An Expert LSAT Tutor’s Top 5 LSAT Logic Game Tips
If you’re passionate about making a real difference in people’s lives, there’s a good chance you’ve considered a career in the law. But the difference-making power that a law degree gives you doesn’t come easy—there are many hurdles you have to clear on the long path to a legal or juridical career. Those hurdles include passing the bar exam, but before you can even take the bar exam you have to go to law school (at least in 46 states). And before you go to law school you have to take the LSAT.
The LSAT itself has a lot in common with some other standardized tests, such as the SAT, the ACT, the GRE, and the GMAT. But the one thing that really sets the LSAT apart is the Analytical Reasoning section, better known as logic games. Some people find the logic games to be unusually intuitive for a standardized test, but to others the logic games might as well be written in ancient Sumerian. But there’s really no need to panic—even if the logic games are unfamiliar to you at first, it is definitely possible to improve your performance. Drilling down on your logic games prep can be one of the most powerful ways of boosting your overall score.
To that end, here we offer five tips to maximize your score on the LSAT logic games.
1. SEAL the deal
By this we mean get used to applying the SEAL method every time you begin a new logic game. Each game consists of a particular situation that includes certain elements, relationships, and conditions. SEAL stands for Situation, Elements, Actions, Limitations. By understanding a particular game according to these criteria, you can prepare yourself for each of the questions that will be asked.
For example, a Situation might be something like: A caterer has to decide the order in which to serve each course of a six-course meal. The Elements would be each possible course. The Actions would include any given information about where certain courses must go in relation to one another, such as: The Brussels sprouts must be served before the curry and after the samosas. The Limitations are related to the Actions, and represent the boundaries separating what can and can’t happen. One Limitation might be: Each course can only be served once, or the first and last dish both must be vegetarian
2. Get visual
Logic games are called analytical reasoning, and they’re typically given to you in the form of text. But really they also test spatial reasoning, and your ability to use spatial reasoning to complement analytical reasoning. One of the most powerful things you can do in each logic game, after analyzing the SEAL criteria and before looking at any questions, is to draw a diagram.
Your diagram should represent all the information in the SEAL analysis in some visual form.
For the catering example given above, you would likely draw seven slots in numbered order, almost like a game of hangman. Off to one side, you would represent the elements in play, often by initials (e.g. B for Brussels sprouts, C for curry, etc.). Separately, you would somehow represent all the rules (i.e. Actions/Limitations). For example, B < C, S < B (meaning Brussels sprouts before curry, Brussels sprouts after samosas).
Some rules are hard to represent visually and can therefore be written in shortened form. But all this is an effort to essentially translate abstract conceptual information into visual information, which your brain handles much more intuitively. It also helps to hold more information in your head at once, and to make relationships clear. As different questions invite you to test out different scenarios/conditions, you can continue drawing new diagrams for each case.
3. Seek connections
The most powerful work in your approach to each logic game typically involves seeing the implicit connections between the elements and rules. By using “deductive reasoning,” you can tease out more true information about each situation than is made explicit in the elements and rules.
For example, if the Brussels sprouts must be served before the curry, and the Brussels sprouts must be served after the samosas, then we can also say that the curry must be served after the samosas. This might seem like an obvious case for the point of instruction. But making the right deductions can often fill in significant gaps in your understanding of how a situation can or must work. The fact that the curry must be served after the Brussels sprouts and the samosas, for instance, means it cannot go any earlier than third.
It might seem hard to make a deduction if one isn’t calling out to you. The most surefire way of drawing deductions from the given information is to see whether any element is repeated between two different rules. If so, put those two rules in conversation with each other and see if they are connected or mutually dependent somehow. Often times, a repeated element means a deduction can be drawn.
4. Get comfortable with the hypothetical
A major dimension of what the LSAT tests is your sense of “truth value.” Considering the ways multiple pieces of information relate to one another, can you determine whether something is definitely true, possibly true, possibly false, or definitely false? You can see how that skill would be essential for a lawyer. But that doesn’t mean determining truth value in the form a logic game is any less confounding. Especially when many rules and questions ask you to entertain conditionals and hypotheticals.
For example, a rule might state, “If the fruit salad is served first, the charcuterie must be served second.” Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that, if the charcuterie is served second, the fruit salad must be served first. A question might ask, “If the charcuterie is served second, and the paella is served third, what is served first?”
When a question offers you a conditional statement, you can consider that the temporary addition of a new rule to the situation, which applies for that question only. In the question listed above, you would draw a new diagram adapted from the first one you drew after first reading the logic game. This new diagram would include the rules: The charcuterie is served second (or Ch=2), and the paella is served third (P=3). Then you would reexamine the other rules to see whether any connections or deductions could be made. From there you would fill in the diagram to include everything else you now know for sure about where the elements must be assigned.
Developing a comfort with existing in these hypothetical spaces is crucial for acing the logic games. The key is in keeping track whether the hypothetical scenarios you game out involve information that is always true, that is temporarily true for the sake of this one question, or that is only possibly true. In addition, as you go forward, you should be reviewing the rules to see whether your hypothetical scenario has created any contradictions or rule violations.
5. Invest intelligently in LSAT prep
No LSAT-preparer is an island unto themselves. There is a wealth of resources available to help you prepare for the LSAT and for the logic games in particular. There are many free and crowdsourced resources available online, including text and video lessons, specialized LSAT prep software, and user-generated forums. There are also many paid publications, in print and online, designed exclusively to help you improve your performance at LSAT logic games. Though you should be careful that your primary study resource is actual logic games from official past LSAT exams, as opposed to simulated logic games written by other entities.
While the extra expense can be difficult, almost every LSAT student stands to benefit from expert LSAT tutoring. There is a wide spectrum of such LSAT coaching available, from large and anonymous group classes to one-on-one tutoring. One-on-one tutoring is typically more effective, but also more expensive. Some tutors charge over $1,000 an hour. We offer top-quality personalized LSAT logic games tutoring for roughly half the price of such high-profile companies as Kaplan and Manhattan Prep, even though MyGuru’s tutors have more experience.
Working one-on-one with an expert LSAT coach is surely the most powerful way to tailor your LSAT study plan to your needs, and to maximize your performance in the logic games.
About the Author
Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a boutique provider of online tutoring and test prep for most academic subjects, as well as standardized tests like the SAT, GRE, LSAT, and GMAT.