One of the most challenging things about LSAT Logic Games, formally known as the LSAT Analytical Reasoning Section, is that it tests skills that are totally foreign to most college curriculums. By the time we reach the LSAT-preparation stage of our lives, many of us haven’t done a puzzle in well over a decade. And yet here they are: four little puzzles standing between you and your law school dreams. Why are they there? What relevance could they possibly have to a career in law?
This article will explore the what and why of the LSAT Logic Games section—and provide our best tips for conquering it.
LSAT Logic Games Test Your Ability to Track Entities and Apply Constraints
According to the LSAC, the organization that creates and administers the LSAT, the LSAT Logic Games section “reflects the kinds of detailed analyses of relationships and sets of constraints that a law student must perform in legal problem solving.”
Okay, fair enough. As a law student, you’ll certainly need to analyze relationships between entities. The laws that apply to those entities can be thought of as a set of constraints.
The LSAT Logic Games section is composed of four games, each with at least one set of entities and between two and six constraints. If you’ve read about LSAT Logic Games, you’ll know that the entities are commonly referred to as elements or variables, and the constraints are also known as the rules.
LSAT Logic Games Tips for Mastering the Entities (aka the Elements, aka the Variables)
- Use a single letter to represent each entity, and create a roster of entities for every game you do.
- Be careful: LSAT Analytical Reasoning writers will sometimes try to trick you into representing an entity that isn’t really there by presenting their entities alphabetically. Consider this scenario where the entities are animals: armadillo, bear, chimpanzee, dingo and falcon. So here’s my roster: A B C D E F. Right? Wrong! Don’t get tricked into placing an “E” in your roster. Sorry, eagles…it’s not your day.
- If you have multiple sets of entities, always label your rosters. In the scenario above, if there were also veterinarians that’d be tending to the animals, you’d label one roster animals and the other vets. Failing to label your rosters sets you up for confusion later. Some people also find it helpful to make the entities in one roster uppercase and the other lowercase. This can help you differentiate between the categories of entity quickly when the entities are placed into your diagram.
LSAT Logic Games Tips for Mastering the Constraints (aka the Rules)
- Each constraint on the LSAT Analytical Reasoning section should be represented visually.
- The constraints overwhelmingly fall into just a few categories, and your shorthand for representing rules in each category should be consistent and on automatic recall in your brain.
- Now that the LSAT is going digital, you’ll be drawing your constraints on scratch paper instead of next to the game itself. Never fear. Stay organized by drawing a master diagram on one corner of your paper. Then represent the constraints in a single column next to your master diagram.
LSAT Logic Games Test Your Powers of Classification
Virtually all games ask you to do one of two things: put elements in order or put elements into groups. A few games (we call them hybrids) will ask you to do both. The first thing tested on LSAT Logic Games is whether you can classify the game based on its primary task.
If you think about it, that’s a skill a lawyer needs, too. Can you quickly and accurately look at a situation that has a bunch of impacted parties and a bunch of laws that apply, and decide what kind of case to pursue? Master LSAT Logic Games and the answer to that question will probably be yes!
LSAT Logic Games Tips for Mastering Classification
- The first question you should be asking yourself as you read a game is, “Is this game about putting things in order, putting things in groups, or both?”
- Once you figure out that basic classification, ask yourself questions to see if the game is a Basic Ordering game, a Basic Grouping game, or whether it has any sub-classifications.
- If the game is an Ordering game, are all the rules about where elements are placed relative to other elements? If so, you’re looking at a Relative Ordering game.
- Is there more than one set of entities in your ordering game, as in the animals and veterinarians example above? If so, you’re looking at a 3D Ordering game.
- Do you know how many members each group has in your grouping game? If not, you’re looking at an Open Grouping game.
- Is your game about figuring out which entities are selected and which are not? If so, you’re looking at an In/Out Grouping game.
- Visually represent the game based on the game’s classification.
- For games about putting one set of entities in order (Basic Ordering games or Relative Ordering games), use a number line with a row of slots on top.
- For games about putting two sets of entities in order (3D Ordering games), use a number line with two rows of slots on top.
- For games about putting things into groups with a defined number of members (Basic Grouping games), represent the groups in a row and put a slot above each group for each group member.
- For games about selecting some elements but not others, represent the In group and Out group using the Logic Chain.
LSAT Logic Games Test Deductive Reasoning
Ahh, logic. The bulwark of the LSAT, and rightly so. As a law student and a lawyer, you’ll encounter scenarios in which a variety of laws apply to some or all of the parties involved. What’s more, some of these laws will necessarily overlap. What will that overlap mean for the parties involved? That’s for you to find out!
In the LSAT Logic Games section, you’ll see this type of reasoning tested heavily. In virtually every game, there will be constraints that overlap and entities that are impacted by multiple constraints. Where this is the case, you can often use deductive reasoning to figure out something that must be true, which we’ll call an Inference.
Consider, if, in the game above, the vet had to treat the dingo before treating the bear. What can we infer? We can infer that the bear isn’t the first animal treated and the dingo isn’t the last. We call these Basic Inferences: Inferences that can be made from a single rule.
Now consider if, additionally, we knew the bear was treated immediately after the chimpanzee. We could draw the same type of Basic Inference here (bear isn’t treated first and chimpanzee isn’t treated last). But we can also combine the two rules to draw a more advanced set of Inferences. Now the dingo can’t be last or second-to-last, because it will have to precede both the bear and the chimpanzee. And the chimpanzee can’t be first, because, if it were, the dingo couldn’t precede the bear.
LSAT Logic Games Tips for Mastering Deductive Reasoning
- Rules that express order lead to Basic Inferences. The element that must go first in the rule can’t go last in the diagram… And the element that must go last in the rule can’t go first in the diagram. Make these Basic Inferences. Then, build them into your master diagram by drawing the element under the slot it cannot occupy and crossing out.
- If an element shows up in more than one rule (like the bear in the example above), chances are good that you can combine the rules to find more advanced Inferences.
- If a rule creates a two-way split in a game, you might be able to figure out every possible way the game could pan out using a technique called an advanced deductive technique called framing.
- Look for Inferences hiding in the numeric rules of the game. Always ask yourself “Does every element get used? Can any element repeat?”
LSAT Logic Games Test the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth
If there’s one thing LSAT Logic Games tests more than any other, it’s truth value: the difference between what’s definitely true, what might be true, what’s definitely false, and what might be false. Most of the questions on LSAT Logic Games ask you to select an answer that has one of these four qualities.
Some questions will introduce a new condition that only holds for that question. (e.g., If the vet treats falcons first, which of the following cannot be true?). These questions typically require you to draw a new mini-diagram. This diagram builds in this new condition and uses it to reach new Inferences. We call these Conditional questions.
Other questions (which we call Unconditional questions) will just ask broadly about the existing rules. (e.g., Which of the following animals could not be treated second?). For these questions, you may have made an Inference that answers the question right off the bat. If so, shazam! Your work here is done. But often you won’t have answered the question by finding an Inference… So you may find yourself drawing mini-diagrams to test some of the answers.
LSAT Logic Games Tips to Master Telling the Truth (from the Possible Truth, from the Definitely-Not-The-Truth)
- Always draw a new mini-diagram for Conditional questions.
- Whatever the truth value targeted by a question, always think through what that means about the right and the wrong answers. For example, if a question asks “Which of the following must be true?” that means that one answer, the correct one, must be true, while four answers, the incorrect ones, could be false.
- Once you know the truth value that would make an answer false, use process of elimination.
- Don’t be afraid to draw mini-diagrams to test out answers.
- To test whether an answer could be true, try to make a valid diagram in which it is true. If you can, it’s the right answer.
- To test whether an answer could be false, try to make a diagram in which it is false. If you can, it’s the right answer.
- To test whether an answer must be true, try to make a diagram in which it is false. If you can’t, it’s the right answer. Why approach it like this? Because making a diagram in which the answer is true would only show that it could be true. To see whether it must be true (without drawing a ton of diagrams), you need to prove that it can’t be false.
- To test whether an answer must be false, try to make a diagram in which it is true. If you can’t do it, the answer must be false.
What’s Tested on LSAT Logic Games: Bringing it All Together
Even though it might seem foreign, both to you as a student and as a hopeful future lawyer, the LSAT Logic Games section is more closely related to being a law student than it appears. More than any other section, the LSAT Logic Games section demands that you attack it systematically. If you don’t have a consistent process for denoting entities and constraints, classifying games, utilizing deductive reasoning and wrestling with truth values, your approach to Logic Games will be haphazard at best and disastrous at worst.
LSAT Logic Games Final Tips
- Start each game by picturing the real-world scenario to help you orient your diagram in a way that is intuitive.
- Practice drawing out your games on scratch paper. Label each mini-diagram that you draw for conditional questions and answer choice testing so you can use them again later!
- Don’t be afraid to ditch your timer for a while. It takes time to build a systematic process.
- Write down your work. Students tend to think that doing a question in their head will be faster than doing it on paper. This isn’t actually the case. Working on your paper makes it easier to see connections quickly, and it keeps your work visible so you don’t have to rehash it on, say, answer choice E.
- Drawing a blank? Put pencil to paper! If you don’t know where to begin, just start somewhere. The process of thinking on paper will help you organize your thoughts and get you moving.
- If Unconditional questions are stumping you, you might have missed an Inference. Never fear! Try the Conditional questions first, then look at the mini-diagrams you generated when answering the Unconditional questions.
- The hard questions aren’t worth more than the easier ones. As you build your final test-day approach, don’t be afraid to skip the stumpers and look for greener pastures, especially if you’re not consistently finishing the section.
Laura Damone is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in San Francisco, CA. She fell for the LSAT while getting her undergrad degree and has now taught LSAT classes at more than 20 universities around the country. When she’s not teaching, learning, or publishing her work, she can be found frolicking in the redwoods and exploring the Pacific coast. Check out Laura’s upcoming LSAT courses here!