Hey Zach —
Sorry to hear about your timing issues — just so you know, and I’m sure you may have figured this already, pretty much everyone is slow with timing when they first start playing Logic Games — your brain is not used to thinking about these types of rules, interpreting diagrams, and so on, and so it’s just got a lot to process and get used to —
It’s good news that you are understanding the games and getting the questions right, and I expect that with further experience your speed will naturally increase, even without you consciously focusing on it — having said that, here are a few macro-considerations that might help you speed up the process (of speeding up) and help you stay on the right path to eventual mastery —
To me, these are the three key factors that will help you improve your speed.
1) A Big-Picture Understanding of All That Can Happen In a Game
Imagine learning to play a video game for the first time, and each new challenge in the game requires you to think about the game works, figure out which buttons to push, and, of course, how to overcome that challenge.
At some point, you will have played enough of the game to have seen every type of challenge that exists, and, even as you go to new levels and have to face new situations, every challenge will be some variation on something you’ve already mastered — and when you get to that point and when you’ve built up automatic muscle memory for the common challenges, you will have obviously become much better at playing the game —
Expect the same thing to happen with Logic Games — they can seem very unique at first, but they are all very closely related to one another, and the smarter you are about your studying, the easier it is to transfer skills gained from one game to the playing of the next.
So, always, of course, study the specific nuances of individual games, but also always try to pay attention to how games relate to one another, and try to take active steps to connect various games together, think about how different games you tried required the same skills, and so on.
2) Diagramming Ability
The ability to diagram games is roughly equivalent to the ability to do math on paper (as opposed to just doing it in your head) — you get good at using your diagram and it can grow your computing power exponentially —
You mention how the diagramming didn’t seem to help too much — I assume this means that over and over again you had to go back to the rules as written and use them — this is completely understandable (because you haven’t had a chance to develop diagramming habits yet) but, at the same time, it’s likely a very big reason why you couldn’t go as fast as you wanted —
There are very, very few students who can get a top score without internalizing and habitualizing diagramming strategies — it’s almost impossible to figure out everything you need, as quickly and accurately as you need to figure it out, unless are good at writing out these situations.
So, one suggestion for now is to really be strict on yourself about trying to diagram every single rule as correctly as you possibly can, and doing your best not to go back to the rules as written when solving questions (well, for all but one type of question, the “Rules” question type, which I’ll discuss later in the book).
Again, it’s going to take some time, but once you get your diagramming strategies internalized and habitualized, you will go markedly faster at games, and all of the inferences and such will be much easier to see and will feel much more automatic.
3) The ability to see the “chains” of inferences
It’s very difficult to explain what I mean by this exactly —
Imagine two different types of word games —
Game 1: Your job is to think of the name of a vegetable, take the last letter of that name and think of another vegetable that starts with that letter, then take that last letter and find another vegetable, and so on.
Game 2: Think of all the vegetables that start with a certain, such as “B.”
The first game is about thinking a series of related thoughts, whereas the second is more akin to brainstorming based on a set of characteristics.
LSAT Logic Games are designed for you to go on a linear path of thought — and the path is defined by the inferences, or deductions, that the games are set up for you to make —
When you play games well and play them correctly, the vast majority of the time, it doesn’t feel like you are having a million competing thoughts at once — instead, it feels like you one deduction, then another, then another — each new inference triggered by the one before it.
So know that, ultimately, this is what you want for yourself, and, when you play games, try to develop instincts about getting on the right inference paths, and, during your review, think carefully about the chains of thought necessary for solving various problems.
Keep in mind that the way the Trainer is designed, I hardly discuss any strategy in the first batch of Logic Games lessons — those lessons are primarily designed to get you comfortable with the various situations that can happen in games and to get you started in terms of developing effective diagramming habits — the Logic Games lessons to come will get into much more specific detail about various strategies —
But one specific tip I have for now is to start games with the mindset that your job is to make deductions, and, with that in mind —
1) Don’t start your diagram after reading just the scenario
2) Don’t think about and diagram the rules in the order they are given
1) Read the entire scenario and all rules before setting pencil to paper
2) Think carefully about which rule, or combination of rules, seems most important for determining the design of the game, and start your diagram with this most important of rules/combination of rules.(Sometimes this will lead you to set up multiple diagrams instead of just one — more on this later in the Trainer).
2b) You will get and want to develop a better and better sense of the most important rules as you keep playing games, but keep in mind that typically the most important rules are the ones that have the biggest impact on where elements can go (duh) — so, you want to look for rules that discuss lots of elements (a rule that discusses 3 elements almost surely will be very, very important to the design of any game that it’s a part of ) and you want to look for elements that appear in multiple rules (for example, if the element “M” appears in two different rules, chances are highly, highly likely you can bring these two rules together to make an inference).
3) Then, after that initial stage, add on to your diagram one rule at a time, but try to do so in an order that provides as many deductions as possible — for example, maybe the first rule you diagram has to do with the fact that “N” can only go two places, the second rule tells you a relationship between N and another letter “O” and so you diagram that rule, then another rule relates O with “Q” and so you move on to that.
Not all rules will relate in this way, but a lot will, and starting your diagram in this fashion will naturally help you get onto the right inference paths.
Finally, in terms of how to actually time your games — I recommend continuing to do what you’ve been doing — time yourself, try to go as fast as you can, and keep track of your times, but don’t be beholden to the time — don’t force yourself to guess on problems, cut yourself off on games, rush, etc. — you don’t need to think about that stuff right now, and, again, you can trust that you’ll be getting naturally faster (in “healthy” ways) as you get in more prep —
Whew! As always, ended up writing more than I planned — I hope that at least of that is helpful, and if you have any follow-up, just let me know — Mike