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The makers of the LSAT are famously mysterious, but that doesn't mean you can't get inside their heads. Teaching LSAT prep classes has given me some unique insights into the how and why of the test; the following tips-one for each section of the LSAT-should help you crack LSAC's code on test day.
LSAT Trick #1: Memorize Argument Types
Section: Logical Reasoning
The vast majority of questions on the two Logical Reasoning portions of the LSAT contain a full argument: one or more premises and a conclusion. The conclusion is the thing the author is trying to prove, and the premise is some evidence that supports that conclusion. A tried and true way of scoring big on the Logical Reasoning portion is to memorize a list of those argument types then look for them on test day.
Here's an example of a common argument type, often referred to as excluding alternatives:
There are two restaurants in this town- Roach Hut and Beef in a Cup. Beef in a Cup is closed for health code violations. Therefore, we must eat at Roach Hut.
We've eliminated every possible alternative, so we can conclude that we must go with the only one left. Arguments like this show up on every LSAT.
There are also mistakes that show up regularly in arguments, and the LSAT tests your understanding of them. Here's an example of a flaw that some refer to as an exclusivity flaw:
Imagine that, in the town referenced in the argument above, there was a third restaurant, Road Kill Bar & Grill. If you made the exact same argument-excluding one restaurant-without showing that this third option was impossible, you would've committed an exclusivity flaw.
On the test, two questions can look different on the surface-one might be about moon rocks and another about ancient history-but they may very well just be different contexts for the same type of argument. If you memorize the argument types and argument flaws before test day, you'll be light-years ahead of the competition.
LSAT Trick #2: Use Your Game Setup More Than Once
Section: Analytical Reasoning (Games)
Let's say question #9 asks you, “If C is in slot 7, which one of the following must be true?” You dutifully create your Logic Games setup with C in 7, get the answer and move on. Guess what? You can use the work you did on question #9 on later questions.
For example, another question might ask something like, “Which of the following could be true?” If there's an answer choice that matches the setup you already made for question #9, you've already proven that it could be true, and so you've got the right answer without doing any work.
If you can use your earlier work to knock out a few answer choices, you have a better chance of getting the later question right. If you can knock out all four wrong answers, then you've got the right answer by process of elimination.
The takeaway here is don't do more work than you have to.
LSAT TRICK #3: Find the Argument Structure
Section: Reading Comprehension
It's useful to think of a passage in the Reading Comprehension section as a really long (and boring) Logical Reasoning argument. Since there are generally between one and three arguments being made in any Reading Comprehension passage, and we know that an argument is made of premises and a conclusion, look for those premises and conclusions as you read. Find the structure of the argument to help you understand what's being asked.
These things are very often conclusions:
A cause and effect relationship; a hypothesis; a recommendation that a course of action be taken; a prediction; an answer to a question.
These things are very often premises:
An experiment; a scientific study; scientific research; an example; an expert's statement; a laundry list of items in a category.
Here's an example of something you might see on test day: The author says that smoking causes cancer. Then he talks about a study that shows that people who smoke are far more likely to get cancer than those who don't. The cause and effect relationship is the conclusion, and the study is a premise that supports it. You'll get tested on your understanding of how those two things relate to one another.
About the Author
Branden Frankel is an LSAT instructor for Blueprint LSAT Preparation. Prior to teaching, he scored a 175 on the LSAT, got his JD from UCLA, and practiced patent law. You can find more of his insights at Most Strongly Supported | LSAT Blog, through BluePrint LSAT Prep.
About BluePrint LSAT Preparation
Blueprint students increase their LSAT score by an average of 11 points on in-class practice tests, and can enroll in live LSAT prep classes throughout the country or take an online LSAT course from home.