The LSAT is a hard test. No doubt about it.
Any test where you can get 10% of the questions wrong and still be in the top 2% of test takers is a hard test.
Some of that is pure, question-based difficulty, and some of it is time constraints. While it’s common to hear people say they would get everything right given infinite time, that’s not true. Sure, almost everyone would surely get more right with more time, but there are still some hard questions on the exam that you’d probably get wrong even with extra time. Again, though, you’re going to get some questions wrong because you don’t have enough time to get through them, or to think through everything you want to think through.
This probably rings way too true if you’ve recently taken a PrepTest.
Right now, I want you to really think back to that last test. Think about what you got right and wrong, how the timing went, where you invested too much time, and the impact it had on your score.
The simple fact is that the questions you spent too much time on are also likely to be the ones you got wrong. If you spent 3 minutes to get a question wrong, you might as well have closed your eyes and taken some deep breaths during that time. Heck, that would probably have been a better use of your time, since it would have resulted in less stress.
Most people—incorrectly—view the way of maximizing their score as investing time in each question to maximize their certainty in it. This generally results in a quick spiral into the sunk cost fallacy: the more time already spent on a question, the more it seems like a good idea to spend more time on it, since you’re already familiar with it.
But you know it’s a hard question. The question you’re not going to get to because of the time you’re investing here might also be hard, but it might also be easy. So it’s important to get to it.
In short, when you recognize that you’re struggling with a question, it’s time to skip it.
This seems like crazy advice. I mean, if you’re looking to maximize your score, don’t you need to answer everything?
Straight up, no. To maximize your score, you need to get everything right that your current skill level allows for, while minimizing the damage done by the questions that you are probably going to get wrong. Think about those questions, after all—you spend, say, 2:30 on a hard Logical Reasoning question and still think you got it wrong. Now, you’ve wasted 2:30, feel terrible, and will probably spiral a bit as you rush through the next 3-4 questions trying to make that time up. Your accuracy goes down, and the rush might even take extra time as you need to reread.
Instead, if you decide you’re skipping that LSAT question 45 seconds in because you have no idea what it’s about, you’ve now strategically decided that this is a question you’ll get wrong, and you now have an extra 40 seconds you can split between 1-2 other questions that you know you can get right with an extra bit of time to think.
This also seems like advice that experts don’t follow. You’d be wrong.
Personally? I’ll skip ~5 questions on Logical Reasoning before I finish the section. These are questions that fall into my weak areas. For example, if there’s a Weaken or Necessary Assumption question in 16-23, I’ll come back to it at the end. Ditto any question that’s talking abstract philosophy (“Some have argued that true happiness can only be…” ugh…). And Matching questions are going to take a bit of time, so I’ll skip them.
I’m not giving up on them, though I’m at peace with doing so if I don’t have time after getting to the rest of the questions. Rather, what I’m saying is that they’re not worth the time investment before I pick up as many other questions as possible, and then I’ll split whatever time I have left between them when I know that it’s not going to throw my timing off for the other questions.
In general, upon heading back, 1-2 of the questions won’t be so bad. 1-2 will be hard, and I’ll struggle to get through them, getting 1 right and 1 wrong. And then there’ll be the beast. The one that I wouldn’t have answered correctly on the first pass and wasted 3+ minutes on. But that’s no longer an issue, since I didn’t leave myself 3 minutes for it. I’ll use my rules of thumb to make a best guess and up my chances of getting it right from 20% to 50%.
You may be thinking that there’s no way you’d have time to go back to these questions. However, remember, these are the ones that you were probably going to spend 2+ minutes on. If you take those out of the equation, you’re essentially freeing up 10 minutes. There’s a good chance that you’ll end up with more time than you think when you start to implement a strategy for skipping LSAT questions.
So try out some strategies. Go in with some idea of what you want to skip on your first pass, but be flexible if you feel yourself spiraling.
And always take a deep breath after skipping LSAT questions. Your heart rate will go up and you’ll have taken a little hit to your ego. Nothing wrong with taking a second to recover from that. ?
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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!