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Perfect diagrams. Inferences. Frames upon frames upon frames. No mistakes. A brain like John Nash. When someone thinks about what characterizes a top-scorer on the LSAT Logic Games section, a list like this generally comes to mind.
Sure, you can post-hoc write up explanations that reflect perfect form, but no one actually makes all the inferences on a given test while taking it in real time. People miss framing opportunities. Diagrams are messy and tentative. And mistakes happen to even the best of us.
I regularly hear the above list as what makes a good Logic Gamer, and I think it’s wrong. Here are the real skills that I think best predict a top LSAT Logic Games score.
Let’s start with a short one. LSAT Logic Games aren’t the logic puzzles your second-grade teacher gave you with only one solution. There are many possible valid boards. People who are comfortable with that do much better than people who always try to fill in all the slots.
Be Willing to Work
Most people want to do as much of the LSAT Logic Games section in their heads as possible. That’s poor form.
First, your brain doesn’t do well with arbitrary information. Second, letters will get jumbled around. Third, you can’t use brain-work in future questions.
My advice to LSAT students is the same as my hockey coach told me—keep your stick on the ice. In this case, the stick is your pencil, and the ice is the paper. Write stuff down. Test things out. Every hypothetical you write out gets you closer to a correct answer; every second you try to do it in your head just gets you closer to the moment where you realize you’ll have to write it out anyway.
Most people think you need inferences to finish on time.
Some math. Each answer choice shows up about 20% of the time. If you spend 4 minutes on your setup and, from there, just start testing out each answer choice, you’ll finish on time, as long as you can test out an answer (aka build a hypothetical) in ~20 seconds.
Seems crazy, but it’s true.
Show me someone who can finish a hypothetical in 20 seconds (by practicing to get there), and I’ll bet money they can do well on LSAT Logic Games.
Deciding to Move On
Another timing skill, in two parts.
First, you need to know when you’re done with a step in your process and it’s time to move to the next step. The Big Pause—where you look for inferences—isn’t a 1-minute+ step (unless you find some frames). It’s 15-20 seconds, tops. Know when you’re done with a step.
Second, know when you don’t have a quick way to find an answer. If the second question is a mystery to you, make the decision to skip it fast and come back at the end. If you still don’t see it, either test out the answers or move to the next game.
Recognizing and Fixing Mistakes
I mess up at least once on pretty much every game section. Sometimes I reverse a relative ordering rule. Other times, I’ll forget a rule during a question.
I still can’t remember the last time I got an LG question wrong.
The important skill to develop here is recognizing when you’re making a mistake, and fixing it. If you go through the answers and eliminate every one, don’t just pick one or talk yourself into the last one you eliminated. If you go through the answers and more than one is left, you’ve IDed that you’ve made a mistake!
These are two surefire signs that you’ve messed up. It’s why I recommend looking at each answer in LSAT Logic Games, especially in the first 2-3 questions per game (to see if you messed up your diagram, a rule, or an inference).
When I run into one of the above situations, I reset, walk through my work, find the error, and fix it. I don’t panic, especially since I now know an additional piece of information—something I did is wrong! Figuring it out will help me fly through the rest of the game.
Finally, you have to accept that you’ll be scrambling through the section. It won’t all be “inference” this and “moment of genius” that. On some questions, you’ll eliminate an answer based on an inference, use prior work to get rid of two more, and then test out the remaining answers. If you’re okay with an ugly process getting you the correct answer, you’ll do a lot better on the LSAT Logic Games section.
These are the attitudes and skills that I find to be most important in predicting LSAT success. They’re all things you can work on and adopt. So don’t worry too much about catching every inference. Instead, worry about making your process effective, especially when things aren’t going well. ?
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Matt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor and jdMission senior consultant based in New York City. After receiving a degree in biochemistry from Boston College, Matt scored a 180 on his LSAT and enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing his students receive the scores they want to get into the schools of their choice. Check out Matt’s upcoming LSAT courses here!