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Fading Down the Stretch: A Cautionary LSAT Tale

LSAT scores were released on Friday. I have received a variety of student responses, everything from “I’m drunk and celebrating” to “I’m drunk and stepping closer to the ledge.”

I got a 178. Luckily, that means I get to avoid moving to Russia and getting a really unfortunate tattoo. Insert sigh of relief.

The curve was relatively forgiving, as I had predicted. You could miss 11 questions for a 170 and 26 questions for a 160.

So here is how I would rate my own performance:

A 178 is a great score and I am happy that I did well, but I uncovered something very frustrating when I was looking through my score report. I didn’t finish well. Like Pioneer of the Nile in the Kentucky Derby, I faded down the stretch.

Anyone who has taken my class knows that I constantly remind people to finish strong. This stems from my sports background. Great teams always win the fourth quarter and great players always perform their best at the end. Cue Michael Jordan clip.

And if you don’t finish strong, you become the butt of a lot of jokes. Leon Lett’s entire career is blemished because of this one play. See, he just didn’t finish.

So I have the dubious honor of joining the ranks of people like Roy Jones Junior, the Wizard’s version of Michael Jordan, and Michael Jackson. People with a great story but who blew the last chapter.

Here’s the play by play of how it all went down.

Section 1: Experimental

Doesn’t count, I had Reading Comprehension. I did get to learn about a wonderful novel called The Awakening, though.

Section 2: Logical Reasoning

Perfect. 26 out of 26.

Section 3: Reading Comprehension

Yep, two RC sections in the first three. But I aced it. Normally, if I get any questions wrong, it is in this section. But nope, it is looking like a good day. 27 out of 27.

Section 4: Logic Games

Perfect. 23 out of 23.

Section 5: Logical Reasoning

The first 14 questions I answered correctly. So that means that I was perfect through 90 questions. I just had to finish the job.

But no. I think I began thinking about the nap I was going to take as soon as I got out of there. Or I was debating what type of shots I was going to share with students in celebration that evening. Something, but I clearly wasn’t thinking LSAT. I got three out of the next six questions wrong.

Here is a recap of the questions that I got wrong.

15.           This was a Soft Must Be True question. The stimulus tells us that proofs relying crucially on computers provide less certainty than proofs that do not. This is because humans are scared when they can’t verify the numbers, and computers are much smarter than us. I picked an answer that said whenever a computer replaces human calculation as a proof, the degree of certainty provided by the proof is reduced. The problem with that answer is that it does not say whenever a computer is crucially relied on in a proof. Oops.

18.           This one I don’t like. It was a Flaw question. The argument goes something like this: Some graduate students are trying to unionize. The majority of students aren’t even aware of this attempt. Most of those who are do not like the idea. Thus, the students should not unionize, since most of them disapprove. The problem with the argument is clearly that you don’t actually know that most students disapprove because they don’t even know about it. But the correct answer says that the flaw is that the argument blurs the distinction between active disapproval and mere lack of approval. I don’t like the way that is worded. I think the argument blurs the distinction between disapproval and lack of awareness. Damn unions.

20.           The last one I missed was an Explain question. The stimulus said that although salt intake increases blood pressure, some subjects in a study who had very high salt intake still had very low blood pressure. I picked an answer that said that salt intake is only one of several factors associated with high blood pressure. I missed the word high. If the answer would just have said that there are other factors associated with blood pressure, then it would have worked. But alas, it does not say that. Touché, LSAC.

So there it is, another LSAT in the books. All in all, it was a good day. But I fell prey to the same mistake that I warn my students about. Do as I say, not as I do, I suppose.

I just hope this ‘fading down the stretch’ trend does not seep into other areas of my life. At this point, I could make a crude sexual analogy, but I will resist the urge and confine myself to saying I hope you got the score you wanted on your own LSAT.