Friday, July 15, 2011

Focus on Logical Reasoning in LSAT Prep

The following post is part of a series from one of our LSAT tutoring clients. You can read about their experiences by clicking on the "Zen Journal" label above.
The time has come for a full onslaught of logical reasoning. I’ve always had mixed feelings about this section. On the one hand, LR is not as scary as LG – but on the other hand, I’ve seen some LR stimuli that are "wicked convoluted" (two words that don’t work so well together, I just realized).

It turns out that I’m not so great at LR either, but the fact that I can finish a section within the time limit (whether I get 1 question wrong… or 8) means a lower mental wall to breach. Skipping difficult games or LG questions gives rise to a panicky feeling in my throat, but I don’t mind skipping LR questions that I find confusing or not worth pursuing (i.e. – the really long parallel reasoning questions).

Mr. Bennett and I identified some areas of my LR weaknesses based on completed practice tests (I’m still on my LSAT schedule…what?!) and it turns out that I’m not really consistent in terms of where I mess up – not surprisingly. In the last two lessons, we went over the questions strands that gave me the most trouble: “definition assumption,” “fix by add”, “fix by remove,” “weakens” and “points at issue.” That seems like a long list, but I try to remind myself it's only a fraction of the 22 tasks the Zen LSAT system tracks.

Learning the correct way to think about how to answer a LR question has turned out to be trickier for me than tackling a logic game. When faced with a LG, I jump right in, drawing the diagram that makes the most sense to me. I deal with the consequences later.

A note from the editors: If your logic games diagrams are approaching complexity, think about how to simplify them.
LRs aren’t as straight forward because they contain words that actually have meaning, as opposed to LG, which have “multicultural” characters with names like “Fu” and “Mohamed,” whose diversity means nothing to the test taker. Also, the details in the tiny LR paragraphs are surprisingly hard to keep in your head, especially at 8:30am pre-coffee. In Mr. Bennett’s words, “the LSAT is evil!”

But we knew that already.

After a two-lesson mental wrestling match with LR, we finally had a “break through” today while I was working on one of the sample questions from a particular strand. I followed through on Mr. Bennett’s approach to this question time and voila! Many of the explanations for the logical reasoning question types can be found online – take a look and try to internalize how to do each type of question because the rules will help you (and save you time, as well as agony). What I’ll be doing this weekend is going through all the practice test LR sections, identifying the questions that I got wrong and making a note of why I got each question wrong on a Word document. There’s no sense in doing practice tests if you can’t learn from them. At least, that’s what I will aim to do…in between yoga, lunches, “The Tree of Life”, family time and a barbeque. Hey - shoot for the moon, right?

As of one hour ago, I am officially registered for the October 1, 2011 LSAT. Registering wasn’t a big deal because I’d done it before, but I’d probably get chills if I let myself think about it for too long.

This is probably my last attempt at the LSAT. While I was in New York last weekend, LSAT nightmare #2 came my way. It was the same dream as the first time – I was in a room taking the test even though I knew I still had 2.5 months to study. I wish my LSAT nightmares would at least get more creative – can’t I be taking the LSAT while flying and/or sitting next to Adrien Brody, who clearly also aspires to go to law school? His face is so mesmerizing that I wouldn’t even score above a 140.

To all of you who are pretending to be undecided (but who have actually decided), you should register before your closest, least noisy test center runs out of room! If you need some inspiration and are into soulful advice columns of the literary variety, check out this one, a letter written by a struggling woman writer and answered by the “Sugar” on the online lit magazine The Rumpus. In some ways, the letter writer’s question is specific, but the beauty of the answer is that it applies to every one who has ever struggled to produce, whether it’s their first novel or a desired LSAT score. “The only way you’ll find out if you ‘have it in you’ is to get to work and see if you do,” writes the wise Sugar. “The only way to override your ‘limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude’ is to produce.” Everyone – we still have time. Let us produce.