Hi Alex —
Great q — I feel like I could write 1000 pages of thoughts on the subject, but, at the same time, I’m having a tough time trying to figure out what would be most useful/helpful for you to hear — I’ll do my best to keep my thoughts as specifically related to the LSAT as possible —
Some premises to begin —
1) At it’s core, the LSAT is structured around issues that are simple and fundamental. As I mention often in the Trainer, this is by design — the LSAT is not supposed to require of the test taker or reward any unique or advanced skills or knowledge.
The fact that these concepts at issue are meant to be simple and fundamental does not mean it will/should always be easy to understand them clearly and correctly.
2) The big challenge in the hardest q’s comes not from any one particular skill required of you — but rather from having to bring various combinations of skills together, in situations that are just a bit more rushed, messy, and uncomfortable than you’d like —
It’s like trying to juggle balls of different weights while riding a skateboard along a curvy road —
With the big difference being that for a tough LSAT q, it’s much more difficult to define, exactly, what the various challenges being combined actually are.
1) When you are studying the very specific issues that define the LSAT — the building blocks of problems (a single argument, a single inference, a conditional statement, etc.) — your goal and expectation should be to understand them as completely as possible, and I want to very much encourage you to push yourself on this as much as possible and whenever possible.
A small caveat here is that you do have to be careful of going down certain rabbit holes that are not relevant to the LSAT — for example, with the causality stuff we discussed earlier — causality is something you can study for practically forever because it’s a fascinating subject that can be considered from a variety of angles — however, the LSAT only requires of you a very, very small part of this complete bandwidth of knowledge, and, for the purposes of studying for the LSAT at least, you want to be careful not to go off onto tangential topics.
2) When you have trouble with combining these individual skills — for example, if you have trouble with an entire LR problem or an entire Logic Game — your expectations should be a bit different — there are some additional concerns to consider here — namely that a) your brain needs to figure out which skills it’s supposed to bring together for any particular situation and b) your brain needs to get better and better at bringing these skills together.
Your brain has to overcome some serious impediments in trying to satisfy these goals —
— For one, it hasn’t yet been exposed to everything it’s supposed to know about the LSAT — so, essentially, it doesn’t even have, yet, the full list of skills from which it’s supposed to choose and use —
— And two, it needs practice in order to get good at combining these skills in the way the test requires —
Imagine your brain as a dense, dark forest, and when you combine different skills together, you are creating a walking path between them — before you get much experience at LSAT problems, this path is virtually non-existent and your brain will have a very difficult time seeing what it’s supposed to do/think about — as you get more and more experience, hopefully you end up leaving clearer and clearer walking paths in between these various skills, and this will, in turn make it much easier for brain to see what it is supposed to do / what it’s supposed to bring together for any one particular situation, and in what manner/order —
So, when you run into an LR q that seems impossible or an LG game you could never imagine being able to solve well on test day early on in your prep– you want to be more patient with yourself, and, as opposed to the individual skill issues I mentioned above, it’s more okay to let go and come back — in a few days or a couple of weeks, perhaps you will have learned something that fills in the gaps for you, or you will have practiced related problems/games that then give your brain a better sense of how to attack these ones, and so on —
3) The last thought/suggestion I have is something super-obvious but still so important to me that I’d feel guilty if I didn’t mention it — a huge part of success, especially when it comes to something like the LSAT, is actually knowing what you know — and trying to know as deeply, honestly, simply, and correctly as you possibly can —
Here are two math situations:
5+2 = 7
20 times 25 = 500
For both, I imagine everyone reading can understand the answer and understand how to get there, but for most of us (me at least) the effort required to get to the answer is different — the 7 just comes to me and the 500 takes a bit of work.
Again, as I mentioned above, high-level LSAT success requires you to bring together a combination of skills, and to do so well in a highly pressurized situation — in order to be able to do so, you have to be able to trust in yourself and be your own authority, and you want to actively work toward that goal as much as possible in your prep —
It seems to be in your nature, Alex, to push to want to truly know what you know — and so you probably don’t need me to say any of this last part — still, again, I mention it here because it’s something that I believe is very important, and I want to encourage you to keep with that instinct to push and push and push to know better and better and better.
And any time I can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out, and I’ll try to be of use as best I can —