I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this story:
“I knew a guy who just took, like, 40 LSAT in a row over 2 weeks. He hardly slept or ate, he just like, took LSATs, until he got a 180.”
You know what? I’d put money on it: Either that guy started at a 172, or he is an urban legend. (I’ll let you guess which I think is more likely.)
In general, you’ll hear Manhattan Prep teachers say over and over again, quantity does not trump—or match—quality when it comes to LSAT preparation. It is better to take 1-2 tests per week and spend twice as long reviewing them as you did taking them than it is to squeeze in 4 or 5 tests and rush through your review, if you even have time to review at all.
You will learn logic by studying logic methodically, systematically, and dedicatedly. Not by binging on logic problems, hoping that the sheer volume will somehow leak into your brain.
Myth #2: Memorize all the tricks and tactics, and you’ll get a 170+.
The LSAT, I’m sorry to tell you, does not boil down to a set of tips and tactics and “gotcha” solutions. While devices like mnemonics and rules of thumb such as, “The word ‘thus’ indicates a conclusion” are certainly useful, they should not be relied on to carry your score. They should be used as supplements to logical thinking, in other words, not replacements for logical thinking.
Be wary of study methods, people, and books that appeal to your wishful thinking—while tricks and tactics can be helpful, they cannot substitute for rigorous study of the actual concepts being tested, no matter how good they are.
Myth #3: Learn conditional logic, and you’re set.
Conditional logic—the kind of logic that goes, “If X, then Y,” and all its variations—is all over the LSAT. There’s no question about that. And for this reason, learning it is essential. There’s also no question, there.
But a common pitfall is believing that learning conditional logic and applying it across the board is the solution to breaking 170, and that’s just not the case.
Many questions on the LSAT not only don’t require conditional logic, they become more convoluted and even impossible to solve when cast through the lens of conditional logic. (And there is very little if any conditional logic on the Reading Comprehension section.)
The better plan is to learn condition logic backwards and forwards, yes, but then, learn how to recognize where it should be applied and where it should be set aside to wait for you while you use the other tools in your kit.
Now keep up the good work!
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.
Music can do a lot for us, but the word is still out on whether it can enhance our ability to stay focused and sharpen our memories during long study sessions. On the one hand, we have a report from the University of Toronto suggesting that fast and loud background music can hinder our performance on reading comprehension. On the other, there’s the recent research from the digital music service, Spotify, and Clinical Psychologist Dr. Emma Gray, which proclaims that pop hits from artists like Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus can actually enhance our cognitive abilities.
“Music has a positive effect on the mind, and listening to the right type of music can actually improve studying and learning,” says Dr. Gray. She even suggests that students who listen to music while studying can perform better than those who do not.
We also cannot leave out the so-called “Mozart Effect,” which alleges that listening to classical music provides short-term enhancement of mental tasks, like memorization. We’ve heard students swear by this tactic, while others say that silence is golden.
Here’s a beautiful fantasy: you walk into your first LSAT class, and you’re given a set of books full of LSAT secrets. Over the next six to twelve weeks, you memorize these little treasures, which are like decadent bite-size morsels, and you leave your last class knowing exactly what you need to regurgitate in order to score a 180. It was merely a matter of getting down all the tricks! You scribbled them in your notebook, took a snapshot with your brain, and that’s all there was to it.
When you take a Manhattan LSAT course, at some point your instructor will likely deliver the bad news that this fantasy is just that. There isn’t a magic pill to make you do well on this test–but there are certainly things you can do in order to perform better, and when you get to a certain level, it’s no longer about memorization.
If I memorized all the rules of good writing–be specific! have vivid characters! create conflict!–does that mean that if I just sit down and apply all of those rules, I’m going to write a great story? A story that’s in the top 1% of all stories?
No. If I actually apply everything I’ve learned, and if it’s good information, then I’ll probably write a pretty decent story–a better one than I’d written before. But in order to move from decent to outstanding, I’ve got to have something else: flexibility. I’ve got to be able to know where the rules stop and my own sense of the story’s logic takes over, because there is no perfect formula that applies to every tale ever written or to be written.
The same is true of the LSAT. If you work hard to learn rules and apply them, your score will likely go up. It may go up a lot. You may score a 165 or a 168. But people who score 175 are not just applying rules; they know how to think on their feet to interpret unfamiliar questions, and to come up with variations on the principles they understand well.
The beauty of the LSAT is that it’s a logic test, and logic can be learned. But logic is also not something you can fool your way through for four 35-minute sections. To score in the 99th percentile, you should absolutely study methods, general rules, and tips. These will get you far. But to reach those extra few points, you are going to have to work at making yourself better at logical thinking. And there’s no shortcut for that.
If you’re an LSAT forum poster/reader, you know that the good majority (almost all, in fact) of content-related LSAT posts focus on Logic Games and Logical Reasoning. This makes perfect sense. It’s easy to submit a post about a setup for a tough logic game, and it’s very easy to discuss the underlying logic present in one short LR question. LG and LR questions come in nice, neat packages. They are forum-friendly. Additionally, future LSAT test-takers seem to see and appreciate the immediate impact of a well-designed setup or a clever way to think about a piece of LR logic. The payoff is quick, and often immediate.
Reading comprehension, on the other hand, is messy. In order to have a serious, in-depth discussion about an RC passage, everyone in the conversation needs to be coming directly from a focused read of the passage. It doesn’t work to try to remember back to the passage, or to read a quick summary. For this reason, not many like to talk about it or ask about it. It’s inconvenient. Furthermore, there never seems to be a quick, easy payoff when it comes to RC. There’s not one inference that can be made to change confusion to understanding, there’s no quick gimmick that can be posted concisely to help someone become a better reader. There’s simply no quick fix, no immediate gratification. So why spend time on it? Most people don’t.
These are the people you are competing against. The better you do relative to them, the higher your LSAT score. Make their RC weakness your strength and you’ll put yourself in a position to gain upwards of 4 raw points on the field. Before you decide to make RC your LSAT version of a powerful forehand, you need to be in the right mindset. Read more
Top Five Tips for Studying for the LSAT
1. Practice As You Play. Don’t go into test day with only one or two practice tests under your belt. Make sure you do a minimum of five practice tests – and do those under actual timed conditions with only one short break between sections three and four. Since the LSAC (the company that writes and administers the LSAT) adds an extra, experimental section to everyone’s test, make sure to add in your own extra section to simulate the actual length of the exam.
2. Wrong Isn’t Everything. Most students only review the questions they answered incorrectly on their practice tests. Instead, as you take your practice test note the questions that give you trouble or take too long. Give those questions extra review along with the ones you get wrong. In short, if you’re not confident about your answer, consider it a “mistake,” and learn from it.
3. Work from Wrong to Right. For the logical reasoning and reading comprehension sections, note which answers you can easily eliminate, and leave unmarked those which are somewhat attractive to you. When you review your work, go back and figure out why each tempting wrong answer is wrong. There are only so many ways to create an attractive incorrect answer. Learn the different types of wrong answers and you’ll find it much easier to eliminate them going forward. Top test-takers generally focus on eliminating wrong answers since the correct answer may be far from ideal but be the last one standing.
4. Play it Again. One of the most under-utilized study techniques for logic games is to re-solve them a second and third time. When you face a tough game, review it soon afterwards to consider what you wished you had done. Figure out the diagram you wish you had made and what inferences did you overlook. Then let the game sit for a week and then try it again. This can dramatically improve your speed.
5. Give it a Break. The 3-day marathon before test day isn’t the best idea! Don’t take any full-length practice tests within the week preceding test day. Your brain is a muscle, and it needs to rest. The last few days should include only a couple hours of practice work, and the night before, watch Legally Blonde to get your mind off the big day.