In my last post, I framed the LSAT as a mental athletic contest. It is, simple as that. Your objective isn’t just understanding the material on the LSAT, it’s also performing when you have to perform. As I said there, most LSAT prep programs don’t spend any attention on the second of these, and that’s one reason why people’s scores often fall on test day—not just a little bit, but dramatically. I’ve had people call me to say that they’ve practiced in the mid-160s, only to have their test day score fall to below 150. That’s not 4 or 5 questions at the top of the curve, that’s falling from a pretty nice height to well under the 50th percentile. It’s also not, unfortunately, uncommon.
Last time, I said that just like in a game, you have to approach some basics correctly. You have to know your opponent (the LSAT, not other test-takers), know that there are rules (the LSAT is not trying to trick you—they can’t without destroying the statistical reliability of the test itself) and know the defense (that is, what are they throwing at you). Here, I want to talk mostly about the last of these.
There has been nothing new on the LSAT for about 20 years. The LSAT asks 20 types of questions, no more, and on any given test, they ask about 17 types. The concentrations vary—sometimes there are path games, sometimes there aren’t, sometimes there are a lot of flaw questions, sometimes more assumption questions, and so on. But there’s nothing new.
Each of those question types depends on what the LSAT thinks a valid argument is. That’s hasn’t changed either. And each of them (including analytical reasoning, which is all about implications) is subject to certain rules. That is the task of your best LSAT prep—to understand and execute the rules for each question type. There are significant overlaps in those techniques, but you do have to know that (and how) the LSAT defense deploys a little differently for assumption questions than it does for discrepancy questions (because they are asking about different parts of the argument), for grid games in contrast with line games.
More, you need a rigorous but straightforward process to defeat those defenses. This is gospel at Advise-In. If you’re a football fan, as I am, you just see the difference between great and not-so-great quarterback play. The great quarterbacks are consistent—they go through their reads without fear, and check down until they find the open receiver. (The analogy isn’t perfect because sometimes the defense surprises, which shouldn’t happen on the LSAT). The not-so great quarterbacks are fidgeting their feet, their eyes lock on to one receiver, they make ill-advised throws, or their eyes are shifting all over the place in the hope that something will emerge from the chaos. For them, it is chaos; for the great quarterback, it’s not—they’ve seen the defenses, mostly, and are calm and disciplined. The game is simply slower and simpler for them.
LSAT takers have an additional potential advantage even over the great quarterback. You’ve seen the LSAT playbook—their released tests—and can infer EXACTLY How they’re thinking about any particular question from the hundreds you have available to work though.
That’s different from random practice, or even a lot of practice that isn’t done with the consistent objective of asking, “How are they thinking so that they arrive at this answer?” “How do I refine my process to get to that answer?” And “How can I get to that answer on test day?”
There will be pressures and distractions on test day, of course. And that’s another reason to focus on developing a simple, straightforward process—without jargon and without having to do the mental gymnastics that some programs recommend, for example, numbering question types, and so requiring you to translate them into plain language while you’re trying to take the test. You will get tired, you will get distracted. What you want is to be able to quickly reground yourself; “ok, not focused, go back, what is my next step on this question?”
It took me a long time—because I didn’t have this me to help the old me—to develop a clear, simple process for each question type and then to be able to execute under time pressure. But it worked—I got a 180 the only time I took the test, and have worked consistently to make the processes
even cleaner since then. It’s one of the reasons why Advise-In’s results are outstanding. In the last 3 test cycles, clients have improved by over 13 points and over 40 percentiles, on average. And those who consistently followed my program did even better. That speaks for itself.
It’s a lot of work; more important, it’s the right kind of work, not simply endless practice without honing the methods that are effective for specific clients. But if you want your best law school opportunities—both for admissions and financial aid—it’s worth it.
by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on February 17, 2019.