September 13, 2016 at 6:28 am #2721Mike KimKeymaster
One of the most common questions students ask me is how to properly review practice work —
One thing to consider is that your ability to review, and the goals of your review, should change throughout your study process. Earlier on, you’ll want to use your review, in large part, to assess and develop your understanding and your strategies. Later in your prep, you should expect to know a lot more about the test and be able to review at a much more specific and advanced level, and the primary focus of your review should also be much more about assessing your own performance.
One more thing — I know I discuss this in the Trainer, but just to mention it — there are a couple of steps you want to take as you are initially solving problems that will help you get more out of your review, namely — 1) solve the problems as realistically as possible (timed, etc.) and 2) mark the problems that cause you trouble or that you feel you got wrong.
So, with all that said, here are some tips on how to review —
The General Review Process
As I always say, you know yourself best, so feel free to adapt as you see fit —
After you have finished your work —
1) For all problems you marked as being difficult or that you missed, go back and try them again untimed.
2) See if you can see for yourself exactly why the right answer is right and the other answers are not.
3) If you can do that, try and see for yourself the most efficient strategies you could have used to get the problem correct.
4) And if you can do that, then think carefully about the methods you used the first time around, why type were flawed, what might have led you astray, and so on.
5) Now go ahead and look up the correct answers.
6) Take particular note of situations where you didn’t mark a problem (that is, you felt certain you got it correct) and ended up getting the problem wrong — these are the biggest red flags and can indicate significant issues in your understanding, strategies, or habits.
7) For problems that you had trouble understanding on your own initially, review them again as carefully as you can, and, armed with the right answer, see if you can better understand the given stimulus.
8) If you have trouble understanding on your own, then move on to solutions online, explanations on forums, teachers, etc.
9) Keep a log of all of your “understanding” issues.
10) If your understanding was what was holding you back, after you figure out what was actually behind the design of a problem/why the right answer is right, make sure to reassess the initial strategies you used when you first solved the problem, and consider whether there might be better methods for you.
11) Constantly reassess and fine tune your strategies based on your experiences — make sure they are both effective and efficient — be mindful of methods (and this often happens w/LG and harder LR Q’s) that get you to the right answer in very indirect ways, methods that are too rigid and can’t be applied to “curveball situations,” and methods that simply don’t seem to help you focus on and account for everything you ought to focus on and account for.
12) Keep a log (or some other system) of practice situations that require you to reconsider your strategies, and make sure to go back and study these situations.
13) And finally, especially w/the questions you didn’t mark but missed, marked and got right, and marked and got wrong, reassess your performance — how you spent your time, what you thought about/got hung up on, the key insight that lead you/ought to have lead to you the right answer, and, perhaps most importantly, ways you wasted time — the things you did that ultimately didn’t help lead you to getting the problem right.
Once in a while, it can help to take a step back from your work to do some “macro-lens” review —
Go through a large batch of LR problems you’ve already solved, and make sure you can correctly identify the argument in every stimulus, or go through the log of Logic Games that caused you trouble, and make sure you are now comfortable setting up and diagramming each of them, etc.
Solve problems again. And again. And again.
Keep a log of q’s to return to (you can use the Trainer Notebook Organizer to help with this if you want) and have a mindset that for every test you try, at some point, you will master every single problem — some problems might take longer than others, but you’ll conquer them all in time.
Above and Beyond
If you want to force yourself to review even more carefully than you might otherwise, you may want to try —
1) Thinking of it from the perspective of the test writer — how has she designed the problem? What is the underlying equation that defines a particular situation, how did she make it difficult for you to recognize this, what challenges did she try to throw your way, and how did she design the answer choices? Each wrong answer has, behind it, some sort of temptation — you make an error in reading the stimulus, or in thinking about the question stem, or in reading the answer choice itself, or in comparing the answer choice to the stimulus or task, and that is what would lead you to select that answer. Again, try to see it all on those terms.
2) Thinking of it from the perspective of a teacher — the goals are the same as above (just from a different angle) — can you anticipate all of the various challenges students might face with a particular problem? Can you articulate your understanding and strategies so that someone else could understand you? (Forcing yourself to actually put things in words — whether spoken or written — is a great way to prevent yourself from “yeah, yeah, I know it well enough” mental laziness.) Can you imagine the thought processes that might lead individual students to each of the wrong answer choices? Teaching is a phenomenal way of learning, and putting yourself in the mindset of a teacher can really help you see the test from a useful perspective.
Finally — especially since this has gotten so long — I want to finish with some general thoughts on what you ought to get out of all of this review —
1) A clearer big picture understanding
Review can help you bring together all the wisdom to be gathered from all of your various experiences. It can help you see common themes, and it can help you understand the test in terms of tendencies (how you can expect typical games/passages/q’s to go, etc.) and twists (how you can expect games get made more difficult, etc.). This big picture understanding is the most important tool your rider and elephant have for knowing what to think about when you see a new situation on a new LSAT.
2) Confidence that you have a complete skill set
As I often say, in many ways it’s the same test given again and again — if you have the skills to get a 170 (or whatever other score) on one exam, you have the skills to get 170 on every exam.
It can be hard to know what a “complete” LSAT skill set feels like, and hard to recognize whether you have it or not — your review can be really useful here — so you want to be particularly mindful of problems/situations that seem to require of you skills you haven’t yet developed, and then as you do more and more work and review more and more you can become more and more confident that you yourself have a complete set of LSAT-related skills.
“Alignment” is probably the most accurate word for what it is that I’m checking when I review my own work or performance —
When a problem, game, or passage goes well, it feels almost effortless — you know what you know, you know what you have to do, and you are comfortable doing those things —
And so when a problem doesn’t go as well, it might just be a really hard problem, but it can also be a sign of misalignment — and so, during your review, you can feed your brain a clearer sense of what the correct alignment should have been — the right way to think about the underlying issues for a particular problem, an understanding of how your strategies should have helped you uncover and consider that understanding correctly, and a clear sense of how you ought to have applied those strategies in real time.
I can go on and on but I’ll stop myself there —
Hope some of you found some of that helpful —
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