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Welcome to part 2 of my thrilling miniseries on how to take back control over the LSAT! In case you missed it, go catch up on part 1 to learn two big strategies that everyone should be using on this test.
As for today, we’ll look at two smaller techniques that some use to tackle the LSAT creatively—that is, to become the CEO of the big bad test, instead of feeling bossed around by the test-makers. Beyond making you feel more confident in the moment, employing strategies like these will help you play to your strengths and avoid common traps in the design of the test. They’re great strategies to keep in your utility belt and whip out when the situation calls for it.
Let’s check ‘em out.
1. E, D, C, B, A
Statistically speaking, each answer choice (A through E) has about the same odds of being correct, although it varies by section type and difficulty. You may as well go the natural route and work your way down from (A), in that case, right?
Maybe! But maybe not.
You see, the LSAT test-makers are also extremely deliberate in how they design each question—and its answers. You may find that you felt pretty confident about (C), but it turned out that (D) was actually correct, for example. Trap answers usually come before correct answers in order to weed out test-takers who rush or don’t work wrong-to-right.
As a result, there are times when you could actually benefit from starting with (E) and moving on up!
I use this strategy in two different circumstances:
…If I suspect there’s a trap lying in wait.
Let’s say the question has a ton of conditional logic. I know that incorrect answer choices are likely to include illegal reversals or illegal negations, in order to trick people who mapped out their logic mistakenly.
So what do I do?
I’ll start at the bottom and make my way up, because for me, trap answers are easier to spot when I feel more in control of the test. It might just be a mental thing at times—but for the LSAT, that can make a difference.
…If the answer choices are long.
On Match the Reasoning, Match the Flaw, and Principle Example questions, each answer choice is often as long as a stimulus!
One challenge on these LSAT questions is often timing—I just know that those test-makers are trying to drain my batteries and tire me out. By the time I get to (E), I’m more liable to make a mistake.
So on those LSAT question types, I always start with (E) and move up, just to play the odds.
Again, even if this strategy doesn’t end up making a big difference, I’ll usually feel better about taking control over how I tackle the LSAT.
2. Start Small
Here’s another strategy in the same vein of “I’ll start where I want to, thanks very much!”
On Logical Reasoning and especially Logic Games, there are often a handful of questions with a few off-puttingly long answer choices—and one or two shorter, simpler answers as well. Depending on the question type and your answer prediction, you might already know that you’re looking for a longer or shorter answer…
But if not, it might be smart to start with the shorter choices and work your way up. Sometimes those long and complicated answers will be stuck in there as de facto time-wasters, designed to slow you down and stress you out.
Speed through those shorter answers to get a handle on whether you’re looking for the remaining right answer or just trying to disprove what’s remaining (if you think you found your correct answer and you’re working wrong-to-right). You’ll feel better taking your time with fewer answer choices to analyze ahead of you.
These two strategies, unlike those in the first part of this series, are highly situational. They also deal more with your confidence and sense of control—which are less tangible factors, but crucial nonetheless to your LSAT test-taking ability.
In our third and final installment, we’ll move from picking answer choices creatively to picking questions creatively. Get ready! ?
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!