The mention of Logic Games is enough to keep many a law school hopeful up at night, which is why we’re giving you some LSAT Logic Games tips. Maybe your humanities classes taught you to blaze through dense reading and your social science classes taught you to argue your way out of any situation. But figuring out which birds go in the forest, or what color the lambdasaur should be? Either I was out sick that day, or that stuff wasn’t covered.
When I prepared for the LSAT, I had no LSAT Logic Games tips on hand, and that lack of familiarity showed in my performance. I struggled with LG long after I’d mastered Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning.
Fast forward to today: I can’t remember the last time I missed a Logic Games question. This section lends itself to total mastery like none other, because the limited amount of (comparatively) simple text provides far fewer opportunities for misunderstanding than the dense text of the other two sections. I’m living proof of how far you can come in this section when you prepare effectively. What are the keys to effective preparation, you ask? Behold, my top 6 LSAT Logic Games tips!
Whether you’re at the beginning of your journey with LG, in the thick of it, or closing in on the finish line, you can use these LSAT Logic Games tips to become a master of the craft.
1. Keep it visual.
The LSAT Logic Games section is formally known as the Analytical Reasoning section, but if I had a vote, I’d call it the Spatial Reasoning section. Are we analyzing in this section? Of course. But we’re also analyzing in Reading Comp and Logical Reasoning. Analysis is in no way unique to Logic Games. But spatial reasoning? The Logic Games section has that cornered. So that’s why the first of my LSAT Logic Games tips is to keep your work visual.
Step one for any logic game is to picture the game—as in, visualize the real-world scenario the game describes. This will make the game feel less abstract and give you a better sense of what you should draw when you put pencil to paper. As you picture the game, your main consideration is figuring out your task. Are you putting things in order or are you putting things in groups?
If you’re putting things in order, your visual representation should be a number line (a number for each position and a row of slots on top). If there are two sets of things you’re putting in order, add a second row of slots to your number line. List the corresponding variables beside each row, and make the letters in one uppercase and those in the other lowercase to visually distinguish between the two.
If you’re putting things in groups, you should label the groups and build a slot for each member. If you’re not sure how many members a group will have, use a different visual representation for positions that will definitely be filled (we use a box), positions that might be filled (we use a slot) and positions that can’t be filled (we cross out the slot).
Once you’ve got the basics of the game diagrammed on scratch paper (and scratch paper is a must now that the LSAT is digital!), it’s time to represent the rules. Try to build each rule into your master diagram. Have a unique visual representation for each type of rule, and use that notation the same way every time.
If you can’t build a rule into the diagram, build it off to the side, but try to build it the way it would look if it were actually in the diagram.
And when you tackle the questions, don’t try to do the work in your head! That’s one of the biggest mistakes students make on Logic Games. Keeping work in your head is not faster. It’s actually more efficient to write down your work because you can use that work to answer other questions later. Plus, you can’t check the work you did in your head! Rehashing it to make sure you did it right—or worse, getting it wrong—makes all your time saving efforts a bust anyway.
2. Be consistent.
Each logic game is unique…sort of. Different situation. Different variables. But this is a standardized test, which means that games tend to shake out in pretty standard ways. That’s why #2 on my list of LSAT Logic Games tips is to keep your process consistent. If you do the same thing the same way every time you play a game, the unfamiliar miraculously becomes familiar.
So, start by picturing the game. Then, make your visual representation of the game and its rules. Once you’ve represented your rules, look for Inferences. Are there rules that deal with the same element, slot, or group? If so, maybe they can be connected. Do any of the rules prevent elements from going in certain slots? Probably!
Finally, when you think you’ve found everything you can find, take a big pause before tackling the questions to consider the following:
- Are there any elements with no rules that I might forget about as I play the game?
- What elements or rules are going to drive the game as I play it?
- Is anything so restricted that it can only play out in two or three ways? If so, will it start a domino effect that would make it worthwhile to draw out each way?
3. Embrace automatic recall.
The last thing you want to do in a logic game is reinvent the wheel. Time is precious on this section. That’s why #3 on my list of LSAT Logic Games tips is to get some things on automatic recall.
- Every time you see one of the common rule types, you should know immediately how to diagram it.
- Every time you are faced with a standard game, or a game with a common twist, you should be able to visually represent it instantly and with very little effort.
- Standard rules lead to standard Inferences. Checking for these Inferences should be an automatic part of your process.
- When a question provides a new rule, you should draw a new diagram that includes the new rule right away (in a different place than your master diagram, clearly labeled with the question number!).
4. Ask the right questions.
You’re not going to find what you don’t know to look for. That’s true in life and it’s true on the LSAT. For this reason, #4 on my list of LSAT Logic Games tips is to ask yourself the right questions as you move through the games.
At the very start of the game, ask yourself the basics:
- Is this an Ordering or a Grouping game?
- Do all my elements have to be used?
- Can any elements repeat?
If you’ve ID’d the game as an Ordering game, ask yourself questions to locate any twists:
- Are all my rules about relative relationships that can be chained together (e.g., H is before F and G is before H)?
- Do my elements have characteristics that would necessitate a second row?
- Is there a slot for every element and an element for every slot?
If you’ve ID’d the game as a Grouping game, there’s a different set of questions to ask:
- Is this game about selecting some elements and leaving others out?
- Are all of the rules conditional statements?
- Do I know how many members each group has?
- Are my groups unique, or are they functionally interchangeable?
When a question gives you a new rule and you’ve drawn it out in a new diagram, ask yourself:
- What other rules does this rule trigger?
- How does this rule impact the most restricted elements in the game?
And when you’ve placed a lot of elements and think you’ve found everything you can find in a diagram, ask:
- Who’s left that could occupy these empty slots?
- What are their restrictions?
The elements that are left are often so restricted that, once you look at them all together, you can definitively place at least one of them.
5. Understand truth.
One of the concepts tested most heavily on Logic Games is truth value: the difference between what’s definitely true, what might be true, what’s definitely false, and what might be false. That’s why # 5 on this list of LSAT Logic Games tips is to understand truth value inside and out.
When building a diagram for a question that gives you a new rule, focus first on what must be true: concrete placements and exclusions. When you’ve exhausted those inferences, ask yourself who’s left and consider the elements that remain.
Truth value is also critical to understand because the vast majority of Logic Games questions ask you to select an answer that has one of the four truth values. For any question that does, make sure you know three things:
- What truth value will make an answer right.
- What truth value will make an answer wrong.
- How to test an answer to see if it has a relevant truth value.
Need a little help with number 3? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered:
- To test whether an answer could be true, try to make a valid diagram in which it is true. If you can, it’s the right answer.
- To test whether an answer could be false, try to make a diagram in which it is false. If you can, it’s the right answer.
- To test whether an answer must be true, try to make a diagram in which it is false. If you can’t, it’s the right answer. Why approach it like this? Because making a diagram in which the answer is true would only show that it could be true. To see whether it must be true (without drawing a ton of diagrams), you need to prove that it can’t be false.
- To test whether an answer must be false, try to make a diagram in which it is true. If you can’t do it, it’s the right answer.
6. It’s not always pretty.
Beautiful diagrams. Brilliant Inferences. Correct answers plucked from among their inferior peers with nary a mark on your scratch paper. That’s the stuff that Logic Games dreams are made of. But the thing is, dreams are just dreams. They’re not reality, and treating them like they are will only hinder your progress. That’s why we’re closing this list of LSAT Logic Games tips with this thought: sometimes things get messy—that’s okay.
Ever looked at five answers and they all look right? Or wrong? Yeah, me too. And not just way back when. Recently. Like, yesterday. Looking at five right answers or five wrong answers tells me I probably messed up somewhere along the way. Maybe I diagrammed a rule wrong, or maybe I was a little too hasty with that last Inference. But that doesn’t mean I’m getting questions wrong.
These questions act as an alert. They make me stop, go back, and calmly redo my work. So I start anew (because one wrong move can beget a bunch of lousy Inferences), I fix what I had botched, I make new and better Inferences, and I get the answers right. A redo of your setup is quick and easy because you’ve already done 80% of it correctly. If you don’t waste time freaking out, you’ll be back in business in under a minute.
And how about this scenario—tell me if this one sounds familiar—the question asks you “which of the following must be true” and you didn’t make any Inferences. Does that mean you missed something? Definitely. Is it something you really should have caught the first time around? Possibly. But does that mean the game is wrecked and you should hit the panic button? Absolutely not.
The LSAT writers love to make the second question out of the gate a question like this, what we call an Unconditional Must Be True question. And maybe I’m being generous here, but I’ve always believed this was a kind thing for them to do. If you made the Inference, these questions are easy money. But if you didn’t, these questions force you to make the Inference before you stumble through the rest of the game without it. Just take a deep breath and start testing the answers. Once you find the right answer, build it into your master diagram and go into the next question confident that you’ve got the information you need to answer the rest of the questions correctly.
Final Thoughts on LSAT Logic Games Tips
The LSAT Logic Games section is hard. For many students beginning their preparation, it’s the hardest section on the test. But that doesn’t mean they have to stay hard. With effective preparation, Logic Games can become your best section. As you prepare for test day using these LSAT Logic Games tips, work on honing your visual representations, always write your work down, be consistent with your process and your notation, drill the basics until they’re on automatic recall, ask yourself the right questions as you move through a game, know which truth value will make or break your answers (and how to test for it!), and don’t be afraid to get in there and get messy. ?
Laura Damone is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in San Francisco, CA. She fell for the LSAT while getting her undergrad degree and has now taught LSAT classes at more than 20 universities around the country. When she’s not teaching, learning, or publishing her work, she can be found frolicking in the redwoods and exploring the Pacific coast. Check out Laura’s upcoming LSAT courses here!