The Best Way to Review LSAT Practice Tests

    LSAT Prep

    Structure your LSAT practice review for optimal results.Over on the PowerScore LSAT Discussion Forum, there has been a spate of discussions about how to best review practice LSATs and homework problems. I'm seeing students make a critical error as they study, and so I want to talk about that, and then lay down a framework for optimally reviewing the problems that you complete. This will help you get the most out of the time that you spend studying. Let's start by asking, what is the critical study error that many students are making?

    The error many students make is that they review just the questions they missed, and not the ones they answered correctly. This is the most natural error in the world, but you must review every single question you complete in order to get maximum value from the time you spend studying. As I discussed in an earlier article, you can't get all of the information contained in a question by looking at it just one time. And, although you may have answered a question correctly, you may not have fully understood the question, and equally important, there may have been a way to do the question more quickly or more decisively. In other words, just because you answered a question correctly does not mean that you answered it optimally, nor does it guarantee that you can repeat your performance the next time you encounter the same concept. Last, as my colleague Jon Denning has said, great test takers treat success in much the same way they treat failure, where further insight into victory is as likely to facilitate continued victory as an understanding of mistakes is to promote future avoidance.

    So, as you go through your practice tests and LSAT homework, look over the ones you missed, but also review the questions you answered correctly. If the question was perfectly clear to you, check it quickly and move on. However, if you had any hesitation at all in choosing the answer, make sure to go over the problem in the same manner as if you had missed it.

    Ok, with that critical piece of strategy covered, let's outline a consistent approach to reviewing questions. In the past, we've talked a lot about how to take practice LSAT tests, so I'm not going to cover that here. Instead, I'm going to specifically talk about how to review any test or homework problems you complete. There are three ways you can approach reviewing questions. Why discuss three different ways? Because using just one way can become tiresome and feel unrewarding, and so it's useful to mix it up on occasion. In general, the first method is best when you first are studying or feel "stuck." The second and third methods are better towards the middle or end of your preparation. So let's look at each: 

     
    Method I: Blind Review
     
    The first method of review delays your consideration of the answers until after you've had a chance to carefully examine each problem. This can be an excellent method for learning whether you really understand each problem, or if you were just getting lucky. This method is especially useful if you are struggling at a score plateau, or find your scores bouncing all around. 
     
      1. After you complete the test or question set, do NOT check the answers. 
      2.  
      3. Instead, write down every question that you felt you struggled on at all or felt less than certain about. If you couldn't finish certain questions, add those to the list with a notation that they were unfinished.

        The first step here is to create a tracking log for each question on the test. We offer tracker sheets in all of  our free LSAT self-study plans, so you can use those as-is or use them as a model for ones you create yourself.
      4.  
      5. Next, go back and review every question untimed, including the ones you did not answer. Your goal is to understand each question as well as possible, so take your time. There is no time limit as you review each question.
      6.  
      7. As you complete the review of each question, determine whether you would have kept the same answer choice or changed your answer to a different choice. If you change an answer, make notes in your tracker as to the reason you changed your answer.

        Example: "CE: Didn't see the causal conclusion" or "Down to 2, missed a word in (B)." 
      8.  
      9. With every question now reviewed in detail, you can now check all of your answers against the answer key.  You should produce two separate scores: one score for your original timed performance, and then a second score based on the answers you changed during your blind review phase. Your second score should be better!
      10.  
      11. While your first score tells you what you should have received, your second score tells you the questions that really tricked you. So let's go through each type of answer:
         
        The ones you didn't mark as a problem. These can be your best friend or very dangerous. If you didn't mark a problem as difficult and answered it correctly, then no problem. But if you missed it then this question tricked you. Stop and analyze it closely, and make  a special note on your tracker about the question (later you'll review all these super tricky problems together in order to find any deep patterns you might be missing). 
        The ones you marked as a problem but kept your answer the same. If you mark a question as difficult but kept the same answer both times and it turns out to be the correct answer, then no problem. But if you missed it, then you've come across an idea or formation that you need to learn more about. Stop and review the problem, seeking outside explanations if needed.     
        The ones you marked as a problem but changed your answer. If you changed your answer away from a right answer but to a wrong one, first determine why you changed your answer. What drew you from your good choice to a bad one? Then, make sure to mark these problems as well, because your grasp of the main concept or wording in the problem needs work. Stop and review the question until it is clear. If you changed your answer from a wrong one to a right one, then good! You saw a difference from the first pass to the second, which shows improvement. Make a note of what happened, and re-examine the problem so that next time you see the right answer the first time. And finally, if you were wrong with both answers (!), then review the problem thoroughly before placing it in the super tricky category from above.
      12.  
      13. If you can't answer a problem correctly or figure out what you did wrong, consult an answer source. After you have given yourself at least two strong looks at the question, if you still do not understand it fully, then consult an external answer resource. That might mean asking your PowerScore LSAT course instructor or tutor, looking at one of our publications like the LSAT Deconstructeds or Logic Game Encyclopedias, or posting your question on our LSAT Discussion Forum.
      14.  
      15. Every 10 to 14 days, review your tracker and note the areas where you are having problems. Then restudy the concepts in your course books, in the Bibles, or with your tutor.
      16.  
      17. When you run into difficulty, don't panic and don't place undue weight on isolated results.

        Your performance will naturally vary, especially as you complete more and more problems and tests. These variances are natural (see my article on The Casino Effect), and you must understand that subtle variations in your performance are natural.
      18.  
      19. If you do have a legitimately bad result (such as an unusually low practice test score), don't look at that as the end of the world.

        Failure, while not desirable, can provide you with certain benefits. So, if you do suffer a legitimate reversal of fortune (and not just the random kind mentioned in #9), then make sure you get every possible benefit from that failure
     
    Method II: Delayed Blind Review
     
    The second method of review has you to delay your understanding of why you missed the question in favor of having a second opportunity to figure the question out while working on it. This method can provide you with a deeper understanding of the questions and a better ability to understand how and when to apply the right techniques:
     
      1. After you complete the test or question set, immediately check the answers. 
      2.  
      3. Write down every question that you missed or that you answered correctly but found to be a challenge, but do NOT write down the correct answer.
         
        The first step here is to create a tracking log for each question type. We offer tracker sheets in all of  our free LSAT self-study plans, so you can use those as-is or use them as a model for ones you create yourself.
      4.  
      5. Next, after taking a break of anywhere from a few hours to a few days, go back and review every question, including the ones you answered correctly. Your goal is to understand the question as well as possible, and to re-answer each question that you missed or felt was challenging.
      6.  
      7. As you complete the review of each question, make notes in your tracker as to the broad reason you missed the question.

        Example: "CE: Didn't see the causal conclusion" or "Down to 2, chose wrong one." 
      8.  
      9. If there is any obvious deficiency that's causing you to miss questions in the set you just completed, go study that topic immediately.

        For example, let's say that you noticed that you kept mis-diagramming conditional rules in Logic Games. If that's apparent to you, go study that topic right then. The idea is that if you see that something is causing your problems, don't delay in attempting to address it.
      10.  
      11. Wait a few days, then redo the questions that you missed or that gave you trouble one more time.

        After completing your first delayed review, take a few more days off from studying that particular test or set of problems. Then, after at least three days (but preferably longer), return to the question set and again review any question that was confusing.
      12.  
      13. If you still can't answer the problem correctly or figure out what you did wrong, consult an answer source.
         
        After you have given yourself at least two strong looks at the question, if you still do not understand it fully, then consult an external answer resource. That might mean asking your PowerScore LSAT course instructor or tutor, looking at one of our publications like the LSAT Deconstructeds or Logic Game Encyclopedias, or posting your question on our LSAT Discussion Forum.
      14.  
      15. Every 10 to 14 days, review your tracker and note the areas where you are having problems. Then restudy the concepts in your course books, in the Bibles, or with your tutor.
      16.  
      17. When you run into difficulty, don't panic and don't place undue weight on isolated results.
         
        Your performance will naturally vary, especially as you complete more and more problems and tests. These variances are natural (see my article on The Casino Effect), and you must understand that subtle variations in your performance are natural.
      18.  
      19. If you do have a legitimately bad result (such as an unusually low practice test score), don't look at that as the end of the world.
         
        Failure, while not desirable, can provide you with certain benefits. So, if you do suffer a legitimate reversal of fortune (and not just the random kind mentioned in #9), then make sure you get every possible benefit from that failure.
      20.  
    Method III: Immediate Review
     
    The last way provides immediate gratification, and is useful if you are low on study time:

     

      1. After you complete the test or question set, immediately check the answers. 
      2.  
      3. Write down every question that you missed or that you answered correctly but found to be a challenge.
         
        The first step here is to create a tracking log for each question type. We offer tracker sheets in all of  our free LSAT self-study plans, so you can use those as-is or use them as a model for ones you create yourself.
      4.  
      5. Next, go back and review every question, including the ones you answered correctly. Your goal is to understand the question as well as possible.
      6.  
      7. As you complete the review of each question, make notes in your tracker as to the broad reason you missed the question.
         
        Example: "CE: Didn't see the causal conclusion" or "Down to 2, chose wrong one." 
      8.  
      9. If there is any obvious deficiency that's causing you to miss questions in the set you just completed, go study that topic immediately.
         
        For example, let's say that you noticed that you kept mis-diagramming conditional rules in Logic Games. If that's apparent to you, go study that topic right then. The idea is that if you see that something is causing your problems, don't delay in attempting to address it.
      10.  
      11. Wait a few days, then redo the questions that you missed or that gave you trouble.

        Take a few days off from studying that particular test or set of problems. Then, after at least three days (but preferably longer), return to the question set and again review any question that was confusing.
      12.  
      13. If you still can't answer the problem correctly or figure out what you did wrong, consult an answer source.
         
        After you have given yourself at least two strong looks at the question, if you still do not understand it fully, then consult an external answer resource. That might mean asking your PowerScore LSAT course instructor or tutor, looking at one of our publications like the LSAT Deconstructeds or Logic Game Encyclopedias, or posting your question on our LSAT Discussion Forum.
      14.  
      15. Every 10 to 14 days, review your tracker and note the areas where you are having problems. Then restudy the concepts in your course books, in the Bibles, or with your tutor.
      16.  
      17. When you run into difficulty, don't panic and don't place undue weight on isolated results.

        Your performance will naturally vary, especially as you complete more and more problems and tests. These variances are natural (see my article on The Casino Effect), and you must understand that subtle variations in your performance are natural.
      18.  
      19. If you do have a legitimately bad result (such as an unusually low practice test score), don't look at that as the end of the world.
         
        Failure, while not desirable, can provide you with certain benefits. So, if you do suffer a legitimate reversal of fortune (and not just the random kind mentioned in #9), then make sure you get every possible benefit from that failure.
      20.  
     

    I covered the main ways to review questions because some people prefer one approach over the other. When you are just starting out, experiment with all three and see which one you prefer. Or, if you like to mix things up, use different strategies depending on how you feel about the test or problem set you just completed. Sometimes you absolutely have to know why a problem is wrong, and sometimes you can wait.

    Have a question or comment about the best way to study? Please post it below!

    Image: "Blue Power" courtesy of Flattop341.