Studying with Victoria: Building an LSAT Foundation

What a week! After recovering from driving up the I-5, I took my first practice LSAT on Saturday. Don’t let anybody tell you that that isn’t a test of endurance. It’s like a mental triathlon, only you’re competing for what very well could be your future, instead of a shiny medal. But hey, no pressure!

Overall, the test went pretty well, although logic games and the marching band that was playing during the last section (I kid you not) are my nemeses. My biggest problem with the logic games is that I lose patience with them and their seemingly endless permutations of things I don’t give a crap about. Does it really matter if you have a purple brontosaurus next to a blue ankylosaurus which can’t be next to the yellow velociraptor? Did the blue ankylosaurus not show up to the yellow velociraptor’s party and now they’re not speaking? Can’t they all just get along so I can move on to the next damn question? More on logic games and patience later. Even after only three sections of the test, I was pretty worn out, but there were still two sections to go. Joy.

If my baseline LSAT score is the rather crappy foundation for what shall become a grand edifice come October, then Tuesday’s class was like the bulldozer that clears out the crappy foundation so a new and better foundation can be made or poured or whatever verbiage is used for the construction of a foundation.

Poor construction metaphor aside, class is like a much needed boot camp in logic. First we covered the logical reasoning section and why you should always, without fail, read the prompt first so you know what to look for. Then we discussed the three families of logical reasoning questions. If you’d like some theme music for these families of questions, I might suggest the theme from The Godfather because each family has its own nature and is out to get you if you don’t play by its rules. Horse heads might not be involved, but because logical reasoning accounts for two sections on the LSAT, it pays to know exactly what you’re dealing with. Implication, Operation, Characterization. Know them, love them (or not), practice dealing with them.

After logical reasoning came the crash course in formal logic and one of the cardinal rules of LSAT taking: Read for logic, not English. The LSAT is apparently a sneaky little bastard that will use any means necessary to distort the logical facts of the passage with the English language. That might not be a problem if you’re a Vulcan or something, but if you’re a humanities person like me who revels in linguistic flourishes, then it’s a challenge to get past the language barrier. And that’s what it is, really, a language barrier. Logic is a distinct language whose beauty lies in its simplicity. It takes an entire paragraph of LSAT English to communicate what logic can with a single line, which is pretty awesome when you think about it. But then things like understanding the converse, inverse, and contrapositive of a valid argument drag me back down to earth. The first two are logical fallacies, the little things that scream FAIL when you try to apply them. The third is logically acceptable and is the equivalent of the valid argument as long as you remember to switch AND negate the terms in the valid argument. Pardon me while I stop to catch my breath. We did so many drills to come up with the valid argument, converse, inverse, and contrapositive of statements that I felt that my brain had turned to jello.

But wait there’s more! Before I could use what was left of my mental abilities to find the right bus back to my apartment, we still had to cover the strategies behind those pesky logic games. Logic games also fall into three families, Ordering, Grouping, and Combination, the hybrid offspring of the former two groups. Thankfully, Blueprint’s method for attacking these questions is the solution to my lack of patience. We learned to use the rules given in the passage to build chains, visual representations of those rules. These chains might look like something out of organic chemistry, but they are absolute lifesavers. That’s right logic games, I fear you no longer. No more of my impatient “screw you and the paper you’re printed on” outbursts for I have a system! Or at least I hope so. I haven’t started my homework yet.

Out of all the useful rules and strategies presented in the course of the lesson, however, one stood out: “Try to enjoy taking the LSAT.” I might be an LSAT-greenhorn, but I think that’s some pretty sound advice. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and enjoy outsmarting those questions.

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