Procyon wrote:Dear Mike,
Please let me trouble you with two matters.
The first is resource strategy. I'm retaking a 170 from 5 years ago. I thought I had long forgotten any of the preparation I did back then, which is why I began late January, but it's coming back to me very quickly. I am now testing at the 175 range on five section simulations and I need to figure out the best way to use the remainder of my time. I now have only 12 fresh modern tests (59-60 and 65-74) and I need to stretch them all the way to 28 June because I am taking it in the Asia-Pacific region. As you can see, even if I take things at the very glacial pace of one per week, I will run out by the end of May.
I also have a hard time understanding how to review these exams most effectively. Of course I spend my effort on the missed questions but that takes at most one day intermittently between my tasks at work. To stretch out my time, I also review every single test question, going over my process for each one carefully and strenuously. I think there's value in doing this but that also goes by very quickly. Basically, by the end of Wednesday, I'm not sure what I should be doing if not another practice exam. Should I maybe study another curriculum like Powerscore?
Second, I hope to solicit your input on how I intend to proceed tactically. When I go back through the exams, I can usually pick out my errors quickly. I'd attribute these mistakes to misreading and general carelessness. At most, there are maybe 1-3 missed questions that I get wrong on my second try and take more than 5-10 minutes to fully comprehend. Whilst I'm happy about my general position, I have some persistent weaknesses.
In Logic Games, even if I come across one really unusual game, I will miss maybe 4 at most. However, I have not yet seen a perfect section because I just don't feel at ease with these types of questions; I'll rush through and miss some big inferences or use a very sloppy diagram. I did all the drills in the book conscientiously but the payoff continues to feel distant. I think my best play here is to simply go back to the drills repeatedly and labor over the old exams and every game I can get my hands on. If I run out, should I use the unofficial games made by companies like Kaplan?
On Reading Comprehension, I have not seen a worse section than -1 after four tests. However, I still don't feel entirely confident. In my last two exams, I struggled on two problems and then returned at the end of the section to find the right answers. That seems inefficient and I'm not sure what to do about that. There is no rhyme or reason to this. As you note in the Trainer, some questions are tougher and I think those are the ones tripping me up.
Logical Reasoning is just a slog and so I'll sometimes get a combined -0 but other times -4 depending on my stamina. My only tactic here is to hit the gym and eat better. I think the ones I usually get wrong are the Match the Reasoning and the Reasoning Strategy types but I can't say definitively as I miss some simple ones on occasion; hopefully a pattern will emerge with a larger sample.
Thanks in advance!
Hey Procyon --
I’ll give it my best shot here to be helpful -- please keep in mind my common caveat that in order to give advice that gets more specific, I have to make some assumptions and guesses about you, based on the limited info I have, and some of my assumptions and guesses could be totally off -- so, please feel free to take whatever advice you feel is relevant and to discard whatever is not --
One basic bit before I go further -- I fully support reusing old exams, especially if I am reading you correctly and you haven’t seen some of those q’s for five years. I recommend that you use the older exams mostly for drilling, and that you try to keep most of the new, unseen exams fresh for closer to test day.
My sense is that you are a natural at this exam -- and though this is obviously a very good thing in terms of your life, it can be both a good thing and a bad thing in terms of your path to improvement.
The good is that it’s possible that all you need is more exposure -- that is, it won’t really matter much how you choose to study -- as long as you’re seeing enough LSAT, you’ll end up with a remarkable score.
The bad is that it’s often tougher for “naturals” to purposely drive their own improvement, in part because they often have a tougher time seeing their own weaknesses / seeing the value of improving these weaknesses. I think an analogy can be made to an athlete who is so gifted at a sport (and easily defeats most every opponent) that he/she doesn’t have to study the game/develop alternative strategies etc. as much.
So with all that said, my main suggestion is to try to be as hyper-specific and critical as you can in your review --
You mention “misreading” and “general carelessness” -- you could have been just been speaking off the cuff, but I believe that getting specific about these problems may be a key to your prep -- to me, these phrases are generalizations that can represent up to roughly ⅔ of the total challenges offered up by the exam.
The LSAT is as much a reading test as it is a reasoning test -- it is designed to make you misread everywhere and to punish you for it -- you want to work to develop a very specific sense of the reading mistakes that you are making, and shape your work to address those issues.
General carelessness represents issues of mental discipline -- either not being able to stay on task, or not building in enough “security” (such as eliminating wrong answers AND confirming the right one) into your problem-solving process. Again, ideally, you want to work to identify these issues as specifically as you can and address them.
Now here’s some more practical/specific advice --
1) For Logic Games --
A) Work to develop a big-picture understanding of all that can happen in games -- I think the scariest thing about the LG section is the unexpected -- what could they throw out at me that I’m not prepared for?
The great news is that there is great consistency to how all games are designed. Right now, you probably have a gazillion snippets of information/wisdom about the LG section scattered throughout your understanding -- what you want to do is work to bring it all together, and “prove” to your brain/confidence that there aren’t any unexpected issues that can appear.
Here’s an exercise to help with that -- take a giant piece of paper (posterboard, etc.) and just start writing out everything that can possibly happen in a game, the types of rules you have to deal with, notations you have to write out, inferences you have to make, when to create frames when not to -- whatever you think is worth putting down. Start with what’s in your head first, then go through all the games you’ve played recently, and fill out the board as completely as you can. If you use this board as your catch-all of important things to know about games, and then go through a ton of games to fill out the board (you can keep filling it out/rewriting it as you do more practice) what you will invariably find is that after a certain period of time, there is nothing more to add to the board. That is, everything will start being a repeat of challenges you’ve seen /thought of before. And when you can go through game after game after game and say to yourself, “yup, I’ve already accounted for all of this,” it can help you greatly reduce the fear that something unexpected will appear.
B) Work to become more automatic at notations/diagramming -- your diagram is the main tool you have for thinking about games, and what I’m reading from your message is that you are doing amazing well even though you aren’t using this tool as well as you can. You should not have to think too hard about how to diagram any game -- it should typically feel pretty routine, and this is what needs to happen in order for you have the “free mental bandwidth” necessary to do the tough thinking the section requires. My guess is that once you get your diagramming under better control you’ll start to see your times go way down. Playing games over and over again can be a good way to work on this.
C) Work to get super-fast at easier games -- tough games are tough, no matter what, and if you can’t afford misses you want to give yourself as much time for the tougher games as you possibly can. A couple of your games will be easier, and more predictable -- if you can get through these easier games faster, it will give you a big advantage.
D) Unofficial games cannot take the place of real ones, and in general you’ll be far better off replaying real games you’ve seen before.
2) For Reading Comp
No worse than -1 is pretty damn impressive. I don’t think you need to worry about much here. Just a couple of quick recommendations --
A) As with LG, see if you can get just a little bit faster / quicker on the easier passages and questions. This will give you more time for those 2 or 3 questions in the section that you really have to think about more carefully, and it seems like, as long as you have enough time, you’ll usually nail those q’s.
B) Make sure you practice/habitualize basic strategies for the most common types of q’s -- this is actually mostly just to help with the first point -- by better habitualizing effective strategies, you should be able to shave some time.
3) For LR
For reference, I never exercise and I eat terribly, and this doesn’t seem to impact my LR performance. --
A) Next time you do a full LR section, remind yourself beforehand that it is primarily a test of your reading ability, and that how well you do will be determined by how well you read.
B) Make sure that you are always getting to the right answer both ways -- at the end of most problems, you should be able to explain verbally at least one reason each wrong answer was wrong and why the right answer was right. This both ways system can help catch some errors you might miss otherwise, and it’s a great antidote for the design of the hardest q’s -- often, the right answers to these q’s are very tough to know for sure, and your ability to eliminate can help prevent you from being too attracted to the wrong choices.
C) Just want to finish by going back to the point I started with -- if you haven’t been as specific about defining misreads / carelessness as you think you ought to have been, work to understand these issues better, and I think it might help you get rid of last last bit of uncertainty about the section.
Sorry for the length -- I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that you are in great shape and probably don’t need any advice at all, but since I wrote so damn much I hope at least some of it was relevant and helpful -- Mike