In our immediate October 2013 LSAT post-test analysis, we wrote:
Many students stated that they felt the Logic Games were straightforward–not easy but also not difficult. The section with the Movies was the real section. Perhaps somewhat annoyingly, some students with an experimental Logic Games section felt the experimental LG was quite easy. As one student told me, “Some group of people in the future is getting really lucky!”
Looking at the exam now, does that flash analysis hold? Yes, it does, as the games were relatively predictable and held few surprises. Let’s take a brief look at each:
Game #1: A concert promoter scheduling six bands at a concert, a Basic Linear Game
This was a great game to start things off, as it is basic linear and balanced, with six bands scheduled into six spots. The only particularly interesting thing in this game is that the rules essentially create two very limited groups: one group in the first three spots containing V, Y, and either W or Z, and a second group for the last three spots containing U, X, and either W or Z. Recognizing those two groups and the sequencing rules affecting them (“V earlier than Z” for instance) allowed test takers to crush this game and get off to a strong start. Having 7 questions was also a huge bonus for a game this easy! Even the last question, a rule substitution question that has only recently started to appear with frequency on the test, wasn’t terribly difficult and posed little problem for informed test takers.
Game #2: At least four of eight employees selected for a research team, a Grouping Game
This is another fairly standard game, with a partially defined team (“at least four”) and three conditional reasoning rules. The key to this game was recognizing the chains created by rule linkage, such as the connection of rules 1 and 3: W leads to M, which in turn leads to not O and not P. Continuing this idea, it became clear that certain variables could not be selected together, as they produced conflicting conditions, such as S requiring the selection of P, and M and W both requiring the exclusion of P. The inference? Both M and W cannot be selected with S (an inference directly tested in question 9).
Many of the questions in this game centered on the “at least four” element in the scenario, as the consequence of removing certain variables was that reaching the four-person minimum became impossible. For instance, question 10 removed Y which in turn eliminated W, and then the correct answer attempted to include M, which would eliminate O, P, and S: meaning five of the eight people have been ruled out (Y, W, O, P, S) and only three remain for selection, not enough for the four person minimum.
At this point in the section, most students were feeling excellent: Two fairly easy games had been presented, and most students were ahead on time. Smart test takers probably suspected something more challenging was coming up, because, well, there had been two easy games. One thing to keep in mind is that most LSATs do not contain two legitimately hard games, so between the next two games, you would expect one to be easier than the other. And that’s exactly what happened.
Game #3: Five movies shown on three screens, am Advanced Linear Game
This game caused a lot of trouble for test takers, as the three variable sets aren’t initially balanced, and the various times for the three screens–7 and 9 for screens 1 and 2, and 8 for screen 3–weren’t consistent. To set this game up, I created a 3×3 grid with the times (7, 8, 9) on the bottom, and the screens (1, 2, 3) on the left. Then I put for Xs into the grid where no movies would be shown: 8 oclock on screens 1 and 2, and 7 and 9 oclock on screen 3. This effectively balances the game, as there are now five open spaces for the five films, as well as an easy way to track the linear/sequencing rules regarding the start times for the films (and also is the reason for labeling this “Advanced Linear,” since approaching it from that standpoint was much more likely to produce the recommended setup).
Note that negative grouping rules, like the final rule here where H and M are not on the same screen, and the two Not Law rules for R and S, in a game with only five variables and 3 total groups, are going to be tested often. And that was certainly the case here: several questions focus on situations where variables would either be grouped together or placed in a position that violates one of those negative rules.
Game #4: Five lectures on birds in two possible locations, an Advanced Linear Game
After the difficulty of the third game, the test makers ended the section with a relatively simple Advanced Linear game, with a base of 1-5 and two stacks: one for the five bird types, and another for the G/H location option. The only problem a lot of test takers faced is that the third game took so much time, or caused so much distress, that the final game was made more difficult than it should have been. But for those who either skipped the third game and went on to the fourth, or understood the nature of game 3 and got through it with minimal issues, then this last game was a fairly straightforward task and a welcome conclusion to a Logic Games section that presented few surprises.
So, this Logic Games section was predictable, fair, and ultimately a nice reward for well-prepared students. Further, there are some valuable lessons that can be learned from it:
- If you are presented with easy games to start, expect that something more difficult is coming. The reverse of this is true as well: if you run into a very challenging game, there will be other, easier games elsewhere in the section. This should influence your approach, as you do not need to do the games in the order presented; rather, consider all four and tackle them in the order you feel will let you move from easiest to hardest: in this case, probably in the order of game 1 first, games 2 and 4 in whichever sequence you prefer for the second and third, then game 3 to end things.
- The test makers tend to follow fairly predictable patterns, and while they can, at times, disguise the difficulty of a game, generally you can determine how approachable a game will be with a quick reading of the scenario and rules. In this section, the unusual elements in game 3 should have been an immediate clue that this was likely the best candidate to save for last.