There’s a lot to the Logical Reasoning section on the LSAT. In my conversations with students over the years, I’ve seen a number of mistakes students make when studying on their own. So in this post, I want to share advice for how to improve your Logical Reasoning on the LSAT.
What not to do
Above all else, what you don’t want to do is simply take test after test, hoping that the repetition will make your score go up. You also don’t want to spend all of your time reading books like the LSAT Trainer or Loophole in LSAT Logical Reasoning, without actually practicing questions to build your skills.
So it’s a balancing act between learning the content and practicing actual questions until you can successfully deploy what you’ve learned. (And under time pressure.)
What you need to learn
As you study, here’s what you need to make sure to learn.
The names themselves don’t matter, but you definitely need to know the differences between the types of questions you’ll face in LR. Knowing your question types lets you know what your task is.
You’ll also need to have a step by step process for each question type.
Some prep books don’t get into this too much, but you’ll also want to know what type of stimulus to expect given the question type.
For example, you’ll find a flawed argument with a conclusion and (insufficient) evidence in necessary assumption, sufficient assumption, strengthen, weaken, flaw, parallel flaw, and evaluate the argument questions.
On the other hand, you’ll find a collection of facts in must be true and most strongly supported questions.
You’ll find two seemingly incompatible statements in paradox questions.
And finally, you’ll find a debate for questions about the point at issue or point of agreement.
Some question types, like must be true and parallel reasoning, make use of formal logic. So you’ll want to make sure you are comfortable diagramming sentences and finding the contrapositive.
Make sure to learn which words signal the sufficient condition in a formal logic statement (like “all” or “every”) and which words signal the necessary condition (like “only” or “only if”). And get comfortable translating sentences with “unless.”
Assumptions and flaws
Assumptions and flaws are the fundamentals of the LR section. For assumptions, you’ll need to know the difference between a sufficient assumption and a necessary assumption.
Flaws generally come in two types. First, you’ll need to know the “classic” flaws (flaws like ad hominem or “confuses percents for actual numbers”). Most books will have some sort of list of these common flaws.
You’ll also need to be able to think through more open-ended flaws like “fails to consider that…” or “presumes without justification that…” These more open-ended flaws have become increasingly more common on recent LSATs.
One more thing to study is the exact LSAT definition of quantifier words like “some,” “most,” “not all,” etc. Be careful, because these words don’t always mean what they do in real life! Note the difference between “few people” and “a few people.”
While you’re at it, learn the LSAT definition of “or” too.
How to practice
I’ve just given you a list of what you need to learn while improving your Logical Reasoning on the LSAT. Now it’s time to talk about how to put these things into practice.
Before you start working on speed, focus on your accuracy. Some students worry so much about the time limit that they assume all of their practice should be timed, but that’s not the case.
Think of it like learning to play a new sport. You don’t learn the techniques of the sport while playing at speed. (Or at least you wouldn’t learn them well that way.) Instead, you slow down, isolate different parts of the technique, and then put them together until you can execute it smoothly. Then you work on making that correct technique automatic. With automaticity comes speed.
As your accuracy increases, start to incorporate timed practice as well. At first, you’ll likely run out of time in the section, but that’s ok. Keep making sure you’re protecting your accuracy, especially on the first ten questions, since they are usually the easiest.
The closer you get to your test day, the more of your practice should be timed.
The power of review
Throughout your time improving your Logical Reasoning on the LSAT, be sure to devote ample attention to review. A solid review plan can cut down your total study time exponentially since it means you are maximizing your learning with each question you do.
This is such an important point that not only did I write an entire article about it, I also created an LSAT Practice Test Review Guide. The review guide walks you through the review process and helps you distill takeaways from each question to make sure you’re learning. Especially for self-study students, I can’t emphasize enough how review is key.
I’m committed to helping self-study LSAT students, whether they are self-studying or looking for a tutor. If you’re not sure whether you’re studying efficiently and effectively, get in touch so we can talk.
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