December 2014 LSAT scores have just been released (on New Year's Day, no less), and test takers are now getting the opportunity to review their results. For many test takers, the Logic Games section is the first one they review, so let's take a look at it.
In our immediate December 2014 LSAT post-test analysis, we wrote:
Just like the September 2014 test, the Logic Games section on the December test did not include any surprises (no circular games or pattern games here). The section began with two relatively easy linear games. The third game (photographers/artists) was moderately difficult, and only the last game (grouping, involving rugs) represented a considerable challenge. The trend this year has been toward four games that are manageable if you budget time appropriately, but a problem if you take too long on any one particular game. Thankfully, the games were arranged in increasing order of difficulty, so if you ran out of time on the last game, you missed out on the most difficult questions in that section.
Looking at the exam now, does that flash analysis hold? Yes, it does (although the Rugs game was third, not fourth). Let’s look at each game briefly:
Game #1: Band Solos, a Basic Linear Game
This is a Balanced Linear game, with six variables for six spaces. Most of the rules are sequential in nature, and on the surface this game looks pretty straightforward. We classified this game as easy, but with a twist: the game is really simple assuming you understand that the last rule creates two mutually exclusive outcomes (P > S > T or T > S > P). If you are able to see that fact, then you can make two basic templates for this game by linking in the other rules, and the questions become very straightforward. If you don't see those two separate outcomes, the game is still doable, but harder. Fair warning: rules like the last one have been appearing with a fair degree of frequency on recent LSATs, so make sure you know how to handle them--there was a direct payoff in this game!
Game #2: Art Lectures, an Advanced Linear Game
This is another straightforward game, with two sets of four variables arranged in a Linear fashion. The three rules are all sequential in nature (which means that six of the seven rules in the first two games on this LSAT involved sequencing. Why? Because they always test sequencing, but this LSAT does not feature a pure Sequencing game so they feature it heavily in the Linear games).
With just eight variables in play, and enough restrictions to create multiple dual-options within the base setup, this game can be attacked by creating two templates (using the order in which the historians deliver the lectures: F, H, G/J, J/G and H, F, G/J, J/G). Even without that approach, this game wasn't difficult, and most students did reasonably well on this one.
At this point in the section, most students were feeling good: two relatively easy games had been presented, and most students were ahead on time. The bad news? Each of the first two games featured just five questions, so being slightly "ahead" on time was expected; there were still thirteen more questions to go in the last half of the section. And, smart test takers probably suspected that more challenging games were coming up, because, well, there had been two easy games. And that did indeed occur--the difficulty went up in the last two games (but the good news was that it didn't go off the charts).
Game #3: Colored Rugs, a Grouping Game
This game, on first reading, just seems challenging. There are six thread colors, but only five colors are used, and they are assigned to one of three rugs. While "five into three" is manageable, the hard part is that the number of thread colors in each rug is not initially pre-determined, so you have a set of constantly shifting thread color numbers for each rug (and thus identifying the two unfixed distributions is key).
There are five rules, each of which is a classic Grouping rule. The first rule, for example, establishes that if W is used, then there will be three colors in one of the rugs (and by inference, each of the other two rugs will feature exactly one color each, meaning that O could not be one of the colors in either of those two rugs). The second rule is a very typical Grouping rule, and because this game must feature five colors in all solutions, establishes that P must always be used as a color in one of the rugs (because, via the contrapositive, if P were not used, then O could not be used, which leaves only four colors available for the three rugs). The last three rules are all negative Grouping rules, and each eliminates a pair of variables from appearing in the same rug. A careful rule analysis tells you that variables in multiple rules--such as P and T, are powerful, and should be closely tracked.
Overall, this game is manageable but time-consuming. To feel comfortable you have to focus on the two base distributions of the thread numbers in each rug. Then, you have to connect the rules with those numbers to create some rough templates. It's a classic game in that sense, but it takes patience, in part because making templates takes time and in part because there are seven questions.
Game #4: Graduation Photographers, a Grouping Game
The last game is another Grouping game, which isn't totally unexpected. The vast majority of students find Grouping more difficult than Linearity, and so when a game section starts with two Linear-based games, you have to expect you will be seeing a greater focus on Grouping in the last two games (or some type of wildcard game, which thankfully we didn't get this time around).
The challenge in this game is tracking the members of two university groups--S and T--and realizing that not being assigned to either is a trigger as well. The last rule contains a sufficient condition where K is not assigned to T, which means the condition would be met when K is assigned to S, or when K is unassigned. Given that the rule involves three of the six variables in the game, it's worth exploring the options that result when K is assigned to various places. As you delve further into the rule, you then discover that K cannot be unassigned, and that therefore K must be assigned to S or T. The templates that result yield a powerful look into the game.
The game ends with a Rule Substitution question, and these questions have been appearing regularly recently (this is the 15th such question to appear on a released LSAT since they first appeared on the June 2009 exam). These questions are usually difficult and time-consuming for most people, and that problem was compounded by this being the final question in the section (even though the correct answer is a straight restatement of the rule in question). Overall, this wasn't an easy game, and your ability to track groups was repeatedly tested.
Ultimately, this Logic Games section wasn't overly demanding, but like any LSAT LG section, it wasn't simple either. Sections that start out easier and then build difficulty throughout always feel challenging, in part because most students can sense that it's getting harder. And it gets more difficult as the time pressure is building! So, even though this is a reasonable section, a lot of people walked away feeling a bit unbalanced by it. That's simply a function of how the test makers set up the section (and human nature). If you're taking the LSAT down the line, study this section closely. It's a very typical LG section by today's standards (despite the fact that all four games can be done using Templates), and this one features a really standard collection of rules--very little here comes out of left field.
Image "Snow Crystals" courtesy of Thomas Bresson.