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Malcom Gladwell takes the LSAT

J.K.tabesJ.K.tabes Member
in Off-topic 112 karma

Below is a link to Gladwell's podcast (part 1) where he talks about his experience taking the LSAT. There's still another part to come but the pod ends up being more about him contemplating/questioning the timing constraints placed on the LSAT in particular and law school testing in general. Figured some of you would find it interesting, enjoy.

http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/31-puzzle-rush

Comments

  • BinghamtonDaveBinghamtonDave Alum Member 🍌🍌
    8694 karma

    I’m liking this.

  • xenonhexafluoroxenonhexafluoro Alum Member
    428 karma

    Revisionist history is great! Thanks for sharing

  • Best.Yet.2.ComeBest.Yet.2.Come Core Member
    239 karma

    Great podcast. I am curious how well Gladwell did on the test.

  • Trust the ProcessTrust the Process Alum Member
    304 karma

    cant wait for the next episode when he interviews LSAC.

  • brigittebrigitte Free Trial Member
    432 karma

    I don't understand his argument - halfway into the podcast and all he says is "why do we value speed?" Well, why not? He hasn't said anything about why speed shouldn't be valued. Obviously we value getting the correct answer, but isn't expertise going to allow someone to get to the correct answer faster? So the speed is an indicator of mastery.

  • brigittebrigitte Free Trial Member
    432 karma

    https://heleo.com/conversation-malcolm-gladwell-on-why-we-shouldnt-value-speed-over-power/13687/

    He has no good responses to Adam Grant, who is skeptical of Gladwell's complaint.

  • Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
    edited June 2019 6867 karma

    Adam: [But couldn’t] there be a really conscientious hare, who’s fast, who executes, and is also careful on the back end?

    Malcolm: That’s like saying, can’t we have all basketball players who resemble Michael Jordan? We can’t argue for the perfect form, because the perfect form happens once in a generation. If you want highly conscientious, highly neurotic people, they’re going to be tortoises, by and large.

    This exchange sticks out to me. Malcolm takes Adam's question and completely twists it in his response. Adam asked why we couldn't have (and therefore presumably search for) conscientious hares who demonstrate both speed and power, and Malcolm starts talking about Michael Jordan - the literal greatest basketball player of all time. I actually cannot think of a way you could script an LSAT flaw prompt any better.

    There is, indeed, only one Michael Jordan in a generation. But you don't need to be Michael Jordan to go to a top 14 law school. You just ("just" - ha!) need a 168-ish LSAT score, which statistically, the LSAT gives out to approximately 5000 people a year (5% of about 100K takers). It's not easy, to be sure, but it's not anywhere remotely close to having to fill the sneakers of Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

    Year after year, thousands of top scorers demonstrate both speed and power en route to their 168+ scores. It's pretty obvious why an elite law school would prefer a student who demonstrates both speed and power over a student who only demonstrates power. So why are we acting like the LSAT not being able to measure certain things somehow invalidates what it does test well?

  • J.Y. PingJ.Y. Ping Administrator Instructor
    14074 karma

    Gladwell panicked on LG? Come to me friend. I help you.

  • J.Y. PingJ.Y. Ping Administrator Instructor
    edited June 2019 14074 karma

    Okay, finished listening to podcast and a couple of thoughts:

    1. NOODLE!? WTF man. What on earth is a Noodle? They're not even listed by the LSAC as an official test prep provider. Like two minutes of googling and you could have found someone better to talk to. If Noodle is an "innovative startup" then we're goddamn SpaceX. You should have come to SpaceX.

    2. I also don't get the argument. Tortoise v. hare is a false dichotomy (ref. PT40.S3.Q12
      ). There's no reason why you can't be both, a tortoharise, eh?? When Adam Grant implies this, Gladwell responds by straw-manning (ref. PT61.S2.Q08) As @"Jonathan Wang" pointed above, yes, MJ is the greatest but there are plenty of non-MJs who are "tortoharises"

    3. Analogy to speed v. regular chess is bad (ref. literally every single parallel reasoning question). Regular chess is also timed! Mapping LSAT onto speed chess is arbitrary because the LSAT could just as well been mapped onto regular chess. Or stated differently, you could make 17.5 minute LSAT sections map onto speed chess and then regular LSAT would get mapped onto regular chess. It's arbitrary.

    Malcom, my friend, I help you with LSAT. I give you free LSAT course. You argue better. We go to Mars. Everyone wins.

  • brigittebrigitte Free Trial Member
    edited June 2019 432 karma

    Check out the world chess rankings for classical vs. blitz. The difference in performance is...overblown. Fabiano is #2 in "classical" and #8 in blitz. Almost every person in the top of classical is also somewhere in the top of blitz, it's just the ordering is different. The LSAT certainly is not measuring people as finely as the ELO system is, so the effects of highly speeded vs. less speeded are bound to be much more muted on the LSAT.

    Just think about how people do on practice tests on timed vs. BR. It's almost inevitable that someone's BR score is higher than their timed score. Gladwell seems to think that there are a meaningful number of people who, though lower timed, would significantly outperform people with higher timed scores when it comes to their BR scores. This doesn't seem to play out in reality.

    Finally, I love how Gladwell uses a single anecdotal example to make his point at the end. That's why I can respond using my own anecdotal experience as a tutor. Let's see some more robust statistical analysis please!

    Second finally, I completely disagree with the Noodle advice and Gladwell's whole perspective on how he should be doing the test. If finishing every question requires an "uncomfortable" pace, then he doesn't have to finish everything. He just has to recognize when to move on from a question. There's absolutely nothing about the actual reading/understanding that should be uncomfortably rushed.

  • Jonathan WangJonathan Wang Yearly Sage
    edited June 2019 6867 karma

    It's like he doesn't realize that if he gets more time, so does everyone else. If that extra time helps him, it also helps everyone else. It's the exact reason why comparing your BR score to someone else's timed run is useless. The scoring scale contemplates the time limits; it's an integral part of the scaling. Remove that part and you'd have to rescale the test too.

    Ironically, his podcast may have cemented in my mind precisely why the LSAT is valuable. His reasoning skills are horrid and he is completely blind to it. Of course he's "uncomfortable" doing the task at pace - he sucks at it. We're all uncomfortable doing things we suck at. That doesn't mean the problem lies with the task. And it's precisely that terrible blame-the-test attitude that prevents a lot of people from actually ever getting better.

  • Lucas CarterLucas Carter Alum Member
    2803 karma

    It seems as though the intent of Gladwell was to examine the system of law school admissions that is facially a meritocracy- tailored to find the best law students, and show that it is not a great system for finding the best law students, only rewarding "hares". This position overlooks the fact that the "hares" have a greater ability to apply informal and formal logic, make inferences, and determine what is important to an author's position by discerning intent; not getting bogged down by tangential context. Gladwell and the "experts" seem very eager to boil down LSAT success to reading ability at an uncomfortable speed or mechanical information processing. The "hares" are able to answer questions and process information better because they understand inductive and deductive reasoning at a higher level, have mastery in grammar, and can more confidently manage their consciousness through discomfort and adversity. To become a hare, one must first learn to apply these skills at a slower pace and eventually become so good that they can move quickly. Success is not merely a function of neurons firing faster or speed reading, like we are led to infer.

    Time pressure creates a way of further distinguishing the reasoning skills of candidates. High scorers are faster because they grasp the required skills markedly better. The example of the average student doing better without time constraints is a funny anecdote. How do you think the students who got an A with the 2 hour time constraint did in 4 hours? Speed is a function of mastery and confidence. Outcomes will be unequal, people will lose, the pressure will get to people, this is not supposed to be easy, but those who can overcome this and demonstrate their analytical skills through adversity, deserve spots at our most coveted and revered law schools.

    To Gladwell's credit, he does mention that in the next episode he speaks with LSAC. I hope many of these points are addressed and LSAC hits back hard. I think we have to remember that Gladwell is just a journalist trying to examine an issue and entertain a large audience by examining seemingly paradoxical systems. This has always been his cookie cutter schtick. While his argument here is shaky at best, we cannot dismiss the conclusion on this basis. Gladwell's argument is based on William Henderson's research which seems to be much more nuanced and investigated: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=465381.

    Lastly:

    Gladwell's conditional statement at 6:30 may be a bit questionable. I think there are a few counter examples 😉

    "If you are a super go getter, you cannot score below 175. Because then, you cannot get into Harvard, and if you cannot get into Harvard, you are never going to get an offer from a big law firm or get a Supreme Court Clerkship"

  • Did I StutterDid I Stutter Member
    384 karma

    Love Malcom Gladwell and Revisionist History!
    Cant wait to hear this!!!

  • conor_93conor_93 Alum Member
    edited June 2019 22 karma

    alright but an admissions test where formal preparation correlates strongly with success is already suspicious. more preparation generally leads to faster completion of the logic games section at least, so could the restraints plausibly intensify the advantage rich people with lots of free time enjoy? idk, but always amusing that some will argue that logic games are the most teachable section of the test while simultaneously defending it as some sacred great arbiter of natural skill

  • SuperMario929SuperMario929 Alum Member
    464 karma

    Gladwell oversimplifies issues and engages in some of the worst pop-science reporting out there. I enjoy his work in much the same way that others enjoy reading People magazine. That all being said, I’m curious as to why Gladwell didn’t expand upon his point: how skilled people are at a task is a function of the constraints put on the task.

    If he wanted to drive home his point, he would argue that there should be several different timing constraints on the LSAT: maybe some sections get 20 minutes and some get an hour. But he doesn’t go there. Instead, he just blithely says that the system is wrong because the system could be different. If we think back to our flaw types, that falls very neatly into our tradition/novelty flaws: just because something has been a certain way for a long time doesn’t inherently make it good or bad.

    I tracked down the paper Gladwell references and it’s interesting, but also flawed. Gladwell doesn’t at any point criticize the shortcomings of the paper. The paper shows that, across two law schools (a traditional law school with 370 in the class an mid-high 160 LSAT scores and grades above a B+ In undergrad, and a non-traditional school of 600, many of whom are part time), the LSAT is a poor predictor of take-home test and paper scores, while a statistically-significant predictor of in-class test performance at the traditional law school, while the LSAT was statistically significant across all three forms of evaluation at the regional school (tables 9 and 10). Here are two problems though:

    1) Statistical significance is an arbitrary rule, just like Gladwell’s criticisms on the LSAT and chess. To really understand what’s happening, we need to know the scope of the effects (all statistical significance tells is us how confident we are that the range of results does not include 0). Unfortunately, the regression coefficients don’t really tell us much. We don’t have a frame of reference for them. The paper doesn’t include covariates (other variables) that might be of more or less substantive significance.

    2) this leads to my second point. It could be that the LSAT is still the best predictor across all the different ways we can measure law school performance. There is no alternative (other than problematic UGPA—more on that below) that is tested at any point in this paper. We have no frame of reference for how much it matters, so Gladwell’s claim that the LSAT is a poor predictor is suspect.

    The paper also lists what the LSAT and UGPA measures “capture” on page 1040. The author claims the LSAT captures “reasoning ability and test taking speed” but not “persistence and motivation” or “writing ability.” UGPA, on the other hand, captures all of these things. At least from personal experience, I find this to be incorrect.
    1) I began my grad school journey as a JD/Ph.D. at a T14/Ivy, before withdrawing my JD offer so I could go elsewhere when I finish the PhD—hence why I am on 7Sage studying for the LSAT. The UGPA measure is preposterous: grad inflation, connections, wealth (to hire editors for your papers and tutors to help you understand course material), and the school you go to have huge effects on the GPA you receive. Teaching classes at this particular Ivy has hammered home just how rampant grade inflation is, and being a rich legacy at one of these schools so you can get in and earn an easy GPA has a big effect.
    2) I know many people (myself included) who are not naturally gifted “hares” who excelled at the LSAT. But I’ve been persistent and have studied every day for hours (thanks JY and 7sage) and am now in the 170s. I don’t know what the author thinks he is measuring but I believe him to be incorrect here.

    The LSAT isn’t without problems. For example, wealth is a huge help to performance on these tests because it allows people to buy help and take the test several times. But wealth plays a role in UGPA too, or any other measure we might use. No matter what measure we use, there will be issues. My problem with Gladwell’s piece is that he never justifies why his argument is correct. Which is probably one of the reasons he didn’t do so hot on the test.

  • drbrown2drbrown2 Alum Member
    2227 karma

    I thought the episode was entertaining, but it is also misleading and the logic is faulty as everyone has already pointed out. However, Gladwell is saying all of these things from the perspective of a complete LSAT beginner. My family doesn't really know what the LSAT is. Friends ask if I am being tested on how much law I know. It is difficult to understand this test unless you have spent a lot of time studying. The episode was fun to listen to and there is apparently more to come in future episodes. I'm not expecting Gladwell to convince any of us on his "faster is better" argument in the coming episodes, but it's predictable that he would believe that. After all, he is a famous author/journalist/intellectual who has all the time in the world to think through different ideas, and he just completely bombed the test lol.

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Yearly + Live Member Sage 🍌 7Sage Tutor
    27829 karma

    Oh man, from just the title I knew this was going to be great. I've read a few of his books and while I think he poses meaningful questions and engages in some interesting discussions, his conclusions are always correlation/causation flaws based on anecdotal evidence derived from analogy. If it were backed by more rigorous methodology it would be great presentation, but as it is it's more thought experiment. I'd've expected this to have gone just about as poorly as it seems to have. That said, I hate that it went that way. Love him or hate him, MG is a great communicator. With good LR skills, he would be a powerful force in the world, and I wish he'd've taken away something different. Maybe he'll take @Elon up on his offer, lol.

    The hare is a terrible metaphor. Not only is it a false dichotomy, but the hare would just be terrible at the LSAT. I don't want to go into the intricacies of time management here, but I literally use the hare as an example with students of how not to take the LSAT. One of those noodles told him to spend one minute reading RC passages, so maybe that's the problem! Of course he's going to crash and burn. (In fairness, Dan had it right here.) And did he study LG at all? It really made it seem like he did one RC passage as the sum extent of his "studying." Maybe there is inherent value in measuring our willingness to work hard in preparation for something of importance to us.

    As far as the value of the time limit more broadly, I take that a bit personally. I sucked at time management, and I didn't blame the test. I worked hard to improve. Now it's one of my greatest strengths and I kinda resent the implication that speed on the LSAT is some kind of natural ability. It isn't. I used to couldn't finish sections. I used to sacrifice one passage in RC and one game in LG to make sure I at least did okay on the three I attempted. That's where I started, and it didn't make me some kind of a misunderstood tortoise, it just made me bad at the LSAT.

  • corpuscorpus Free Trial Member
    15 karma

    @conor_93 said:
    alright but an admissions test where formal preparation correlates strongly with success is already suspicious. more preparation generally leads to faster completion of the logic games section at least, so could the restraints plausibly intensify the advantage rich people with lots of free time enjoy? idk, but always amusing that some will argue that logic games are the most teachable section of the test while simultaneously defending it as some sacred great arbiter of natural skill.

    I worked my entire way through Undergrad to pay for it and have 15k debt to show for it. I've never not worked - I study LSAT on weekends after I put in my 8 hours and I'm gonna score a +170 in September. The resources I've used include a PS Bible I bought for $20 off Craigslist, some PTs I bought in bulk and the free explanations available on 7Sage and LSATHacks as well as a couple forums and the LSAT Reddit. You know what's going to suck compared to other potential Ivy candidates? My GPA which I earned while doing 30 hour work weeks. My softs which I have no time to pad up. THANK GOD for the LSAT - the greatest equalizer available to students attempting to go to law school.

    The idea that the rich are more advantaged by being able to easily afford retakes or a $700 prep course (which you don't even need to take to score top 1 percentile), but that that advantage is somehow smaller in the other elements of an application when the rich can afford to never have to work through school and have their entire week to devote to class... That they can be selective and informed about where it's easy to pad GPA. Where they can get a tutor (just like LSAT!) for any of their +40 courses or to help them or someone to do writing assignments... it honestly blows my mind that people argue the LSAT is what advantages rich people. It's the fairest part of the admissions process from a poor vs rich person standpoint and that's before even talking into account the benefits of a standardized system in fairness compared to one where sometimes top 1/4 of class is A in one school and where top 1/10 of a similar quality of students is an A in another one.

    And of course this all comes before talking about scholarship money. If you're rich you choose a school 4-5 schools higher on the list (assuming you're not already headed for T6) because you don't need the money to survive. For people like me most of our scholarship is going to be funded by the people with worse scores than us who go to the same school and can afford to pay for the difference.

    Sorry to ramble. The concept that the LSAT is what advantages rich people has always struck me as a great fall back for people who either aren't willing to put the time in, or don't have the capability to excel at the components being tested (which correlate better than anything else with your ability to do well in 1L and so are a more legitimate than anything else they use to filter students by). As for natural skill - your initial LSAT is a good measure of some of that. Some peoples' colds are 120s, others are high 150s or even low 160s (usually brought down by LG). But the LSAT doesn't measure natural skill, it measures your ability to read, understand and rationalize. Some people will already be better at these skills from the get go or due to their life experience - but as you said it's a teachable exam. They want to take the people strongest and most efficient at those skills - not the people who are naturally best at it the first time they see it. That's the idea behind any admissions isn't it? Natural advantage is helpful, but hard work also impacts the result because you're testing skills and a way of thinking that is meant to be helpful for learning law. Why the hell would you want a test not testing that? Otherwise we'd just take people based on IQ.

    Speaking of that... "an admissions test where formal preparation correlates strongly with success is already suspicious" - what admissions test doesn't correlate well with preparation? Is it the GED? The GMAT? The SAT? Those seem pretty suspicious in light of your criticism. The only admission I can think of that would be mostly free of suspicion in your analysis would be for Mensa. Why would you ever want an admissions test that doesn't test learnable content?

    Seriously stop with 'hurr durr LSAT good for rich people'. It's up there on the list with 'LSAT only exists cause racism'. As someone poor but driven and reasonably smart it's the only reason I have a shot at improving my position in this life. Ty

  • BlindReviewerBlindReviewer Alum Member
    855 karma

    Listened to the podcast today after seeing the fun (and valid) comments on here. Aside from the logical fallacies and the way Gladwell seems to market his writing/stories in general, I did think that the larger questions of why it is that some people can outperform others with more time and others can outperform others under timed conditions were pretty interesting. Aside from Magnus Carlson, it's interesting how some people are better at "pattern recognition" versus complexity of seeing through the patterns under more lenient time constraints. I wonder what accounts for the difference at the highest levels of play.

    (Of course, the LSAT isn't a good case-study for these larger questions because I don't think the patterns get as complex as chess or Go or whatever else there is, and because there is the element of language that sets it apart from pure logic, like in logic games.)

    I also think that from a broader societal perspective, the issue of students feeling like they aren't good enough because they don't "fit into" a system was interesting as well. I feel like the LSAT and other exams should be more upfront about the timed element instead of letting silence on it be interpreted by many as merely an "aptitude test" that doesn't require test-taking skill/conformity to the rules of the game as opposed to just simple "talent."

    In any case, Gladwell would do well to go into those questions instead of circumventing the complexity, I think. And regardless, I'm excited to hear what LSAC says!

  • tomdesablatomdesabla Core Member
    edited June 2019 54 karma

    "THANK GOD for the LSAT - the greatest equalizer available to students attempting to go to law school."

    Equalizer. Yeah. That's what I've thought all along, but...

    A few months ago I picked up one of the many privileged prep school kids in DC (Uber partner) and was telling him I'm studying for the LSAT. He said, yeah, he's thinking about it, and particularly because he'll get extra time.

    I'm like "what?"

    He's like "Oh yeah, I've got ADHD and I got extra time on the SAT, so I'm sure I'll get extra time on the LSAT too."

    I didn't push the issue, but I remember thinking no way, not the LSAT, not this thing I'm busting my ass for.

    I also remember another passenger telling me that "all" the prep school kids "have ADHD" or OCD or something, and they "all" get special dispensations on the SAT etc, and are "all" taking Adderol.

    So last night I confirmed it all - Yes, the LSAC makes special dispensations for these "handicapped" elite kids who are going to be my competition for law school. (And yes, if you got special dispensation for another "standardized" test you'll get it for the LSAT too.)

    These MAY include

    1. more time, sometimes 50% more time
    2. Longer breaks
    3. "clock stopping breaks"
    4. Ability to eat while taking the test
    5. Get to be alone in a room

    and others....

    Wow. It makes sense that the idea is being put out there that "time is overrated" etc.

    Am I the only one who finds it offensive and unfair that law students are not all taking the same test under the same conditions?

    Are these people - as attorneys - going to get extra time on filing deadlines? As law students, are they going to get extra time to finish their assignments?

    If yes - then that's wacky, but OK
    If no - then it sounds like a way to discriminate against excellence and hard work, with no good results likely. In theory, it might make some people feel good, but in practice, it's just another way to sidestep the cornerstone of the LSAT, which is that we don't care who your parents are, and we don't care how rich you are, or who you had to con to get into whatever school before - but this is a pure meritocracy - and you are going to be weighed and measured

    THE SAME AS EVERYBODY ELSE.

    Well, so much for that. I'm very disappointed

  • conor_93conor_93 Alum Member
    22 karma

    @johnjonathanjohnsonjr said:

    @conor_93 said:
    alright but an admissions test where formal preparation correlates strongly with success is already suspicious. more preparation generally leads to faster completion of the logic games section at least, so could the restraints plausibly intensify the advantage rich people with lots of free time enjoy? idk, but always amusing that some will argue that logic games are the most teachable section of the test while simultaneously defending it as some sacred great arbiter of natural skill.

    I worked my entire way through Undergrad to pay for it and have 15k debt to show for it. I've never not worked - I study LSAT on weekends after I put in my 8 hours and I'm gonna score a +170 in September. The resources I've used include a PS Bible I bought for $20 off Craigslist, some PTs I bought in bulk and the free explanations available on 7Sage and LSATHacks as well as a couple forums and the LSAT Reddit. You know what's going to suck compared to other potential Ivy candidates? My GPA which I earned while doing 30 hour work weeks. My softs which I have no time to pad up. THANK GOD for the LSAT - the greatest equalizer available to students attempting to go to law school.

    The idea that the rich are more advantaged by being able to easily afford retakes or a $700 prep course (which you don't even need to take to score top 1 percentile), but that that advantage is somehow smaller in the other elements of an application when the rich can afford to never have to work through school and have their entire week to devote to class... That they can be selective and informed about where it's easy to pad GPA. Where they can get a tutor (just like LSAT!) for any of their +40 courses or to help them or someone to do writing assignments... it honestly blows my mind that people argue the LSAT is what advantages rich people. It's the fairest part of the admissions process from a poor vs rich person standpoint and that's before even talking into account the benefits of a standardized system in fairness compared to one where sometimes top 1/4 of class is A in one school and where top 1/10 of a similar quality of students is an A in another one.

    And of course this all comes before talking about scholarship money. If you're rich you choose a school 4-5 schools higher on the list (assuming you're not already headed for T6) because you don't need the money to survive. For people like me most of our scholarship is going to be funded by the people with worse scores than us who go to the same school and can afford to pay for the difference.

    Sorry to ramble. The concept that the LSAT is what advantages rich people has always struck me as a great fall back for people who either aren't willing to put the time in, or don't have the capability to excel at the components being tested (which correlate better than anything else with your ability to do well in 1L and so are a more legitimate than anything else they use to filter students by). As for natural skill - your initial LSAT is a good measure of some of that. Some peoples' colds are 120s, others are high 150s or even low 160s (usually brought down by LG). But the LSAT doesn't measure natural skill, it measures your ability to read, understand and rationalize. Some people will already be better at these skills from the get go or due to their life experience - but as you said it's a teachable exam. They want to take the people strongest and most efficient at those skills - not the people who are naturally best at it the first time they see it. That's the idea behind any admissions isn't it? Natural advantage is helpful, but hard work also impacts the result because you're testing skills and a way of thinking that is meant to be helpful for learning law. Why the hell would you want a test not testing that? Otherwise we'd just take people based on IQ.

    Speaking of that... "an admissions test where formal preparation correlates strongly with success is already suspicious" - what admissions test doesn't correlate well with preparation? Is it the GED? The GMAT? The SAT? Those seem pretty suspicious in light of your criticism. The only admission I can think of that would be mostly free of suspicion in your analysis would be for Mensa. Why would you ever want an admissions test that doesn't test learnable content?

    Seriously stop with 'hurr durr LSAT good for rich people'. It's up there on the list with 'LSAT only exists cause racism'. As someone poor but driven and reasonably smart it's the only reason I have a shot at improving my position in this life. Ty

    my friend, i don't hurr durr the lsat. in fact i share your appreciation to some extent, although mine is much more qualified. it does provide a more even playing field than other aspects of one's application...but that isn't saying much lol. the fact that an lsat prep cottage industry exists is no accident, either. it isn't to reward people with the grit to work hard and study, it's to enrich all the parties that get in on the grift. come on... if you want to be an attorney, you should be able to detach from your emotional sympathy for a test that you're good at and analyze its implications objectively

  • conor_93conor_93 Alum Member
    edited June 2019 22 karma

    @tomdesabla said:

    Am I the only one who finds it offensive and unfair that law students are not all taking the same test under the same conditions?

    nope. it's ridiculous. and the accommodations kids routinely end up having a lot of extra time to review. lol... fair system we've got here

  • kyoungy_kyoungy_ Live Member
    edited June 2019 73 karma

    I love this conversation, it's turning our studying-selves and Malcolm Gladwell into one massive LR Flaw question.

    __

    (A) We are all hares on Watership Down arguing for the nutritional value of carrots as the world's only food source.
    (B ) Malcolm Gladwell is a Ninja Turtle.
    (C) It overlooks the possibility that people who study for the LSAT longer, scores higher.
    (D) Malcolm Gladwell needs to put in his 10,000 hours on Logic Games.
    (E) Mistakenly compares a sporting event to a standardized test.

    __

    But seriously though, I hope Mr. Gladwell scores 142. It'll be a morale booster for us and everybody wins in some weak necessary assumption styled way. (I like MG and LSAT equally.)

  • corpuscorpus Free Trial Member
    15 karma

    @conor_93 said:
    my friend, i don't hurr durr the lsat. in fact i share your appreciation to some extent, although mine is much more qualified. it does provide a more even playing field than other aspects of one's application...but that isn't saying much lol. the fact that an lsat prep cottage industry exists is no accident, either. it isn't to reward people with the grit to work hard and study, it's to enrich all the parties that get in on the grift. come on... if you want to be an attorney, you should be able to detach from your emotional sympathy for a test that you're good at and analyze its implications objectively

    My opinion of the LSAT is not unqualified. LG as a section in particular strikes me as silly. Incredibly niche and something which I honestly doubt more than 1/1000 will -0 in a first timed attempt. On the other hand it's somewhat easily forgiven because it is a factor that most people who are top scorers can get close to -0 without immense time investment. The fact that there's a section that people will learn quickly, but are likely to perform relatively poorly in initially regardless of the way they think or their background is not great. Overall the test fields a narrow range of aptitudes and a shallow skill set. Is that skill set useful for analysis? Probably. Could it be broader and a better predictor of law school success? Absolutely.

    You haven't really addressed anything else I've said. To analyze the implications objectively: People who are already good at skills tested by this test which include reading, rationalization will be advantaged, those who have the time to study will be advantaged, those who will pay for resources (often incredibly expensive ones) will be advantaged. In the first two camps - is that an advantage we discourage? Surely not anywhere else in the process of filtering for academia. What is GPA 'supposed' to measure if not particular kinds of intelligence/knowledge and commitment? If you don't have the time to put into the LSAT to potentially save yourself tens of thousands of dollars... well it's a strange problem to have. If you have a young family and are working full time for all the lead up of a test then I can see arguing you're sufficiently time constrained. If you're just working full time? Study after work. Study on the weekend. It's not something only the rich can do. If you work a job that pays rent and puts food on the table you have enough to study with. And that study time is at your pace. Maybe you set your career trajectory back by not running overtime or something or by taking a year before you write the LSAT - but at least working while studying for the LSAT isn't under a definite time pressure. It's surely less of a disadvantage than working while studying for school - a no do-over affair with hard deadlines indifferent to an individual. LG in particular (the thing that basically everyone has to study to a degree) is not some great time investment - particularly not compared to +4 years of school you were likely paying in part for.

    The last - the issue of money - is where the LSAT presents the least advantage of any part of the application as you've conceded. Many people have +170'd without formal teaching or even courses. Some started with colds in the 140s. Yes if you throw more money at it your outcomes will be better on average. And the people that can afford to pay for $300/hr tutors and elite prep schools can afford to go the schools that we will say no to because the scholarship wasn't sufficient for it to not bury us in debt. The LSAT is the way the rich pay for normal and poor people to attend Ivys. It's not the GPA that everyone in an elite circle is going to be at least +3.6 just by going to a school with high grades (really look at the average of expensive vs inexpensive schools) and having as many resources as they want. I know of people.. who didn't write a single paper in school and many schools where just being in the top half is already +3.6 range. They aren't even all selective schools lol. Wish I had had foresight to research that. Your softs aren't going to save you unless you're an elite athlete. The likelihood you have letters of recommendation good enough and from people important enough to save bad numbers.. well eh. Unless you're rarer than a 178 none of your softs will make or break your profile - this is Ivy Law not Ivy Undergrad. At best good ones will give you a couple points or .3 edge if you aren't a complete unicorn.

    Objectively the LSAT is the part of your profile (besides demographic) that lets you least be affected by the advantage of being rich and well connected - as you've conceded. It NECESSARILY FOLLOWS that it's presence disproportionately disadvantages the rich and benefits the rest. They are disadvantaged because overall they lose spots that they would have held by having better metrics in the other parts of profile where their advantage is even greater than in preparing for the LSAT. This is not every case - many poor will have good GPA and bad LSAT and lose out. Many rich will have bad GPA but good LSAT from extensive prep and win out. But it logically follows on average simply due to the point you conceded - that it's where the rich have the least advantage. All things are relative. This is the objective impact of the LSAT and why I call it an equalizer.

    On the balance of things it seems we don't disagree. But that the LSAT is a special way of benefiting the rich is something I've seen many many times, and so I grow tired of it an extremely misleading argument. People who are rich will be advantaged compared to people who aren't in basically every possible metric from birth to death - and that includes every possible test you can create. One overall impact of the LSAT is to benefit people who aren't rich. When one says something like "The LSAT benefits the rich" there is an implicit assumption language creates that says 'we are describing something - when we describe something it is relative to something'. When people read The LSAT benefits the rich it seems to say - the existence of the LSAT leads to better outcomes for rich people. This is objectively not true by your own admission. But people who don't know better read it - assume that's the intent of the statement (and usually that is the intent of the statement as articles will then attempt to justify the position that without the LSAT admissions would be fairer to normal people) - and go on thinking it's true.

    An extreme comparison perhaps: Being in America benefits black people. In fact even this is perhaps less of an insidious argument because the flaw in the reasoning is more obvious. On the balance of things being in America benefits you compared to the average human. Being in the first world is advantageous in all sorts of ways compared to an average person outside of it and while that varies the average US person is doing a lot better than most third worlds. If less than 20% of the black population of the world is outside Africa - than black in America likely means a longer life, better odds at social mobility, better quality of living, etc than being born in a comparatively poor and turbulent country. Of course the statement is at odds with the fact that being black in America has a host of disadvantages compared to being white (or even other minorities in most metrics) in the same country and that black people on average live harder less fair lives with less opportunity in the US than people who aren't black. If you could write the statement in a way that would be commonly interpreted as 'being black in America is more advantageous than not being black in America' you'd be a bit closer to what people who say the LSAT benefits rich people do. It's not the exact same flaw, but it's basically creating a statement that reads opposite to the objective outcomes.

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Yearly + Live Member Sage 🍌 7Sage Tutor
    27829 karma

    Looks like episode 2 is out!

  • studyingandrestudyingstudyingandrestudying Core Member
    5254 karma

    Yes, just listened to it and it's about 40 minutes.

  • conor_93conor_93 Alum Member
    edited July 2019 22 karma

    @corpus said:

    @conor_93 said:
    my friend, i don't hurr durr the lsat. in fact i share your appreciation to some extent, although mine is much more qualified. it does provide a more even playing field than other aspects of one's application...but that isn't saying much lol. the fact that an lsat prep cottage industry exists is no accident, either. it isn't to reward people with the grit to work hard and study, it's to enrich all the parties that get in on the grift. come on... if you want to be an attorney, you should be able to detach from your emotional sympathy for a test that you're good at and analyze its implications objectively ....

    i just don't get why the LSAT couldn't accomplish the same goal without the logic game component being so hard. i suspect that at basically every level of intellect, you need to invest time and money to synchronize your logic game scores with your RC and LR scores. sure i think it can be done. you just have to pay in time and money. which is good for LSAC prep test sales but pretty lousy if you're low on time and money. i think the GRE verbal section is a good model. analytical questions that assess your aptitude and analytical skills but use a more intuitive format of just reading comp and logical reasoning type q's

  • Best.Yet.2.ComeBest.Yet.2.Come Core Member
    239 karma

    @conor_93, I agree with you but it is probably because I do not get logic games. I did read that when law students read cases they use an acronym IRAQ (Issue, Rule, Analysis & Conclusion). Bearing that in mind I can see how LG are applicable to future law school success.

  • Best.Yet.2.ComeBest.Yet.2.Come Core Member
    239 karma

    Just a thought, why was Gladwell's score redacted?

  • conor_93conor_93 Alum Member
    edited July 2019 22 karma

    finally listened to this (at least episode 2) and it is unconvincing. he's mad he did bad on the lsat. legit criticisms of the lsat are plenty but his absurd take is that if you process information quickly you don't truly understand it.

  • MIT_2017MIT_2017 Alum Member
    edited July 2019 470 karma

    @conor_93 said:

    i just don't get why the LSAT couldn't accomplish the same goal without the logic game component being so hard. i suspect that at basically every level of intellect, you need to invest time and money to synchronize your logic game scores with your RC and LR scores. sure i think it can be done. you just have to pay in time and money. which is good for LSAC prep test sales but pretty lousy if you're low on time and money. i think the GRE verbal section is a good model. analytical questions that assess your aptitude and analytical skills but use a more intuitive format of just reading comp and logical reasoning type q's

    I don't necessarily think the LG section is a great test for one's ability to succeed in law school, but it was certainly the easiest section for me right off the bat.

  • Habeas PorpoiseHabeas Porpoise Alum Member Sage
    1866 karma

    @"shannon.troncoso" said:
    @conor_93, I agree with you but it is probably because I do not get logic games. I did read that when law students read cases they use an acronym IRAQ (Issue, Rule, Analysis & Conclusion). Bearing that in mind I can see how LG are applicable to future law school success.

    LG was my worst section starting out, but I think it's interesting! It's a very visual section, and while I can't speak to its function in predicting law school success, I think it's a fun and different way of reasoning from the rest of the exam. But plenty of LGs use conditional logic, which I would guess is pretty relevant to general legal reasoning.

    @conor_93 said:
    finally listened to this (at least episode 2) and it is unconvincing. he's mad he did bad on the lsat. legit criticisms of the lsat are plenty but his absurd take is that if you process information quickly you don't truly understand it.

    This! I think there are other legit criticisms to the test, but his arguments were so frustrating. I'm a slow reader, but RC is my best section. How is that possible then? If he says I'm not understanding what I'm reading, then how am I able to describe the passages I read to my friend from memory, sharing sides of the arguments I read and, sometimes, my own opinions on these arguments? You can read and understand, and if anything, I think a focus on the structure with an added general comprehension of the passage gives that extra boost from doing decently to doing really, really well on the RC section. Sure, I may not be reading as closely as I would a tough essay, or as quickly as I would a novel for pleasure, but that doesn't mean I'm just "looking" at words with no sense of what these words are relating.

    And his comparison to the reading done by Supreme Court clerks is just unwarranted, imo. The goal of RC on the test isn't to tease out details of convoluted or intricate arguments. It's to understand clear, key arguments within a topic that may or may not be challenging, and to answer questions that test the overall ability to highlight these arguments and the function of certain elements in context. Sure, there are some questions that test on details, but those are meant to be curve-breakers and aren't that common. And even a slow reader like me who can sometimes miss the details knows how to efficiently figure out the likely right AC to tough questions like that.

    I wish the LSAC had done a better job responding to his argument about shared time across sections. I'm also super curious about that question that was split between genders.

    And lastly, I didn't get the point of the exercise the Noodle guys gave him in the first episode. "Pick the two worst answers, not the wrong ones"? Can someone please explain this one to me? 😂

  • studyingandrestudyingstudyingandrestudying Core Member
    5254 karma

    Maybe they'll be show guests in another episode?

  • Adam HawksAdam Hawks Alum Member
    990 karma

    @"Jonathan Wang" went to Columbia. J.Y. went to Harvard. Was J.Y. or Jonathan a good law student? Did they become a good lawyers? Does the LSAT make good law students or is it a strong indicator of making one?

    Gladwell made a reasonable case in episode two.

    @"Habeas Porpoise" said:

    And his comparison to the reading done by Supreme Court clerks is just unwarranted, imo. The goal of RC on the test isn't to tease out details of convoluted or intricate arguments. It's to understand clear, key arguments within a topic that may or may not be challenging, and to answer questions that test the overall ability to highlight these arguments and the function of certain elements in context. Sure, there are some questions that test on details, but those are meant to be curve-breakers and aren't that common. And even a slow reader like me who can sometimes miss the details knows how to efficiently figure out the likely right AC to tough questions like that.

    What are you trying to say here? Can you please explain?

  • Habeas PorpoiseHabeas Porpoise Alum Member Sage
    edited July 2019 1866 karma

    @"Habeas Porpoise" said:

    And his comparison to the reading done by Supreme Court clerks is just unwarranted, imo. The goal of RC on the test isn't to tease out details of convoluted or intricate arguments. It's to understand clear, key arguments within a topic that may or may not be challenging, and to answer questions that test the overall ability to highlight these arguments and the function of certain elements in context. Sure, there are some questions that test on details, but those are meant to be curve-breakers and aren't that common. And even a slow reader like me who can sometimes miss the details knows how to efficiently figure out the likely right AC to tough questions like that.

    What are you trying to say here? Can you please explain?

    Gladwell says that clerks for the Supreme Court need to read very slowly the piles of cases they're given (understandable, they're being given incredibly difficult and nuanced cases--so there's a need to understand the details). He then goes on to argue that this means that clerks need to be Tortoises. He then seems to connect it to the LSAT, saying that the test isn't a good "finder" of Tortoises since it rewards the Hares (which, again, I don't completely disagree with).
    But my point is that the test isn't a good comparison to the kind of reading Supreme Court clerks are doing. For example, the point of RC, in my view, is very different and rather low-level in comparison to the point of/skills involved in Supreme Court readings. RC and LR test foundations and broader reasoning skills, and I'd argue that doing well on these sections don't require a person to be a Tortoise or a Hare exclusively. His argument about the time needed for the section, and the relative amount of time needed for Supreme Court readings, are viewing two types of readings that I believe strongly are not analogous.
    I was focusing on RC since that's the section Gladwell complains about most. He says that to do well on the section, you can't truly "read" or understand what you're reading, which is just untrue from my experience and the experiences of people around me taking this test. I'm sure some people do handle the test this way and don't really "read", but it's not all encompassing of high-scorers like he makes it out to be. It's a disingenuous characterization of what's involved in doing well on the LSAT, particularly the RC section.

    I don't think Gladwell's conclusions are completely off. Like you said, I'm not sure how good an indicator the LSAT is of law school success, and success thereafter in a legal career. Maybe it's the best indicator we have right now as a standardized test, but not as good as it could be. I'd be interested in a better answer from LSAC about shared time across sections. That said, the premises Gladwell uses to get to his conclusions are questionable and, in my view, highlight a lack of research into this exam and what students learn in preparing to take it.

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Yearly + Live Member Sage 🍌 7Sage Tutor
    27829 karma

    I guess his commentary on RC might be what you’d expect after a single afternoon of studying with a noodle.

    His arguments in episode 2 fail because he completely mischaracterizes the exam. If reading without understanding were the skill being tested in RC, then we would need to be having this conversation. Since that is not at all what the section tests, the need for this conversation is what we’d call unnecessary.

    In fact, Mac’s claim that RC tests reading without understanding is about as wrong as you could be. If I had to come up with the wrongest possible description of RC, this is exactly what I’d articulate. In episode 1, a noodle said to read the passage in one minute. That’s not a problem of the test, it’s bad tutoring. I take four minutes. I am a slow reader, I went -0 on test day, and I promise you I did so by understanding the passages. No one ever did well on RC by reading without understanding.

    And let’s talk about the "Grand Unified Theory." Are you serious? That's the contribution that Malcom Gladwell’s famed intellect has to offer up to those of us who's lives are profoundly impacted by the inner workings of the American legal industry? If we’re allowed to go with impossible solutions that could never be implemented, I’m pretty sure I could come up with something better with minimal effort. For good measure, I could even present it in such a way as to make it sound pithy and clever.

  • mk90u90u0ymk90u90u0y Core Member
    29 karma

    Blessed is the name of God.

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