Top 15 LSAT Tips
In watching many people take the LSAT over the years, I was very impressed with a successful advisee who scored repeatedly in practice in the 170s. For your benefit, I asked her to summarize her recommendations for defeating the LSAT. Here they are, by test section:
1. Question Stems: Read the question stems before investing any time in attacking the passages. This will allow you to pinpoint exactly what you're looking for as you read, saving you a considerable amount of time.
2. Watch out for ‘Out of Bounds' Choices: If several choices appear to be true, see if they pertain to the question itself and to exact boundaries of the argument. Many, many times, multiple answer choices will be true, as far as they go, but the incorrect choices will fall outside the relevant boundaries.
3. Assumptions Rule of Thumb: When working on assumption questions, remember that assumptions, upon which a conclusion relies, must be true for that conclusion to hold. If you have any doubts about whether or not the conclusion relies on a particular assumption, assume that the assumption is false. Is your conclusion still true? If not, the conclusion does rely on the assumption in question.
4. Diagram the Argument: Know the basic functions of the following in an argument.
- Claim/Hypothesis/Conclusion - the idea that the argument attempts to support; note that the hypothesis will likely be backed by data or evidence in order to arrive at the conclusion. (The conclusion is a hypothesis bolstered by evidence and in that way is proven true.)
- Assumption - a statement that must be true in order for the conclusion of the argument to hold.
- Evidence - information used to back up assumptions and the conclusion. Don't focus too much on consciously diagramming the argument, but do make a mental note of the different functions within an argument as you tackle questions.
5. Discrepancy Questions: When reading the passage, look for an incongruency. Note that it will likely NOT involve specific numbers - that is a favorite LSAT trap. Try to come up with an idea of the answer; then scan choices for the correct one.
6. Question Stems: Read the questions stems before tackling the passage. Identify which question stems are general or global, and which are specific, or local.
7. Be a Proactive Reader: As you read the passage, focus on structure and WHY the author is moving in a particular direction rather than worrying too much about what is being said. Make notes in the margins to diagram structure if necessary. You should have a general understanding of the content, but don't worry about retaining specific details; mark the lines where the specific questions are addressed.
8. Answer the Questions Depending on their Type: Your understanding of the framework of the argument should help you answer most general questions without referring too much to the text. On the specific questions, refer to the relevant parts of the passage - do not attempt to answer the question without referring to the passage.
9. Choose the Order of Passages: Spend about one minute quickly scanning the first couple of sentences in each passage. Choose the easiest passage first, and save the toughest for last. Easy questions are worth as much as hard questions.
10. Time Crunch: If you're in a major time crunch, read the first paragraph and the last paragraph of the passage in question, along with the first sentence in each of the middle paragraphs. Hone in on key words (i.e. first, second, therefore, however, etc.).
11. Type of Game: Identify the type of game with which you are dealing. Is it sequencing, matching, etc? This will help you determine which sort of diagram to create.
12. Create a Diagram: Spend at least 3-4 minutes creating the diagram. It may seem like a major time commitment, but it is worth it in the end.
13. Combine Assumptions: For example, in a sequencing game, if A comes before B and B comes before C, do make sure to note - in writing - that A comes before C. Incorporate this in your diagram.
14. Beware of Overinterpretation: In "loose" matching or sequencing games, make sure not to make more of assumptions than what they actually say. For example, if a game indicates that X and Y come after Z and that Q comes after Y - you can assume that Q comes after Y and Z, but you cannot assume that Q comes after X. Be very careful not to make deductions that don't exist.
15. The Right Answer: When you find the right answer choice, fill it in and move on. Do not try to figure out if the other choices are correct.
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