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Starting your LSAT prep can be a scary experience. Sure, you’ve thought before in your life, often logically (though that’s probably less frequent than you’d think!). You’ve played some games before. And you’ve certainly read.
However, the LSAT is testing a slightly different version of each of these tasks than the one that you’re used to. Because, in our day to day lives, we’re actually quite illogical.
And when you pick up a book, it’s common to see all the complexity at once. A long list of LR question types; many variations of logic games; Reading Comprehension, chapter after chapter! It’s a lot to take in, and most places that break the test down into categories like to impress with their long and exhaustive list.
This series of three blog posts—one for each section—will break down the LSAT at a much higher level. Sure, in our curriculum we talk about Most Supported Inference questions with Principles. But before you get there, it’s important to start with a strong scaffold for the section—a high-level overview through which you can make sense of the myriad types of questions that will end up being thrown your way. Scaffolding is a basic component of learning, backed up by science, but one that gets easily lost in the scuffle of dozens of question types!
Scaffolding – Logic Games
We’re going to talk about two levels of scaffolding here: tasks, and tools.
The LSAT almost exclusively asks you to carry out only two tasks on the LSAT: Grouping and Ordering. For pretty much every game in existence, you’ll be putting things into order, and putting things into groups.
That’s right – the entire section is really just variations on these two themes.
Why is this important? Because it’s easy to get lost in the complexity of a given game, but this dichotomy should give you a starting point. Does this game want you to put things into order, or put things into groups? Is it asking you to do both at the same time? If you have that down, you have the basic task for the game under control.
So those are the tasks, but it’s important to have the tools to handle them. This gets slightly more complex, but we’re only going to add one more!
For Ordering games, we need to keep track of the order of the given elements. To do so, we use a Number Line – which is exactly what it sounds like. Figure out how many slots/ranks/positions there are, write out that number of slots, and number each one.
For 2-group Grouping games (generally figuring out what is In and what is Out, which is why we call them In/Out Grouping), we need to keep track of which elements can and cannot be selected together. These rules are mostly conditional statements, and there are a variety ways of handling it. Check out our book to see our Logic Chain – I think it’s the coolest feature of our curriculum!
For 3-group Grouping games, we’re going to need to still figure out who can and cannot be together, but the presence of more than two groups changes things up a bit. In a 2-group game, if you’re not in one group, you’re in the other. In a game with more groups, not being in one group still leaves you with options. For this, we use a Grouping Board.
And if the game asks you to order and group at the same time? No new diagram – just use a Number Line with a Grouping Board.
So there’s your scaffold – the LSAT will either ask you to put things into order, into groups, or both. And to track this, we’re going to use a Number Line (Ordering), Logic Chain (2 groups), Grouping Board (grouping more than 2 groups), or a combination of these.
All those other things going on? They’re twists that would be built on here.
So as you go through your studies, and learn about the complexity of the section, don’t forget the basic scaffold. Everything you learn should fit into this paradigm. And—more importantly, to me—when you’re lost in a game, forget about the weird elements and come back to this. If you can figure out what the basic task is, and what your basic tool should be (Number Line, Logic Chain, Grouping Board), then you can start to tackle the game.
It’s what I do – I often won’t have a full handle on a game until I’m 2-3 questions in. But relying on this basic scaffold always gives me a beachhead into the game. Sometimes, doing well on the exam isn’t about knowing exactly what’s going on at all times, but rather knowing how to deal with a situation where you don’t. 📝
Matt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor 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!