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Road to 170+: Exit Strategy *Long Read on a strategy to help you attain a 170+ Score*

Michael.CincoMichael.Cinco Alum Member Sage
edited February 2020 in General 2106 karma

In June 1941 Nazi Germany made an ill-fated attempt at invading Russia. Buoyed by their quick success in France, they launched the greatest invasion force in history throwing 3 million soldiers into the effort. This opened up the eastern front of World War II and some say changed the course of history forever.

Ok Great, what does WWII history have to do with the LSAT?

I'll tell you. The reason the invasion of Russia was so costly for the Germans was because it occupied valuable resources Germany needed to fight the war: Soldiers, Fuel and Tanks. Once Germany launched the invasion, there was no way of getting out of it, they had no exit strategy. They were committed to winning that battle or facing annihilation.

The LSAT is very akin to war. You have several resources at the start: Your knowledge of the material, Shortcuts you learned and most importantly the amount of time you have on the test. What you must avoid, is trying to overly commit those resources to one question because otherwise you do risk your score being Annihilated. The difference between a test taker who scores in the low 160's to mid 160's and test takers who score in the upper 160's and 170's is due in part to the proper management of time during the exam. Those who score higher tend to allocate their time more efficiently towards answering the questions they can answer and less time spent on questions they eventually get wrong. I want to repeat this because I think people need to know this, the difference between a score taker in the 160's and 170's is not so much in the KNOWLEDGE of the test but in the EXECUTION of the test. To be great at the LSAT it's better to get a question wrong quickly, rather than spending time and effort on a question only to come away without a point. How do you avoid that? You need to have what the German's didn't have in Russia. You need to have an Exit Strategy!

Great. What's an Exit Strategy?

An Exit Strategy is a quick list of criteria that will tell you QUICKLY that you should skip the passage, game or specific question.

For those just starting out these are often quite obvious. You may struggle with Grouping Games, and hence when you run into an obvious grouping game in LG, you skip that for the friendlier linear game that follows it. Ditto for RC and Science Passages for example or Necessary Assumption questions in LR.

As your knoweldge of the test improves, you will find that these big glaring weaknesses go away and your exit strategies become more nuanced and focused. This is a big reason why people plateau in the 160's or 150's. Breaking into the 160's and 170's requires that you disabuse yourself of the notion that just because you CAN answer every question on the LSAT does not mean you SHOULD TRY to answer every question on the LSAT the SAME WAY. Those that fail to grasp this can get trapped in a question or a game. This is where the nuance comes in. As your knowledge of the test improves your exit strategies should become more contextual. Meaning, you are no longer just filtering for game type or question type, you are allowing yourself to read the stimulus and letting the stimulus tell you when you should skip the question or game.

How do you develop a basic Exit Strategy?

The key to developing a good basic exit strategy is good self-awareness with respect to your own strengths and weaknesses. Tools like LSAT Analytics, Post-BR Journals where you mark down questions you got wrong and why you got them wrong, as well as the data 7sage provides you on how long it takes you to do a question should allow you to understand which questions you get wrong more often than you get right and which questions take up more of your time than others. Note that this is a different concept than being able to do or understand a question or game type. If your accuracy on Parallel Method of Reasoning is at 100% but it takes you ten minutes on average to get that question correct, your understanding is bang on but your execution needs work. You want that average below 1 minute and 20 seconds ideally otherwise this question type is a good skip candidate. (That timing rule is for LR mainly)

So a Basic exit strategy which you apply when you read the question stem or read the rules to a logic game could be as follows:

for LG/RC
Is this a game/passage type that I traditionally struggle with? If so skip it.

For LR:

Is this a question type I get wrong more than I should based on analytics? If so skip it
Is this a question type that I often spend more than 1 minute 20 seconds on? If so skip it

How do you build an advanced Exit Strategy?

For more advanced strategies you have to use your knowledge of the game or question type at hand to extract yourself from difficult situations. In LR for example this requires you to know implicitly what is required of you to answer a particular question type and to recognize when you are in a situation where that might be more difficult than usual.

Let's take a basic example: Identify the Flaw Questions.

Flaw questions require you to choose an answer choice that states a flaw made in the reasoning in your stimulus.

So if you read the stimulus, and you identify the conclusion and premise of the argument but CANNOT identify the flaw. That is your red flag that should trigger a possible exit. You have a choice here, you can try to re-read the stimulus again in hopes of trying to identify the flaw before you tackle the answer choices or you could skip immediately and come back to this once you have gone through all the questions in your section. From my experience those that tend to score higher tend to choose the latter option. They know that once they have read the stimulus (and they will read it carefully and correctly the first time because that is what good test takers do) and cannot identify the flaw their chances of getting the question right have dramatically decreased.

Think of every question like a game of poker. Before you are dealt your cards you have certain odds of getting the question right, as soon as you read the stimulus you have been dealt your cards. The stimulus, like the cards will tell you whether those odds have gone up or gone down. If those odd decreased, based on your original reading of the stimulus, a significant amount, leave and save it for later. Kenny Rogers would tell you gotta know when to Fold Em' and when to run, Kenny Rogers is a smart man.

I sense the hesitation, some people think it is a waste of resources. You already invested time reading the stimulus, if you skip it now you are throwing that time away. People then worry that they may not have time to come back and answer the question at the end.

What I'll say to that is this. If you make a habit of executing your exit strategy as soon as you identify trouble what you will find is that at the end of your first sweep through the games or questions you will have plenty of time remaining. Why? Because you were hyper diligent in applying your exit strategies and thus have skipped lots of questions! You can now allocate that remaining time to answering the tougher, harder to get questions. This method allows you to tackle the EASY questions first and gather as many points as you can from them as quickly as possible so you can reinvest that time to the more difficult questions. That's the most efficient allocation of resources is it not? If you are still worried about 'wasting' the time spent on initially reading the stimulus, remember my adage that it is better to get a question wrong quickly than to spend lots of time getting a question wrong. This methodology functions like a safety valve to ensure that you do not waste time. Yeah maybe the 30 seconds is wasted ( I would argue that it is not since you are likely to retain that info if you come back) but at least you guarantee yourself that 30 seconds was the maximum damage that question did to you. And if you come back to the question later, that distance from the material may allow you to perceive new things about the stimulus that you missed from your initial reading, JY mentions this all the time and it is so true.

Great you sold me on the Advanced Exit Strategy, can I get a another example?

Let's take Weaken, Strengthen, Sufficient and Pseudo Sufficient assumption questions as a group.

In general these group of questions asks you to analyze an argument in the stimulus and look for a GAP between the premises and the conclusion. That gap is a weakness in the argument. Strengthen, Sufficient Assumption and Pseudo Sufficient Assumption questions typically will ask you to cover that gap or weakness, while weaken will ask you to widen that gap.

So if you read the stimulus for this question type and you find yourself agreeing with the argument and CANNOT find the gap between the premises and conslusion...you are likely in trouble with respect to getting the correct answer. This is your red flag, that signals you to exit this question. Because your other options are A. Re-Read the stimulus or B. Use process of elimination to get to the right answer. Both can be considerably wasteful if this turns out to be a curve breaker question.

In Logic Games:

If the game unfolds and all of a sudden you see weird elements like circular placement of pieces, or extra long sequencing chains (think the mine game in PT86) that may be a signal for you to leave the game as well. Another obvious one is if you encounter a non-traditional game (Think of the Building Trading game as an example). When it comes to Skipping specific questions more often than not this comes down to rule substitution questions. Some of these are outright brutal and are actually designed to be nothing more than pure time traps. There is a particular question in a later PT (87-89) which I am pretty sure the LSAC designed specifically to waste your time. Given the curve of that particular PT I do not think it was their intent for anyone to actually do that question. So yes the LSAC designed a question where the optimal response to the question for 90% of the population is to NOT do the question. Pretty funky eh?

Big Idea:

The idea should be that you develop an exit strategy both basic and advanced for all Game/ Passage and LR Question types. These should not be overly complex but it should guide you towards knowing when you should gracefully exit a question.

RC Caveat

One caveat to all of this is in RC. I've seen it enough times where a seemingly difficult passage has easy questions and vice versa. If you manage to get through a passage but your understanding is not at a level where you are comfortable, try to answer some of the questions. You may find the lsat to be forgiving in that area even if the passage is brutal.

Wait, why did you write all this...Are you a Wizard?:

I am a 7sager just like yourself. I started my LSAT Journey in the 150's and taught myself various tricks and strategies to get myself to a point where I scored a 171 in the January 2020 writing of the LSAT. I wrote this because I know the LSAT can be a life changing test, and has huge implications for our futures. I also know that the test is regressive as hell in that it privileges those who have the time and wealth to dedicate vast amounts of real world resources such as time and money to studying, LSAT materials, multiple LSAT writings and yes even tutors to get to that magical LSAT score. The world's problem with inequality can only be fixed if we as individuals decide to try to fix it, I'm writing this to help balance the scales. I hope this helps you get the score you need.

Please be on the lookout for more of my posts in the near future.

Comments

  • Hopeful9812Hopeful9812 Legacy Member
    872 karma

    This is incredibly helpful- thank you!! & Congratulations on your Jan 2020 score!

  • Herewego...Herewego... Monthly Member
    97 karma

    Amazing advice! Thanks for writing.

  • Slippin JimmySlippin Jimmy Monthly Member
    47 karma

    Great post with useful advice. Thank you!

  • BeatrizzzBeatrizzz Legacy Member
    10 karma

    This is fantastic! Thank you!

  • a1ex_682a1ex_682 Alum Member
    307 karma

    Thank you @"Michael.Cinco" ! Excellent advice, skipping the flaws if they’re not immediately noticeable is really speaking to me

  • PositivePositive Alum Member
    426 karma

    thank you so much!

  • Jessica60106Jessica60106 Monthly Member
    33 karma

    Thank you so much, Michael!! for taking the time of giving us tips ! and congrats! on your score ! I am so proud of you! God bless you

  • lexxx745lexxx745 Alum Member Sage
    3190 karma

    Thanks!

  • lsatyayylsatyayy Monthly Member
    176 karma

    Nice!!!! Thank you!!

    "Breaking into the 160's and 170's requires that you disabuse yourself of the notion that just because you CAN answer every question on the LSAT does not mean you SHOULD TRY to answer every question on the LSAT the SAME WAY."

    This. This hits the heart of time management mindset required to ace LSAT. LOVE it!

  • NinoSaniNinoSani Alum Member
    100 karma

    Thank you so much, so generous and kind :)

  • trudyawuahtrudyawuah Member
    7 karma

    Thank you.

  • the19rowsthe19rows Alum Member
    38 karma

    THANK YOU. Very helpful read.

  • theserg13theserg13 Alum Member
    96 karma

    Great post! I think more than ever this strategy is great since the digital format provides an easier and more seamless way to Mark and go through problems you skipped.

  • Alexandra3-1Alexandra3-1 Alum Member
    30 karma

    Thank you!

  • ilovethelsatilovethelsat Alum Member
    348 karma

    @"Michael.Cinco" Thanks so much! How long did your LSAT journey take?

  • legalstateofmindlegalstateofmind Alum Member
    101 karma

    You're amazing - love your motivation behind posting this and thanks for the helpful guide! :smile:

  • LSATSurvivorLSATSurvivor Alum Member
    228 karma

    amazing, thank you!

  • mrowley91mrowley91 Alum Member
    203 karma

    Great advice, and congrats on your score! Where do you plan on applying?

  • Michael.CincoMichael.Cinco Alum Member Sage
    2106 karma

    @ilovethelsat said:
    @"Michael.Cinco" Thanks so much! How long did your LSAT journey take?

    I wrote my first lsat in 2016 after studying for a month and ended up with the 157. That was a bit of a disaster and I promptly shelved my lawschool dreams.

    Then In 2018 I picked up powerscore in June and took the November test and ended up with a 161. I signed up for 7sage in November of 2018 and went through the CC and took the lsat again in Jan 2019 and got a 166. I spent the rest of 2019 studying on and off, while also tutoring and leading BR groups. I read the LSAT Trainer and LoopHole and developed my own strategies and retook in Jan to get a 171. So I've studied for over a year, from many different sources and met lots of different people with various ideas on how to do well on this test. I think that time would have been way shorter if I started with 7sage though!

  • Michael.CincoMichael.Cinco Alum Member Sage
    2106 karma

    @mrowley91 said:
    Great advice, and congrats on your score! Where do you plan on applying?

    Thanks!

    I'm a Canadian kid. I only applied to two schools so far, UBC and UofT. Canada makes it a bit painful for folks who get their JD outside of Canada so I think this is where I'll be staying for law school.

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