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Nicole on February 20 at 03:39AM

Cannot solve on my own

When watching the videos, I feel very comfortable and can solve along with the instructor, however, when I sit to practice, I cannot identify how to even begin the questions. Is this a normal thing to experience, and are there any tips in overcoming this? (If anyone experienced this: It feels like I know what to do when I am in class, being lectured and carried through the problem, however whenever I go home to do the HW alone, it feels foreign/as if I didn't just sit through this lesson)

3 Replies

Andrea on February 20 at 08:11AM

Hi @nicolebet,

Don't beat yourself up too much - at one point, I felt just like that too. And now, I'm teaching the LSAT! So take it from me, what you're feeling is normal and getting through it is just about more practice and persistence.

Thinking back on what I might tell my pre-LSAT tutor self about the exam, a few things come to mind.

The first is the importance of understanding the relationship between premise and conclusion. Back then, I thought I understood this relationship for much the same reason you gave above - being able to follow the example felt like a good sign. However, when I hit the questions, accuracy didn't always follow. Only now do I understand what I was missing back then.

The gap between premise and conclusion is sometimes obvious. However, other times is can be very discreet. I like to encourage students to do some practice that involves covering up the question stem and the answer choices, and just analyzing the argument itself. Practice identifying the dynamic at play in the premise to conclusion relationship. Practice doubting the conclusion and thinking of ways that you could contradict it. All of this involves critical thinking, which is crucial to your understanding of the exam.

Another exercise I suggest is predicting answer choices for question stems that aren't given. For example, you read a stimulus and practice analyzing the argument itself and finding the assumptions and gaps. Then, when you do look at the question stem, you try predicting an answer choice not only for the stem you're given, but also for another stem as well. For example, if the stem is revealed to be a strengthen question, predict a strengthen question answer choice, but also use that same argument to predict what an answer choice would look like if the stem were a weaken question. In LR, question stems are very interchangeable. You can do a lot of different things with any given argument, and that's why I think this exercise helps strengthen students' understanding of the critical relationship between premise and conclusion and the invaluable skill of argument analysis.

Another thing I would try is taking some time to make sure you understand why a wrong answer choice is wrong. Even if you get the question right, go back and make sure you can very concretely give a reason or reasons why the incorrect answer choices are incorrect. If you find yourself saying "Oh, that just doesn't feel right...." then you are probably not learning anything you can take away and apply to another question on the test. If something doesn't feel right, make sure you take the time to understand what exactly about it is wrong.

Along those lines, I have another trick. Remember that in any given question, there is an eighty percent chance that the answer choice you are looking at is wrong. Be cautious (and I give you this warning from experience, because I remember I used to do this ALL the time) of getting too attached to an idea or bit of language in an answer choice without being critical of all other components of that answer choice. Remember, wrong answers are designed to be tempting! They will often include familiar ideas, or language that gives the illusion of fit. However, these answer choices often go bad quickly by also including blatant mischaracterization, misappropriation of ideas, incorrect use of logical force, or other problematic components. Be critical of the entire answer choice, even on answer choices you like. If you get stuck between two you like, that’s a sign you might not be being critical enough...instead of looking for something that looks more right in one or the other of two, try looking for the thing that makes one of them wrong.

An instructor once told me that the answer choices are not your friends. This is true! Go into them a skeptic. Assume they are wrong until proven right. With five answer choices and 80/20 chances for any given one being correct, look for the things in them that allow you to toss them out quickly instead of getting too hung up on a bit of phrasing you feel is ideal. I often used to try to warp wrong answer choices into right ones in my head, because I got too attached to some bit of language I liked while overlooking something else that was blatantly wrong in that answer. Again, the answer choices are not your friends. Don’t try to “warp” them to fit what you imagine or predict the right answer to be—be skeptical and see them for what they are, traps.

Hope this helps! Feel free to follow up if you have any more questions about the above, and keep up the good practice! :)

Nicole on February 21 at 02:01AM

Thank you so much for your tips! I feel like these will help me in LR, but how would I transfer these skills into approaching the Logic Games; is more practice the answer?
Thanks again for your time and detailed response.

Irina on February 22 at 12:28AM

@nicolebet,

For logic games, it is helpful to attempt to solve the game on your own without referring to the video or written explanations regardless of how long it takes you. There are multiple potential approaches/ setups for every single game, and what works best for the instructor may not work best for you. I would invest time in working though multiple games on your own - starting with simple linear games and up to advanced hybrid games - and figuring our which games do you find most challenging and reviewing lessons on specific techniques for these game types rather than looking only at solutions. I personally have never taken a prep course and primarily used the techniques from formal logic classes to solve the games. Good luck with your studies.