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I’ve written before about slowing down to speed up, but how slow is too slow? And how do you know how much time to devote to the setup of LSAT Logic Games as opposed to the questions?
The reality is, it varies wildly from game to game. There are some games where I’ve read the scenario, diagrammed the rules, and moved on to the first question in about a minute. And there are other games where I’ve spent five full minutes digesting the game and setting everything up before considering myself ready to attack the questions.
Front End vs. Back End LSAT Logic Games
One big determinant of how much time you should spend setting up a game is what type of game it is. Open Grouping games, for example (grouping games where the number of elements in each group is undefined), often require an upfront investment of time to make multiple passes through the rules and derive inferences about the maximum and minimum size of each group. In these LSAT Logic Games, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you move on to the questions without making those inferences.
Relative Ordering games, on the other hand, tend to have straightforward setups: connect the rules, build the tree, note any strays or floaters (elements connected to only one other element, or none at all), and attack the questions. The exception to this rule is when you have a tricky conditional rule such as F is before G only if H is after J. In these instances, you’ll want to frame the game, building multiple master diagrams to exhaustively represent the possible ways that nasty rule could play out.
As a general principle, the more twisty and complex the game, the more time you should devote to the setup. The vast majority of the time, this investment will pay dividends as you go through the questions.
Frames are often an effective way to turn what seems like a difficult game into a more straightforward one. But this strategy is certainly not reserved for complex LSAT Logic Games. Whenever you have an either/or split in the rules that will make some dominos fall, it’s a good idea to frame. In these cases, even with relatively straightforward LSAT Logic Games, you’ll likely spend at least a few minutes building the frames before diving into the questions. As always, this front-end investment should allow you to breeze your way through the questions.
As you proceed through the setup, one important question to ask yourself is: am I making progress? If you’re making inferences and learning about the game, have confidence that you’re investing your time wisely. What you want to avoid is spending minutes staring at a game hoping that something will click and magically unlock the secrets of the game.
That said, don’t feel compelled to make every single inference up front. Recall that Relative Ordering games tend to involve very speedy setups. If you wanted to make every single negative inference based on your tree, you could spend an inordinate amount of time noting every restriction on each element: F can’t go in 1, 2, or 3, G can’t go in 5 or 6, etc. But those inferences are likely to muddle up your diagram, and they are unlikely to be particularly helpful. Every logic game can be solved even without making every possible inference at the outset; don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
If you’re having time trouble in the LSAT Logic Games section and you’re wondering if you’re allocating your time efficiently, generate some data: Use the lap function on your phone’s stopwatch, and hit “lap” when you finish the setup and again after each question. Are you rushing into the questions on complex games? Or are you spending five minutes considering every possible implication of a rule in a straightforward Basic Ordering game? Investigate whether, when you spend more time on the setup, you’re recouping that time on the questions. Finally, make sure you never spend more than two minutes on a single question. If you haven’t gotten it by then, it’s time to star it and move on. 📝
Daniel Fogel is a Manhattan Prep LSAT instructor based in Miami, Florida. He has a degree in government and legal studies from Claremont McKenna College. Daniel scored a 179 on the LSAT and a 770 on the GMAT, which he also teaches. Fun fact: he’s a former top-ranked competitive Scrabble player. Intrigued? Check out Daniel’s upcoming LSAT courses here!