Updated: Feb 24
"How can I improve my speed on the LSAT?" This is one of the most common questions students ask as they embark on their LSAT prep journey.
Upon completing their first LSAT diagnostic, students often remark that they could not complete the sections in time, and if "speed" was not an issue, then they would have seen a tangible increase in their score.
Here are the top three tips for any student looking to speed up when writing the LSAT.
Hone your LSAT fundamentals.
Pick the low-hanging fruits.
1. Slow Down
Yes, you read that correctly.
This is the most counterintuitive but most important piece of advice for anyone who wants to increase their LSAT speed.
See, we all have a default reading speed. Some of us are fast readers and some of us read more slowly. Applying our default reading speed to the LSAT, especially Logical Reasoning and the Logic Games section, is trouble in the making.
The reason why you ought not to adopt your baseline reading speed on the LSAT is that LSAT reading is dense, perhaps significantly denser than the reading you are accustomed to.
In reading a logical reasoning stimulus, for example, you are given the task of not only comprehending what is written but also analyzing and assessing an argument, which puts a greater strain to the brain.
The implication of this is that when you read through an argumentative LR stimulus with your baseline reading speed, more often than not that you will not have a clear understanding of the conclusion and how the premises fit together.
Also Read - " How to Review LSAT Practice Tests"
And when you start reading the answer choices without a sufficient grasp of the argument, or a sufficient understanding of the set of facts given in the stimulus, the false answer choices will appear much more attractive than they should.
Remember: the false answer choices are deliberately designed to confuse you and obfuscate the matter. They are oftentimes worded in a matter that gives an air of sensibility, even when they are completely irrelevant to what the question is actually asking.
This is a crucial point because the biggest time sink when tackling the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT is debating between two answer choices.
Let's face it - when you spend 3 minutes between two answer choices, the greatest irony is that half the time you still get it wrong.
When you keep on vacillating between two answer choices, the crux of the issue is likely your insufficient grasp of the stimulus.
This is also true of stimuli that provide only a set of acts. For must be true and most strongly supported questions for instance, if you find yourself going back and forth many times between the answer choices or between the stimulus and an answer choice, there is a strong possibility that you have not sufficiently understood the set of facts presented in the stimulus.
For resolving the paradox questions, if you are struggling to narrow down a choice, this is the telltale sign that you may not have understood what the paradox actually is to begin with.
The bottom line is: you must slow down your reading. You must take time to absorb and internalize the stimulus upfront. You may find yourself reading and re-reading a sentence or two in the stimulus, but this is much better than going through the answer choices without grasping the stimulus.
For an LR stimulus presenting an argument, you must take as long as needed to identify the conclusion and articulate to yourself what the premises are, and have a rough sense of how they are trying to support the conclusion.
And when you find yourself debating between two answer choices, you are much more likely to make progress by going back to the stimulus and trying to better internalize the argument or the set of acts, rather than simply re-reading the two answer choices.
The LSAT will reward you for spending more time upfront. This is true not only for LR but LG as well.
Ask yourself how many times you've struggled on a logic game because you made a careless error, or you did not think about splitting the game board into different possible worlds, or you failed to make a crucial inference upfront.
Also Read - "Avoiding Careless Errors on the Logic Games"
You are doing all the above because you rushed into the questions without spending the time to re-read the rules to make sure that you've represented them fully and accurately, without pausing and considering whether you could split the game board, and without reflecting how the rules and the diagram can produce further inferences.
The best way to speed up on the LSAT, therefore, is to slow down.
2. Hone Your Fundamentals
At its core, if you having trouble with timing, it is most indicative of a skill issue rather than a speed issue.
This is true not only for the LSAT but for standardized tests in general. The test-taking wizards who ace an exam with ample time to spare are not ones with the fastest hands but are typically those who have a very strong understanding of the subject material.
The LSAT tests fundamentally your analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension abilities. There simply isn't a shortcut to doing well on the LSAT other than to improve these skills.
For the Logic Games section, this means learning efficient diagramming methods to approach all the game types and honing your inference-making ability.
For the Logical Reasoning section, this means getting better at identifying the conclusion and assessing the internal architecture of an argument or comprehending a set of facts and understanding their logical relationship.
For the Reading Comprehension section, this means improving your ability to identify the main point of a passage and figure out how each paragraph relates to the main point and to one another.
This will take ample practice and much critical reflection. The harsh reality is that taking shortcuts is not rewarded on the LSAT. You need to hone your skills to get faster on the LSAT, and you need to put in the necessary work to hone your skills. There's no way around it.
Think of auto-racing. Going on max speed without knowing the mechanics of the car and the architecture of the racetrack is bound to result in a crash. Imagine that all the turns of the racetrack are the logical maneuvers one has to make when writing the LSAT. To complete those turns, it will require skill and slowing down.
In order to win the LSAT race, you must first become a competent driver in every respect. Seeking shortcuts is a snare.
This is why in my LSAT tutoring practice, I always have my students practice first with no time limit. I tell them that to improve their LSAT score, they must hone their skills first. I also emphasize that taking practice tests with a time limit without having honed their fundamentals will bound to lead them to drill in all their wrong habits.
It is thus essential to first learn how to systematically approach every question type on each section of the LSAT. Timing is always secondary. Skill cultivation is key.
3. Pick the Low-Hanging Fruits
A monkey sets out from home in the early morning and goes on a journey to collect food for his family. He walks into a forest with a multitude of trees with much fruit. After he collects a few fruits from select trees, he sees a very tall tree with some rare fruits. He starts climbing up this tree but falls back down attempt after attempt. Remaining undeterred, he continues his ambitious climb, trying out new angles each time.
Many hours go by and frustration sets in. But the monkey thinks to himself, "I can't give up now. I've already spent many hours. I must persevere". Determined to go on, he maintains his effort to climb this tree, again and again.
Finally, the sun sets and the monkey must now go back home to feed his family. He then looks down at the ground and finds out that the fruits he collected before were all eaten by birds during his climb.
Believe it or not, oftentimes we are the monkey in this story. Our task on the LSAT is to collect as many fruits as possible; but, along the way, we encounter a very tall tree that requires significant effort to climb up.
As a private tutor analyzing my students' prep tests results, I can't tell you how many times I've seen them spend up to 3 or even 5 minutes on a single LR question. And more than half of the time, they still get it wrong.
You must learn to skip. Realize that there are many other low-hanging fruits for you to collect later in the section. LR ramps up in its level of difficulty usually at the 16-18 question mark, but students are often surprised to find that there are often a few ridiculously easy questions on questions 20-25.
Each question is worth the same. One point. You will not receive a crown of glory by solving a very difficult question, especially at the cost of valuable time. Many students get hung up on a question without the discipline to simply flag it and move on.
I am convinced that we primarily do this because we are simply unwilling to let go and wave the white flag at a question. Many of us excelled in our undergrad or even grad school and can't fully embrace the reality that some questions simply elude us and are not worth the fight.
Sometimes your greatest enemy is yourself. To overcome this mental hurdle, you must internalize the fact that if a question seems really hard to you, it's probably also hard for others, and you must pick your battles wisely to get ahead of the curve.
When you do not pick all the low-hanging fruits on the LSAT and instead spend way too long on the very hard questions, even if you get them right, remember this: you may have won the battle, but you have already lost the war.
To win the LSAT race, you must slow yourself down, focus on honing your skills and pick your battles.
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