The Makers of the LSAT Are Playing (Logic) Games With Your Head

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Gah!

There have been some weird logic games lately. For a very long time, from the late 1990s until a few years ago, it seemed as if logic games had standardized. The vast majority of logic games asked you to put things in order, in groups, or both. The exact kind of ordering or grouping varied from test to test, but relatively standard games dominated.

Sure, there were hard games. Every test has one. Some games were weird. But back then, most of the weird games were recognizable as tricky variations of normal games, with many of the same kinds of rules.

In the last few years, there have been some truly weird games. A decent proportion of the last few LSATs have made test takers run from the test center screaming WTF about some game or another. So what does this mean for you, the student, who may or may not encounter a weird game when you sit for the real LSAT? Here are some things to keep in mind:

It’s not the early 1990s.

The president isn’t named Clinton. The stars of the pop music world don’t look like this. And today’s weird LSAT games aren’t the weird LSAT games of yore. There were lots of weird games in the early ‘90s, the first few years of the modern LSAT with the now-familiar 120-180 scoring scale. Today’s weird games may bear some superficial resemblance to some of those old weird games, but they play out a bit differently.

So, while it’s probably worth trying some of those old games out, don’t look at them for models of what to expect. Today’s weird games often have less concrete restrictions and therefore more possible outcomes. When you look at old games, your goal should be to get better at dealing with weird stuff, not to memorize types.

Most games are still normal.

We’re talking maybe four (at most) really weird games over the last two years of released LSATs. Consider that there are four games per LSAT and three released LSATs per year, and do the math. Being good at the normal game types is still the most important thing to your logic games score. For one, that’s most of what you’re likely to see on the LSAT. For another, getting the normal games done quickly and confidently gives you much more time to deal with the weird stuff.

Ordering and grouping are still dominant, even in the weird games.

Many of the logic games from the early 1990s truly involved neither ordering nor grouping. The recent weird games may not fit into the molds of typical ordering or grouping games, but pretty much all of them involve ordering or grouping in some way. There’s something normal about every weird game. Don’t fixate on the weird stuff. Start with what’s normal and then figure out how to incorporate the weird.

Even if the game type is weird, skills transfer.

Now we’re getting to the stuff that you can use as you study. Since you might well encounter a weird game, it’s critical to be flexible. When you practice any given type of game, don’t think of the strategy for the game type as a rigid, self-contained box. Think of it as a set of methods and skills that happen to coincide for a certain type of game. Try to understand what makes each thing work, so that you can break things up and apply them individually.

When in doubt, go back to the rules.

Not sure what to draw for your diagram? Don’t panic. There’s no right answer. If it makes sense to you, it’s a good diagram. Same goes for the rules. If you can’t figure out how to symbolize them, don’t panic. The text is always there. And with some exceptions, the weirder the game, the less it’s likely to require good diagramming technique or crazy deductions. You’d be amazed at how much you can get done just by looking at the question and applying the rules one at a time until you get somewhere. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad strategy for normal games, either.

Do the most recent LSATs.

If you’re planning to take the LSAT soon, the June 2014, December 2015, and September 2016 LSATs (at the very least) should be part of your studies. Don’t look at the games as models — if you get something weird it’s likely to be different. But you shouldn’t go into the LSAT without at least trying the recent weird games and seeing how your skills hold up.

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