Right Focus, Thinking, and Confidence (Drilling & PT Tips, Part 1)

    • April 22, 2016 at 8:17 am #1754
      Mike Kim

      Picture yourself on test day, with a problem in front of you — you’ve got a minute to solve it. What will determine how well you perform?

      One way to think about it is in terms of these three components —

      1) What you choose to focus on

      Some test takers will think about certain things, and other test takers will think about other concerns, some test takers will notice certain terms or relationships, and other test takers will notice other terms or relationships, and so on.

      2) How you think through what you focus on

      Imagine you realize you need to find the conclusion of an argument — what mental processes will you take to fulfill that goal? Or once you have that conclusion, what will you do with it for the rest of your problem-solving process? If you are dealing w/an LG q that gives you a new condition, how well can you think through the meaning and significance of that new condition?

      3) How well you appropriate your confidence

      How subtle are your instincts/gut feelings when it comes to how well you’ve understood/thought through something? When you absolutely recognize correctly the flaw in an argument, do you have that feeling of certainty you want to have? When your understanding of the argument is a bit fuzzier, do you have a correct sense of this being the case?

      When you are evaluating answer choices, and you feel confident that an answer is absolutely right or absolutely wrong, how accurate is that feeling? When you feel a lack of confidence in your determination, is it with good reason?

      Think of going through 100 problems having to make very tough answer choice decisions, and you can see how important the right appropriation of confidence can be.

      1. Right Focus
      2. Right Thinking
      3. Right Confidence

      I think that on a macro level, the above can be an extremely useful rubric for designing and thinking big-picture about the ultimate goals of your drilling and practice test work, and, on the micro-level, the above can be a very useful rubric for comprehensively evaluating your performance on every single problem you practice and review.

      I’ll be expanding on these topics in future posts, but for now here are some (relatively) quick tips for helping ensure that your practice work does indeed help you towards having better and better focus, using more and more effective thought processes, and developing a more and more accurate sense of confidence about the exam.

      1. Tips for improving focus

      – In my opinion, drilling is more efficient and more effective for developing proper focus than are full practice exams.

      – Ideally, I recommend you switch over from drilling to pt work once your habits are fairly well set — at that point, it becomes about getting practice at figuring out what you are being asked to think about in a situation / practice switching gears from question to question.

      – Easy problems provide great insight into the most important things for you to focus in on — and by relating easier problems to one another and trying to see what’s common to them, you can see more clearly the fundamental steps that are truly important for getting a q right.

      – When you try problems and when you review your work, take note of q’s that caused you trouble because of focus — either because you didn’t know what to focus on, ended up focusing on the wrong things, or tried to think about too much at once, and study these with the goal of figuring out what your fight focus ought to have been, and try to work on that for the next drill set.

      2. Tips for Better Thinking

      – think of every q type, game, and passage in terms of a series of mini-goals that together lead to one big goal —

      For example, for an LR, those goals might be –
      1) find task from q stem
      2) find conclusion
      3) find support
      4) evaluate reasoning
      5) eliminate wrong answers
      6) confirm right answer

      Contrast this with setting more generalized goals, such as:
      1) need to find argument in stimulus
      2) need to be careful evaluating answers

      In the moment, having these different types of goals might not matter that much to your actual performance, but you make it much, much easier on your brain to get better and better at problems over time if you give it a consistent, clear, and manageable set of tasks.

      – When you have problems in your thought processes — when you can’t ID argument support correctly or when you mishandle an LG rule — review this carefully and try to see what the root source is —

      Is it because there is a hole in your understanding? Is there something wrong or missing in your strategies? Or did you just not execute properly? And, per your assessment, as and when you need to, go back to study guides and so on to try to address these holes before test day.

      3) Tips for better appropriation of confidence

      Again, this really has to do with knowing what you know and being able to trust in your own gut sense. How do you develop a gut sense that is accurate and trustworthy when it comes to the LSAT?

      Two general tips to begin —

      – Do all you can to develop your big picture understanding

      Big picture understanding allows you to see everything in context and thus allows you to understand and react better both to the expected and the unexpected; on the flip side, even just having the feeling of perhaps missing some big picture understanding can create in you a constant fear of the unknown.

      So, make sure to take active steps to develop and grow your big picture understanding and to make that a priority. Before and after you do specific drill sets of LR q’s, think carefully about how those q’s are similar and different from others, create for yourself a “big board” of all that can happen in LG games, and so on.

      – Do all you can to develop your own sense of authority

      You will have better success, and, more specific to this conversation, better appropriation of confidence, the more you can trust in your own self to determine what strategies work best for you, what determines right and wrong for a problem, and so on, and so you want to try to design your prep in a way that forces you to push yourself to take on more and more responsibility —

      One specific way to work on this is to actively work to hold off, for as long as possible, on looking up the right answer or a written solution after you’ve tried a problem — do everything you can, in your review, to first determine for yourself, as best you can, what makes a certain answer right and others wrong, and what would have been the best strategies for dealing with the challenges of the problem — then use the answer key or solutions to evaluate your own thought process — be hyper-critical of when the answer key or solutions reveal flaws in your understanding or strategies, and expect, over time, to develop your own sense of authority more and more so that you become less and less dependent on an answer key or someone else’s solutions to tell you what is right or wrong.

      That’s it for now — again, I’ll be adding more tips and thoughts here over the next few weeks — if anyone has any follow up q’s about any of the above, or if anyone wants me to address anything in particular related to drilling and pt work, please let me know —

      I hope you all find this useful — MK

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