Tuesday, September 1, 2009

LSAT Books and Materials - Logical Reasoning

As we discussed yesterday, we only advocate using the Official LSAT PrepTests for LSAT prep. These are the best and cheapest way to ensure that you are only dealing with real LSAT material in your self-study. You'd be surprised how often our students come to us after weeks--or even months--of practice without ever having taken a full, official LSAT. We think that's ridiculous, not to mention criminal, that test prep companies are operating in this way.

While in my role as an educator for eighth grade students I balk at the thought of “teaching to the test,” that is precisely what needs to be done while studying for the LSAT. In Teach For America, I was taught that instructional practices must be properly aligned with the state standards to ensure that students learn exactly what is expected; by practicing with LSAC test materials, there is no need to worry about the expected outcome of your LSAT practice.

While some companies may tout their books as harder than the real LSAT—and thus a "better preparation" for the actual test—they simply do not have the resources to adequately ensure the quality of each question. LSAC ensures the quality of their questions over time by using experimental sections; don't let a company use you as their guinea pig!

In fact, these "harder questions" may require you to use thought processes that damage your ability to answer the questions that actually matter, the ones on the official LSAT. We already described how our students make their LSAT preparation more difficult than the real test—lowering your per-section time and extending the total number of sections per study session.

In short, the actual test materials are readily available and reasonably priced—this is a case of when teaching to the test is the way to go.

At Zen of 180, we overcame the issue of using older PrepTests by comparing them to the task point distribution on the modern LSATs given after June 2007. While our online store has these annotations for the individual PrepTests after 38, we will be posting the resources for the Official 10 series this week, and today for the Logical Reasoning section. We will not annotate the modern PrepTests because they are the benchmark to which we set our scale.

Please note that the older PrepTests allocate more points to argument structure and fewer to evaluating evidence use than modern PrepTests. As you prepare for the LSAT, make sure to treat evaluating evidence questions more seriously than they appear to be.

To use this chart to focus your LSAT practice without sacrificing quality of material:

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses by organizing your missed questions into these Zen task strands (our students use the much more specific Zen task standards, which will be made fully available once our LSAT analyzer tool is live)
For example, if you miss a variant of "what is the main point in [so and so's] argument," then that is an error in the task strand of argument structure and task standard of identifying the main conclusion.
  • Count the number of missed questions for each strand, and note which tasks seem to give you the most difficulty and which ones seem easy
For example, if you miss at least three questions from every logical reasoning section on similarly constructed logic, that would be a weakness.
  • Reference the chart, and note to target the "higher than average" PrepTests for your weaknesses and avoid the "lower than average"
For example, if you have reliably missed principal questions, your best practice would be in the logical reasoning sections of PrepTest 46; conversely, your time might be better spent than on PrepTest 19.
  • Reference the chart, and note to avoid the "higher than average" PrepTests for your strengths and target the "lower than average" (so you don't waste your time on material on which you already excel)
For example, if you have never missed an assumption, you might be wasting time by taking the logical reasoning sections for PrepTests 36 or 49; whereas, the sections on PrepTests 30, 41, 42, 43, and 45 will allow you to focus more on your weaknesses.