The most popular LSAT of the year is fast approaching, and it's inevitable that people will wonder how to best prioritize their study efforts. To that end, I'd like to dissect the past two years' worth of released LSATs (back to June 2013) and see exactly what the test makers have emphasized, and what they've relegated to a back shelf. After all, if you know what your fellow test takers have faced, your own test day holds a lot less mystery.
Note: further analysis has been performed on tests from October 2015 through December 2016. Those LR frequencies (and notable trends) can be found here.
To start, there are thirteen question types that we recognize, listed in (very) rough order of historical appearance frequency:
1. Must Be True
2. Flaw in the Reasoning
6. Justify the Conclusion
7. Method of Reasoning and Method-Argument Part
8. Parallel Reasoning and Parallel Flaw
9. Main Point
10. Resolve the Paradox
11. Point at Issue and Point of Agreement
12. Cannot Be True
13. Evaluate the Argument
Each of those types describes a unique relationship between the stimulus and the answer choices, and each relationship dictates how to attack the problem at hand. An Assumption question is solved much differently than a Weaken or Parallel question, and those distinctions are crucial to performing well on such a variable test; without a proven strategy for addressing each, the test makers' unpredictability becomes increasingly insurmountable.
So what, given the guarantee of variety, are you liable to encounter on test day? Let's take that same list of thirteen and parse it out numerically over the past two years' worth of LSATs (June 2013 - June 2015).
In that time frame there have been seven released LSATs, consisting of 356 Logical Reasoning questions. Here's the breakdown (by my count), reordered by appearance:
1. Flaw in the Reasoning - 57 questions; 16%
2. Must Be True - 51 questions (tie); 14.3%
2. Strengthen - 51 questions (tie); 14.3%
4. Assumption - 34 questions; 9.6%
5. Parallel Reasoning and Parallel Flaw - 29 questions; 8.1%
6. Weaken - 26 questions; 7.3%
7. Method of Reasoning and Method-Argument Part - 24 questions (tie); 6.7%
7. Main Point - 24 questions (tie); 6.7%
9. Resolve the Paradox - 22 questions; 6.2%
10. Justify the Conclusion - 20 questions; 5.6%
11. Point at Issue and Point of Agreement - 7 questions; 2%
12. Evaluate the Argument - 5 questions; 1.4%
13. Cannot Be True - 3 questions; 0.8%
So while our rough estimation of question frequency isn't far off, notable (divergent) trends emerge.
For one, while Must be True questions are undeniably at the heart of the LSAT, they're no longer the principle focus of LR. Flaw in the Reasoning questions wear the crown of late, and deserve a proportionate degree of attention. Fortunately, students in our courses see significant time spent on Flaw questions and will find their emphasis welcome news.
Secondly, Strengthen questions appear nearly twice as often as Weaken! So despite the similarities--helping and hurting are closely related, after all--your time would be better spent assisting arguments than assailing them.
Finally, keep in mind that trends are merely that: observable patterns that hold true at present, but may prove dismayingly inadequate at predicting a long-term trajectory. I'm confident a December 2015 student will find utility in the statistics above, and equally sure a December 2018 will be owed an update. Here's to a recognized shelf life!
This is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing aspects of this LSAT--how in the world does some obscure, enigmatic committee decide your fate??--so let us know your thoughts in the comments below and we'll endeavor to crack this riddle together.
Photo "puzzle" by Olgie Berrios.