It’s the Logical Reasoning section, and you’re already cooking. You’ve read the first stimulus and reacted to it, maybe noticed some flaw or some important indicator language. You’ve read the question stem, so you know what you’re supposed to be looking for. You’ve developed a prephrase, so you are clear about what the right answer is supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to do. Now what do you do?
Now it’s time for a round of speed dating, folks.
If you don’t know what speed dating is, well, consider yourself fortunate. Speed dating is a highly organized and regimented event at which single people get a chance to meet a bunch of other single people and see if there is anyone that they might want to get to know better, maybe go on a real date with. Here’s how it works (and for the sake of my explanation I am going to use the example of a bunch of hetero men and women looking to connect with the opposite gender):
First, you need the same number of men and women. Typically, all the women sit at different tables facing empty chairs. The men then sit down in those empty chairs, each at a different table and each facing a different woman, the organizer starts a timer, and all the couples get a fixed amount of time to talk to each other. They exchange names, ask each other questions, maybe flirt a little, whatever. When time is up – maybe only 5 minutes or so, not much more than that – the organizer calls time, and then all the guys get up and move over to the next table, and it all starts again. By the end of the event, every man has spent a few minutes with every woman and vice versa, and then they fill out little info cards to give to the organizer to say who they might want to see again for a real date. In other words, you sort out your potential dates into losers and contenders. If you name someone as a contender who also names you, you each get the other one’s contact info and you can go ahead and try going out. No pressure, right?
Back to Logical Reasoning. You’re about to go speed dating with the answer choices, folks, but you don’t have five minutes with each one. Nope, it’s more like five seconds, if that. Quickly, you must decide whether this answer choice is one that you might like to see again, perhaps for a longer visit, or if it’s a loser that doesn’t deserve your time and that you will never see again, ever. That’s pretty harsh, but the LSAT is a harsh, cold world, and we have no time for losers in there, people. One of these answers might be “the one”, a perfect match for you, but maybe not. That’s another harsh LSAT reality – sometimes (often) we settle for something less than perfect. For that reason, along the way be open, be willing to see the good points in each answer choice. Be willing to consider answers that are less than perfect as contenders. It’s better to have two contenders than none, right? Only call something a loser if you can clearly see that it’s no good. Not sure about an answer? Then it’s a contender!
Once you have decided (quickly!) which answers you want to see again, you’re done with the sorting, and it’s time to pick a partner and go to the dance. If you have only one contender, pick it – you two are a couple, it’s destiny, accept it and move forward! If you have more than one contender you must do a quick comparison. Which is better than the other(s)? It’s not about right and wrong, good and bad – they may both seem good, or they may both seem bad, but you must pick the better one, and there’s no time to waste. In dating terms, you aren’t looking for Mr. Right, you’re looking for Mr. Right Now. If you can’t be with the one you love, baby, love the one you’re with!
That’s the process of sorting answer choices into Losers and Contenders. Give each one a little of your time, be polite about it and be a good listener, but at the end of the day you will pick one and only one match, so make it the best one you can. The LSAT, like dating, can be a harsh and challenging experience, but it can also be fun and rewarding, so get in there and find your match!
Photo “Speed Dating” courtesy of Janssen Herr