some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Mik Ekim
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Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:06 pm

some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Mik Ekim » Wed Aug 29, 2012 1:31 pm

Hi –

This is Mike Kim – I am the co-creator (along with Dan Gonzalez) of the Manhattan LSAT curriculum, and I am the co-author of the Manhattan strategy guides.

At the moment, I am semi-retired from the LSAT teaching world, but I do miss talking to people about the test, and I must admit that I love coming to TLS from time to time to get my LSAT fix. In particular, I like following the people who end up actively participating in the study-groups. They tend to be a self-selecting group, and cycle after cycle it seems there are great groups of hardworking students who push each other and ultimately end up with some pretty remarkable results – like clockwork, it happens again and again, cycle after cycle – as a teacher, I really draw a lot of inspiration from this.

I know that a lot of you, with the October test looming, are thinking about how you can ensure that you’ll end up scoring at a 170+ level. Of course, I know a lot of great stuff has been written about this subject on TLS already, but I also feel that I have a unique vantage point from which I can give some additional information. For one, at Manhattan LSAT, I was surrounded by truly the best of the best – teachers who were all pretty much at the top of the field already before joining us, and since my job was to think about curriculum, I spent a lot of time thinking about the various ways that they approached the test (and there were some significant differences in style). In addition, I also interviewed a ton of 172+ scorers and got to see how they all thought through problems and solved the test. Finally, I’ve worked with a lot of students, and I’ve seen a lot of them get to and even surpass their goals, and unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of them not get there. I feel that this broad range of experience is unique, and helps me see some things that other people don’t get to see.

Here’s the point I’d really like to make: a 170+ score is not necessarily an indication of exceptional ability in any one particular area. You don’t necessarily have to be much better at understanding conditional statements, or faster at diagramming games than the 165-scorer is.

The far more important characteristic that differentiates top scores is the full combination of skills that they have. For my fellow math nerds -- to get a 1 in a 1000 score, you don’t need 1 in a 1000 skills – you need 1 in 10 reasoning skill X 1 in 10 reading skills X 1 in 10 mental reasoning ability (obviously that’s a gross over-simplification, but I think the point is clear).

Here’s another way to think about it: sure, your score is based on right and wrong, but more directly, it’s based on how you do relative to the other test-takers (or, to be more accurate, a simulation of the other test-takers determined by previously used experimental sections). The LSAT is a competition, and the most accurate way to think about a 170+ score is that you scored in the top 2.5% of all test-takers. Imagine forty people in a room taking the LSAT. In order to get in the top 2.5%, you have to be the best of those forty. To be confident you are going to get that score, you have to be confident that in any such group, you are likely to be the best.

After years and years of thinking about the test, I’ve come to see the LSAT as a test of three primary issues:

1) your reading ability – they care about two primary components of this – your ability to understand the meaning of common words used in argumentation (since, however, or, therefore, all, etc.), and your ability to see reasoning structure, the relationship between the components of a sentence or a stimulus (your ability to identify a main point, its support, etc).

2) your reasoning ability – again, just two primary components here – your ability to see how two ideas are able to be linked together (as in logic games), and (most importantly) your ability to see why the support given for a LR argument is not sufficient to justify a conclusion reached.

3) your mental discipline – you can simply think of this as your ability to stay on task and not get tempted away to thoughts that stray from that task. Two examples of situations in which mental discipline is critical: during the logical reasoning section, when jumping from question to question, since each question requires something unique from us, and if we’ve not careful we’ll end up mixing up, even without knowing it, strategies for different types of questions, and during the answering of logic games questions, when sometimes we ought to be focused on eliminating wrong choices, and other times on identifying the right answer choice – it’s easy to get lost in doing one when we are supposed to do the other, and that’s invariably a huge waste of our precious time.

Every single challenge on the LSAT can be connected, in a very direct way, to the issues mentioned above.

Now, think about yourself in that room of 40 test-takers.

You want to feel confident that you’ll get 170+? Some people in there might be better readers than you are. And some of them may have reasoning instincts that better match the exam. That’s okay. You can feel confident if you know that no one in that group has your combination of advanced reading and reasoning skills, and your level of mental discipline.

Most test-takers who are near that 170 level are already strong in a lot of areas. For a lot of them, it’s a matter of propping up one weak component – that’s why you’ll hear some of them swear that getting really good at focusing in on argument cores is the key to breaking 170 (these people likely have very strong reasoning skills and just needed to focus more energy on their reading skills), some will say that getting to a point of never misusing a conditional statement is the key (that is, they needed to firm up their reasoning skills), and, most commonly, a lot of top-scorers will say that a ton of practice is the key (practice is to your mental discipline what working out is to your muscles).

What was a key for someone else may not be the key for you. What you need is going to be dependent on what your particular weaknesses are (again, if you are close to that 170 level, I’m imagining you have a whole lot of strengths). You can use the reading/reasoning/mental discipline barometer I mentioned above, or any other general system that feels more comfortable to you, to take an honest look at what you are good at and what you are not, and, in thinking about getting to 170+, you want to make sure you cover all of the bases necessary to be the best of the best.


Still…

How can you gauge, exactly, how good you are at reading, reasoning, etc? How can you gauge how ready you are in terms of that particular issue? I’m sure you have a gut sense as to your strengths and weaknesses, and my guess is that your gut sense is pretty damn good –

I want to make a general suggestion: especially as you get closer and closer to the exam, gauge your preparedness using two considerations—your skill set, and your habits.

When we take high school exams, we generally gauge our preparedness by how well we understand the material – since those exams are designed to test, as clearly as possible, what we understand, just knowing the information that a test was about was enough to ensure success. When it comes to standardized testing, another factor comes in—strategy. Most high school tests don’t require a whole lot of strategy – you go in, regurgitate what you know, and you get out. But of course, the LSAT requires a whole lot of strategy.

And so it’s natural for us to think to use understanding and strategies as our gauges—if we know the rules of the test, and we know the best ways to attack problems, we should be fine…right?

It’s natural for us to think that way, but it’s not ideal. Understanding and strategies do not directly determine whether you will get a question right, and, if you use those factors as your gauge, you are always going to be nervous about how you will perform on test day.

Skills and habits are a far better gauge of your preparedness.

Your skills are defined by your ability to utilize your understanding, strategies, and experience in the context of real problems – your ability to turn understanding and strategies into action. Your habits determine how consistently you are able to apply you skills at their best.

Off the top of my head, here are what I would say are the general skills required for high-level success on the LSAT --

Logical Reasoning
- ability to easily and intuitively understand the task presented in the question stem
- ability to identify and understand conclusions of arguments
- ability to recognize support for conclusions
- ability to see why the support does not justify the conclusion (*the key)
- ability to recognize when particular phrases can be linked together to form additional truths (far less important than most people think)
- ability to predict characteristics of right answer and wrong answers based on what is given in the question stem and the stimulus
- ability to correctly sense the degree to which we should be able to anticipate the right answer (for example, you should be able to pretty much 100% be able to anticipate the right answer for an “ID the Conclusion,” but you should not expect to be able to anticipate the right answer for an inference question).
- ability to eliminate wrong choices based on specific and absolute reasons
- ability to use a variety of task-specific tools to confirm the correct answer

Reading Comprehension
- ability to recognize the overall reasoning structure of a passage (*the key)
- ability to correctly understand the specific tasks that each question stem presents
- ability to recognize the correct points at which it’s necessary to return to the passage for specific information
- ability to anticipate characteristics of right and wrong answers
- ability to eliminate wrong choices for specific reasons that directly relate to the question stem and the passage
- ability to confirm the right answer

Logic Games
- ability to get a big-picture understanding of the parameters of the game(*key)
- ability to correctly understand ALL rules and notate them in an intuitive and usable way (*key)
- ability to recognize most inferences as they present themselves
- ability to keep clear the distinction between what is known about a game and what is not
- ability to correctly utilize the question stem to define approach (this is a simple enough step, but in my experience the vast majority of test-takers under-utilize the information in the question stem).
- ability to intuitively recognize whether to search for a right answer or to eliminate wrong ones.
- ability to use secondary strategies, such as creating hypotheticals, when need be

I know that most of you are taking a lot of practice tests as part of your final prep (as you should) – as you review your performance on those exams, I strongly encourage you to use skills and habits to assess how you did. If you miss a question, don’t just make sure you understand why another answer is right. Think about it in terms of the skills and/or habits that let you down (I didn’t have a clear sense of what was the support vs what was the background / I wasn’t able to eliminate enough wrong answers with confidence, I gave in to temptation and considered issues outside the argument, etc). Again, feel free to use the specific skill let listed above, or any other listing you feel more comfortable with—that part doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you think about everything in terms of the actions you took, and in terms of actions you can perform better.

It may seem like a small thing, but, as you get closer and closer to the test, you will find that using skills and habits, as opposed to understanding or time spent studying or anything else as a barometer, gives you a far more accurate, less-stressful understanding of where you are in terms of how you face up to the exam.

One final final tip – when you are taking practice tests, here’s one thing I think is helpful: as you are working through a section, mark the questions for which you don’t feel 100% certain of the right answer. When you are done, after you’ve checked to see which questions you’ve missed, pay careful attention to which ones you knew to be challenging for you, and which ones you felt certain you got right but then ended up getting wrong. These different types of misses are often due to different types of issues (for example, if you misunderstand or underutilize a question stem, you are more likely to feel certain you selected the correct answer when in fact you didn’t). Commonly (though not always), the questions we miss that we feel certain we got right are more indicative of obvious, more easily correctable issues. The ones for which we get down to two choices but select the wrong choice are often – if you are taking the test at a high level – the most objectively difficult questions.

If you’ve read thus far, you clearly have the stamina for the exam – hope some of the above was helpful. If any of you have any other general questions, I’d be happy to help out if I can. I apologize ahead of time if some of my responses are going to be a bit too long and unedited (since I’m just doing this for fun, I’m not going to edit). Best of luck to everyone -- Mike

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relevantfactor
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby relevantfactor » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:23 pm

Mike,
First of all, thank you for devoting your time to write this. I'm sure it will be helpful to many.
EDIT: You know what? THANK YOU.
Last edited by relevantfactor on Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dowu
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby dowu » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:26 pm

Awesome write-up. Very much appreciated.

M.M.
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby M.M. » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:31 pm

This is why I <3 TLS.

Thanks Mike. I actually just bought the set of 3 Manhattan guides on Sunday; they should be coming in the mail by this Friday and I can't wait. The October test is looming and I'm still quite a bit away from where I want to be, but I've heard nothing but good things about your program, so I am optimistic - and sure as hell not going to give up without a fight.

What I like most of all is the advice on reviewing. I am finding it hard to review productively, honestly. I literally have almost no idea how to review for RC, Logic Games I just seem to need to work faster and make sure that my answer choice is proven before committing to it (as I sometimes see that "B looks good and the rest look wrong" so I pick B without putting in all the work without fully proving it), and with Logical Reasoning I have tried the strategy of looking at every question I got wrong / questions that were difficult and, after reading the Princeton review explanation of those questions, re-reading the question myself and writing out next to each answer choice why they were wrong.

I will be using your criteria to review, as I not only have heard nothing but good things about your materials, but obviously it is a much more elaborate and well thought out method (and obviously for RC and LG, it's better than nothing :D)

Don't apologize about the long replies - User Ixiion and I were just joking about this - as future attorneys we're going to have to get used to reading walls of text!

One more thing - upon taking my first practice test in a long time, I was nearly hysterical at the results, and posted this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=192170&p=5831913#p5831913

I have gotten slightly better at LR, but could you give me your thoughts on the questions inside?

Also - I will be using your books shortly, but if I don't score to what I think I should I was considering another prep course by Manhattan. Obviously you have an interest in me purchasing one, but I feel that I can expect a non biased response from you here when I ask:
1. Would I gain much, having already taken a course and having scored 165?
2. Would I just be going over the material I've already learned in your books?
3. Would I be going over a lot of questions I've done in a Princeton Review course? (Obviously this one might be harder to answer)
4. Overall do you think it'd help me?

I just think that the interaction of a course - being able to have my questions answered thoroughly, having an instructor explain each one, being forced to stay focused, etc. was beneficial from my Princeton Review course, and I've never been amazing at self teaching, especially, as you can see, at stuff like reviewing my mistakes and where I'm going wrong.

Thanks a ton.
Last edited by M.M. on Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Mik Ekim
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Mik Ekim » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:48 pm

relevantfactor wrote:Mike,
First of all, thank you for devoting your time to write this. I'm sure it will be helpful to many.
That said, I want to ask you a question: What do you think would be the most effective way to review?

The way I do it, is to mark the reasons why the wrong answer is wrong, why the right answer is right, how much time I took for it, and how I felt at the time when reading this question. Do you agree with this? I'm referring to RC and LR only.


I think that the ideal way to review varies somewhat based on the type of student/test-taker you are, and based on where you are in your study-process --

Sounds like you are doing a lot of significant (and positive) work reviewing -- that's great to see, and as others have mentioned on this site, reviewing your work is pretty much the best thing you can do for your score --

Here are some of my thoughts --

1) Per the criteria I mentioned in my initial post, you can think of your misses as stemming from one or more of three issues:

- you got tripped up by the reading issues in the question (you misunderstood a word, or mis-organized the stimulus)
- you got tripped up by reasoning issues (you don't understand the reasoning flaw that exists in the argument)
- you didn't solve the problem the right way

Most folks near the 170 level find that, as they get closer to the exam, the third issue is the most significant one. They already have the reading skills, and they know the reasoning issues -- it's a matter of applying it all correctly in the moment --

For problems you missed because of one of the first two issues, of course you want to make sure to go back and "relearn" the rules and such that you missed.

For problems you missed because you didn't solve them the right way, I think it's really helpful to focus on the process you used to solve the question. Think about what you thought about. Did you identify the right conclusion? Did you identify the right support? Looking back, was the flaw you saw indeed the right flaw? Most importantly: what were the things you wasted time/energy thinking about that had nothing to do with the task/differentiating between answers?

One thing I've heard often from students is that they are strong at everything except selecting between two attractive answer choices. Generally in these cases, getting stuck between two answers is NOT what went wrong for you in that question -- something went wrong well before that, and being stuck is a consequence. Think about the "perfect" way to solve a question, step by orderly step, and if you walk through the steps correctly you will find, at the end of the day, very few questions that actually have two attractive answers. Thinking about challenging questions by thinking about the step-by-step thought processes they require can really help you identify any weak areas, and make clear issues you have that may seem diffuse.

It's easy to see the significance of process in logic games, and a lot of folks have experienced the benefit of playing games over and over again, especially playing games "perfectly" -- that's great training for your unconscious. I think the same process is equally effective for Logical Reasoning -- that is, I think it's really helpful, after you've completely reviewed a question, to practice solving it "perfectly" in real time.

Sorry to be so damn long-winded -- my key point is to tie your review to to the actions involved in solving a question correctly. Think about what actions you could have performed better, and practice the process of solving questions efficiently. HTH.

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Mr. Frodo
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Mr. Frodo » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:53 pm

Thank you very much for this Mike! :lol:

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NoodleyOne
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby NoodleyOne » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:58 pm

Excellent advice.

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BlaqBella
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby BlaqBella » Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:07 pm

Mik Ekim wrote:Hi –

This is Mike Kim – I am the co-creator (along with Dan Gonzalez) of the Manhattan LSAT curriculum, and I am the co-author of the Manhattan strategy guides.

At the moment, I am semi-retired from the LSAT teaching world, but I do miss talking to people about the test, and I must admit that I love coming to TLS from time to time to get my LSAT fix. In particular, I like following the people who end up actively participating in the study-groups. They tend to be a self-selecting group, and cycle after cycle it seems there are great groups of hardworking students who push each other and ultimately end up with some pretty remarkable results – like clockwork, it happens again and again, cycle after cycle – as a teacher, I really draw a lot of inspiration from this.

I know that a lot of you, with the October test looming, are thinking about how you can ensure that you’ll end up scoring at a 170+ level. Of course, I know a lot of great stuff has been written about this subject on TLS already, but I also feel that I have a unique vantage point from which I can give some additional information. For one, at Manhattan LSAT, I was surrounded by truly the best of the best – teachers who were all pretty much at the top of the field already before joining us, and since my job was to think about curriculum, I spent a lot of time thinking about the various ways that they approached the test (and there were some significant differences in style). In addition, I also interviewed a ton of 172+ scorers and got to see how they all thought through problems and solved the test. Finally, I’ve worked with a lot of students, and I’ve seen a lot of them get to and even surpass their goals, and unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of them not get there. I feel that this broad range of experience is unique, and helps me see some things that other people don’t get to see.

Here’s the point I’d really like to make: a 170+ score is not necessarily an indication of exceptional ability in any one particular area. You don’t necessarily have to be much better at understanding conditional statements, or faster at diagramming games than the 165-scorer is.

The far more important characteristic that differentiates top scores is the full combination of skills that they have. For my fellow math nerds -- to get a 1 in a 1000 score, you don’t need 1 in a 1000 skills – you need 1 in 10 reasoning skill X 1 in 10 reading skills X 1 in 10 mental reasoning ability (obviously that’s a gross over-simplification, but I think the point is clear).

Here’s another way to think about it: sure, your score is based on right and wrong, but more directly, it’s based on how you do relative to the other test-takers (or, to be more accurate, a simulation of the other test-takers determined by previously used experimental sections). The LSAT is a competition, and the most accurate way to think about a 170+ score is that you scored in the top 2.5% of all test-takers. Imagine forty people in a room taking the LSAT. In order to get in the top 2.5%, you have to be the best of those forty. To be confident you are going to get that score, you have to be confident that in any such group, you are likely to be the best.

After years and years of thinking about the test, I’ve come to see the LSAT as a test of three primary issues:

1) your reading ability – they care about two primary components of this – your ability to understand the meaning of common words used in argumentation (since, however, or, therefore, all, etc.), and your ability to see reasoning structure, the relationship between the components of a sentence or a stimulus (your ability to identify a main point, its support, etc).

2) your reasoning ability – again, just two primary components here – your ability to see how two ideas are able to be linked together (as in logic games), and (most importantly) your ability to see why the support given for a LR argument is not sufficient to justify a conclusion reached.

3) your mental discipline – you can simply think of this as your ability to stay on task and not get tempted away to thoughts that stray from that task. Two examples of situations in which mental discipline is critical: during the logical reasoning section, when jumping from question to question, since each question requires something unique from us, and if we’ve not careful we’ll end up mixing up, even without knowing it, strategies for different types of questions, and during the answering of logic games questions, when sometimes we ought to be focused on eliminating wrong choices, and other times on identifying the right answer choice – it’s easy to get lost in doing one when we are supposed to do the other, and that’s invariably a huge waste of our precious time.

Every single challenge on the LSAT can be connected, in a very direct way, to the issues mentioned above.

Now, think about yourself in that room of 40 test-takers.

You want to feel confident that you’ll get 170+? Some people in there might be better readers than you are. And some of them may have reasoning instincts that better match the exam. That’s okay. You can feel confident if you know that no one in that group has your combination of advanced reading and reasoning skills, and your level of mental discipline.

Most test-takers who are near that 170 level are already strong in a lot of areas. For a lot of them, it’s a matter of propping up one weak component – that’s why you’ll hear some of them swear that getting really good at focusing in on argument cores is the key to breaking 170 (these people likely have very strong reasoning skills and just needed to focus more energy on their reading skills), some will say that getting to a point of never misusing a conditional statement is the key (that is, they needed to firm up their reasoning skills), and, most commonly, a lot of top-scorers will say that a ton of practice is the key (practice is to your mental discipline what working out is to your muscles).

What was a key for someone else may not be the key for you. What you need is going to be dependent on what your particular weaknesses are (again, if you are close to that 170 level, I’m imagining you have a whole lot of strengths). You can use the reading/reasoning/mental discipline barometer I mentioned above, or any other general system that feels more comfortable to you, to take an honest look at what you are good at and what you are not, and, in thinking about getting to 170+, you want to make sure you cover all of the bases necessary to be the best of the best.


Still…

How can you gauge, exactly, how good you are at reading, reasoning, etc? How can you gauge how ready you are in terms of that particular issue? I’m sure you have a gut sense as to your strengths and weaknesses, and my guess is that your gut sense is pretty damn good –

I want to make a general suggestion: especially as you get closer and closer to the exam, gauge your preparedness using two considerations—your skill set, and your habits.

When we take high school exams, we generally gauge our preparedness by how well we understand the material – since those exams are designed to test, as clearly as possible, what we understand, just knowing the information that a test was about was enough to ensure success. When it comes to standardized testing, another factor comes in—strategy. Most high school tests don’t require a whole lot of strategy – you go in, regurgitate what you know, and you get out. But of course, the LSAT requires a whole lot of strategy.

And so it’s natural for us to think to use understanding and strategies as our gauges—if we know the rules of the test, and we know the best ways to attack problems, we should be fine…right?

It’s natural for us to think that way, but it’s not ideal. Understanding and strategies do not directly determine whether you will get a question right, and, if you use those factors as your gauge, you are always going to be nervous about how you will perform on test day.

Skills and habits are a far better gauge of your preparedness.

Your skills are defined by your ability to utilize your understanding, strategies, and experience in the context of real problems – your ability to turn understanding and strategies into action. Your habits determine how consistently you are able to apply you skills at their best.

Off the top of my head, here are what I would say are the general skills required for high-level success on the LSAT --

Logical Reasoning
- ability to easily and intuitively understand the task presented in the question stem
- ability to identify and understand conclusions of arguments
- ability to recognize support for conclusions
- ability to see why the support does not justify the conclusion (*the key)
- ability to recognize when particular phrases can be linked together to form additional truths (far less important than most people think)
- ability to predict characteristics of right answer and wrong answers based on what is given in the question stem and the stimulus
- ability to correctly sense the degree to which we should be able to anticipate the right answer (for example, you should be able to pretty much 100% be able to anticipate the right answer for an “ID the Conclusion,” but you should not expect to be able to anticipate the right answer for an inference question).
- ability to eliminate wrong choices based on specific and absolute reasons
- ability to use a variety of task-specific tools to confirm the correct answer

Reading Comprehension
- ability to recognize the overall reasoning structure of a passage (*the key)
- ability to correctly understand the specific tasks that each question stem presents
- ability to recognize the correct points at which it’s necessary to return to the passage for specific information
- ability to anticipate characteristics of right and wrong answers
- ability to eliminate wrong choices for specific reasons that directly relate to the question stem and the passage
- ability to confirm the right answer

Logic Games
- ability to get a big-picture understanding of the parameters of the game(*key)
- ability to correctly understand ALL rules and notate them in an intuitive and usable way (*key)
- ability to recognize most inferences as they present themselves
- ability to keep clear the distinction between what is known about a game and what is not
- ability to correctly utilize the question stem to define approach (this is a simple enough step, but in my experience the vast majority of test-takers under-utilize the information in the question stem).
- ability to intuitively recognize whether to search for a right answer or to eliminate wrong ones.
- ability to use secondary strategies, such as creating hypotheticals, when need be

I know that most of you are taking a lot of practice tests as part of your final prep (as you should) – as you review your performance on those exams, I strongly encourage you to use skills and habits to assess how you did. If you miss a question, don’t just make sure you understand why another answer is right. Think about it in terms of the skills and/or habits that let you down (I didn’t have a clear sense of what was the support vs what was the background / I wasn’t able to eliminate enough wrong answers with confidence, I gave in to temptation and considered issues outside the argument, etc). Again, feel free to use the specific skill let listed above, or any other listing you feel more comfortable with—that part doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you think about everything in terms of the actions you took, and in terms of actions you can perform better.

It may seem like a small thing, but, as you get closer and closer to the test, you will find that using skills and habits, as opposed to understanding or time spent studying or anything else as a barometer, gives you a far more accurate, less-stressful understanding of where you are in terms of how you face up to the exam.

One final final tip – when you are taking practice tests, here’s one thing I think is helpful: as you are working through a section, mark the questions for which you don’t feel 100% certain of the right answer. When you are done, after you’ve checked to see which questions you’ve missed, pay careful attention to which ones you knew to be challenging for you, and which ones you felt certain you got right but then ended up getting wrong. These different types of misses are often due to different types of issues (for example, if you misunderstand or underutilize a question stem, you are more likely to feel certain you selected the correct answer when in fact you didn’t). Commonly (though not always), the questions we miss that we feel certain we got right are more indicative of obvious, more easily correctable issues. The ones for which we get down to two choices but select the wrong choice are often – if you are taking the test at a high level – the most objectively difficult questions.

If you’ve read thus far, you clearly have the stamina for the exam – hope some of the above was helpful. If any of you have any other general questions, I’d be happy to help out if I can. I apologize ahead of time if some of my responses are going to be a bit too long and unedited (since I’m just doing this for fun, I’m not going to edit). Best of luck to everyone -- Mike



HI MIKE!!!!! This is a former student of yours. You are GRAVELY missed!

Thanks for taking the time to make this wonderful post. I will print out and use as my own reminder.

Thanks again!!!

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wtrc
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby wtrc » Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:18 pm

Wow, thanks for this Mike!!

Interested in your perspective- let's say a student has limited time to study, and, while they will review all three sections, wants to focus on one. Would you recommend focusing on LG (easily the most learnable, but least points), or LR (double the points, overlap with RC)?

Mik Ekim
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Mik Ekim » Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:19 pm

thanks blaqbella -- i wish i knew which student you were! good luck with your studying and I'm glad you found the post helpful - mike

Mik Ekim
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Mik Ekim » Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:42 pm

M.M. wrote:This is why I <3 TLS.

Thanks Mike. I actually just bought the set of 3 Manhattan guides on Sunday; they should be coming in the mail by this Friday and I can't wait. The October test is looming and I'm still quite a bit away from where I want to be, but I've heard nothing but good things about your program, so I am optimistic - and sure as hell not going to give up without a fight.

What I like most of all is the advice on reviewing. I am finding it hard to review productively, honestly. I literally have almost no idea how to review for RC, Logic Games I just seem to need to work faster and make sure that my answer choice is proven before committing to it (as I sometimes see that "B looks good and the rest look wrong" so I pick B without putting in all the work without fully proving it), and with Logical Reasoning I have tried the strategy of looking at every question I got wrong / questions that were difficult and, after reading the Princeton review explanation of those questions, re-reading the question myself and writing out next to each answer choice why they were wrong.

I will be using your criteria to review, as I not only have heard nothing but good things about your materials, but obviously it is a much more elaborate and well thought out method (and obviously for RC and LG, it's better than nothing :D)

Don't apologize about the long replies - User Ixiion and I were just joking about this - as future attorneys we're going to have to get used to reading walls of text!

One more thing - upon taking my first practice test in a long time, I was nearly hysterical at the results, and posted this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=192170&p=5831913#p5831913

I have gotten slightly better at LR, but could you give me your thoughts on the questions inside?

Also - I will be using your books shortly, but if I don't score to what I think I should I was considering another prep course by Manhattan. Obviously you have an interest in me purchasing one, but I feel that I can expect a non biased response from you here when I ask:
1. Would I gain much, having already taken a course and having scored 165?
2. Would I just be going over the material I've already learned in your books?
3. Would I be going over a lot of questions I've done in a Princeton Review course? (Obviously this one might be harder to answer)
4. Overall do you think it'd help me?

I just think that the interaction of a course - being able to have my questions answered thoroughly, having an instructor explain each one, being forced to stay focused, etc. was beneficial from my Princeton Review course, and I've never been amazing at self teaching, especially, as you can see, at stuff like reviewing my mistakes and where I'm going wrong.

Thanks a ton.


I read through the post you linked to -- it sounds like you are in a tough spot -- I can just imagine the wave you've gone through -- you felt on pace earlier on in your process, and now here comes the finish line, and you suddenly find you are going backwards --

Here are the things that I think are most helpful for the general questions you are asking -- let me know if I missed anything important --

- I think that the main benefit you will get from taking a manhattan class is pretty much exactly what you said -- you get some experience with someone who is really in-tune with the exam, and the type of back and forth interaction you get facilitates a great deal of super-efficient learning.

- however, learning--understanding better the issues on the exam and the best strategies for the exam--is a necessary but not sufficient aspect of performing well. You won't do much better on the exam just because you know more --

- you get better at the lsat by getting better at the lsat. it's very much like working out to get in shape. it helps to have the best trainer, and to know the best techniques, but what actually determines whether you get in shape is the work that you do yourself.

- you mentioned that your score went down a bit after you spent some time not studying as intensely -- that's perfectly understandable -- you get out of shape when you work out less.

- it's also understandable that your score dips a bit after you learn new systems or change approaches. Using new strategies and thinking about new things forces you to take your next exam on a more "conscious" level -- this hurts because it prevents you from fully taking advantage of your own advanced, intuitive, thinking habits. With more and more work, expect that you will naturally develop new habits that better align with the systems you are learning, and expect your score to go up as a consequence.

- so here's my point: i think a class is a great aid, and of course i happen to think that you can't get better than manhattan. however, whether you take a course or not, your score is going to be based on how good you get at solving problems in real time -- it's going to depend on the work you do outside of class. do a ton of category-specific questions, and work on integrating them into full practice tests. it's clear you've got the natural aptitude for the exam -- make sure that you make the development of skills and habits your primary focus for a few weeks, and see where your score is at that point. HTH -- again, feel free to tell me if i'm off the mark in terms of what you need, or if you have any other q's.

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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby drive4showLSAT4dough » Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:48 pm

This thread is awesome.

Inconsistent RC is essentially the difference between mid 160s and low 170s for me. Any tips for people who struggle with the least learnable section of the test? I want to rountinize the section the way I can for LG, which I find to be cake.

Thanks.

Mik Ekim
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Mik Ekim » Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:19 pm

drive4showLSAT4dough wrote:This thread is awesome.

Inconsistent RC is essentially the difference between mid 160s and low 170s for me. Any tips for people who struggle with the least learnable section of the test? I want to rountinize the section the way I can for LG, which I find to be cake.

Thanks.


Students have trouble finalizing the deal w/RC for a variety of issues, and of course I have no idea what it is that is holding you back --

In my opinion (and this is just an opinion--this goes against the way that a lot of companies teach RC, and it goes against the opinions of a lot of top teachers / scorers) -- the main problem that people have when it comes to RC is that they try to retain too much information at once. They try to keep track of eight different types of things as they read, and, worst of all, often there are no connections between these things that they are trying to keep track of. Personally, I cannot read well when I try to do something like that.

The negative effects of trying to think of too much, and the positive effects of being able to prioritize information, are really clear when we think about LR questions. I'm sure you've noticed -- when you pay equal attention to all parts of an LR stimulus, the wrong answers become more attractive. When you prioritize the critical components (typically the "core") the difference between right and wrong answers becomes far more obvious. I believe the same exact thing happens in RC.

As you know, I've written a book with my thoughts about LSAT RC, so I won't bore you here with step by step details --

But here's some general advice you might find helpful (again, keep in mind that this fairly subjective advice -- different people will advocate, for good reason, different strategies) --

1) As you read the passage, focus entirely on reasoning structure -- the reason why parts of the passage are where they are. The most important elements to recognize are the main points (generally, but not always, there are two contrasting ones), and, just like the conclusion of an LR argument defines all other roles, the main points in an RC passage define all other roles. The other parts of the passage serve to support, go against, or serve as background for those main points. If you can understand exactly what the main points are, and how the other parts of the passage, in a very general way, relate to those main points (in particular, how opinions relate to those main points) -- you will be in perfect shape to answer questions. Again, try to think about less, and try to give more attention to the issues you do need to think about.

2) Have a very clearly defined process for each of the different question types. Write these processes out on notecards if need be, and hold them up each time you do a problem until the correct process becomes habit. Different questions require vastly different strategies (for example, if a question asks about a specific detail, I will go into the text, find the detail, learn everything I can about it, then go into the answer choices, but if a question is about the passage as a whole, I will anticipate the right answer, eliminate wrong choices, then go into the text at the end to confirm my right answer), and yet most test-takers don't work to develop question-specific habits -- make sure you focus on this.

3) and personally, I think it's important to set the right expectations for your first read. I do not expect to "guess" at which details they will ask me questions about, and in fact I do not expect my initial read to give me answers to specific questions at all. What I expect is that my first read will give me the correct overall understanding of the passage. This allows me to answer general questions easily, and it always me to have the right instincts (where to look in the passage, what tone to look for etc) when it comes to selecting right answers for specific questions. I think too many people try to do too much with that initial read, and it inhibits them from performing the important tasks well.

It takes a lot of practice to change how you read. Again, if the above advice seems to apply to you, give it a shot prioritizing reasoning structure (and not focusing on too much else) in your initial read, and spending more time going back to the text for specific questions when you have to. Hope that hits the spot somewhat -- please feel free to follow up if need be.
Last edited by Mik Ekim on Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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relevantfactor
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby relevantfactor » Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:29 pm

Wow. A lot of great advice here.
Thank you very much Mike.

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BlaqBella
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby BlaqBella » Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:35 pm

This thread should be stickied. :mrgreen:

Mik Ekim
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Mik Ekim » Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:37 pm

relevantfactor wrote:Wow. A lot of great advice here.
Thank you very much Mike.


You're welcome! Thanks for the thanks. Glad to be of use.

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Pocahontas
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Pocahontas » Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:44 pm

I needed this. Awesome thread!

Mik Ekim
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Mik Ekim » Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:19 pm

weathercoins wrote:Wow, thanks for this Mike!!

Interested in your perspective- let's say a student has limited time to study, and, while they will review all three sections, wants to focus on one. Would you recommend focusing on LG (easily the most learnable, but least points), or LR (double the points, overlap with RC)?


I promise I'll answer your question, but I have another point as well --

- if you have limited time to study, if at all possible, you should wait to take the exam until you have more time to study. I understand life sometimes makes this impossible but, whether fair or not, the LSAT is simply too important to your future career prospects for you not to score at your very best.

- if you do have to study with limited time -- where you devote your time should be based on the areas that allow for the fastest, most significant improvement -- what white-collar guys talk about as "the lowest hanging fruit."

To me, these are the most fundamental skills:

For LR-
-clear understanding of what is required of you for each type of question/specific habits for each type of question
-ability to separate out the argument and focus on the conclusion
-ability to consistently see the gap between support and point

For RC-
-clear understanding of what is required of you for each type of question/specific habits for each type of question
-ability to read for reasoning structure

For LG-
-clear and distinct habits for each type of question
-able to get a big picture understanding of ANY logic game you might see
-ability to clearly understand and notate (in a simple and usable way) ANY rule that you might see

For me, those are the lowest hanging fruit for each section -- if you are weak in any one of those areas, propping that area up will offer great benefit for your overall score. HTH.

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wtrc
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby wtrc » Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:28 pm

Thank you so much for the advice!

drive4showLSAT4dough
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby drive4showLSAT4dough » Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:32 pm

Mik Ekim wrote:
drive4showLSAT4dough wrote:This thread is awesome.

Inconsistent RC is essentially the difference between mid 160s and low 170s for me. Any tips for people who struggle with the least learnable section of the test? I want to rountinize the section the way I can for LG, which I find to be cake.

Thanks.


The negative effects of trying to think of too much, and the positive effects of being able to prioritize information, are really clear when we think about LR questions. I'm sure you've noticed -- when you pay equal attention to all parts of an LR stimulus, the wrong answers become more attractive. When you prioritize the critical components (typically the "core") the difference between right and wrong answers becomes far more obvious. I believe the same exact thing happens in RC.

2) Have a very clearly defined process for each of the different question types. Write these processes out on notecards if need be, and hold them up each time you do a problem until the correct process becomes habit. Different questions require vastly different strategies (for example, if a question asks about a specific detail, I will go into the text, find the detail, learn everything I can about it, then go into the answer choices, but if a question is about the passage as a whole, I will anticipate the right answer, eliminate wrong choices, then go into the text at the end to confirm my right answer), and yet most test-takers don't work to develop question-specific habits -- make sure you focus on this.


Thank you. #2 really resonated with me, especially in contrast to logic games, where I always know the set up, and it's generally just a matter of plug and chug. I think I'll be a lot more confident addressing each answer choice once my response to the question type is purely habit.

Your broader point -- to initially focus on absorbing the general perspectives and structure -- is one that I imagine it will take some time to get down, but I totally buy what you're saying. I've been in the "anticipate the key details" camp, and I think it was at the expense of each passage's big picture. I missed general questions too consistently. Thanks again for all your help. I'm sure many others will benefit as well.

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FantasticMrFox
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby FantasticMrFox » Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:36 pm

Enjoyed reading that. Thanks

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theprophet89
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby theprophet89 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:41 pm

Pocahontas wrote:I needed this. Awesome thread!

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Captain Rodeo
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Captain Rodeo » Wed Aug 29, 2012 11:08 pm

This is fantastic, distilled and protein rich information. Thank you so much.

Locke89
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby Locke89 » Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:55 am

Very useful post. Thanks for putting this together!

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312ldn
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Re: some thoughts on how to get to 170 and beyond

Postby 312ldn » Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:19 pm

Thanks for this. Much appreciated!




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