Beginner’s Guide Part V: Planning for Progress

Chapter 22 of LR Perfection offers a detailed roadmap to mastering LR. It’s available as a part of the four free preview chapters.

How much students improve can vary greatly. I had one student who was a theoretical math Ph.D. at a top university who only took two months to get to a 177, and I knew an ESL student who took a year to get to 160. Both of them are success stories.

Review

At the end of the day, it’s all about whether you are making steady improvements. If you learned something that you didn’t know yesterday, then it’s not a day wasted. We’ve already emphasized accuracy over speed. Use test analytics to mercilessly isolate and overcome your weaknesses. Make a list of your mistakes so you can revisit them over and over again. 

The LSAT, unknown to most people, is a test of habit. Develop good habits built upon the insights gathered from reviewing your work. 

For LR, the content of the questions doesn’t really matter. If you saw a question about meteorites causing the extinction of dinosaurs, you don’t need to remember the meteorites or the dinosaurs, you won’t see them again on the actual test. What you might see; however, is a question about climate change causing the extinction of polar bears. In both cases, what really matters is the cause-and-effect relationship. Think about the logic underlying each of the questions. 

Blind review is something I would highly recommend also. Basically, after finishing a section or entire PT, don’t look at the answer key just yet. Review the questions you were unsure about, take as much time as you need. How many questions did you correct yourself? What is the score difference between pre and post-blind review? (You can read more about how blind review helps you improve.) 

What should I learn first?

For most students, the most effective way is to start with LG, followed by LR, and finally RC. This is because LG is almost purely logic-based. As soon as you are able to diagram conditional logic relationships, you can solve a game. For LR, logic is still really important, but now it’s hidden underneath complex arguments. You must now extract the logical rules from within the argument, and watch out for traps the testmakers laid out along the way. RC is heavily dependent on your reading ability, so it will probably take the longest time for most students. 

The skills you learn in LG will really help you in LR, and what you have mastered in LR will help in a lot of RC questions. To simplify things, success in LG depends on your ability to formulate logical chains and connections; success in LR builds upon this but also requires us to determine the structure of an argument. RC further builds upon these two skills but also requires us to process large amounts of information in a relatively short time period. 

Recent Tests

Many students think that LSAT questions got harder in the PT70-PT80 range. There’s been a few weird logic games that have popped up, and certain LR and RC questions have become more nuanced. Do not let this discourage you. Pay extra attention to your mistakes and think about two things: what has changed and what should I be doing differently? The appendices of LR Perfection address the recent trends in difficult LR questions. 

Saving PTs

There are roughly 90 full PTs available. The majority of my successful students have broken this down into two groups. They would use the earlier PTs (PT1 to PT 50/60) for drilling by type or section. The more recent PTs, which will resemble what you see on actual test day, are used for full-timed practice. At the minimum, you should save at least 20 to 30 PTs to be taken fully timed, simulating actual test day conditions as much as possible. Train like you would fight. You should also consider saving a few PTs just in case you need to re-take. 

We do this because working with a question that we have seen before will lure us into a false sense of security, and come test day when all the questions are complete strangers to you, it will feel so much harder and stressful. 

I also don’t recommend PTing every day. Some students try to cram as much work as possible into their schedule, but hard work does not automatically result in improvements. Instead, try to do 2-3 PTs per week or every other day, and really pay more attention to the review aspect of LSAT studying. 

Tutors

We have mentioned this elsewhere but if you are looking for a tutor there are several things you need to make sure of. 

Do you really need a tutor?

A tutor is really only helpful when you are stuck. If you are a beginner, then the materials available on the market are more than enough to get you started. If you are an intermediate/advanced student and you are showing steady improvement from self-studying, then keep on doing what you are doing! The best students will come prepared and have specific issues and questions which they have already isolated.

Are you self-driven and motivated to learn?

The LSAT tests your ability to think on your feet. The actual test will be full of new information and you need to recognize all its patterns and traps without guidance. This ability is something you need to actively train for in order to succeed on the actual exam. A tutor may point you in the right direction and give you hints but come exam day, it’s you alone who’s reading over each argument, simplifying them, and evaluating them. A tutor cannot think for you.

Post-COVID, I worked with a personal trainer to get into shape again. But slowly, I became dependent on the training sessions and gradually lost motivation to work out on my own. Improvements on the LSAT, like working out, is a lonely quest, a tutor may point you in the right direction, but you still need to get it done on your own. 

Does the tutor recognize your own specific weaknesses?

You want someone who can look at the mistakes you made, and be able to tell right away WHY you made such a mistake. Is it due to bad habits? Is it due to insufficient knowledge? Can they give you drills to overcome such deficiencies and point to similar questions for you to practice? Once they have given you their perspective and methods, can you replicate that in your own studying?

If a tutor is only able to explain the specific question you got wrong, that’s not enough! They need to be able to use that wrong question to upgrade your entire test-taking arsenal! Otherwise, you’ll come to a similar question with entirely new information and commit the same mistake again, old habits die hard!

In general, when a tutor explains a question, you want to be able to take away things that you can use in future questions. If a tutor only explains a question based on its own specific context, then it doesn’t really help us. Richard Feynman calls this “fragile knowledge.”

Furthermore, we all have our own way of approaching different problems. Just because someone did well on the LSAT doesn’t mean they can tailor their approach uniquely to you. Does your tutor have the intellectual flexibility to change their approach when explaining something so that it will make more sense to you? In your first session with a tutor, try to hold your ground and challenge them on their views. Are they able to convince you in a calm, stress-free manner, or do they get defensive and try to force their approach on you? 

Final words

I wish you the best of luck! Just remember that what you are trying to accomplish may seem difficult and arduous, but it’s only a point in time in the scheme of things, it’s only what you need to do to get to where you want to go. Tens of thousands of people have already walked this path, and at this exact moment, thousands more are facing the same challenges as you. You are not alone. 

There are countless communities of LSAT takers, such as the LSAT Subreddit, 7Sage discussion boards, just to name a few. Be sure to drop by and say hi in my Discord channel, where fellow tutors and students answer each other’s questions.