The Spookiest Parts of the LSAT

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - The Spookiest Parts of the LSAT by Patrick Tyrrell

If you’re a new trick-or-treater to the neighborhood, you have no strategy but to try every house. However, once you’ve lived there a few years, you’ve been around the block (literally). You know your different neighbors’ tendencies. You know what kind of candy they’re likely to give out. You know which houses to avoid:

  • Ol’ Man Squirrel Whisperer
  • The House Where the Teenage Boys and Maybe the Dad Never Have Their Shirts On
  • The Dunphys (not literally from Modern Family, but your local overachievers)
  • The Green Party Couple Who Consider Flax Wafers a Non-Insult
  • The House That’s Probably a Cult Because Their Clothing is at Best Perplexing

Now that you’ve learned the LSAT neighborhood, what are the houses you’d most like to avoid and why?

Everyone might have a slightly different list, but I’ll attempt to expound here on some of the ones we seem to most agree upon.

LSAT LOGIC GAMES

Maybe here it’s easier to list the LSAT game types we AREN’T afraid of.

Normal Ordering – (1:1 ratio. Mix of rules—positions, spacing, ordering, conditionals. If chunks, all the better! Reversible chunks? Not as lucky.)
Relative Ordering – (Only ordering rules. All the characters link up in a tree. Either/Or rule forces you to frame TWO trees? Not as lucky.)
Normal Grouping – (5-6 people distributed into 3 groups. Typical rules—friends, enemies, conditionals, assignments. Know # per group? Lucky!)
In/Out Grouping – (5-8 people split into 2 groups. All conditional rules, which link characters together. People organized in subgroups? Not as lucky.)

It’s reassuring to remind ourselves that we can almost always get half of the points on any LSAT Games section by just knowing how to do these more modest games. But if we have a real sweet tooth and won’t rest until we’ve milked this neighborhood for all the Milky Ways it’s got, then we’ll also have to take our chances with these houses:

Mismatched Ordering – (Not a 1:1 ratio of people to spots. Too many people? Out-column or double-up. Too many spots? Repeats or blanks.)
3D Ordering/Grouping  – (Adds another trait we have to track, on top of order or group. Good at deeper deductions? You’ll like these guys.)
Hybrids – (Decide when something will go and who will be assigned to it.)

The scariest house in the neighborhood is not necessarily the one you have to walk farthest to reach. Similarly, the worst game in a section is not necessarily last. Don’t be surprised if an earlier game looks unrecognizable. If that occurs, just keep walking and start your trick-or-treating at a house you recognize. You can always circle back to the weird house later if you have time.

Never Seen This Before Recent installments of this were Exchanging Properties, Office Lottery, Passing Workpieces, Computer Virus, Zones, and Subzones.

LSAT LOGICAL REASONING

Matching: Whether it’s Match the Reasoning or Match the Flaw, these page-long LSAT questions are often a “save for last” pacing decision. It’s not even that they give out bad candy. Some people might succeed at this task at a higher rate than other question types. But the driveway is so long, it just robs you of time you don’t have. If you’re gonna hit up these houses, you need to learn how to run through them (get better at itemizing the number, type, and strength of the argument’s ingredients, so that you can make very quick decisions bailing from potentially wrong answers).

Role/Function: If we hit up this house early enough in the section, when it’s still dusky and the 3-year-olds are having THEIR Halloween, we’ll have a delightful time. We just have to analyze an argument and then decide whether a certain claim is the main conclusion, a supporting idea, an opposing idea, or a neutral idea. But if you visit this house later in the section, it starts using less-familiar language to disorient you. And just when you think all supporting ideas are premises, out jumps a subsidiary conclusion answer to make you question your existence. Remember, a supporting idea can be an unsupported premise or a supported premise, which is also known as an intermediate or subsidiary conclusion. If you’re wondering whether to call something an intermediate conclusion, just ask yourself, “Is it supported? Why should I believe this claim?” and see if you can point to an idea that is there to support it (there are usually keywords as well to indicate support).

Inference (Must be True): These houses are frequently booby-trapped with conditional logic, which causes most students cognitive cobwebs. (Trust me, I hate myself too every time I write a Halloween pun). The first thing we have to do is get good at spotting when the test is handing us conditional logic.

What are the first 15 Halloween candies that come to your mind?

Count with your fingers, and say your list before I say mine. Let’s see how much we agree: Kit Kat, Butterfinger, Milky Way, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, M&Ms, Peanut M&Ms, Reese’s Cups, Reese’s Pieces, Krackel, Special Dark, Mr. Goodbar, Nerds, York Peppermint Patties, Tootsie Rolls…

What are the first 15 LSAT Conditional Logic words that come to your mind?

If you can’t count out 15 of these, this is a huge LSAT weakness. We have to be crazy-aware of these keywords in order to recognize the opportunity to use Conditional Logic thinking.

(If, when, all, each, any, every, no, only, only if, the only, unless, requires, must, ensures, without…)

When we see Conditional Logic, we should think a few things:

1. How do I diagram this? Which idea is on the left, which is on the right? What does the contrapositive look/sound like?
2. Can I apply this rule (or its contrapositive) to any facts that were provided?
3. If there’s more than one conditional rule, do these rules chain together?

LSAT READING COMPREHENSION

Inference: Questions that ask what can be inferred, what’s implied, what something suggests, what someone would be most likely to agree with, it sounds like the correct answer will take a step away from the passage. But in reality, the correct answer essentially recapitulates something we were already told. If I’m picking (B), it’s because I matched up its meaning with line 14-17. Notice that I say I matched up its meaning. What makes these questions famously hard is that the correct answers are all wearing costumes. The incorrect answers repeat actual words and phrases from the passage, while the correct answer is usually wearing a disguise, via inverted syntax or synonyms or both.

For example, if line 14-17 said, “The first leader of the United States government was George Washington,” choice (B) might disguise that as:

(B) Not all nations choose Big Bird to be their inaugural head of state.

Analogy: Here, our task is to extract an abstract essence from some part of the passage and then find an answer that manifests this same abstract essence. Part of the challenge, though, is that there can be more than one valid abstract essence to pull out of that part of the passage, so sometimes we don’t know what aspect they want us to analogize until we start engaging with answers. Mostly, though, it’s very hard to convince yourself that you’re picking the right answer. Since analogy answers are fabricating totally new story lines, there’s nothing in the passage you can point to that matches tidily up with your correct answer. The sameness is invisible, because it’s the abstract.

Shoot, I forgot to force some Halloween metaphor on that. Errrr, the sameness is invisible… like a g-g-g-g-g-ghooooost?

Detail EXCEPT: This house makes you do a four-part tap dance on its front steps before it gives you the darn candy. We have to go fetch four details in order to eliminate the four wrong answers. Quite time consuming, and frankly, homeowner, I don’t like ferreting around your yard hunting for your buried treasure.

As I warned you before, this list is naturally subjective and not exhaustive, but hopefully it put a couple sketchy houses on your radar. And most importantly, make sure the next time you take any timed 35-minute LSAT section you have a trick-or-treater’s mentality: you have a presumption in favor of hitting every stop along the way, but the second a house gives you a weird vibe (or if you have historical reason to not like this house), then keep walking and circle back to it on your way home, if there’s time.

[Indecipherable cackling as Patrick transforms into a swirling fog and whisks away…] 📝


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patrick-tyrrellPatrick Tyrrell is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Los Angeles, California. He has a B.A. in philosophy, a 178 on the LSAT, and relentless enthusiasm for his work. In addition to teaching test prep since 2006, he’s also an avid songwriter/musician. Check out Patrick’s upcoming LSAT courses here!

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