Each week, we analyze a movie that illustrates a logical fallacy you’ll find on the LSAT. Who said Netflix can’t help you study? 🎥📖
I grew up in the suburbs of Jersey. My mom – one of the PTA regulars – always helped run our school’s Fun Fair – an afternoon of silly games that awarded tickets you could redeem for prizes. It was a fundraiser for the school, and my friends and I all anxiously awaited it. Me more than them, as my mom’s position afforded me the chance to see all the cool toys we could win ahead of time.
When I was eight or nine, I got really sick a few days before the Fun Fair. It was one of those early disappointments in life that will always stick with you – nothing too big, but big enough to a young Matt that I was in a bad mood. Read more
Winter might seem like the worst season to start your LSAT prep. It’s dark. It’s gloomy. It’s full of distractions. But it’s not the worst season to start your LSAT prep; it’s the best season. Read more
If you go on one of those windsurfing web sites where the seasoned pros give advice to newbies, you see a lot of conversations like this:
Newbie: “I want to learn how to windsurf. I found someone selling a Ten Cate Sprinter windsurfer for $100. Is this a good board for a beginner?”
Pro: “No! That thing is over 30 years old. It will be too hard to learn anything with a board like that.”
So, there I was a few weeks ago, a total beginner who had never windsurfed before, paddling out into the Chesapeake Bay on an old Ten Cate Sprinter windsurfer. Why? Read more
Matt Shinners scored a perfect 180 on his LSAT…on his first attempt. He then received his JD from Harvard Law School. Now? He’s an LSAT instructor and curriculum developer for none other than yours truly, Manhattan Prep. This isn’t just a shameless plug for Shinners’ LSAT prep services (trust us, he doesn’t need our help); Business Insider recently reached out to Shinners for any last-minute advice or tips he might have for soon-to-be LSAT test-takers. In true fashion, Shinners delivered. See what he had to say here.
This advice is perfect if you just so happen to be taking the test this Saturday, October 3. Who knows? It might even help you boost your score by 2.7 points (the test’s standard deviation).
Want more great LSAT prep help? Check out our free resources here.
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1. Quality, not quantity. The good news about this maxim is that not only is it true when it comes to effective LSAT studying, but it can also save you loads of time. Instead of sitting down and saying, “I’m going to do three sections no matter how long it takes me,” sit down and say, “I’m going to turn off my cell phone, shut the door, close my computer, and do these three sections without any distractions. Benefits are manifold—your studying is better, and you’re done sooner.
2. You are what you consume. I don’t mean to sound like your mom or your doctor, and I’m sure we’re all well-versed in basic nutritional principles, but it is true that if you are living on excessive amounts of caffeine, you’re probably not studying as well as you can be due to the anxiety and overall jitters that it is known to cause. So again, don’t mean to be your babysitter here, but if you’re having trouble focusing and are one of these constantly-sipping-java-or-soda folks, consider cutting back a bit—replace it with decaf tea or seltzer every now and then.
3. Change the time of day you study. When I was preparing for the LSAT, I found that my morning sessions were really productive and satisfying while my night sessions often dragged on and left me tired, discouraged and feeling like I didn’t get enough accomplished. I’m a morning person, always have been. If I could do it all again, I’d just cut out the night sessions, or trim them substantially, and add to my morning sessions. You know what your own circadian rhythm is. Don’t try to bend it to your will; you’re better off bending to accommodate it, not vice versa.
4. Sprints, then breaks. Focused study is the best study. Short stints of untainted focus on the material is superior to longer sessions during when you doze off or check your texts or read Twitter or grab another handful of chips. If you have trouble focusing for a longer period of time (which is what we call “being a human”), set an achievable goal like: I’m going to focus only on the LSAT for the next 15 minutes. Then I get a two-minute break. If that sounds short to you, great! That means you can do it! Try. If it’s easy, add some. But training yourself to focus for shorter bits, then adding to those bits, beats punishing yourself for your inability to sustain focus by making yourself sit half-focused for longer stretches. Forcing yourself to sit unfocused for long stretches teaches you to sit unfocused for long stretches. Forcing yourself to focus for stretches of any length teaches you to focus.
5. Teach someone—yourself or someone else—the hard problems. To be able to teach means to truly understand. Albert Einstein said that. Just kidding, I said that, but keep reading, anyway. When you have to teach something to someone else, it forces you to think about it in a way that just learning it doesn’t. You can’t hide. You have to get it. Good standard for mastery, right? Understanding as a requirement? I find mothers to be an excellent source for make-believe LSAT students.
6. Create realistic, defined goals. Some of the most discouraged, burnt out, and plateaued students I’ve worked with are the ones who set unrealistic expectations for themselves that are so unachievable that they wind up in this vague and ambiguous space permeated with chronic disappointment. “I’m going to study for as long as I possibly can every day,” may sound like a really impressive, ambitious approach, but what it really does is set you up for failure. You study four hours and are exhausted, and instead of congratulating yourself on studying for four hours, you spend the rest of the day thinking, “Could I have studied longer? Should I be studying now?” The same is true for two or eight or nine hours, because you have no standards by which to measure your actual achievement. This is bad for another reason: affirmation and the feeling of satisfaction are very important to your progress. We don’t excel by feeling like failures all the time. We excel by feeling like failures when we’re not doing our best, and feeling great when we do. We get hooked on that feeling and want more of it, and that’s a good thing. Give yourself goals that you can achieve so you can reach this feeling and allow it to motivate you to keep moving forward. Studying for the LSAT is a long and hard process. Don’t make it more miserable for yourself than it needs to be.
Please don’t do this. As we repeat again and again over here at Manhattan LSAT, preparation for this test is all about quality over quantity. If you just plow through tests without taking time to learn the proper strategies, to apply them, and then to evaluate your work with close and careful review using all of the study tools at your disposal (free explanations of questions by our 99th percentile teachers on the forum, in-class review sessions, and instructor office hours, among others), you will not be maximizing your study time, and your score will likely not improve as much as it could.
2. MYTH: You can’t improve at reading comp.
You can. It’s just slower than, say, improving at logic games, because you essentially have to learn how to read for the LSAT. Reading comp on the LSAT requires several skills that can feel and seem diametrically opposed: You have to be efficient but also thorough; you have to understand what you’re reading but not get bogged down by the details you don’t understand; you have to be sufficiently well-versed in the subject matter to be able to answer 5-7 questions on it but don’t need to try to become an expert on what you don’t need to become an expert on.
The solution here is going to be to take advantage of learning opportunities but also, to allow yourself enough time to improve on reading comp if you really need to. A month is generally speaking not enough.
3. MYTH: If you get a 180 on the LSAT, the school will just let you in regardless of what the rest of your application looks like.
You may have heard the legend of the guy who got a 180 and just drew a smiley face on the essay portion of his exam, then got into Harvard. If you haven’t, there’s a legend about a guy who got a 180 and just drew a smiley face on the essay portion of his exam, then got into Harvard.
I highly doubt this is true. But either way, I am going to say something frank and perhaps harsh, but listen up: If you actually want to use this as a guideline in approaching your own LSAT and application and major life decisions, please, by all means, do. Because the world doesn’t need any more dumb lawyers, and this will help weed them out.
Schools read your applications. They may or may not read your LSAT essay—but just in case, write one. And write it well (or, as best you can after sitting for four hours).
4. MYTH: You can rig your chances of scoring higher by which test you choose to take—February, June, October or December.
Nope. They’re all the same folks, at least for your purposes. Can’t plot this one, so don’t waste any more time thinking about it. Go do a logic game.
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As you hit the home stretch of your preparations for the upcoming LSAT, you should be considering how to keep yourself in the best possible state of mind before and during the exam. One major area of consternation, confusion, rumor, and anxiety centers on the Experimental Section. To be perfectly frank, this section is something you just shouldn’t think about a great deal, but that’s easy to say and terrifically hard to do, so let’s break down the facts about this legendary section. Once you know what is true and what isn’t, make the choice to simply put it out of your head until the exam is finished!
Q: Wait, there are FIVE sections?
A: While the published PrepTests contain four sections (2 Logical Reasoning, 1 Reading Comp, 1 Logic Games), all official administrations of the LSAT will contain a fifth section — the experimental section. This section will not count toward your score, nor will it be released if/when the exam is published. Remember, February exams are typically undisclosed (i.e., no sections will be available for review when scores are released).
Q: Why are they doing this to me?
A: Well, like so many irritating things in life, it’s not really about you. The LSAC needs data on the difficulty level of questions and sections they are currently writing and plan to use on future exams. Where better than to get that data, then from all of you willing test subjects! So, while your performance on the experimental has no affect on your score at all, the LSAC is still very interested in the results for their own construction of future LSATs. This is the way that the LSAC is able to “pre-equate” each administration of the LSAT and ensure that scoring is fair and even-handed across multiple administrations.
Q: Where will it show up?
A: The conventional wisdom used to hold that the experimental section would only appear in one of the first three sections. Up until a few years ago, that was true, and as a result test takers could sometimes use the ordering of their sections to determine (usually after the fact) which section must have been their experimental. At the very least, they could be certain that their final two sections would be scored.
However, beginning with the October 2011 exam, some test takers have received exams with an experimental section in one of the final two sections of the exam (sections 4 or 5). So you can no longer simply trust your section lineup to tell you which section is experimental. You need to give every section your best effort.
Bottom line: in the current LSATs, the experimental can potentially show up in any section!
Q: What will it look like?
A: The experimental could be an extra section of any of the sectional formats. So, you might find yourself with 3 sections of Logical Reasoning, or 2 sections of Logic Games, or 2 sections of Reading Comprehension. One of these may sound like a dream come true, and one may sound like your own personal nightmare, but unfortunately, you can’t sign up for your preferred experimental format–it’s randomly assigned and you may have a different experimental format than your neighbor. You need to be mentally prepared for any lineup.
The experimental section will look and feel just like any other scored section. It has to, or the LSAC wouldn’t be able to gather useful data from your performance on it. Occasionally test takers report seeing slightly different wording on questions, or unusual question types, but those things appear just as frequently in the scored sections, so they are not a reliable indicator of which sections will be scored and which one will not.
It may feel easier than other sections, or harder, or exactly on par. Experimental sections range the gamut in difficulty levels, as do scored sections. Also, a particular exam might have an above average difficulty Logic Games (scored) section, and a below average difficult Reading Comprehension (scored) section, or any other combination. Don’t assume in the middle of a particularly difficult section that it must be the experimental, and decide to not give it your all!
Q: So how am I supposed to figure out which section is the experimental??
A: Well, during the exam, you aren’t. Seriously, since the LSAC can’t just scan your brain (yet), they are very invested in you performing at your peak during the experimental. As a result, they aren’t interested in making it easier for you to figure it out during the exam.
And what would you do if you figured it out? Take a nap? First, that’s probably not a great idea even if you were able to identify it accurately–keeping yourself mentally limber and active is more valuable. But consider the absolutely devastating consequences that would follow if you incorrectly concluded a particular section was experimental and decided to take that nap. Those costs are entirely too high, and whatever minimal benefit you might have gotten from a break is not worth that risk.
Q: But I heard you can figure it out by….
A: Probably not. Whatever rule you heard has exceptions, and you might fall into them. Do you really want to risk your score on that?
Q: So, what’s the upside?
A: Well, the fact that the experimental section could be anywhere, and anything, can be a valuable psychological tool for test day in limited circumstances. Let’s say you just got the Logic Games section to end all Logic Games sections, and you are feeling downtrodden, demoralized, and discouraged. But the proctor is telling you to pick up your pencil and start the next section. You have to pick yourself up and brush yourself off and GET BACK IN THE GAME!
How do you do it? Lie to yourself. Tell yourself that the section you feel like you just bombed was TOTALLY the experimental, OBVIOUSLY. Make yourself believe it. And get back to business. Who knows? It might even turn out to be true!
Q: So, for the most part, I should just ignore the fact that there is an experimental, and treat this like an exam with 5 scored sections?
Last week I wrote about how to negate extreme answer choices, and this week we’re going to talk about mild statements that appear in answer choices.
The key with mild statements is, just like it was with extreme statements, to make them untrue but without seeking their polar opposite.
An example of a mild statement: “There’s some milk on the floor.”
How would we make this untrue? We’d say there’s no milk on the floor. There was some, and now there’s none. We mopped it up.
Mop up this:
“There might be a chance of rain tomorrow.”
How do you mop up that chance of rain?
There’s no chance of rain tomorrow.
Notice what I’m doing here? Think about it.
If I negate extreme statements by poking a hole in them, then it makes sense that you would negate mild statements by the inverse, that is, by using extreme language to mop them up. Try a few below and then check your answers. (And, as with all rules of thumb when it comes to the LSAT, please understand this a guideline only—as a way of thinking about negation—and not a hard-and-fast rule that will get you to 180. High scores don’t come by simply memorizing and applying rules; they come from learning the strategies, techniques, and concepts that enable you actually understand, analyze, and apply logic. Now I’ll get off my soapbox.)
1. Jackson Pollock may be one of the best painters that ever lived.
2. On occasion, Jillian will take a nap between 3 and 5 or sometimes 3 and 6.
3. Often, but not always, Jim likes to take pictures of rainbows.
4. The early bird sometimes gets the worm.
1. Jackson Pollock is not one of the best painters that ever lived.
2. Jillian never takes a nap between 3 and 6. [Notice this covers the 3-5 period.]
3. Jim either never likes to take pictures of rainbows or always does.
4. The early bird never gets the worm.
What if we wanted to negate just the standard saying, “The early bird gets the worm.” Would we say, “The early bird never gets the worm?” Think about it for a moment before reading on.
Okay, if you answered no, you’re correct. “The early bird gets the worm” is an “extreme” statement in the sense that we interpret it to mean the early bird always gets the worm. So, harking back to the last post, we poke a hole in it: The early bird sometimes doesn’t get the worm.
For much more in-depth explanation and practice, turn to the negation section of the Manhattan LSAT Logical Reasoning Strategy Guide.
I LOVE Beyoncé. I want to sing like her and be like her, and last month I was supposed to fly to Dallas just to go to her concert with my sister. But instead, my flight was canceled and I was stranded in Queens watching You Tube clips while my sister and brother-in-law tried repeatedly to Facetime me from the rafters of the enormous theater. My self-pity video marathon included “All the Single Ladies,” and later, when I was thinking about this series and how best to describe negation technique, I thought of the song. While putting a ring on it is what Beyoncé wants for all you single ladies, what I want for you is this: When you’re facing an extreme statement (“all” “none” “best” “worst”)—not unlike my adoration for Queen B, herself—what I want you to do is put a hole in it.
For a quick refresher, we’re discussing how to “negate” an answer choice to a necessary assumption question on the logical reasoning section of the LSAT. You do this in order to test it. If negating the answer choice makes the argument fall apart, it is necessary. (If negating the answer choice doesn’t destroy the argument, or if you can’t tell what it does, look for a better answer.) Last week I wrote my first post of three on negation techniques. Today, we keep going.
What do I mean by “put a hole in it?”
If the answer choice reads, “All birds fly,” you negate it by poking a hole in it: not all birds fly. Or some birds don’t fly. Same thing. Either way, notice what we’re doing. If the statement were a big hot air balloon, we’d be pin-pricking it. We aren’t, in other words, trying to melt it down then mold it into something else completely: “No birds fly.” That’s not negation. That brings me to the DON’T of this post, what my friend calls roofing it.
Roofing a joke is when people are discussing a subject and someone takes it too far. A classic example is when someone calls you Hitler when you express your view that a local park needs a thorough mowing. Or when everyone is discussing how annoying skunks are, and someone suggests we just blow up all the skunks.
When it comes to extreme answer choices to necessary assumption questions, don’t negate the sweeping statement with an opposing sweeping statement—don’t roof it.
Suppose (A) reads, “Dr. Seuss is the best children’s author ever.” You could negate this by saying, “There was another children’s author who was as good as Dr. Seuss.” You wouldn’t say, “Dr. Seuss was the worst children’s author ever to walk on earth.” That would be roofing it.
Say (B) reads, “Dr. Seuss wrote faster than any other writer in history.” Negate it: He didn’t. Or, someone wrote faster than him. Yes, and yes. Roofing it: He wrote as slow as your granny backing out of her driveway. Too far.
In sum, when it comes to extreme statements in answer choices, poke it, don’t roof it.
Next week we’ll be discussing my rule for negating mild statements, courtesy of Destiny’s Child.