This is part one of our ?Worst Mistakes? series and focuses on the worst mistake 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 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 Before the Stimulus
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. In the Logical Reasoning portion, often times test-takers will 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.
This approach is pointless because without reading the stimulus, you don?t have the tools required 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.
So don?t cut this corner. Always approach each Logical Reasoning question in the same exact way, stimulus first. Take your time and 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. Then identify the question type, which sets forth the criteria for the correct answer, and read all five answer choices.
2. Resisting Reading All Five Answer Choices
Again, students who feel panicky about timing often skip through analyzing all of the answer choices. 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 are tricky!).
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 logical reasoning, helping you develop your 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
Do you know where all the information you need to correctly answer a Logical Reasoning question is? It?s in the stimulus.
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, instead of re-reading the stimulus, most students re-read 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) or (D).
4. Not Paying Attention to the Question Type
Each LSAT question asks 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.
Tips for Logical Reasoning
Take Notes as You Go
As you read over the stimulus, you may notice key components that jump out at you that will help you pick the correct answer later. Some test-takers find that writing down these figures as they go can help them pick between two answers if they?re stuck. It?s important that you don?t write down every little detail, just the key information that you think is vital. Writing down too much can end up costing you time in the long run.
Practice Your Timing
Along with studying practice tests that are untimed, it can help you prepare your pacing by taking timed practice tests too. Repeat test-takers often note that timing was one of their biggest hurdles throughout the LSAT. By practicing within a set time limit, you?ll already have a feel for how much time you can spend on each question.
Skip Difficult Questions
The LSAT does not penalize you for missed questions, so there?s no harm in skipping a question that you know you could answer if you had more time. If you need more time to figure out the correct answer, skip it and return later.
However, if you still don?t know the answer when you get back to it, you should give yourself enough time to go back and at least put down a guess. Students also aren?t penalized for wrong answers, so you should always at least make an educated guess?you never know, you could be right!
Nail the LSAT Part I: Logical Reasoning Section
Knowing and avoiding these mistakes will surely help you with your Logical Reasoning. For more mistakes to avoid, continue reading our Worst Mistakes You Can Make on the LSAT series, which focuses on Reading Comprehension.