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It’d be great if on each logic game you made every inference upfront, built some fantastic frames, and had all the answers already drawn into your diagram before you even started the questions.
But it’s not going to happen.
Unless you spend way more time than you have to really dive into the game or write out all possible board states, you’re going to miss something. You’re probably going to miss several things. And that’s okay.
Experts on the test will tell you that some inferences are not worth the time they’d take to find, and testing out answers to find the correct one isn’t just a valid way to get that point, but it’s sometimes the fastest way. And if you start with (A) and work your way down, you can absolutely keep your timing in check as long as you have a process for drawing out a hypothetical (aim for ~20 seconds per and you’re golden).
But if you watch an expert work through the test, you’ll notice that most, when testing out answers, won’t start with (A) and move down. Instead, we’ll skip around based on a prioritization system we have.
What goes into this prioritization?
1. The more restricted the element, the more likely it is to be correct in a Must Be question.
2. The less restricted the element, the more likely it is to be correct in a Could Be question.
3. If the question type is weird and doesn’t neatly fall into the above (e.g., Which one of the following pairs of elements is it true that at least one of them must be included?), think about how you’d test the answer choices and decide accordingly. (To test the above, I’d place both elements Out and look for a pair that breaks the game in that case. So I’d prioritize answers that would create problems if they were both Out, probably because they brought other elements with them and might break the group size.)
4. Don’t forget to look at the second half of the answer! Most/least restricted elements are one guide as to which answers you should test first. However, the slot or group they’re being placed in should also guide you. Two examples:
a. In general, the first and last slots are better for questions about things that must be true, absent any specific rule pointing at another slot.
b. In general, if the element in the answer has other elements after it, later slots in your number line are more likely to be correct in Must Be questions, and earlier in Could Be.
5. For Determines Positions questions, focus on answers that trigger rules while also setting elements that would otherwise be difficult to place.
Using these prioritizations, you’ll sometimes have to go through 3 or 4 answers. You might even get the answer only after testing all the others.
However, if you get a feel for these heuristics, you can bring your average down to 1-2 answers tested for a correct answer, and that’s right where you want to be. ?
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Matt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor and jdMission Senior Consultant based in New York City. After receiving a degree in Biochemistry from Boston College, Matt scored a 180 on his LSAT and enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing his students receive the scores they want to get into the schools of their choice. Check out Matt’s upcoming LSAT courses here!