After the June 2010 LSAT concluded, in LSAT forums across the internet test takers were talking about the difficulty of the mulch/stone game and the photographer/writer travel game. Most students agreed that those two games were the most difficult, and there was much talk of how to solve those two games (in the abstract, of course, so as to not violate LSAC question posting guidelines). But were those really the two most difficult games on the test? The answer is, surprisingly, not really. Although those two games (which were presented third and fourth in the section) have elements of difficulty, our research indicates that most students found those two games difficult because of what happened earlier in the section. Let’s briefly walk through each of the four games on the test, discussing some of the relevant features of each game:
The first game initially appears to be a simple Advanced Linear game, featuring six variables being placed into six spaces. But this game seemed to have a number of solutions, and unless you noticed the inference regarding the K/Q and N/S pairs (and subsequently the limited placement options for Q), the game may have taken longer than expected.
The second game initially appears even easier than the first: six variables placed in a Basic Linear: Balanced scenario, primarily controlled by sequencing rules. But the third rule presented a conditional relationship that creates two different templates for the game, and neither template created by the rule is that simple to diagram or use. Thus, the game takes longer for most people to complete than they expect.
At this point, most test takers found themselves in a frustrating position—two seemingly easy and straightforward games had been presented, yet each took longer than expected. So, when test takers arrived at the third game—the mulch/stone game—the pressure was starting to build and most people knew that they needed a fast performance on the last two games in order to avoid running out of time on the section. The third game is actually the easiest on the test, but that is only the case if you understand how to best attack this game. The game is another Balanced Basic Linear game, but the rules should be a giveaway that there is a strong Pattern element present. In fact, trying to account for the combination of the two rules is a bit challenging, and ultimately there are only seven possible solutions to this game. Once you have all seven solutions, which do not take too long to write down, answering the questions is fairly easy. But, when you are under time pressure, decoding the nature of this game becomes much more difficult, and so a substantial number of students did not write down the solutions, and then the questions became quite challenging. Frustrated, a number of students then jumped to the fourth game, hoping to pick up some fast points.
The final game is also not that demanding, as long as you carefully unlock the interaction of the rules. In short, the GL rule and the FK rule force H and J into the same field, which allows you to infer that the assistants in each field are writers G, L, and F/K, and photographers H, J, and K/F (although not in those orders, as J is assigned to Tuscany, for example). Given the limited number of solutions to this game, and the powerful template created by the block inferences, the questions again become easy.
Part of the problem with the third and fourth games is that there are some challenging inferences to be drawn, first in the Pattern nature of the third game and then with the blocks in the fourth game. But those are makeable inferences for most students who would encounter those games in their studies. Under the pressure of the actual test, and in many cases facing those games while behind on time, those inferences become much more difficult to make. One way to help yourself on future tests is to remember these simple points:
1. If one or more games on an LSAT are time-consuming (as the first and second games can be), there is usually a method in one or more of the other games to make up time.
2. You should always be wary of games with simple structures (six into six, seven into seven, for example) with open-ended or unusual rules. They often become more time-consuming than expected.
3. Most LSATs feature one or more games that can be effectively attacked using templates, and that approach tends to save time and increase accuracy.
June 2010 (LSAT PrepTest 60)
Game #1: Advanced Linear: Balanced
Game #2: Basic Linear: Balanced
Game #3: Basic Linear: Balanced, Identify the Possibilities (7)
Game #4: Grouping: Defined-Fixed, Balanced