The LSAT: Developing Speed

Once you’ve developed your accuracy and stamina, chances are you’re already close to where you need to be speed-wise.  After all, you’ve done it—the process—over and over…  The first time you drive a car, it might take you five minutes to get started: you get in, close the door, fasten the seatbelt, then think to remember which pedal is the brake, which is the gas, which is the clutch, then you might put your hand on the gearshift and mentally rehearse where is first gear, then second, then third, then fourth, then fifth.  Then you’ll check the rear view mirror and make sure it’s in the right position for you, ditto the two side mirrors.  Definitely five minutes.  But a year later?  After getting into your car and driving every day?  That whole process probably takes less than a minute.  Same for the LR, RC, and LG.  That said, you may need to shave off some time.  So there are some things you can do. 

When you’re running out of time, you might want to start looking at the question first.  Sometimes that can streamline your processing.  For example, for LR, often it helps to understand the argument if your task is to recognize the same structure of reasoning, but sometimes that’s not really necessary—especially if the argument is particularly convoluted or slippery or there are several missing bits.  Sometimes you may just need to understand the ‘bare bones’ structure; for example, it might go ‘A or B, not A b/c this, so B.’  Similarly, if all you’re asked to do is identify the conclusion, you need not agonize over whether the conclusion follows from the given premises.  But I recommend this skipping ahead only after you’ve internalized the process of understanding the argument. If you start doing this too soon in your preparation, you may not develop the ability to understand and evaluate the whole argument, a skill which is required for many of the questions (and law school!).

Another strategy, not addressing speed per se but focussing on the same end, that of completing as much of the test as possible, is to choose your own order of proceeding.  As you work through the LR, set aside the ones you find most difficult for the end; for the RC and LG, glance at all four passages/games when you start and do the ones you find easiest first.  If there’s no clear easy/hard distinction for you, do the ones with the most questions attached first.

Peg Tittle used to work at LSAC writing the questions that go on the LSAT; she’s the author of a logical reasoning textbook (Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason, Routledge 2011); she has an M.A. in Philosophy (we’re all about argument!), a B.A. in Literature (there’s my RC!), a B.Ed. (so I know pedagogy), and ESL certification; and she has over ten years’ teaching/tutoring experience. She has set up an FAQ page about her LSAT tutoring (which she does by phone or skype).

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