Gather ‘Round to Learn How to Conquer Circular Games


Circular logic games are a veritable unicorn of the LSAT, but the kind of unicorn you’d really rather not see, like one that poops ominous clouds instead of rainbows.

Takers of the July 2018 LSAT were unpleasantly surprised to find that their test included one of these mythical game types. Including the July test, we’ve only seen circular games on a whopping total of six LSATs: the June 1991 LSAT (game #1), the June 1993 LSAT (game #3), the February 1999 LSAT (game #3), the September 2003 LSAT (game #4), the February 2014 LSAT (not released), and …. the July 2018 LSAT (which, as we’ve covered, was just February 2014, repurposed). (Note that these totals exclude special administrations of the test, such as to Sabbath observers, international test-takers, and so on.)

Now that this type of game has once again reared its ugly mug, it’s high time to refresh your memory on how to handle such a game. The good news is that you’ll still be following the same steps that you usually follow — it’ll just look a little different than usual.

Step 1: Build a visual, clear, and accurate set-up

When you’re approaching a new game, your first step is to figure out how to build the set-up. Your goal for the set-up is to always make it as visual as possible while representing the game accurately.
In the case of a circular game, the initial paragraph might tell you that:

There are eight riders on a Ferris wheel, six couples and two singletons. Two riders are considered to be across from each other if and only if there are three people between them.

Or that:

There are seven people around a maypole.

In this case, you’ll draw slots in a circle, but won’t number the slots (as typically the game set-up won’t refer to numbered spaces). That’s why circular games can seem tricky — because you aren’t assigning people to set spaces, but rather looking at patterns between players. But don’t worry, because once you start thinking about the relationships between players, you’ll see patterns pretty quickly.

Step 2: Represent the rules visually and accurately

The rules for circular games will say something like:

Sharon is not next to Christine.

Osmosis is directly across from Gerothy.

The singletons are not riding next to each other.

We’d approach each of those rules a little differently. In the case of the first rule, you’d represent it the same way you might in an ordering game, where you write the players’ abbreviations next to each other and cross it out. You’re simply showing that those two players will never be adjacent to each other.

In the case of the second rule, you can just throw those players right into your set-up — since the spaces aren’t numbered, it doesn’t matter where you put them, as long as they’re across from each other.

In the case of the third rule, you’d represent it similarly to the first — however, we’ll want to pay extra special attention to that one in step three…

Step 3: Look for scenarios and deductions

Most circular games will give you some sort of rule that governs the pattern; in our examples above, that rule was that the singletons aren’t riding next to each other. You can use that rule to create scenarios showing the spaces that can be between the singletons. Think of this as playing the numbers — you’re testing out the ways the game can be set up, which will hopefully leave you with a limited set of options that you’ll then be able to use as you go through the questions.

Other than that, as always, the best way to find deductions is by looking at how the rules interact with each other. If there are a bunch of players who can’t be next to another player, jot out a couple situations to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid of trial and error for a game like this — giving a couple tries yourself before you move into the questions will give you a much better sense of how the game works.

And that’s it! After following these steps, you’ll be in great shape to tackle the dreaded circular game. In general, these games aren’t especially difficult — it’s just terrifying to flip the page in your test booklet to find a type of game you’re not super-comfortable with. But by staying calm and following your usual steps, you’ll be able to pull off circular games — and any other kind of uncommon game — without a hitch.

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