How to Move Past a Plateau in Your LSAT Studies
- Jun 19, 2019
When studying for the LSAT, it’s natural to imagine your progress as a straight line inclining upwards from your first practice exam, reaching its apex with the score on your real exam. That’s rarely the case, however.
Your progress moves upwards — generally, mostly — but it’s not a linear progression. It’s full of setbacks, and regressions, and sharp increases, two steps forwards and one steps back. And plateaus. So, so many plateaus. So many times when you’re just deeply ensconced in the 150s, when you want to break out to the 160s. Or times when you’re trapped in a state of I-can-finish-three-logic-games-but-not-four. Or completely stuck on a certain type of question you can’t quite nail.
While reaching the occasional plateau is a totally normal part of the study process, you obviously don’t want to spend too much time on flat ground. You want to start climbing again. So let’s talk about some ways you get back on your march upwards.
Start Journaling Which Questions You Miss, And Why
With so many different types of Logical Reasoning questions, logic games, and Reading Comp passages — not to mention all the different concepts and skills you have to learn and develop to master them — it’s easy to lose track on which parts of the LSAT actually give you the most trouble. In my experience, many people think they struggle with certain questions or concepts when they’re actually pretty solid on them, but think they have a handle on other concepts, when their understanding is actually fairly shallow.
So start journaling which questions you miss — whether you missed that question during untimed practice, timed practice, or an actual full exam. It doesn’t matter how you journal these findings — online spreadsheets are a good, free option to organize your findings, but if you harbor more writerly affectations, a Moleskine notebook is a solid choice. Make sure you’re including a brief description of why you’re missing that question. Include any concepts that the question may have entail, like diagramming, or the common fallacies, or scenarios.
Having this journal can help you see patterns to what you’re missing, which will allow you to identify which concepts or question types are actually giving you trouble and demand review. Instead of wasting time reviewing things you have a pretty solid grasp of, you can review and improve on the things that will bump your score up.
Ask Yourself, Am I Actually Sure I Know What I’m Doing?
Many people studying for the LSAT fall into the trap — especially on Logical Reasoning and Reading Comp — of just relying on their intuition to answer the questions. Picking the answer choices that “make sense” to them. The one’s that “seem right.” This may work decently well for some questions and passages, particularly the easier ones that appear earlier in the sections; for nearly everyone, though, it doesn’t work for all the questions, particularly the harder ones that appear later in the sections.
When people do practice LSAT questions by just relying on their intuition, they just reinforce the abilities they brought to the table in the first place. They’re not developing new skills that could help them reliably answer not just the easy questions but the harder ones as well. They never learn the tricks that could help them answer the questions more confidently or quickly. They just continue to maintain their same accuracy, more or less, and continue to answer the same number of questions on exams, more or less. So of course their score plateaus.
So ask yourself, honestly, “Do I know what I’m doing?” For Logical Reasoning, do you know which questions types demand weaker answers, and which demand stronger answers? Do you know which questions you’ll probably need to diagram conditional statements? Do you know the tricks to find an argument’s assumptions? Do you know which common fallacies are most likely to appear on a Strengthen question? Were you even aware that you should look for common fallacies on a Strengthen question? If you answered, “No” to any of these, it’s probable that you’ve been relying on intuition a bit too often. Time for some review.
For Reading Comp, ask yourself if your performance is mostly tied to whether you felt comfortable with the topic discussed in the passage. Although that will always play some role in determining how well you do on passage, it shouldn’t be the primary determinant. You should be focusing on things like the structure of the passage, and the author’s opinion, and the common modes of support, like cause and effect relationships, and examples, and questions and answers.
Even for the Logic Games section, some many people fall into the trap of thinking they’re doing great, because they can get all or nearly all of the questions right when doing a game untimed. But then when it comes to a test, they can only do a couple games. With games, you should be learning methods that will help you answer the questions more quickly, most of all. So even if your accuracy is on point, if it takes you over twelve minutes to do a game, you still need to do some work. Make sure you have a good process to make deductions, know when and how to make scenarios, and how to answer each question type.
If you decide that you need more help, we’re here for ya! Our Self-Paced Course is filled to the brim with helpful on-demand lessons and explanations for LSAT practice test questions. You’ll also get to attend live review sessions with our instructors; the topics are different each time, so you can take attend the ones that cover the areas you need to focus on!
Develop a Strategic Approach to Each Section
Finally, making a jump off a plateau often is the result of developing a better approach to how you spend your thirty-five minutes for each section of this test. Most people, especially when starting off, try to complete every single question of this test, in order, taking all the time they need for each question. That’s a pretty bad approach. You may spend too much time on easier questions, and too little time on more difficult questions. You may end up dedicating way too much time to some questions that you’re probably going to get wrong anyway, which prevents you from doing several questions that you’ll probably get right. You may spend three or four minutes on one Reading Comp or Logic Games question, preventing you from reading the following passage or setting up the subsequent game.
You want to avoid all these common problems by implementing a new strategy to how you complete a timed section. We go over a lot of helpful strategic approaches here and here and here and here. But one of the most helpful approaches is to simply skip questions. Skip questions strategically, of course. Skip any question you don’t understand, or any questions on which you’re stuck between three or four answer choices. Don’t waste time banging your head against the table in the hopes of getting a question right that you don’t get — dedicate that time instead to several questions you do understand. If you’re generally short on time in a section, skip any questions that are especially time consuming, like the Parallel questions in LR, or the rule substitution questions in LG, or the “This passage states provides support for each of the following EXCEPT” questions in RC.
All these questions are worth exactly one point in your raw score, no matter how hard or easy that question may be. So it behooves you to dedicate your time as much as possible to the questions that are within reach, and not too much on the one’s that are out-of-reach. Sometimes, that final bump off the plateau is just a matter of distributing your time more effectively.
Remember, plateauing is a totally normal and inevitable part of studying for the LSAT. But take these tips to heart, and see if you boulder … I mean soldier on.
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