In Defense of Logic Games
- Oct 11, 2019
First, to be clear: I will not be arguing that test takers who are blind or visually impaired — like Angelo Binno, whose settlement with the Law School Admissions Council may eventually force LSAC to change or remove the Logic Games section altogether — should have to take the Logic Games section on the LSAT. I am neither a medical expert nor a psychometrician, but after working with an untold number of students I feel confident saying that visual aids like set-ups and scenarios make these games more manageable for basically everyone. It seems manifestly unfair that test takers who cannot use such visual aids should be forced to take the section, and I applaud Binno’s fight to level the LSAT’s playing field. I’ve also worked with some test takers who could use such aids but could not, for instance, write their own set-ups or scenarios. I’m not going to argue that those test takers should have to take the Logic Games section, either; even with their granted accommodations, it seemed to me like they were put at a disadvantage on this section. In my (again, decidedly non-expert) opinion, it’s high time that a viable alternative to the Logic Games section was offered to these test takers.
But for everyone else? For everyone else, I think the Logic Games section performs a valuable function. For everyone else, I’m going to try to don Atticus Finch cosplay and muster a defense for Logic Games. I think it would be a shame if the Logic Games section was removed entirely from the test, or changed into some unrecognizable new kind of “Analytical Reasoning” section (which is, technically, the official name of the Logic Games section, as well as the broad skill set the section purportedly tests). If the Logic Games section is going to be changed at all — and as we discussed Wednesday, it’s not yet clear that it will change, and if it does change, those changes will most likely take place years down the line — the very last thing I want is for the new section to more closely resemble the other sections of the exam. Because then, the types of people the LSAT will reward might be narrowed, not broadened, in the long run.
Now, I could write encomia to the elegant puzzles these Logic Games sections present, or argue that the skills developed in Logic Games relate in surprising ways to the skills required in law school. I think these things are true, and maybe those arguments would be convincing to you. But I’m probably I’m too deep into the LSAT — you know, full disclosure, both my employer and I have an obvious financial interest in this test not changing too dramatically — to make these arguments compellingly. Instead, I think it might be useful to get an outsider’s perspective on this test.
In a two-episode podcast series on the LSAT, Malcom Gladwell argues that the LSAT is a test that lavishly rewards “hares” — those who are able to quickly process information without pausing to fully understand or interrogate said information — while putting the more careful and methodical tortoise-like test takers at a significant disadvantage. The LSAT may be correlated to first year law school success, Gladwell and Indiana Law prof William D. Henderson argue, but only because law schools also arbitrarily construct their examinations to reward the hares in the classroom. But the legal profession, according to Gladwell, requires both hares and tortoises. The profession requires both rapid processing of information and slow, deliberate, and digressive processing of information; or, to put it even more reductively, the job requires both fast and slow readers. By tilting the scales in favor of the hares, Gladwell argues that the LSAT is excluding some potentially valuable testudinates from the top law schools, creating an inefficiency in the legal profession. As a self-described tortoise, Gladwell takes considerable umbrage with this fact.*
*On this point, I must quibble with Gladwelll. Gladwell describes himself as a tortoise after taking an LSAT without much preparation. He claims that he finishes both the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections with time to spare, but he comes nowhere near finishing the Logic Games section in time. Because of this, he claims to be a tortoise. He later claims — in a contentious interview with actual test writers at LSAC that should be cathartic to anyone bashing their heads in as they try to make sense out of this test — that he finished the Reading Comprehension section with ten minutes to spare. In my experience, that would put Gladwell on the extreme leporine end of the spectrum. As far as I can tell, most test takers are at first simply unable to finish a Reading Comprehension section in the thirty-five minutes provided. I would argue that Gladwell didn’t finish the Logic Games section simply because he had never tried to do a logic game before — a fate that befalls nearly every first-timer. But I do agree with Gladwell’s general point: this test, especially the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections, is a test for the hares.
So, what does Gladwell’s thesis have to do with the Logic Games section, specifically? The LSAT’s preference for hares is plainly evident in the other two sections of the exam — the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections. These two sections require a lot of reading — each section will generally have between 4000 and 5000 words. An average adult’s reading speed is somewhere between 200 and 250 words per minute. To just read one of these sections — straight through, once — could take the average adult as many as twenty-five minutes of the allotted thirty-five minutes. Given that these sections also require time to, you know, ponder the answers to the questions — to say nothing of the fact that these sections are often written in a deliberately difficult-to-understand way that can really hamper that average WPM and force people to re-read large swaths of the section — the average adult is working on a razor’s edge, time-wise. These sections naturally benefit the fleet-footed hare, who is racing through the word count much more quickly than the more deliberate tortoises. And given that Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension typically account for 78 out of the 101 questions on the exam, the hare has quite the long-limbed leg up on the competition.
We’ve discussed many times before strategies the more deliberate readers among us can utilize to make the most of these sections; but the LSAT itself has a balancing mechanism for the tortoises: the (you guessed it) Logic Games section. With much less to read, the Logic Games section minimizes the advantage the hare possesses on other sections. This section is less about the rapid processing of information — the hare’s game — and more about the careful and methodical consideration of how various pieces of information interact — the tortoise’s game. In fact, the Logic Games section tends to punish those who move too quickly through the questions without the proper set of deductions and scenarios, and reward those who took the time to figure things out before reaching the questions. So the Logic Games section is — all else being equal — a place in the test in which the tortoises can gain ground on the hares.
If LSAC is indeed removing logic games from the exam and replacing it with some other form of analytical reasoning — one that is less reliant on the type of visual aids that make the current section more manageable — I imagine we’ll see more words start to appear in the Analytical Reasoning section. And as the word count of this section goes up, the more the hares may be privileged. And given that the current version exam appears to privilege the hares, such changes to the section may exacerbate this phenomenon.
It bears repeating at this point that we have no idea if or when changes to the Logic Games section will occur. The statements that have been released from Angelo Binno’s attorney and from LSAC offer less clarity on the matter than one would hope. The key phrase from the press release the law firm representing Binno trades on the ambiguity of the word “enable”: “Consistent with the parties’ agreement, LSAC will complete this work within the next four years, which will enable all prospective law school students to take an exam administered by LSAC that does not have the current AR section but continues to assess analytical reasoning abilities” (emphasis mine). Does that mean there will be some mechanism that will let test takers opt in to a sans-Logic-Games version of the test, enabling them to do the exam without that section? Or will the test itself be changed for everyone, enabling all test takers to take the exam without Logic Games? It says “all prospective law students,” which would suggest that it’s changing for everyone. But current testing accommodations are technically available to “all prospective law students” as well, they just have prove to LSAC that they qualify for such accommodations. An email LSAC sent out suggests they promised only research alternative ways to test analytical reasoning, and never states that logic games will definitely be removed from the test.
Hopefully there’s a solution that can satisfy — if such a word can be used in the context of the LSAT — all parties and make the test a fair assessment of all future law students. But, to throw out the Logic Games section entirely, for all test takers seems to me to be, ahem, a hairy decision.
Whether or not the LG section goes away entirely, LSAC will no doubt come up with something equally as trying to replace it—and best believe Blueprint will crack it. But in the meantime, (and by “meantime” we mean “the next for four years”) Logic Games aren’t going anywhere. Our instructors have mastered the art of the games and are ready to teach you, be it in class or during private tutoring. If you need help deciding what works best for you, schedule a free LSAT consultation with an Academic Manager.
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