The Worst Mistakes You Can Make on the LSAT Part I: Logical Reasoning

Today we kick off our 'worst mistakes' series and focus on the worst mistakes you can make on the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT exam.

One of the best ways to get better at the LSAT is to take real practice LSATs and learn from your mistakes. Reviewing questions you've missed—and not moving on until you are entirely clear on the error—is a crucial for your overall LSAT performance.

But certain bad habits can really impede your LSAT prep. Here are some of the worst mistakes you can make, and tips to avoid them—starting with the Logical Reasoning section.

1. Reading the Question First. Students who panic about timing on the LSAT often look for shortcuts, trying to shave seconds off each question in a race to finish each section on time. On Logical Reasoning, they skip the stimulus and go straight to the question. Ironically, this is a terrible waste of time, because you inevitably end up reading the question twice: once before you read the stimulus, and then again after. And it's pointless—without reading the stimulus, you have no tools at all to evaluate the question, much less tackle the answer choices. If you understand the information presented in the stimulus, you will find the correct answer, whatever the question stem.

So don't cut this corner. Always approach each Logical Reasoning question in the same exact way, stimulus first. Take your time and be sure you assess whether the stimulus contains an argument or just a set of facts. If it contains an argument, identify the conclusion and the premise(s) that support that conclusion. Then evaluate the argument: is it logically sound? Meaning: does the conclusion follow properly from the premise(s)?

Only after you've done this analytical work should you read the question. Identify the question type, which sets forth the criteria for the correct answer. Then read all five answer choices. Which brings us to:

2. Resisting Reading All Five Answer Choices. Again, students who feel panicky about timing don't want to read every single answer choice. But reading all five answer choices is important for several reasons.

First, it ensures that you do not get suckered in to the "sucker" choice—the one that, somehow, is often positioned right before the actual correct answer (yeah, that's not a coincidence—the LSAT writers do not like you!).

Second, if you find yourself thinking two answers are right, you know you need to go back to the stimulus and really make sure you understand the logical relationship between the premise(s) and the conclusion (more on this below).

And finally, reading all five answer choices and affirmatively understanding why four are wrong and one is right hones your skill—helping you develop process of elimination skills and improving your LSAT score overall.

3. Feeling Stuck Between Two Answer Choices, and Obsessively Re-Reading Them Instead of Going Back to the Stimulus. You know where all the information you need to correctly answer a Logical Reasoning question is? In the STIMULUS. Counter-intuitive but true.

When you find yourself trapped between two answer choices, you need to go back to the stimulus and see what you've missed—because something clearly hasn't clicked. Yet most students, instead of re-reading the stimulus, re-read the two candidate answers. They resist returning to the stimulus because they worry about wasting time—not realizing that entire minutes can melt away while they agonize over (A) and (D).

4. Not Paying Attention to the Question Type. Each LSAT question is asking you to apply a specific analytic skill. If you aren't paying attention, you'll answer a "strengthen" question with a "weaken" answer, or vice versa. This is an exam that rewards precision (as does the legal profession overall). Study the various question types, and ensure that you approach each question according to its type.

In sum: take a deep breath, slow yourself down, and really make sure you understand the logic of the stimulus, the purpose of the question stem, and the options in all five answer choices before bubbling in.

Best of luck!