Archive for the ‘Lesson Excerpt’ Category

Look at that McRib. So juicy and so tempting. So easy to eat it just melts in your mouth and coagulates on your gut. Look at those fries. Perfectly flavored with all natural chemicals. Crispy and salty. Isn't is so much easier to just eat that than to eat an ugly salad? You know it is. You also know it's terrible for you.

So brace yourselves. We're tossing up some salad and you're not going to like it. But it will save your life.

Also, I'm talking about the LSAT. I don't really care if you eat McDonald's.

Ready? Here we go.

1. Underestimating when to start studying for the LSAT (Three months is not enough time to prepare!)

When should you start studying for the LSAT? The first mistake students make is underestimating the difficulty of the LSAT. So, let me be very clear. The LSAT is a beast. I don't know you. I've never met you. Maybe you're a beast too. But, I'm telling you right now that you need more than 3 months to adequately train.

Now, I know the "industry standard" is 3 months. I have no idea how it got there but it's stupid and detrimental. I have some theories: implicit collusion between you and the test prep companies that charge you $1,000+ for an LSAT Course. They, of course, want to maximize profits and therefore will run the shortest class acceptable. You hate the LSAT so you'll readily accept a prescription of 3 months (or fewer! yay!) as "appropriate" for the amount of time to train. It's collusion and you're the victim.

But that's not important, is it? The important thing is that you plan to spend way more than 3 months training. A year is reasonable. Look at it rationally. Which is weighed more heavily in law school admissions, GPA or LSAT? LSAT. Duh! Yet, you spend 4 years on your GPA but, what, only 3 months on the LSAT? How the hell does that make any sense? Do you even know how important the LSAT is? It makes or breaks your application. End of story. If I'm telling you that you need to spend a year, only a year, to realize your maximum potential on the LSAT, you should be thinking this is a fucking bargain. Because it is. You're getting a great deal. And I haven't even counted the tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

The LSAT is a test of skills. Your skills in parsing difficult grammar. Your skills in conditional logic. Your skills in causation logic. Your skills in argument evaluation. These skill, like all skills, require time to take root and grow. You have to actively cultivate these skills. You have to train. A necessary ingredient is time. There is simply no substitute. You need time.

2. You're wasting irreplaceable LSAT Prep Tests

This second mistake causes irreparable harm.

You have to realize that there are a finite number of Official LSAT Prep Tests (PTs). (You're not a moron so you must know that you are to avoid fake LSAT questions like the plague.) To date, there are around 70. That's it. If you exhaust all of those PTs, you're pretty much done. You have nothing left to train with.

This is because the one thing you have to do over and over and over and over and over again is to take timed, proctored, full length PTs and then Blind Review. Performance on a new, recent PT, under conditions of stress and strict timing. That's why it's so important not to spoil recent PTs.

Of course, you do have to learn the fundamentals somehow so you have to sacrifice some PTs for that. But, not the recent ones!

Here's how we do it.

We only pull LSAT questions from pre-PT 36 to use for the curriculum and problem sets. Every PT starting from 36 and above are kept pristine for you to take under timed conditions.

3. You're setting an unrealistic schedule

Don't be naive.

Seriously, take a good look at your ability to handle responsibilities and commit. Back in college, at the beginning of every semester I'd load up on classes thinking this is it. This is the semester that I turn my life around. I will be awesome and responsible and blah blah blah and 3 weeks in I watch ALL the episodes of The Wire in 5 days and shit I missed all my classes. But, hey, I went out and had the BEST TIME OF MY LIFE or whatever shreds of the 36 hour binge drinking marathon that I could recall anyway. And all my heroic, naive promises to myself just look stupid.

Sound familiar? Look, if that's you, that's fine. Just don't expect the LSAT to change you. That shit takes a long time. What's faster is recognizing, embracing, and planning around your limitations. That's called "wisdom".

Don't be like me: "I GOT THIS. I WILL STUDY 30 HOURS A DAY. SLEEP IS FOR LOSERS." No, moron, there's only 24 hours in a day and you need to be not conscious for 7 of those hours. You also need a realistic study schedule. If you're in school. It's very, very hard to study for the LSAT. Plan on something light, like 4 hours a week. Same if you're working full time. Study first thing in the morning, not last thing after all your other things of the day. Draw out your LSAT schedule to a year.

If you are studying full time, still don't study more than 30 hours a week. You simply need to give these ideas time to take root and grow. You also need time to relax. Go on a date. (You're studying for the LSAT, you're obviously single or will be very soon.) Go for a jog. Go on a date with your computer. Go see a movie. Stare at the moon. Get away from the LSAT. Burnout is a real phenomenon and you don't want to be anywhere near it.

Ideally, a wise student who avoids all three mistakes sets out a year long LSAT study schedule, begins with learning the fundamentals (e.g., logic, grammar, causation, argumentation, the scientific method). Then, she practices them on problem sets from pre-PT 35. Then, after some months of doing that, she starts to take timed, proctored full length PTs and Blind Reviews.

Slow and steady. That's the way to go.

Featured image: fast food credit chief_huddleston

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It's very important that you print your PrepTests correctly. If you don't, you're denying yourself the opportunity to get comfortable with the actual layout of the test.

Here are the simple steps to follow:

1. Scroll to the first page of Section 1 of your PrepTest.
2. Scroll back 1 page so you're on the page before the first page of Section 1.
3. Start printing on that page.

This way, whether you print single sided or double sided, you'll get the correct layout. An added bonus is that you are NOT printing the cover page which just wastes ink.

Reading Comprehension, for example, opens up like a book. Passage on the left hand side, (most of the) questions on the right hand side. No flipping the page back and forth to go from passage to questions or vice versa.


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Nearly all LSAT experts agree that reading outside articles is helpful as prep for LSAT. In this lesson, I want to show you how to improve your LSAT score by doing that. Let's read this very interesting article from the Economist together. It's less than 400 words and it's about attractive women.

Article summary

First, we're told that the conventional wisdom/hypothesis holds that attractive women should get ahead in the workplace. Why? Because people project positive attributes like sensitivity and poise onto them. Indeed, this conventional hypothesis is backed up with empirical evidence in the form of studies that show that attractive women are promoted more often.

Naturally, we think that this same advantage attractive women have in securing promotions would be present in securing job interviews, no?

As it turns out, new research reveals otherwise. The new empirical evidence suggests that attractive women who applied to jobs with a photo had to apply to an average of 11 jobs for every one interview offer. Contrast this with the exact same applicant who applied without a photo who only needed to apply to an average of 7 jobs to get an interview offer.

What's going on?

A new hypothesis is submitted: The dumb blonde hypothesis. People must think that prettier women are dumber. But, this hypothesis is immediately shut down. Prior to the study, these photos were rated on perceived intelligence and attractiveness and no correlation was found.

A better hypothesis is submitted: The jealousy hypothesis. 93% of Human Resources departments are women and they are the gatekeepers to interviews. They are discriminating against attractive female applicants.

Isn't this fascinating? Okay, but more to the point, from this passage, we can build many Logical Reasoning questions. Some of you seasoned LSAT students probably already sense an LR question looming on the horizon. That's a good sign!

Resolve-Reconcile-Explain question

RRE questions commonly introduce two seemingly conflicting ideas.  The two ideas could be hypotheses, phenomena, or data.  To build a RRE question out of this article, the passage would read:

It is generally accepted that attractive women get promoted more often but a new study finds that attractive women who submit photos with their applications to new jobs have less than half the interview rate than the same candidate who does not submit a photo.

Which one of the following, if true, would best resolve the apparent discrepancy above?

Within the article, we can find two resolutions (i.e., correct answer choices). First, we can say that people tend to think that prettier women are dumber. Second, we can say that employees who are gatekeepers to interviews are mostly women and women tend to be jealous of other beautiful women.

Weakening question

To make a Weakening question, we simply have to move some pieces around.  The stimulus would read:

A new study finds that attractive women who submit photos with their applications to new jobs have less than half the interview rate than the same candidate who does not submit a photo. This shows that people generally think that prettier women are dumber.

Which one of the following, if true, would best weaken the argument above?

Within the article, we can find two answers.  First, we can say that these photos were previously rated on perceived intelligence and attractiveness and no correlation was found. Second, we can offer an alternative hypothesis that says employees who are gatekeepers to interviews are mostly women and women tend to be jealous of other beautiful women.

See if you can build your own Strengthening, Descriptive Weakening, Weakening, or Resolve-Reconcile-Explain questions.

Or check out other Economist articles.  Their science articles are written like LSAT questions.

Featured image: the economist

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[This is an excerpt from our full course. Previous Lesson - Blind Review Part 8]

Blind Review Summary

While you’re studying for this very difficult test, it’s important to keep your morale high. One of the most demoralizing things is to not see improvement despite effort. While sometimes this is unavoidable - for example, you’ve hit your ceiling - most of the time, students don’t improve because they are not studying the right way. Using the Blind Review guarantees that at least you’ll be practicing the right way. At least you’ll get to rise higher and higher and actually make contact with your ceiling and possibly even have a shot of piercing your ceiling.

You have little sparks of intuition residing somewhere deep in your sub-conscious. Through Blind Review, you will identify those sparks and cultivate them into flames. With that flame, you will burn through LSAT questions.

This is how you practice the LSAT. If you’re doing it any other way, you’re doing it wrong. If this is how you’re doing it, then there’s nowhere to go but up.

I highly recommend using the 7Sage LSAT Grader to score and track your LSAT PrepTests.  It lets you enter your actual AND blind review answers.  Then it does all the work of tracking and analyzing your blind review for you!

Featured image: keys credit jenny downing

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[This is an excerpt from our full course. Previous Lesson - Blind Review Part 7]

Analysis for skipped questions

Skipped questions
These questions were skipped over. You didn’t have time to attempt them. But, during Blind Review, you did all of them.

If you got it right, then great. This question is potentially within reach. Why did you initially skip this question? Would it have taken too long for you to answer? Perhaps you should have skipped another question that was more difficult and spent your time to attempt this question instead. Next time, you will be better at deciding which questions to attempt and which ones to skip.

If you got it wrong, then you made the right decision to skip this question. It wasn’t just a matter of being pressured by time. Even during Blind Review, with all the time in the world, you still got it wrong. Questions like these are candidates for skipping during a timed run.

Action:
1. Watch the video explanation for this question
2. Talk to other students about it
3. Talk to your instructor about it.
4. Cut this question out and keep it. Review it every so often.

Continue Reading - Blind Review Part 9

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[This is an excerpt from our full course. Previous Lesson - Blind Review Part 6]

Analysis for circled questions with change

Changed answer
These questions were circled.  But, you decided to chose a new answer.

If your changed answer is right, then great. Reinforce your reasoning that got you here. You just taught yourself and really understand this question now. At first, under time pressure, you went with your intuition and chose incorrectly. But, during Blind Review, you were able to see the error in your intuition and you’ve chosen the right answer. You’ve guided your intuition towards the right direction. Because you corrected for this mistake on your own, you have internalized this lesson better than if an instructor told you why you were wrong. Good job! You’ve made progress. Next time, you’ll be able to tackle a similar question faster and with more accuracy. This is the result that we’re looking for!

If your changed answer is wrong, and your original (pre-Blind Review) answer was right, then you must immediately shatter the reasoning you used during Blind Review. Your original spark of intuition was right, though you didn’t really know why. After all, you did manage to convince yourself that your intuition was wrong and you changed the answer. Oops. Now is your chance to examine that intuition. See if you can figure out why your intuition was right in the first place.

Action:

1. Watch the video explanation for this question
2. Talk to other students about it
3. Talk to your instructor about it
4. Cut this question out and keep it. Review it every so often.

If your changed answer is wrong, and your original (pre-Blind Review) answer was also wrong, well, here you need help right away. You really don’t understand this question. Questions like these are candidates for skipping during a timed run. But, during review, you should try to understand them.

Action:

1. Watch the video explanation for this question
2. Talk to other students about it
3. Talk to your instructor about it
4. Cut this question out and keep it. Review it every so often.

Continue Reading - Blind Review Part 8

Featured image: keys credit jenny downing

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[This is an excerpt from our full course. Previous Lesson - Blind Review Part 5]

Analysis for circled questions with no change

Didn’t change answer
These questions were circled.  But, you decided to stand by your original answer choice.

If you got the question right, then great. You’re golden. You’ve made sure that it wasn’t because of chance that you got this question right. On top of that, you’ve reinforced your correct reasoning for choosing your answer and for eliminating the wrong ones. That’s reasoning that you will confidently carry forth into other LSAT questions.

If you got the question wrong, then you’re learning. What you’ve figured out is that it wasn’t just a matter of being pressured by time.  Even during Blind Review, with all the time in the world, you still got it wrong. You really don’t understand this question. Questions like these are candidates for skipping during a timed run. But, during review, you should try to understand them.

Action: You will immediately shatter whatever reasoning you used to justify your choice, then

1. Watch the video explanation for this question
2. Talk to other students about it
3. Talk to your instructor about it.
4. Cut this question out and keep it.  Review it every so often.

Continue Reading - Blind Review Part 7

Featured image: keys credit jenny downing

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[This is an excerpt from our full course. Previous Lesson - Blind Review Part 4]

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee, I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says ‘Fool me once LSAT, shame on... shame on you... ...you fool me, you can’t get fooled again.' ”

-George W. Bush

Analysis for non-circled questions

Non-circled questions
These questions were not circled.  That means you were 100% sure that you got them right.

If you got the question right, then great.  You’re golden.  Nothing more to do here.
If you got the question wrong, then that’s bad.  How could you have gotten it wrong? You were 100% certain!

Socrates can explain. Socrates, often thought of as the father of Western philosophy, famously, or maybe apocryphally, once said "I know that I know nothing."  For that (and probably a lot of other things he’s said), he was regarded as the wisest man in Athens.
The applicability of that saying for us is that there is a huge difference between knowing what you don’t know and not knowing what you don’t know.  Either way, you don’t know it.  The question is just do you realize that you don’t know it or don’t you realize?  That pretty much sums up your relationship with the LSAT.  You don’t know very much.  The question is just whether you realize it or not.

Another way to think about it is that there's a difference between confusion and pre-confusion.  Confusion is not that dangerous.  In fact, when you're confused about a question, that’s good!  You already know that you're confused and therefore, you already know that there's something to learn.  That's like swimming in a shark infested sea - you know you need to bring a spear, shark repellent, and a deep sense of regret for making such a stupid decision.  But, you will be extremely careful!  You know you’re in danger.  Those are the circled questions.

What's more dangerous is pre-confusion.  That’s where you don't even know that you're confused. That's when you're actually in the shark infested open ocean and you think you're in a kiddie pool. That’s where you think you nailed a question, but that question actually robbed you blind. That's a kind of danger for which you don’t even have a radar for.

We call this a Confidence Error.  Because you were confident though you had no reason to be.

Action:
Typically, you commit Confidence Errors when the LSAT has fooled you.  They laid out an attractive trap answer and a subtle right answer and you took the bait!  This is where you have to examine and uncover the trap.  How did they construct it?  What was so appealing about the wrong answer?  How can I avoid this trap in the future?  Try to answer these questions on your own.  Sometimes, the reason is as simple as a mis-reading.  I promise you, everything on the LSAT is repetitive, including their traps.  You will see the same trap again.

If you have trouble understanding the trap, then you should:

1. Watch the video explanation for this question
2. Talk to other students about it
3. Talk to your instructor about it

Confidence Errors will occur a lot in the beginning of your studies and will dramatically diminish as you get better and become more sensitive to LSAT traps.

Continue Reading - Blind Review Part 6

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[This is an excerpt from our full course. Previous Lesson - Blind Review Part 3]

Check your answers

Now that your answers mean something, we can check them. This step is easy. You look at the answer sheet and you mark up your problem set or LSAT prep test. Remember to keep track of both sets of answers. You'll want to see how well you did the first time around under time pressure and how well you did without time pressure on Blind Review.

The pre-Blind Review answers you chose are the ones that indicate your performance under timed pressure. The Blind Review answers indicate your room for improvement.

I highly recommend using the 7Sage LSAT Grader to score and track your LSAT PrepTests.  It lets you enter your actual AND blind review answers.  Then it does all the work of tracking and analyzing your blind review for you!

Continue Reading - Blind Review Part 5

Featured image: keys credit jenny downing

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[This is an excerpt from our full course. Previous Lesson - Blind Review Part 2]

Reviewing your thought process

At the end of the previous step, you should have a bunch of circled questions, a bunch of not circled questions, and maybe a couple that you didn't get to answer.  Now, let's figure out just what to do with each of these types of questions.

First, do not look at the answer key. Then, ignore the questions you didn't circle.

Second, focus on just the ones that you didn’t have time to get to. They are blank. Now, take as much time as you need to answer those questions. Make sure that you are at 100% certainty for these questions. This is important for the analysis later.

Third, focus on just the ones you circled. Now, take as much time as you need - typically 5-10 minutes per question - to review those questions.

What does "review” mean?  It means to carefully go over your reasoning, since it’s still fresh in your mind.  Make sure you talk out the rationale that makes that answer right and the rationale that makes each of the other four answers wrong.  You want to make sure you are practicing and getting better at travelling down both paths to the correct answer choice.

Articulate your reasoning to someone - other students, your instructor.  Anyone!  Just force yourself to speak it out.  If you’re two months into your LSAT prep, that means you can teach someone just starting everything you know.  Do it!  It’ll reinforce your own understanding.  If you're studying alone, remember talking to yourself doesn't make you crazy.  If you’re insecure about your sanity, seek professional medical help.

Often, you don’t know what your reasoning is until you say it out loud. You just have a vague idea in your head. Sometimes, when you say it out loud, you’ll realize that your idea is actually nonsense. So talk to someone about why you choose that answer choice and why you eliminated the rest.

Action: As you review, you must either:
1. Stand by your original answer or
2. Pick a new answer.

If you pick a new answer, keep track of the change and the original.  This is important later on for analysis.
This step of the Blind Review does two things:

1. It takes the timing out of the equation. We want to know whether our errors are attributable to time or to lack of understanding.  This way, since you get unlimited time, you get to see the difference. Can you get the question right without the time constraint?
2. It forces you to engage with each answer choice.  It forces you to crystallize, to solidify, to really having a concrete reason for each answer choice.  When you're doing this you are no longer just wishy-washy half guessing flying by the spark of intuition.  Now you have the time to articulate a reason for your choices.  That's a sharp distinction between what most LSAT students do, which is just placing bets.

Yes, this method takes a lot of time.  It’s supposed to.  Learning is a slow process.  But, at the end of it, is a better LSAT score.

Continue Reading - Blind Review Part 4

Featured image: keys credit jenny downing

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