March 23, 2016 at 5:11 pm #1622Mike KimKeymaster
I’ve recently gotten messages from several different top scorers — people already scoring in the 165-170-175 range, asking for advice about how to get better at that level — I started writing the following as an email response for one of those students, but figured it might be useful to post publicly —
Also, here’s a related post that also has to do with similar concerns —
Students who are already scoring at a very high level can often have a more difficult time figuring out how to raise their score even higher (I realize this is a problem that most people studying for the LSAT would love to have). When you are missing a lot of problems, you have far more situations you can study and get better at in order to improve your score. When you are just missing a few problems per drill set or practice section, it’s much more difficult to see patterns, and it’s much easier to feel like you are trying to hit a moving target.
So with that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of extreme exercises for such students —
Here are a few principles that underlie these exercises:
1) You don’t need unique cleverness or creativity to score at the highest levels. What do you do is the a full complement of essential skills and habits, and, on the flip side of that, a lack of weaknesses (See Anna Karenina principle).
2) On less difficult problems, our strengths can very often make up for our weaknesses, and unless you push to create situations you find challenging, it can be very hard to see that this is true.
3) In order to get better, it helps to understand more and more clearly the “drivers” of your success — the things that most directly lead you to the right answer/impact you getting the right answer, and to get faster and more accurate at these key skills/habits.
4) In order to get better, it helps to get as accurate a sense of your weaknesses as possible, and to work to address/change those skills/habits.
5) A big key to improvement, especially when one is already at a high score level, is the getting rid of bad habits — unnecessary steps, lazy/cheap “shortcuts,” over-complicated ways of dealing with common issues, and so on.
6) Success at the highest levels requires one to be very, very fast and efficient at solving problems. You need to get more of the most difficult q’s correct, and it’s much, much easier to do so when you have some extra time.
So, based on all the above, here are the exercises —
1) Flaw prediction – ID the Flaw is one of the most predictable of Q types – it is possible to predict the substance (though not the wording) of nearly every single right answer to every Flaw problem you see. So, drilling sets of Flaw problems where you expect yourself to know what the substance of the right answer will be, and being hyper-critical of yourself whenever you miss the mark, can help expose holes you may have in finding flaws, and also help make you stronger at the process.
(Note — On the flip side, in a similar way, ID Conclusion, Method of Reasoning, and ID Role q’s can all play a similar role in terms of helping one assess/strengthen reading skills (if you read properly you should be able to predict the substance, though not the wording, of the answers to these q’s as well), but, in my experience, almost all students who have already gotten to a very high level already have the reading skills/habits necessary for those q’s.)
2) Suff. Assumption Q’s and Must Be True Inference Q’s drills –
Method One — try solving all such q’s with no diagramming/notetaking whatsoever. If you have lots of trouble with this, it could be a sign you aren’t maxing out reading cues / using all your reading skills and habits properly.
Method Two — On the flip side, also try solving some of these q’s by a) first diagramming, noting them however you’d like then b) blocking off the actual stimulus so that all you have to go by are your notes. This can help you see if perhaps your reasoning, notation skills and habits aren’t maxed out yet.
3) Just the core – Drill a set of argument-based q’s, and, for each, write out just the core, then block off the actual stimulus so that you cannot see it again. Will help reinforce the importance of focusing in on the core correctly, and will help you recognize situations where you don’t do so.
4) Just elimination – See how well you can do without coming up with/confirming the right answer, and by, instead, just working to find absolute reasons why 4 answers are wrong. Probably the hardest to avoid cheating on.
5) Just confirmation – See how well you can do without using any elimination skills at all — just by trying to find a right answer and trying to confirm it.
* for many of these exercises, especially ones like #4 and #5 — you may need to do them in small batches of q’s, so that you can stay mindful of the task you’ve set up for yourself.
1) This isn’t really a drill but rather a suggestion — for the next little while (until closer to the exam) don’t focus too much on “35” minutes, and, instead, really focus on trying to complete all games as quickly (with accuracy) as you possibly can —
Imagine the same high-scoring student trying to get even better (consistently or near consistently perfect on games) —
A) by always works to finish four games in 35 minutes, and gets good enough where he feels like he can comfortably, unless he hits that one strange game, get all or almost q’s right in the allotted time most of the time.
B) by just trying to get faster and faster and faster — and imagine getting to a point where, on average, you are averaging 30 minutes for all 4 games — and you see this happen through a series of results — you see your average times getting faster and faster.
Of course, I could have totally changed around those imaginary situations, but my big point is that I believe you study smarter when you work to get faster and faster (at this stage in your prep).
On the flip side of that, beware of untimed practice, and be very careful about unwittingly creating bad habits. It’s fine to play games untimed once in a while, especially if you are having more trouble than you’d like, but if you play a ton of games untimed, then start paying attention to time, you’ll have a ton of bad habits that you’ll then have to work to identify and get rid of —
So if, instead, you constantly push the pace, you put yourself in a better position to not only improve beyond a point you could otherwise, you also put yourself in a far better position to see/recognize which parts of your process are unnecessary or too inefficient.
Other drills to help test your full complement of skills —
2) See how good you are at q’s with a perfect setup — give yourself plenty of time to set up a game as well as you possibly can, then see how fast (again, always with accuracy) you can zip through the q’s.
3) See how good you are with just your diagram — again, don’t time your setup — but, once you have a diagram drawn, don’t allow yourself to see the rules again and see how quickly/accurately you can answer all q’s using the diagram you set up.
4) No framing — try a few sets of drills where you don’t allow yourself any frames at all, and see how fast/accurate you can be.
5) Hyper-aggressive framing — try a few sets of drills where you look to exploit every single framing opportunity possible, and see how fast/accurate you can be.
Exercises 2-5 are great ones to do with games you’ve already played before and want to recycle/max out.
1) No looking back — once you are done reading the passage, try answering the q’s without ever looking back at it. Use the notes you took, a short summary, or just your mental memory of the passage (whichever you’d like) and see how well you do (if you have enough of a sample size, try to take note of the q types you found easier/more difficult).
2) Just elimination — see how accurate/fast you can be going through an RC section and solving every single problem just by using elimination techniques. Don’t worry about confirming the right answer, and, instead, look at every wrong answer, compare to passage and stem, and see how often you can eliminate 4 of 5. Again, very hard to not cheat on (even if you don’t want to cheat — it’s just natural you will see certain answers and think of them being obviously right, etc.) but still helpful.
3) Just confirmation — see how accurate/fast you can be not worrying about eliminating wrong answers at all, and, instead, being hyper focused on triple-checking that the answer you feel is the correct answer matches up with the text in the passage and the task in the q stem.
That’s all I can think of for now — as I often say, every student is different and you know yourself best, so please feel free to ignore anything you don’t think will be useful to you, but I hope these suggestions give some of you top scorers some ideas about how to continue to challenge yourself, and expose and address your final issues —
And as always, if anyone has any follow up please don’t hesitate to let me know —
March 31, 2016 at 11:11 pm #1646sarahfatimaParticipant
Amazing advice. Thanks mike.
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