Advice on improving your score from an LSAT tutor/high scorer

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Advice on improving your score from an LSAT tutor/high scorer

Postby tr5890 » Thu Jul 06, 2017 5:13 pm

This subject has been beaten to death on TLS, but I thought I'd share some of my thoughts before I head off to law school and likely never utter the term "LSAT" again.

My experience: I took the LSAT three times. The first time I scored around the 95th percentile. I took it a year later and cancelled my score (test anxiety), and finally took it a few months later and improved by 10 points. I started tutoring the test after my first take, and I have worked with about two dozen students. I'm attending HYS this fall.

There are only two reasons why your LSAT score is lower than your dream score:

1. You don't know how to answer questions correctly.
2. You can't answer questions fast enough.

It's easy to figure out which one of the two is your main problem. Simply sit down and answer some questions untimed. If you miss very few, it's likely a timing issue. If you miss nearly all of them, it's the other problem.

Obviously, understanding how to answer questions correctly is your first step. If you're at the beginning of your prep, find a program that works and learn the basics (Powerscore Bibles, LSAT Trainer, a prep class). Any of these will be enough to introduce you to the fundamental tools (identifying parts of an argument, setting up a basic logic game, reading for structure, etc.) you need to succeed on the exam. The next step is practicing these tools using real LSAT questions. If you're working just for understanding, you might consider working under untimed conditions, and later add time pressure to your prep.

To move to the next level of understanding (evaluating very tough LR questions, diagramming tricky games), here is a list of skills I've noticed my top students have (which is by no means exhaustive):

Logic Games:
Able to make nearly all useful inferences while setting up the game.
Able to make few, if any, mistakes in diagramming rules, and know when something is wrong their original diagram.
When given a hypothetical (e.g. if B is on slot 5), able to use the rules to draw every inference available before solving the question.
When given a rule substitution, able to test whether it actually substitutes the rule (i.e. it neither restricts any old nor opens any new possibilities).
Able to suspend traditional diagramming notation for a unique game (see games like the virus game in 79, last game of 72).

Logical Reasoning:
Able to know exactly what the question asks you to find every time (e.g. sufficient vs. necessary, disagree vs. agree), and accurately identify the conclusion.
Able to distinguish between necessary and sufficient assumptions.*
Able to know exactly what the claim is about (i.e. know it's scope).**
Able to not get caught up in scientific jargon or abstract philosophical concepts and instead focus on causality (e.g. turn the word glottis into "G", and knwo when "G" gets bigger "H" gets smaller).
Able to distinguish between unimportant and important information in the stimulus (i.e. does it relate to the claim?).
Able to accurately diagram parallel reasoning answer choices and stimuli.

Reading Comp:
Able to know exactly how a paragraph relates to the paragraph preceding it (e.g. gave an example of the method described in the paragraph before).
Able to state in a few very short phrase or sentence what each paragraph was about (e.g. qualified the main argument, gave third example of how the discovery applies to the real world).
Able to pick up on any words that reveal the author's opinion (e.g. her aesthetic style was revolutionary for her time).

Timing issues are different than simply understanding the material. The most efficient way to fix timing issues is not picking the right answer choice more quickly, but eliminating wrong answer choices faster.

Here are some tips to do that:

Logic Games:
For questions that give you a hypothetical (e.g. If G is in group A, what must be true), set up a new diagram and make as many inferences as you can. Then go to the answer choices.

For questions that do not give you a hypothetical, come back to them after you've answered the other questions, using the work you've done before to eliminate answer choices.

For rule questions (e.g. Which of the following is an accurate listing of the elements to groups?), go through the answer choices using the rules (i.e. start with a rule, then check each answer choice with that rule), instead of checking each answer choice by itself. Pick the easiest rule first, and then work through the harder rules.

Don't waste time trying to notate difficult rules, just write them down where you'll see them (e.g. group 2 has exactly two of the same members as group 3, write under the two groups "= exactly 2").

When you think you've made a mistake diagramming the game, go back and check your diagram. You should never get two right answers.

Logical Reasoning:
If you can, think about the argument in terms of time. For example, what happened first, second, third, etc. If it asks you to find a missing piece (i.e. necessary assumption), you'll know where the chain breaks apart. The correct answer choice will address this directly.

Know the difference between "should" and "does" (i.e normative and positive arguments). If the question asks you to justify a principle, it's asking you to say when something should occur. If it's asking you to make an inference, it's asking you what does occur. For example, if the stimulus says a policy was violated and someone was punished, and the question asks you to justify the principle, you need to find something that says "if the policy is violated, then someone should be punished." If the stimulus says the same thing, but the question asks for an inference, you need to find something like, "if the policy is violated, someone can be punished."

On parallel reasoning, know the flaw! Why is the argument bad (if it is)? Sometimes there's more than one reason, and you need all the flaws in the answer choice. Look for words like "probably" and "definitely." If the conclusion in the stimulus ends with "therefore, he probably committed treason" and an answer choices says "therefore, she certainly fled the scene," then they don't match.

Know what two pieces don't fit together in explain the discrepancy questions. For example, if a lake is being polluted and the air is getting cleaner, you have to find something that explains both of these things. Wrong answer choices will fix one of them, like "the company started dumping toxins into the lake at a faster rate," but won't address the other problem (the air). Right answer choices tackle both, something like "the company started dumping toxins in the lake instead of releasing them into the air."

Reading Comp:
The tips in the section on this above allow you to find things in the passages more quickly. For example, if you're passage is about a painters three different career paths, you will know which paragraph deals with the second one if you use the method above. So when the question asks you about the second path, you know where to go immediately to find the answer.

On the main idea questions, be skeptical of any "facts" they give you in the answer choices. If they say something is a "recent" development, the passage has to tell you it is a "recent" or new development. The more specific they are, the more likely the answer choice will have incorrect information. If you can't find it, the answer choice isn't right.

Try to eliminate the stronger answer choice. By this I mean that if you are between two or three answer choices, the one that makes a bigger (or more specific) claim is likely the wrong answer. For example, if the question asks you "Why would a court reporter want to examine a piece of evidence?" and you're between "Because nearly every time a piece of evidence is used, the reporter will likely find a new story to write about" and "Because evidence can sometimes lead to a new development in a story," the first answer choice is a much bigger claim to support, because you'd have to show that almost every time evidence is observed by a reporter, it has a good chance of leading to a new story." The weaker of those two answer choices (the second one), is much easier to support.***

A few final pieces of advice:
Try to find someone to study with. Going over answer choices, questions, ideas, etc. and verbalizing your thoughts is a great study tool.
If you feel the pressure of the exam is too much, read the book "Performing under Pressure" by Weisenger.
The exam is beatable, but only if you can beat the clock. You have to be able to get rid of wrong answer choices as fast as possible. The best way to do that is to practice with real LSAT practice tests in timed conditions.

*The test writers will throw in both in tough questions. If you're looking for a necessary assumption, you may find an answer choice that fixes the argument, but assumes more than you need. For example, if the claim is "The table will be moved," a necessary assumption is that force will be applied to it. A sufficient assumption (but not necessary) is that an earthquake will cause it to move across the room.

**Sometimes I find that students don't pick up on the important words of the claim. For example, if the claim is "The plague was the primary cause of the extinction," you need to support that the plague was the most important cause, not simply a contributing cause or big reason for the extinction (i.e. that it was a bigger reason than any other reason, that's a big claim!). Wrong answer choices may say something like "The plague killed many members of the species." Right answer choices will say something like, "it was not possible for another cause to have such an effect."

***Notice that if the first answer choice is true, the second must also be true.

King of the North

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Re: Advice on improving your score from an LSAT tutor/high scorer

Postby King of the North » Thu Jul 06, 2017 5:32 pm

Thanks for taking the time to post this. Planning on taking in Dec. for the first time any this is helpful.

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Re: Advice on improving your score from an LSAT tutor/high scorer

Postby tuna_wasabi » Sat Jul 08, 2017 10:49 am

Thanks for this! Will return to this thread from time to time.

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Re: Advice on improving your score from an LSAT tutor/high scorer

Postby Experiment626 » Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:21 am

Appreciate you posting this. I'm reading through the book and I can already tell it will help with dealing with my test day performance anxiety issues.

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