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Logical Reasoning: Hard Questions are Harder

  • by John
  • Aug 23, 2010

How the test-makers turn the difficulty crank

One of the most persistent myths held by LSAT-takers is that certain question types are generally “harder.” Some LSAT prep companies love to give students elaborate graphs of each LR question type and their performance on each. The strange thing is, for most students, the percentages look really similar with a large enough sample size.

The answer is simple: it’s more likely you’ll get easy questions right and harder questions wrong. Regardless of question type.

The makers of the LSAT can turn the difficulty of particular questions up or down fairly easily. They do this in two ways:

  1. By making the stimulus more intricate
  2. By making answer choices that are closer together, with more attractive wrong answers

Fundametnally, students who know how to break down arguemnts into their ocmponent parts and manipulate them get more questions right regardless of question type. Since questions tend to get more difficult as the section progresses, students tend to get earlier questions right and later questions wrong.

Here’s two caveats to this rule that you should keep in mind.

First, many students get paralell reasoning questions wrong a lot. This is because the test-makers tend to make these harder. (You’ll notice that this only holds to parallel reasoning questions later in the section. Some tests have parallel reasoning in the first 10 questions; when PR appears early, it tends to be easy). Since they are the lone category of legitimately harder question based on type, it makes sense to leave them for the end of a section.

Second, many students have trouble with questions that involve formal or conditional logic (no matter what the actual “question type” is). The key on these questions is to take the extra time and effort to sketch the argument out formally; doing this quickly takes practice, so formal logic is definitely a legitimate focus for students having trouble.

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