Work More Efficiently, Not Faster
- May 28, 2015
- General LSAT Advice, LSAT
If you’re taking the June LSAT, you’re probably concerned about timing. That’s normal. And here’s some good news: even in the next couple weeks until the LSAT, there’s time to improve.
Imagine this: you have to drive somewhere unfamiliar. There’s traffic. You don’t want to be late. Would you run to the car, say, “I don’t know exactly where it is, but I know it’s vaguely north of here,” and then drive north as fast as you can? You might not know where you’re going, but you’ll screech those tires around corners and gun it from every stoplight, even if you end up stuck in traffic a few seconds later. Or would you check traffic, plot a route that avoids it, and drive a little more sensibly?
The first option sounds ridiculous. It would be dangerous – and maybe a little fun – but it wouldn’t be a good way to get where you’re going on time. But it’s what a lot of people do on the LSAT. Faced with time pressure, they decide that they need to speed up. They read faster, don’t pause to anticipate answers, and generally stop following procedures meticulously. At best, they’ll end up driving around the same block a bunch of times, circling for an answer that might have been in plain view at normal speed. At worst, they’ll crash and get lots of questions wrong they could have had right.
The best way to get faster is to work more efficiently. You see a question and you know what steps to follow. You read at a pace slow enough to understand things. You take the time to anticipate what to look for out of an answer, knowing that it’ll save time in the end. You read the answers carefully, and spot what makes them right or wrong the first time. It doesn’t feel like you’re going fast, but you are. Realistically, all of those things aren’t going to happen every single time, but the more they do, the better.
Never skimp on anticipation – whenever you can answer a question before looking at the answer choices, you should. Even though time pressure makes it tempting to rush into the answers, it’s better to do the work once than five times. For Logical Reasoning questions, you should at least have an idea what to expect out the answer before you consider the answer choices. In some cases (Sufficient Assumption questions, for example) you should know exactly what to look for. In Reading Comp, some questions are annoyingly open-ended, but for many other questions (specific reference, role of a claim, main point…) you should know what to look for. In Logic Games, approach conditional questions by symbolizing the new information and following the rules from there; don’t be tempted to jump into the answer choices until you know what things look like.
In Reading Comp, you should also be prepared to use the main point and author’s attitude as a weapon to help answer questions more efficiently, even the open-ended ones like “It can most reasonably be inferred that the author would agree with which of the following?” It’s hard to know exactly what the answer will say, but you can use that big-picture knowledge of the passage to eliminate answers that aren’t consistent with the main point and author’s view without wasting time getting bogged down in the details.
In Logic Games, a lot of students struggle with how long to spend on the setup before jumping into the questions. I’ve seen students err both ways: some will rush into the questions, missing deductions and forcing themselves to do lots of extra work, while others stare and stare at a setup hoping for deductions that just aren’t there. There’s no correct amount of time to spend; some games have lots you can figure out up front and others relatively little. The answer is to check the rules against each other. If you do that and start to figure things out, it’s time well spent. On the other hand, if you compare all the rules against each other and there’s still nothing to deduce, it’s time to move on. Even just understanding which rules are likely to be important can help a lot with the questions.
Finally, consider this: there’s no prize for finishing all the questions. If you leave a few questions with random guesses but you’re very accurate on the others, that’s going to lead to a high score. The goal isn’t to finish but to get as many points as possible. You have to learn to work as quickly as you can without compromising your accuracy. Practice bringing up the pace gradually, and review everything you do not just to understand why things are wrong or right but also to figure out how you can be more efficient next time. You’re not going to learn magically to read much faster in the next two weeks, but you can definitely apply the skills you have more efficiently.
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