happy to try to help --

I think what you are feeling w/these rules is what pretty much everyone feels at first -- they seem simple enough, but are very difficult to "nail" conceptually -- however, once you do, I think you'll be glad to see such rules come up --

I'll give u a short and long explanation -- see if either of them help make it click better for you --

1) Short --

H will go before J if and only if H is after M:

H - J if M - H : this translates to: M-H --> H-J; contrapositive: J-H --> H-M.

Meaning: When M is before H, H must be before J. When J is before H, H must be before M.

M - H - J; J - H - M

H - J only if M - H: this translates to H-J --> M-H; contrapositive H-M --> J-H.

Meaning: When H is before J, M must be before H. When H is before M, J must be before H.

M-H-J; J-H-M

(I think that maybe your translation of "only if" is perhaps what tripped you up)

2) Longer Explanation:

The if-and-only-if is really just a complicated way of giving you an either-or-but-not-both scenario -- if you can think about it on those terms, I think it's much easier to translate them correctly.

To illustrate why -- let's imagine a super-simple scenario -- all people in a group are assigned to either team a or team b but not both --

Imagine two different types of rules:

1) Either/or but not both: "Marc and Tom are assigned to different teams."

This gives us two possibilities: M on A, T on B, or T on A, M on B. Those are the only two options we have. Simple enough.

2) Conditional: "If Marc is assigned to Team A, Tom will be assigned to Team B."

This gives us three possibilities: M on A, T on B; T on A, M on B, or both M and T on B.

It is the last of those options (both being assigned to team B) that differentiates the either/or (but not both) from a conditional, and it's the last of those options that makes conditional statements a bit more difficult to think about.

On a conceptual level, you can think of either/or (but not both) as offering guarantees in "two directions" (know about A, can figure out about B, know about B and can figure out about A) whereas the conditional only gives guarantees in one direction (know about A, can figure out about B, but we don't know anything if told M is on team B). The conditional is actually harder to think about correctly, and the fact that conditionals only go one way is probably the most important thing to know about them. Since either/or but not both rules go in "both directions" they offer the test writers a counterpoint to conditional rules.

Why am I mentioning all this? Because "M and T will be assigned to opposite teams" can be written in a harder to understand way like this:

"Marc will be assigned to team A if and only if Tom is assigned to team B."

Again, this is a more complicated way of saying that M and T will be assigned to opposite teams.

Does that make sense? If so, let's apply it to the more complex ordering situation you brought up --

Imagine if, instead of the rule we were given, we were given a simple straight up conditional:

H will go before J if H is after M.

What could we get from this?

M-H --> H-J; contrapositive J-H --> H-M

Seems similar to what we had before, but this conditional actually gives us different possible outcomes -- from it, we could get:

M-H-J, J-H-M, or H before both M and J.

It's the last possibility that people can forget and that makes conditional statements tricky.

Now let's imagine they gave us a different rule:

"Either M or J, but not both, go before H."

This only gives us two options -- M-H-J or J-H-M.

Notice this rule acts as a simpler counterpoint to it's conditional relative.

What's another, more complex way to write this same rule?

H will go before J if and only if H is after M.

Again, per the reasoning I discussed above, it will also give us the exact same outcomes as the either/or but not both rule.

Does that make sense? Again, I think the bi-conditional is a classic and typical LSAT component -- seems simple enough but acts like a mental tongue-twister -- it drives me nuts just trying to explain it :) -- so, if you still have some concerns let me know and i'll be happy to discuss further -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Dec 05, 2014 4:05 pm

secadc11 wrote:Hi Mike,

Thanks for your amazing book. I had been going an average of -8 between the two LR sections before reading your book. Having now worked through most of your LR chapters, I feel consistently more confident in my LR answers. On the PT I took last night, I scored a combined -1 for LR that led me to a 179. Thanks for the huge bump. :)

That said, there is one type of logic games question that frequently trips me up - rule substitution. Is there some better way to get through this sort of question than brute force? What am I missing? (And also, do you address this specific type of question in the Trainer? I haven't managed to find it in my skimming.)

Thanks Mike.


Hi there --

I do talk about rule substitution q's in the trainer -- the discussion in chapter 27, and most of the key instruction starts on page 390 --

Also, I wrote a longer article about these q's when I was at manhattan -- you can get it here -- http://www.manhattanprep.com/lsat/resou ... t-rule.cfm

I'm so glad to hear that you've found the trainer helpful, and I'm very impressed with your performances! Best of luck with the rest of your prep -- I'd love to see you get that type of score on the real thing, so if you need anything else at all please get in touch --

Mike
Last edited by The LSAT Trainer on Fri Dec 05, 2014 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby secadc11 » Fri Dec 05, 2014 4:07 pm

The LSAT Trainer wrote:
secadc11 wrote:Hi Mike,

Thanks for your amazing book. I had been going an average of -8 between the two LR sections before reading your book. Having now worked through most of your LR chapters, I feel consistently more confident in my LR answers. On the PT I took last night, I scored a combined -1 for LR that led me to a 179. Thanks for the huge bump. :)

That said, there is one type of logic games question that frequently trips me up - rule substitution. Is there some better way to get through this sort of question than brute force? What am I missing? (And also, do you address this specific type of question in the Trainer? I haven't managed to find it in my skimming.)

Thanks Mike.


Hi there --

I do talk about rule substitution q's in the trainer -- the discussion in chapter 27, and most of the key instruction starts on page 390 --

Also, I wrote a longer article about these q's when I was at manhattan -- you can get it here -- http://www.manhattanprep.com/lsat/resou ... t-rule.cfm

I'm so to hear that you've found the trainer helpful, and I'm very impressed with your performances! Best of luck with the rest of your prep -- I'd love to see you get that type of score on the real thing, so if you need anything else at all please get in touch --

Mike


Thank you Mike!! Coming through right in the nick of time for tomorrow's administration. :)

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Dec 05, 2014 5:00 pm

GreenTee wrote:Mike, thank you so much.

In case anyone ITT doubted it: You're the best we have in the world of LSAT.

I just printed out your final words of wisdom, and I'm bringing a copy with me on test day. I think you should publish some derivation of that post on your website, if you haven't done so already. The greatest hurdle for many students is simply staying grounded and focused on test day, and a good pep talk from you could go a long way.

Thank you thank you thank you. I'll be sure to come back to post here in three weeks when I receive the (good) news!


Thanks so much for the comment and glad to be of use -- you've been a class act since our first interaction -- I am so proud of the work you've put in and the drive and attitude you've shown throughout, and I can't wait to hear how you do on test day --

MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby Sherlock1122 » Fri Dec 05, 2014 8:01 pm

The LSAT Trainer wrote:

H will go before J if H is after M.

What could we get from this?

M-H --> H-J; contrapositive J-H --> H-M

Seems similar to what we had before, but this conditional actually gives us different possible outcomes -- from it, we could get:

M-H-J, J-H-M, or H before both M and J.

It's the last possibility that people can forget and that makes conditional statements tricky.

Does that make sense? Again, I think the bi-conditional is a classic and typical LSAT component -- seems simple enough but acts like a mental tongue-twister -- it drives me nuts just trying to explain it :) -- so, if you still have some concerns let me know and i'll be happy to discuss further -- MK
[/quote]


That definitely makes more sense now, thank you for the clarification! Just to follow up to make sure I understand your thought process with conditional results. With the 3 conditional outcomes (MJH, JHM, H before M and J) do you get the possibility of H before M and J b/c H before both M and J are the necessary part of the conditional statement? In other words, we don't know what will happen if H goes before J b/c it is not a trigger?

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Dec 12, 2014 5:01 pm

Sherlock1122 wrote:
The LSAT Trainer wrote:

H will go before J if H is after M.

What could we get from this?

M-H --> H-J; contrapositive J-H --> H-M

Seems similar to what we had before, but this conditional actually gives us different possible outcomes -- from it, we could get:

M-H-J, J-H-M, or H before both M and J.

It's the last possibility that people can forget and that makes conditional statements tricky.

Does that make sense? Again, I think the bi-conditional is a classic and typical LSAT component -- seems simple enough but acts like a mental tongue-twister -- it drives me nuts just trying to explain it :) -- so, if you still have some concerns let me know and i'll be happy to discuss further -- MK



That definitely makes more sense now, thank you for the clarification! Just to follow up to make sure I understand your thought process with conditional results. With the 3 conditional outcomes (MJH, JHM, H before M and J) do you get the possibility of H before M and J b/c H before both M and J are the necessary part of the conditional statement? In other words, we don't know what will happen if H goes before J b/c it is not a trigger?[/quote]

that's exactly right -- we don't know the outcome, and because it's so easy to overlook/over-assume w/that situation, the test writers will create a lot of wrong answers/challenges off of that issue -- glad it helped -- if you need anything else just let me know.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Dec 12, 2014 5:04 pm

Hi everyone --

I am currently in the process of moving (to Irvine, CA -- are any of you in the O.C.?) and so away from work for a bit -- however, I've gotten about a dozen emails about the soon-to-be-released 16 week 29-71 study schedule -- wanted to announce that it should be ready by next friday (the 19th) at the latest so please look out for it --

-- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Dec 19, 2014 8:55 pm

Hi everyone -- wanted to let you know that I've just put up the new 16 week study schedule to use w/practice exams 29-71 - you can find the schedule here --

http://www.thelsattrainer.com/student-resources.html

Hope you find it useful and as always if you have any comments or suggestions please let me know --

Mike

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby SweetTort » Tue Dec 23, 2014 6:31 pm

Hey, Mike!

Just wanted to thank you for your great prep material. I was PTing in the low 160's before I read your trainer. One week later, after reading it, I broke 170 for the first time. The RC and LR sections in particular are immensely helpful.


Keep on keeping on.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Tue Dec 30, 2014 4:25 pm

SweetTort wrote:Hey, Mike!

Just wanted to thank you for your great prep material. I was PTing in the low 160's before I read your trainer. One week later, after reading it, I broke 170 for the first time. The RC and LR sections in particular are immensely helpful.


Keep on keeping on.


Thank you ST -- that's awesome to hear -- don't hesitate to get in touch if you need anything else going forward - MK

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[s][/s]

Postby 03282016 » Sun Jan 04, 2015 1:33 am

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:04 pm

Wahrheit wrote:Hey Mike, thanks for the awesome book.

I picked it up (unfortunately) further into the summer than I would have liked, as I started with the generic Kaplan book which was only moderately useful. Your methods were way more straightforward and helped me to solidify my strategies and practices.

If I hadn't been taking 18 credits, and had spent more time with your book, I could have probably pushed even further than I got. I did get admitted to UChicago though, so all's well that ends well. :)

I've been recommending your book to all my friends who are taking/retaking the LSAT, and will be sure to send this thread along as a resource as well.

Thanks for looking out for us and keep up the good work!


You must have done pretty damn well on the LSAT if you got into UChicago --

Congrats on the success, and thanks so much for the post and for recommending the trainer to others --

Best of luck w/law school -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby Motivator9 » Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:11 am

Hey Mike,

I hope all is well. I wanted to ask you about what direction I should take with my LR studies. I've been studying LR for about 3 months now, mainly using you book while drilling from the cambridge packets and going through individual LR sections. Although I've seen vast improvements since I first began my studies (my diagnostic was a 145), I'm still having a hard time translating that success to the timed sections. When I do a LR section un-timed, I might miss two or three questions per section.For the timed sections, it's not that I'm getting more questions wrong because I'm making, say, reasoning errors; it's because I'm simply not finishing the sections. I have to admit I don't consider myself to be a naturally good reader (which explains my low diagnostic), so it takes me longer than it probably should to comprehend the stimulus and understand the reasoning issue. How do I work on my speed without sacrificing the skills and habits that I've worked on during my studies. Can you give me some specific ways to drill our work on timed sections?

Here is some more background on how I went about my studies since I started.

When I first began, I went through your book and drilled using one of the study schedules (PT 52-56) you provided. I also included Cambridge drilling questions from PTs 1-19 as I went through the different questions types. I made sure to throw in plenty of full LR sections so I wouldn't focus too much on one question while neglecting the others. I also spent ample time reviewing questions that, I either missed, or wasn't sure about. Once I finished your the Trainer, I started incorporating more individual sections, focusing more on timing and building up endurance. For the past two weeks, I've started reading the LR chapters in the Trainer again, really trying to sharpen my skills and habits, with the hope that it'll help me spend less getting to the right answer on questions that are giving me a hard time. However, it's just been frustrating finding that balance between pacing and doing the questions in an efficient manner.

So, again, what direction should i take now? Should I continue to work on those individual sections with a good mix of drilling? is there something specific that you recommend for someone like me, who has the skills and habits to do almost all LR correctly, but really struggles with speeding up and getting to the end of a section.

Thanks as always!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Jan 09, 2015 4:30 pm

Motivator9 wrote:Hey Mike,

I hope all is well. I wanted to ask you about what direction I should take with my LR studies. I've been studying LR for about 3 months now, mainly using you book while drilling from the cambridge packets and going through individual LR sections. Although I've seen vast improvements since I first began my studies (my diagnostic was a 145), I'm still having a hard time translating that success to the timed sections. When I do a LR section un-timed, I might miss two or three questions per section.For the timed sections, it's not that I'm getting more questions wrong because I'm making, say, reasoning errors; it's because I'm simply not finishing the sections. I have to admit I don't consider myself to be a naturally good reader (which explains my low diagnostic), so it takes me longer than it probably should to comprehend the stimulus and understand the reasoning issue. How do I work on my speed without sacrificing the skills and habits that I've worked on during my studies. Can you give me some specific ways to drill our work on timed sections?

Here is some more background on how I went about my studies since I started.

When I first began, I went through your book and drilled using one of the study schedules (PT 52-56) you provided. I also included Cambridge drilling questions from PTs 1-19 as I went through the different questions types. I made sure to throw in plenty of full LR sections so I wouldn't focus too much on one question while neglecting the others. I also spent ample time reviewing questions that, I either missed, or wasn't sure about. Once I finished your the Trainer, I started incorporating more individual sections, focusing more on timing and building up endurance. For the past two weeks, I've started reading the LR chapters in the Trainer again, really trying to sharpen my skills and habits, with the hope that it'll help me spend less getting to the right answer on questions that are giving me a hard time. However, it's just been frustrating finding that balance between pacing and doing the questions in an efficient manner.

So, again, what direction should i take now? Should I continue to work on those individual sections with a good mix of drilling? is there something specific that you recommend for someone like me, who has the skills and habits to do almost all LR correctly, but really struggles with speeding up and getting to the end of a section.

Thanks as always!


Hey M9 -

Great q -- here are some thoughts that I hope you find helpful -- apologies for the length and if some of this is redundant --

Hope you don't mind if I start off w/an analogy....

So, I have a lot of friends, who, for a variety of reasons, have ended up in this troublesome situation when it comes to their diet -- all the food they love to eat happens to be very unhealthy. So, they constantly have to make an either/or (but not both) choice at mealtime -- do they eat something healthy that they don't want to eat, or do they eat what they want (and feel guilty about it)? There is no easy fix to this conflict, which is why our supermarkets are filled with unhealthy food pretending to be healthy, and healthy food disguised to taste like the unhealthy stuff.

Who gets to avoid this mess? People who happen to find healthy food tasty. If the food you love to eat happens to be healthy, you get the best of both worlds.

Here's the tie-in --

A lot of students face the same either/or (but not both) dilemma when it comes to timing and accuracy -- because the methods they have developed for gaining accuracy are overly time-consuming, or because the methods they've developed for cutting time are ones that cut out accuracy, these students are consistently forced to make unpleasant either/or (but not both) decisions -- do I go faster or try to get more q's right?-- for which there are no good solutions.

How do you avoid this?

My main advice to you is to work to improve at those skills that have a positive effect on both your timing and your accuracy.

More specifically, these include, but are not limited to --

1) Having and enforcing a very clear sense of task.

The question stem should give you a clear sense of what to focus on in and what to get out of the stimulus, and also what you should look out for in the answer choices. The better you are at staying on task, the faster you will go and the more accurate you will be.

2) Being able to prioritize correctly in the stimulus --

This is obviously very closely linked to #1 -- you have to have a clear sense of task to be able to know what to prioritize, and you won't be able to stay on task unless you can prioritize correctly.

One of the biggest mistakes students commonly make is trying too hard to retain too much of the stimulus (basic example would be a student who by default diagrams every single inference question) -- this is a defensive "safe" move, and though it may seem like a good idea, the consequence can be that it forces you to spend more time (because you are trying to pay attention to everything) and you'll have a less clear sense of the right answer (which will relate to what you were meant to prioritize) and be more tempted by the wrong ones (which will often relate to the secondary information you weren't meant to prioritize).

3) Being able to see, correctly, what's wrong with an argument (when that's required)

This is obviously related to #'s 1 & 2 -- and you can just imagine that if have a less clear sense of task, and you aren't focused in on the key components of an argument, it makes it much, much harder to have a very clear sense of the exact reasoning issue.

4) Being able to anticipate the right answer / characteristics of the right answer / (on flip side, knowing what is missing/wrong in wrong answers)

And this is obviously related to 1, 2, and 3 -- clear sense of task / clear and correct focus on the key components of the stimulus / clear and narrow understanding of the exact flaw (when that's your job) all add up to make it that much easier for you to anticipate what the right answer ought to be like, and, on the flip side, they all add up to make wrong answers that much more obviously wrong.

If you have a somewhat fuzzy sense of task (or don't focus enough on task), are trying to keep in mind all the background etc in addition to the argument, and either haven't thought enough about what's wrong with reasoning or haven't worked hard enough to see the flaw correctly, right answers will be much harder to see and wrong ones much harder to eliminate.

I know that you've heard all the above before and it's all discussed at exhausting length in the trainer, but if you're still with me here's the big point I want to make --

Use the above parameters when you review your work, and use them to gauge your progress and plan your improvement. Decide that you've solved a q efficiently if you've done all the above well, and that there is review to be done if you haven't.

If, two weeks away from the exam, your timing still isn't where it needs to be, I can give you advice about which q's to rush on etc., but for now, I want to keep encouraging you to work on getting faster in ways that don't sacrifice accuracy.

Every student is different, but in my experience reading pace is not a common reason students have trouble finishing the LR (I used to tutor Ozzy Osbourne's kids and he'd sometimes join us and read along -- talk about issues with reading pace). Anyway, for every one super-slow reader who really has to account for that as a serious impediment, twenty other students I've worked with have trouble finishing sections because they don't use efficient processes, waste time doing unnecessary work (this is the #1 most common problem), or waste time spinning their wheels because they haven't planned for certain contingencies.

Another way to look at it -- top scorers in the LR section do not necessarily do "more work" nor do they necessarily read faster than average scorers -- in fact, top scorers generally think about far less -- it just so happens that what they focus on consistently turns out to be the keys to solving q's. Lesser scorers, because they aren't able to zero in as well, have to process a lot more information to try to keep up.

I hope the solutions for the practice problems in the trainer serve as a good gauge of efficient work -- try some of those q's again, and compare your thought processes with the ones I wrote down -- are you processing about the same volume of information, or are you thinking about a lot more stuff than I am? If there is anything extra, was it helpful for you or not? If not, what should you not have done?

Finally, some suggestions for more practical exercises:

1) Do practice sets of easier q's (lower #'s in section or "level 1" in cambridge packets etc.) at an artificially fast pace (must faster than you would expect from yourself on test day -- like 10 q's in 8 mins or even less) -- don't skip out on steps (just try to get through them faster) and see how well you can do -- by doing this you can a) improve your overall pace and b) get a better sense of exactly how fast you can go without losing control (you can't truly know how fast you can go without knowing what it feels like to go too fast). In my opinion the work you do on easier problems has a bigger impact on your overall pace than the work you do on harder q's.

2) On the flip side, force yourself to practice imposing maximum time limits on the hardest q's. A lot of times, students will shoot themselves in the foot because they waste far too much time on just one or two tough q's in a section. Often, this is a result of not having a primary strategy work out, not having any backup plans, and having to scramble in the moment. Make sure you work on having systems that you implement when you run into trouble, and make sure these systems prevent you from spending too much time on a q. One way to gauge/work on this would be to do a bunch of level 4's and make sure than no one problem takes you more than 2 mins (or whatever upper limit you want to set), no matter what.

Wow, way longer than I had even initially feared -- sorry for that, but I hope at least some of it is helpful -- something about the tiny box I have to type in on TLS makes me even more wordy than I normally am -- anyway, as always, pls follow up if you need anything else -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby Motivator9 » Fri Jan 09, 2015 5:50 pm

The LSAT Trainer wrote:
Motivator9 wrote:Hey Mike,

I hope all is well. I wanted to ask you about what direction I should take with my LR studies. I've been studying LR for about 3 months now, mainly using you book while drilling from the cambridge packets and going through individual LR sections. Although I've seen vast improvements since I first began my studies (my diagnostic was a 145), I'm still having a hard time translating that success to the timed sections. When I do a LR section un-timed, I might miss two or three questions per section.For the timed sections, it's not that I'm getting more questions wrong because I'm making, say, reasoning errors; it's because I'm simply not finishing the sections. I have to admit I don't consider myself to be a naturally good reader (which explains my low diagnostic), so it takes me longer than it probably should to comprehend the stimulus and understand the reasoning issue. How do I work on my speed without sacrificing the skills and habits that I've worked on during my studies. Can you give me some specific ways to drill our work on timed sections?

Here is some more background on how I went about my studies since I started.

When I first began, I went through your book and drilled using one of the study schedules (PT 52-56) you provided. I also included Cambridge drilling questions from PTs 1-19 as I went through the different questions types. I made sure to throw in plenty of full LR sections so I wouldn't focus too much on one question while neglecting the others. I also spent ample time reviewing questions that, I either missed, or wasn't sure about. Once I finished your the Trainer, I started incorporating more individual sections, focusing more on timing and building up endurance. For the past two weeks, I've started reading the LR chapters in the Trainer again, really trying to sharpen my skills and habits, with the hope that it'll help me spend less getting to the right answer on questions that are giving me a hard time. However, it's just been frustrating finding that balance between pacing and doing the questions in an efficient manner.

So, again, what direction should i take now? Should I continue to work on those individual sections with a good mix of drilling? is there something specific that you recommend for someone like me, who has the skills and habits to do almost all LR correctly, but really struggles with speeding up and getting to the end of a section.

Thanks as always!


Hey M9 -

Great q -- here are some thoughts that I hope you find helpful -- apologies for the length and if some of this is redundant --

Hope you don't mind if I start off w/an analogy....

So, I have a lot of friends, who, for a variety of reasons, have ended up in this troublesome situation when it comes to their diet -- all the food they love to eat happens to be very unhealthy. So, they constantly have to make an either/or (but not both) choice at mealtime -- do they eat something healthy that they don't want to eat, or do they eat what they want (and feel guilty about it)? There is no easy fix to this conflict, which is why our supermarkets are filled with unhealthy food pretending to be healthy, and healthy food disguised to taste like the unhealthy stuff.

Who gets to avoid this mess? People who happen to find healthy food tasty. If the food you love to eat happens to be healthy, you get the best of both worlds.

Here's the tie-in --

A lot of students face the same either/or (but not both) dilemma when it comes to timing and accuracy -- because the methods they have developed for gaining accuracy are overly time-consuming, or because the methods they've developed for cutting time are ones that cut out accuracy, these students are consistently forced to make unpleasant either/or (but not both) decisions -- do I go faster or try to get more q's right?-- for which there are no good solutions.

How do you avoid this?

My main advice to you is to work to improve at those skills that have a positive effect on both your timing and your accuracy.

More specifically, these include, but are not limited to --

1) Having and enforcing a very clear sense of task.

The question stem should give you a clear sense of what to focus on in and what to get out of the stimulus, and also what you should look out for in the answer choices. The better you are at staying on task, the faster you will go and the more accurate you will be.

2) Being able to prioritize correctly in the stimulus --

This is obviously very closely linked to #1 -- you have to have a clear sense of task to be able to know what to prioritize, and you won't be able to stay on task unless you can prioritize correctly.

One of the biggest mistakes students commonly make is trying too hard to retain too much of the stimulus (basic example would be a student who by default diagrams every single inference question) -- this is a defensive "safe" move, and though it may seem like a good idea, the consequence can be that it forces you to spend more time (because you are trying to pay attention to everything) and you'll have a less clear sense of the right answer (which will relate to what you were meant to prioritize) and be more tempted by the wrong ones (which will often relate to the secondary information you weren't meant to prioritize).

3) Being able to see, correctly, what's wrong with an argument (when that's required)

This is obviously related to #'s 1 & 2 -- and you can just imagine that if have a less clear sense of task, and you aren't focused in on the key components of an argument, it makes it much, much harder to have a very clear sense of the exact reasoning issue.

4) Being able to anticipate the right answer / characteristics of the right answer / (on flip side, knowing what is missing/wrong in wrong answers)

And this is obviously related to 1, 2, and 3 -- clear sense of task / clear and correct focus on the key components of the stimulus / clear and narrow understanding of the exact flaw (when that's your job) all add up to make it that much easier for you to anticipate what the right answer ought to be like, and, on the flip side, they all add up to make wrong answers that much more obviously wrong.

If you have a somewhat fuzzy sense of task (or don't focus enough on task), are trying to keep in mind all the background etc in addition to the argument, and either haven't thought enough about what's wrong with reasoning or haven't worked hard enough to see the flaw correctly, right answers will be much harder to see and wrong ones much harder to eliminate.

I know that you've heard all the above before and it's all discussed at exhausting length in the trainer, but if you're still with me here's the big point I want to make --

Use the above parameters when you review your work, and use them to gauge your progress and plan your improvement. Decide that you've solved a q efficiently if you've done all the above well, and that there is review to be done if you haven't.

If, two weeks away from the exam, your timing still isn't where it needs to be, I can give you advice about which q's to rush on etc., but for now, I want to keep encouraging you to work on getting faster in ways that don't sacrifice accuracy.

Every student is different, but in my experience reading pace is not a common reason students have trouble finishing the LR (I used to tutor Ozzy Osbourne's kids and he'd sometimes join us and read along -- talk about issues with reading pace). Anyway, for every one super-slow reader who really has to account for that as a serious impediment, twenty other students I've worked with have trouble finishing sections because they don't use efficient processes, waste time doing unnecessary work (this is the #1 most common problem), or waste time spinning their wheels because they haven't planned for certain contingencies.

Another way to look at it -- top scorers in the LR section do not necessarily do "more work" nor do they necessarily read faster than average scorers -- in fact, top scorers generally think about far less -- it just so happens that what they focus on consistently turns out to be the keys to solving q's. Lesser scorers, because they aren't able to zero in as well, have to process a lot more information to try to keep up.

I hope the solutions for the practice problems in the trainer serve as a good gauge of efficient work -- try some of those q's again, and compare your thought processes with the ones I wrote down -- are you processing about the same volume of information, or are you thinking about a lot more stuff than I am? If there is anything extra, was it helpful for you or not? If not, what should you not have done?

Finally, some suggestions for more practical exercises:

1) Do practice sets of easier q's (lower #'s in section or "level 1" in cambridge packets etc.) at an artificially fast pace (must faster than you would expect from yourself on test day -- like 10 q's in 8 mins or even less) -- don't skip out on steps (just try to get through them faster) and see how well you can do -- by doing this you can a) improve your overall pace and b) get a better sense of exactly how fast you can go without losing control (you can't truly know how fast you can go without knowing what it feels like to go too fast). In my opinion the work you do on easier problems has a bigger impact on your overall pace than the work you do on harder q's.

2) On the flip side, force yourself to practice imposing maximum time limits on the hardest q's. A lot of times, students will shoot themselves in the foot because they waste far too much time on just one or two tough q's in a section. Often, this is a result of not having a primary strategy work out, not having any backup plans, and having to scramble in the moment. Make sure you work on having systems that you implement when you run into trouble, and make sure these systems prevent you from spending too much time on a q. One way to gauge/work on this would be to do a bunch of level 4's and make sure than no one problem takes you more than 2 mins (or whatever upper limit you want to set), no matter what.

Wow, way longer than I had even initially feared -- sorry for that, but I hope at least some of it is helpful -- something about the tiny box I have to type in on TLS makes me even more wordy than I normally am -- anyway, as always, pls follow up if you need anything else -- MK


Wow Mike, I feel like I just bought some precious information from you because alot of what you said gets right at some of the specific struggles I'm having, such as not having a plan when things go bad for the hardest questions, over-diagramming at times when I don't need to, and simply not being able to do all of the questions in the most efficient way possible. I'm going to implement the strategies you suggested when I study this weekend. Thanks as always!

Oh and btw, I love your analogies.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby TrunksFan1 » Fri Jan 09, 2015 8:57 pm

Hello Mike, I picked up the Trainer recently and plan on using it along with te Powerscore Bibles. Is the jump from the 2013 to 2014 version of the trainer significantly different? I have the 2013 version and just wanted to make sure. Thanks!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby NonTradLawHopeful » Sat Jan 10, 2015 2:12 pm

TrunksFan1 wrote:Hello Mike, I picked up the Trainer recently and plan on using it along with te Powerscore Bibles. Is the jump from the 2013 to 2014 version of the trainer significantly different? I have the 2013 version and just wanted to make sure. Thanks!


Is there a 2014 version? I only see the one (2013) on Amazon...

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The LSAT Trainer
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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Sun Jan 11, 2015 7:38 pm

NonTradLawHopeful wrote:
TrunksFan1 wrote:Hello Mike, I picked up the Trainer recently and plan on using it along with te Powerscore Bibles. Is the jump from the 2013 to 2014 version of the trainer significantly different? I have the 2013 version and just wanted to make sure. Thanks!


Is there a 2014 version? I only see the one (2013) on Amazon...


Hi -- there is only one edition of the book, but the more recent versions of it are just a bit more polished (I upload new versions when students find typos and such) -- if u have an older version and need a typos list, let me know and I'll dig it up for you --

Wish you both the best -- if you need anything along the way, you know where to find me -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby MightiHeidi » Mon Jan 12, 2015 4:23 pm

Hi Mike!

So I've completed reading through the LSAT trainer, am familiar with all question types, and have drilled extensively on all areas. I'm at the point where I'm taking PTs three times a week and drilling on question types that I'm missing the most frequently in the PTs I take. I'm noticing that I'm no longer missing one question type the most for any section, rather I'm making one mistake for all different question types, with no consistent pattern that suggests a lack of understanding for any given question type.

I know that in your book you repeatedly state that the LSAT requires an immense amount of mental discipline, and I'm starting to understand that more clearly, because the times when I have been the most absorbed in a section of the test, I have scored significantly better than my average. I'm trying to build up my concentration and focus endurance as a way to fix this problem, but I wanted to ask if you had any advice on a good way to do that? Is there any specific kind of exercise I could try to strengthen my mental discipline? Or is it best to just continue taking PTs and consciously remembering to stay as focused as possible until it becomes more natural? Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby The LSAT Trainer » Fri Jan 16, 2015 6:43 pm

MightiHeidi wrote:Hi Mike!

So I've completed reading through the LSAT trainer, am familiar with all question types, and have drilled extensively on all areas. I'm at the point where I'm taking PTs three times a week and drilling on question types that I'm missing the most frequently in the PTs I take. I'm noticing that I'm no longer missing one question type the most for any section, rather I'm making one mistake for all different question types, with no consistent pattern that suggests a lack of understanding for any given question type.

I know that in your book you repeatedly state that the LSAT requires an immense amount of mental discipline, and I'm starting to understand that more clearly, because the times when I have been the most absorbed in a section of the test, I have scored significantly better than my average. I'm trying to build up my concentration and focus endurance as a way to fix this problem, but I wanted to ask if you had any advice on a good way to do that? Is there any specific kind of exercise I could try to strengthen my mental discipline? Or is it best to just continue taking PTs and consciously remembering to stay as focused as possible until it becomes more natural? Any comments would be greatly appreciated!


Hi MH! --

First off, congrats on getting through all of that work thus far -- I'm so proud of you and I expect you'll reap the benefits on test day --

I don't think I have anything too interesting to say about focus, but here are some thoughts you might find useful --

1) I think that the most important thing for focus is the work that you've put in thus far -- your ability to focus is built up over time, and no last-minute strategies can compare to the effects of months of hard work. So again, you've already put yourself in a great position.

2) It's much easier to focus on a bunch of smaller challenges, one after another, than it is to focus on one challenge for an extended period of time. So, as much as possible, you want to mentally break down the exam into smaller chunks, think of each chunk as an individual challenge, and not waste more energy than you need to thinking about the section as a whole or the test as a whole (more on this later). Do your best on one set of problems, then get over them and move on to the next challenge. Easier said than done, I know, but the more you can think this way the better.

3) It's easier to focus when you have fewer distractions. A sneaky distraction that impacts just about everyone is thinking about other parts of the test, or the test as a whole, whole solving individual questions. Overly convoluted or unpracticed timing strategies, or systems that involve deciding which order to solve games in, etc. virtually guarantee you'll lose at least some of your focus to these big picture concerns.

The prep time you have remaining until test day is plenty enough to get your timing and section strategies down, and I think doing so will give you a significant advantage over others on real exam. Don't just practice going faster and faster -- make sure you work out all secondary and backup strategies (what to do when you fall behind on a section or run into trouble on a game/passage/problem) so that you don't have to waste time thinking about secondary strategies/making them up during the actual exam.

4) Try to stay positive. Duh. I know you know that. But here's a practical suggestion -- go in with a range of scores in mind (say, you typically get - 7 to - 12 on pt's) and do your best to minimize the misses so that you can end up at the top end of your range. The alternative to thinking this way is just trying to score as high as possible, which invariably makes you depressed (and more stressed) every time you miss a question. Thinking about a range doesn't make missing questions any more fun, but it gives you a stronger sense of control, which in turn will help you feel less stressed and take wiser actions.

5) Be aggressive. I've discussed the importance of being aggressive in some other recent posts as well -- I don't want you to be rushed or reckless, but I do want you to push the pace as much as possible and to dictate the action -- that means that u go into each game/stimulus/q/passage with a strong sense of what you need to accomplish (I need to find the conclusion first, I need to find a reason why this answer choice is wrong, etc.), so that you can control better what you notice/spend your time thinking about. The more direction and control you have, the easier it is to focus.

Sorry for the length and hope at least some of that helps -- let me know if you need anything else at all before the exam -- MK

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby MightiHeidi » Fri Jan 16, 2015 8:07 pm

I always love when your posts are long!
Thank you for all the words of encouragement and the great advice. You already made me conscious of the issue of looking at the test as a whole or a section as a whole, etc. So I'll be more aware of that. And I'll work on all the other things too!
Thank you again!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby CPAlawHopefu » Sat Jan 17, 2015 6:02 pm

Mike, I love your book and I'm almost nearing the end of your book. It's been a wonderful journey so far!

However, I'm struggling through the LSAT Vocabulary section right now, especially the Extreme Links (Conditional Statements Links) on page 460. This is literally the hardest thing I've encountered on LR so far and still having hard time understanding the concept. You didn't provide any explanation on these drills, so I am completely lost as to why my answer is wrong. Like for the "Cheaters" problem, I literally answered every problem wrong, and I can't see why....

Also, one question on your "ice cream store" drill in that chapter.

"Everyone who orders A gets offered B, and most people say yes to B. Some people who order C get offered B, and less than half of those people say yes. Therefore, more customers get B with A than they do with C."

I answered Valid for the above statement because my train of thought was...

100% of A gets offered B, and >50% of A says yes to B.
>0% of C gets offered B, and <50% of C says yes to B.
Therefore, B with A > B with C.

However, the answer on your book says the statement is invalid. Why is this so?

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby factoryresetsadness » Sat Jan 17, 2015 7:33 pm

Hello Mike,

Thanks for writing the book and maintaining the website, as well as answering questions. It has been very helpful.

My question is regarding Lesson 14: "Or" Rules. Pages 201 and 202 for Game 4. Why does the second rule "J and I as a pair will either be teamed with F or with G" preclude the possibility that J and I are on different teams? My apologies if this has already been addressed - I am still learning optimal search methods. Thank you in advance!

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby lsat2013-study » Mon Jan 19, 2015 1:39 am

Hi Mike - Really love your book, and your philosophical approach to attacking the exam.

My question is also about attacking the exam and FOCUS. Can you comment on whether or not the following proposed test strategy has any value or not. If yes/no - why??

A friend I studied with earlier, (he took the Dec. exam) told me to do the following during the LSAT exam.

After finishing the first 15 questions of the LR section take a 15 second break. Close your eyes, relax, deep breathe. Then hit it hard for the remaining questions. Also again, in the Games and RC sections, each has 4 games, and 4 passages. Take a 10 second break between each section. Close eyes, relax, deep breathe. Then hit it hard again..

I know I would lose those 15 seconds in the LR - then in the Games and RC about 40 in each. But, he claims you gain some renewed focus and concentration. And you will move much faster through the rest of the questions. Any thoughts? He said he did it during his exam, and it helped. He scored good.

I can see some value in what he is saying. But, not sure - and if I am going to incorporate something like this, I need to add it to my practice regime.

Thoughts???

Update: Why am I considering this test strategy? On all my PTs and earlier real LSAT - I notice an obvious trend in my scoring. I have NO mistakes in the first half of every section of questions. I get thrilled. Wow - awesome. But, then I get hit with a brick. I make ALL my mistakes in the last part of every section. I am NOT over- exaggerating. No mistakes in the first part of question sets. Then in the second half of questions sets I go -5, -6. Its killing my score.

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Re: Mike's Trainer Thread

Postby nlee10 » Tue Jan 20, 2015 1:03 pm

lsat2013-study wrote:Update: Why am I considering this test strategy? On all my PTs and earlier real LSAT - I notice an obvious trend in my scoring. I have NO mistakes in the first half of every section of questions. I get thrilled. Wow - awesome. But, then I get hit with a brick. I make ALL my mistakes in the last part of every section. I am NOT over- exaggerating. No mistakes in the first part of question sets. Then in the second half of questions sets I go -5, -6. Its killing my score.


That might indicate some endurance issues. Try PT'ing with full 5 sections and do fully timed sections on your "off" days.
ETA: Not the OP but just thought I might add a tip. :wink:


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