LSAT Practice Tests or Practice Sections?

    LSAT Prep

    lr_assumption_collection_coverWith approximately two weeks to go before the September LSAT it's imperative that you're taking regular, timed practice tests (hopefully at least 2-3 per week leading up to the exam), and equally imperative that you're spending time reviewing your practice tests to determine how you're performing and what areas still need the most work.

    In fact, let me start by referencing a post my colleague Nikki made regarding 10 steps to taking practice tests, and look specifically at steps 6 and 7 concerning review:

    1. Thoroughly review each and every practice test you take. The benefits of test reviews are so great that it’s almost not worth taking a test unless you can spend an adequate amount of time reviewing it. When reviewing your tests, do the following:
      1. Identify and analyze every mistake you made and understand the line of reasoning that led you in the wrong direction. Identify the type of “decoy” answer you chose, and make a point not to repeat the same mistake again. Although no two LSATs are exactly the same, there is an incredibly high level of consistency between the tests. Use this consistency to your advantage—avoid making the same mistake twice and your score will improve. Guaranteed.
      2. Identify and analyze any questions that took too long to solve, even if you ultimately got them right. As you take each practice test, “flag” any question that took more than 1:30—2:00 min. That way, you can easily return to these questions during your test review. Whether you answered the question correctly is irrelevant: if it took 3 minutes to figure out, clearly there is a problem that needs fixing.
      3. Create a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet listing every mistake you make.Identify the type of question missed and explain, in a few sentences, what made you choose the wrong answer. E.g.:
        December 2006, LR 1, Q1: Main. The correct answer is (D), I chose (A). Chose the opposite answer because I failed to differentiate between competing viewpoints. In the future, pay attention to competing viewpoints in Main Point questions.
    1. Identify a pattern to the mistakes you are making. When your Word or Excel file grows sufficiently large, examine all the mistakes you’ve made up to this point. Do you see any patterns? Are you missing a lot of questions with conditional reasoning stimuli? Numbers and percentages? How about Undefined Grouping Games? Or Science passages?
      1. Return to your study guides and re-read the chapters that highlight the types of questions and games you are missing.
      2. If you notice persistent patterns of mistakes that you cannot fix with the self-study guides, consider purchasing a few hours of tutoring. A tutor should not only be able to explain what you are doing wrong, but also help you fix the problem. Tutoring is not cheap, but the benefits usually far outweigh the cost, given the enormous value in salary potential of even a 3- or 4-point increase in your LSAT score.

    So I'm writing this to remind you, firstly, of the importance of reviewing ALL of your work, whether entire tests or a single question, and secondly to make the point that practice tests are hugely valuable but aren't the only source of improvement at this point. That is, sometimes it's more valuable to focus on just single sections, single question/game types, or even single questions themselves than it is to entire tests.

    Put another way, practice tests are like shotguns where a broad field/spread of LSAT "bullets" is launched, whereas individualized elements are like rifles where a single, extremely precise LSAT "bullet" is fired. Both are useful, but the usefulness depends largely on the situation.

    So let me make the case for potentially fewer whole tests, and instead for more specialized efforts. 

    As you review your tests, what you should notice (as mentioned above) is that there are areas where you are consistently strong, and other areas where weaknesses still exist. It's the weaker areas then that serve as your greatest opportunity to improve! Focus on them specifically! So if you find that you struggle most in Logical Reasoning with, say, a single question type like Assumption or Must Be True, stop doing whole tests, or even whole LR sections, and instead go back to the conceptual discussion of that type, review it, and then work through a timed set of just questions from that category. More broadly, you may find that it's an entire Family of questions that pose problems--Second Family, for instance, where Strengthen, Assumption, Justify, and Resolve the Paradox appear--and you should direct your attention to a variety of question types that fall within it.

    Similarly, you may notice, as many do, that Logic Games featuring heavy grouping elements are more challenging for you than games based on linearity/sequencing. If that's the case, review Grouping Games from a conceptual standpoint and then work, or even rework, games that require grouping of the variables.

    The point in all of this is that you should never lose sight of the trees for the forest! Practice tests are an undeniable necessity, but they must be coupled with thorough review and concept-specific study if you want to truly maximize your potential!

    Have any questions? Comments? Let us know below!

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