Here’s a little-known fact: LSAT instructors get three Christmases per year, and last week was one of them. That’s right – Santa brought us a brand spanking new LSAT for us to savor! The June 2015 LSAT, hot off the presses.
The questions on this particular test that seemed to generate the most chatter were a certain Logic Game involving magazine features, and a Reading Comprehension passage about glass. Even if you didn’t take the June 2015 LSAT, there are some important lessons to be drawn from it, so let’s dive in.
There’s something surprisingly refreshing about sinking your teeth into a Logic Game you’ve never seen before, and the June 2015 LSAT did not disappoint on that front, with a rather unusual fourth game that had people talking after the test (just like last year!).
We can’t get too far into the specifics because LSAC hates fun (okay, that and the fact that they have some pretty strict licensing requirements), but there were a couple things that might have made this game difficult. First of all, it’s a fairly unusual setup, and as usual you need to read between the lines a little to figure out exactly what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. For example: The game clearly states that there are are five slots and four types of features – okay, seems normal so far. Also, a single feature can occupy multiple slots. Some slots might not contain a feature, but then they have to contain a graphic. Oh, and what LSAC doesn’t explicitly tell you is that you can have each type of feature more than once.
So just parsing the set-up takes a little time. The rules are blessedly brief and somewhat more straightforward – but unfortunately, there aren’t really any good deductions, so at this point the hapless LSAT test-taker has to dive right into the questions. As far as the questions themselves, there isn’t anything hugely surprising as long as you have a solid grasp on the parameters of the game. The existence of graphics in the magazine ends up being surprisingly unimportant. Instead, the most restrictive rule – which states that if the magazine contains any feature of one of two given types, then one of those types must occupy the first slot – ends up unlocking most of the questions.
Overall, I can definitely understand why students hated this game, especially since it appears at the end of the section when you’re typically feeling crunched for time. If anything, this game should serve as an excellent reminder that LSAC is increasingly adding new twists to familiar game structures, and test-takers need to be comfortable with setting up and interpreting games that are slightly outside the norm.
The passage about glass is what we at Blueprint LSAT Prep would consider a Question and Answer secondary structure, meaning that the passage poses a question (implicitly, in this case) and discusses several answers to that question. Each potential answer that is discussed in a Question and Answer passage constitutes one of the passage’s viewpoints, and the answer the author ultimately settles on is the main point.
The burning question here is why old windows are thicker at the bottom. The passage starts by introducing the old, mistaken belief, which is that glass flows slowly downward over time (like a liquid). (Side note: I am pretty sure I learned that exact “fact” in high school. Don’t I feel dumb!) Although scientists long suspected this belief to be false, their suspicions were confirmed by a study that this one guy did, in which he found that it would take way, way too long for glass to flow downward. Like, longer than the universe itself has existed. The passage then gives an alternate explanation for varying thicknesses in medieval glass (which the author clearly prefers): It’s caused by a difference in how windows were manufactured.
The overall structure of the passage is relatively straightforward. So why did students hate the passage so much? Aside from being the last passage in the section, which always adds extra stress, there’s a tricky issue of the “glass transition temperature,” which can be hard to understand if you don’t read closely. (Basically, there’s a range of a few hundred degrees Celsius in which a class is liquid-y, and below this range it takes on the properties of a solid.) The issue of glass’s transition temperature makes an appearance in a couple questions, so it’s important to understand.
In addition, there’s a “parallel”-type question that asks which situation is most analogous to the misconception about glass. Whenever a Reading Comprehension question asks for an analogous situation, it’s important to first think about the exact situation in the passage so that you can get a handle on the characteristics that should appear in the correct answer. In this case, we’re looking for a situation where people erroneously attribute a phenomenon to the material the item is made of, rather than the way in which the item was made.
As usual, the key to overall success on this passage is keeping your focus on its “big-picture” structure rather than getting bogged down in the details. Understanding the question the passage is trying to answer (why old windows are thicker at the bottom) should help you understand the glass transition temperature and why it’s important. As you read passages, try to think mainly about the role of each paragraph (introducing a new viewpoint, providing support, etc.), and you’ll be surprised about how well it informs your understanding of those pesky details.