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Hold onto your seats, folks—we’re about to leap into the third and final part of our world-famous blog post series on how to become the boss of your LSAT. If you haven’t yet, take a gander at part one (where we cover 2 fundamental strategies) and part two (where we look at 2 more situational strategies). I’ll wait!
Today, we’ll finish off our list of creative approaches you can take by focusing on how to change up the order in which you tackle those pesky LSAT questions.
From Start to Finish
When it comes to standardized tests, most people start with question 1 and move on from there, going question by question until they finish the section. If there’s time, they go back and review the questions they guessed on or struggled with. If they’re running down the clock,they might skip tough questions more judiciously or simply fill in random bubbles for the remaining questions.
(Back in part one of this series, we discussed “strategic skipping” as a way to avoid the pitfalls of wasting time on question types you struggle with.)
This is absolutely the normal, natural way to take a test.
But is it the best?
If the LSAT went from easy to hard in a perfectly linear fashion, then the standard approach would be flawless. But as it happens, question difficulty fluctuates more than that: on most Logical Reasoning sections, for example, you’ll find the going gets tough between questions 8 and 11, then the difficulty decreases until an even higher peak at questions 15 to 22. Generally speaking, questions 22 to 25 are usually easier than the high teens and early twenties.
As a result, it’s entirely possible (and extremely common) for test-takers to spend a lot of time and energy on, say, question 20, even though question 24 is easier.
Smart skipping is one way to avoid the pitfalls of this intentional difficulty rollercoaster, but let’s take a look at two more.
Strategy 1: Back to Front
Generally speaking, you want to aim for the lowest-hanging fruit possible. No matter the difficulty, each LSAT question is worth exactly one point. So it’s better to get all the easy and medium questions right, and a few hard ones, than to leave some easy questions for last and guess on them because of time constraints.
One Logical Reasoning solution is to make your way to question 15 or so, and then work backwards from the end of the section.
This strategy will ensure that you at least see the questions in a section in increasing order of difficulty (more or less). Saving the toughies for last allows you to spend more time on the easier and medium questions that you’re more likely to get right, and to minimize the chances that you wind up having to guess on a question you would’ve slam dunked if you’d had enough time. Better to guess on a question 22 than on a question 25!
I don’t usually recommend this strategy because it can increase the risk of human error. You have to be aware that you’re working backwards when you’re bubbling in your answer sheet, and it becomes easier to accidentally skip a question. However, if you think this strategy could help you overcome a timing problem or keep your attention on the most likely questions first, then go for it.
Strategy 2: Conditionals First
The second strategy is for Logic Games. If you find yourself working on a game that you might not completely “get”—or you just don’t like those Unconditional questions that test you on your upfront inference-making ability—then try this technique out.
Instead of working your way through the game’s questions linearly, start with the Orientation question and then tackle all of the Conditional questions, no matter the order. (Not familiar with this terminology? Basically, start with questions that give you scenarios, like “If H comes in 4th place…” Save those more fundamental “Which of the following must be true?” questions for last!)
By focusing on Conditional questions, you’ll build up a ton of valid mini-diagrams you can use to prove or disprove answer choices on Unconditional questions. If you don’t make an inference upfront, the LSAT will often force you to make it during the questions by process of elimination, so using prior work will make this process faster.
I don’t always advocate this strategy for the same reasons as above: skipping around can increase your risk of transference errors and missed questions. However, if you’re confident you can work around those odds, then try this one out.
The main takeaway of this blog post series is that the LSAT is a tricky, tricky test…
But you can approach it on your own terms, using strategies and techniques to shake up the structure and sway the odds in your favor. Never be afraid to act creatively, even on exams as intricate and well-planned as the LSAT—in fact, these strategies can help because the LSAT is such a finely-balanced test.
Pick and choose what works for you—and let us know what you experiment with in the comments! ?
Don’t forget that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person LSAT courses absolutely free. We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.
Ben Rashkovich is a Manhattan Prep LSAT instructor based in New York, NY. He’s a graduate of Columbia University, and he scored a 172 on the LSAT. He enjoys the mental challenge and logical acrobatics of the LSAT—and he feels that studying for the test can teach everyone to approach problems more rationally. You can check out Ben’s upcoming LSAT courses here!