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Chapter One: An Introduction to LSAT
The LSAT is unlike any other test you've ever taken in your academic career. Most of the tests you've encountered in high school and college have probably been content-based tests, that is, tests requiring you to recall and be conversant with a certain body of facts, formulas, theorems, or other acquired knowledge. The LSAT, on the other hand, is a skills-based test. It doesn't ask you to spit back memorized facts. It doesn't ask you to apply learned formulas to specific problems. In fact, all you'll be asked to do on the LSAT is think -- thoroughly, quickly, and strategically. There's literally no content to study!
Sound too good to be true? Well, before you get the idea that you can waltz into the most important test of your life stone cold, let's clarify the very important distinction between study and preparation.
If you were taking the National Medical Boards, you would need to study things like anatomy beforehand, to make sure you were up-to-date on all of the required knowledge in that area. But the LSAT isn't designed to evaluate your grasp of this kind of field-specific knowledge. Instead, it's designed to test only the critical reading and analytical thinking skills that have been deemed necessary (by the governing body of law schoolsthemselves) for success in the first year of law school. These are skills that you already possess to some extent; you've acquired them gradually over the decade-and-a-half (or more) of your education. But what you probably haven't yet acquired is the know-how to use these skills to your best advantage in the rarified atmosphere of a standardized skills-based test.
And that's where test preparation -- and this section of this book -- comes in. In this section, we'll teach you to tailor your existing skills to the very specific and idiosyncratic tasks required by the LSAT. For example, you already know how to read, but we'll show you how to take your critical reading skills and use them most effectively to unlock the dense but highly structured arguments and passages on the LSAT. Similarly, while you've probably developed plenty of sound, logical ways of analyzing problems in everyday life, we'll teach you how to apply those natural deductive and analytical skills to the unusual demands of the Logic Games and Logical Reasoning sections of the LSAT.
So, while you can't technically study for a standardized skills-based test like the LSAT, you can and must prepare for it. And in the section that follows, we'll show you just how to do that.
Before launching into strategies, though, you need to know exactly what you're dealing with on the LSAT.
What Is the LSAT?
Let's start with the basics. The LSAT is, among other things, an endurance test. It consists of 175 minutes of multiple-choice testing, plus a 30 minute writing sample. Add in the administrative details at both ends of the testing experience, plus a break of 10 to 15 minutes midway through, and you can count on being in the test room for at least four-and-a-half to five hours.
It's a grueling experience, to say the least. And if you can't approach it with confidence and rigor, you'll quickly lose your composure. That's why it's so important that you take control of the test, just as you've been taking control of the rest of your application process.
The LSAT consists of five multiple-choice sections -- two Logical Reasoning sections (Logical Reasoning), one Logic Games section (Logic Games), one Reading Comprehension section (Reading Comprehension), and one unscored "Experimental" section, which will look exactly like one of the other multiple-choice sections. In addition to these five sections, there will be a Writing Sample section in which you'll have to write a short essay.
Here's how the sections break down:
Section Number of Questions Minutes
Logical Reasoning 24-26 35
Logical Reasoning 24-26 35
Logic Games 23-24 35
Reading Comprehension 26-28 35
"Experimental" 24-28 35
Writing Sample n/a 30
Some important things to note:
• The five multiple-choice sections can appear in any order, but the Writing Sample invariably comes last.
• The 10- to 15-minute break will come between the third and fourth sections of the test.
• The unscored "Experimental" section will look just like any other multiple-choice section, but it won't contribute to your score. (No, the test makers don't throw in the experimental section just to make you crazy; they do it to test out questions for use on future tests.)
We'll talk more about each of these question types in later chapters. But the big thing to take note of right now is this: You'll be answering roughly 125 multiple-choice questions (101 of which are scored) over the course of three intensive hours. That's just a little over a minute per question, not counting the time required to read passages and set up games. Clearly, you're going to have to move fast. But you can't let yourself get careless. Taking control of the LSAT means increasing the speed of your work without sacrificing accuracy!
How Is the LSAT Scored?
You'll receive one and only one score for the LSAT (no separate scores for Logical Reasoning, Logic Games, and Reading Comprehension, in other words). That one score will fall in a range of 120 to 180. Here's how they'll calculate it.
There are roughly 101 scored multiple-choice questions on each exam:
• About 50 from the two Logical Reasoning sections
• About 24 from the Logic Games section
• About 27 from the Reading Comprehension section
(Remember, the Writing Sample doesn't receive a numerical score, and the Experimental section, no matter what question type it contains, doesn't count.)
The number of these 101 questions that you answer correctly is your "raw score." Your raw score will then be multiplied by a complicated scoring formula (which is different for each test, to accommodate differences in difficulty level) to yield the "scaled score" -- the one that will fall somewhere in that 120-180 range. This scaled score is what is reported to the schools as your LSAT score.
Because the test is graded on a largely preset curve, the scaled score will always correspond to a certain percentile, which will also be given on your score report. A score of 160, for instance, corresponds roughly to the 80th percentile, meaning that 80 percent of test takers scored at or below your level. The percentile figure is important because it allows law schools to get a sense quickly of where you fall in the pool of applicants.
All questions (again, except those on the Experimental section) are worth the same amount -- one raw point -- and there's no penalty for guessing. That means that you should always fill in an answer for every question, whether you get to that question or not! Never let time run out on any section without filling in an answer for every question.
What's a "Good" LSAT Score?
Of course, what you consider a good LSAT score depends on your own expectations and goals, but here are a few interesting statistics:
If you got about half of all of the scored questions right (a raw score of roughly 50), you would earn a scaled score of roughly 147, putting you in about the 30th percentile -- not a great performance. But on the LSAT, a little improvement goes a long way. In fact, getting only one additional question right every ten minutes would give you a raw score of about 64, pushing you into the 60th percentile -- a huge improvement. That's why it's important to maximize your performance on every question. Just a few questions one way or the other can make a big difference in your score.
By the same token, however, you don't have to be perfect to do well. On most LSATs, you can get as many as 28 wrong and still remain in the 80th percentile or as many as 21 wrong and still remain in the 90th percentile. Even students who receive perfect scaled scores of 180 usually get a handful of questions wrong.
Although many factors play a role in admissions decisions, the LSAT score is usually one of the most important. And -- generally speaking -- being average just won't cut it. Whereas the median LSAT score is somewhere around 152, you need a score of at least 163 to be considered competitive by most law schools. And if you're aiming for the top, you've got to do even better. According to Careers 2000 (published by Kaplan/Newsweek), the median LSAT scores of the best law schools in the country, such as Yale, Stanford, and Columbia, range from the high 160s to the low 170s. That translates to a percentile figure of 95 and up.
What Kinds of Questions Are on the LSAT?
Now let's take a quick look at each question type you'll encounter on the test. We'll get into strategies and techniques later. For now, just familiarize yourself with the kinds of questions asked on each section.
What It Is
Each of the two scored Logical Reasoning sections consists of 24 to 26 questions based on short passages we call "stimuli." Most stimuli take the form of an argument -- i.e., a conclusion based on evidence. You need to understand a stimulus argument to answer the one or two questions based on it. Some Logical Reasoning stimuli aren't arguments per se; they're a series of facts from which you must make logical deductions. Although you don't need to know the technical terms of formal logic, you do need the critical reasoning skills that enable you to analyze a stimulus and make judgments accordingly.
Why It's on the Test
The law schools want to see whether you can understand, analyze, evaluate, and manipulate arguments, and draw reliable conclusions -- as every law student and attorney must. It's important to note that this question type makes up half of your LSAT score, so you know that the law schools value these skills.
What It's Like
Here are the directions to the section, along with a sample question:
Directions: This test is composed of questions that ask you to analyze the logic of statements or short paragraphs. You are to choose as the answer to each question the one choice you consider best on the basis of your common-sense evaluation of the statement and its assumptions. Although a question may seem to have more than one acceptable answer, there is only one best answer, and it is the one that does not entail making any illogical, extraneous, or conflicting assumptions about the question.
1. A study of twenty overweight men revealed that each man experienced significant weight loss after adding SlimDown, an artificial food supplement, to his daily diet. For three months, each man consumed one SlimDown portion every morning after exercising, and then followed his normal diet for the rest of the day. Clearly, anyone who consumes one portion of SlimDown every day for at least three months will lose weight and will look and feel his or her best.
Which one of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?
(A) The men in the study will gain back the weight they lost if they discontinue the SlimDown program.
(B) No other dietary supplement will have the same effect on overweight men.
(C) The daily exercise regimen was not responsible for the effects noted in the study.
(D) Women will not experience similar weight reductions if they adhere to the SlimDown program for three months.
(E) Overweight men will achieve only partial weight loss if they do not remain on the SlimDown program for a full three months.
< Choice (C) is correct. We'll show you how to approach Logical Reasoning questions like this in a later chapter.
What It Is
There are 23 to 24 questions in the Logic Games (a.k.a., Analytical Reasoning) section, and these are almost always based on four games, with five to seven questions each. They require an ability to reason clearly and deductively from a given set of rules or restrictions, all under strictly timed conditions.
Why It's on the Test
The section exists to test your command of detail, your formal deductive abilities, your understanding of how rules limit and order behavior (which is the very definition of law itself), and your ability to cope with many pieces of data simultaneously in the course of solving problems.
What It's Like
What follows are directions to the Logic Games section as well as a shortened sample game and questions:
Directions: Each group of questions is based on a set of conditions. You may wish to draw a rough sketch to help you answer some of the questions. Choose the best answer for each question and fill in the corresponding space on your answer sheet.
Five workers -- Mona, Patrick, Renatta, Saffie, and Will -- are scheduled to clean apartments on five days of a single week, Monday to Friday. There are three cleaning shifts available each day -- a morning shift, an afternoon shift, and an evening shift. No more than one worker cleans on any given shift. Each worker works exactly two cleaning shifts during the week, but no one works more than one cleaning shift in a single day.
Exactly two workers clean on each day of the week.
Mona and Will clean on the same days of the week.
Patrick does not clean on any afternoon or evening shifts during
Will does not clean on any morning or afternoon shifts during the week.
Mona cleans on two consecutive days of the week.
Saffie's second cleaning shift of the week occurs on an earlier day of the week than Mona's first cleaning shift
1. Which one of the following must be true?
(A) Saffie cleans on Tuesday afternoon.
(B) Patrick cleans on Monday morning.
(C) Will cleans on Thursday evening.
(D) Renatta cleans on Friday afternoon.
(E) Mona cleans on Tuesday morning.
2.If Will does not clean on Friday, which one of the following could be false?
(A) Renatta cleans on Friday.
(B) Saffie cleans on Tuesday.
(C) Mona cleans on Wednesday.
(D) Saffie cleans on Monday.
(E) Patrick cleans on Tuesday.
(Note that there are only two questions accompanying this game; a typical logic game will have five to seven questions.)
For Question 1, the answer is (C); for 2 it's (E). You'll see an explanation for this game in the Logic Games chapter of this book. Games are highly amenable to systematic technique and the proper use of scratchwork, which we'll discuss in detail in the Logic Games chapter.
What It Is
The Reading Comprehension section consists of four passages, each about 450 words long, with five to eight questions per passage. These long excerpts of scholarly passages are reminiscent of the kind of prose found in law texts. The topics are chosen from the areas of social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and law.
Why It's on the Test
The purpose of the section is to see whether you can quickly get the gist of long, difficult prose -- just as you'll have to do in law school.
What It's Like
Here are the directions and a sample passage. Note that the passage below is just an excerpt from a full-length passage; standard passages are generally longer.
Directions: Each selection in this test is followed by several questions. After reading the selection, choose the best response to each question and mark it on your answer sheet. Your replies are to be based on what is stated or implied in the selection.
It has been suggested that post-World War II concepts of environmental liability, as they pertain to hazardous waste, grew out of issues regarding municipal refuse collection and disposal and industrial waste disposal in the period 1880-1940. To a great degree, the remedies available to Americans for dealing with the burgeoning hazardous waste problem were characteristic of the judicial, legislative, and regulatory tools used to confront a whole range of problems in the industrial age. At the same time, these remedies were operating in an era in which the problem of hazardous waste had yet to be recognized. It is understandable that an assessment of liability was narrowly drawn and most often restricted to a clearly identified violator in a specific act of infringement of the property rights of someone else. Legislation, for the most part, focused narrowly on clear threats to the public health and dealt with problems of industrial pollution meekly if at all.
4. The author's primary purpose is to discuss
(A) contrasts in the legislative approaches to environmental liability before and after World War II
(B) legislative trends which have been instrumental in the reduction of environmental hazardous wastes
(C) the historical and legislative context in which to view post-World War II hazardous waste problems
(D) early patterns of industrial abuse and pollution of the American environment
(E) the growth of an activist tradition in American jurisprudence
The answer: (C). We'll show you how to approach Reading Comp questions (including this passage and its questions) in the Reading Comprehension chapter of this book.
The Experimental Section
The experimental (unscored) section allows Law Services to test questions for use on future tests. This section will look just like one of the others -- either Logical Reasoning, Logic Games, or Reading Comprehension -- so don't try to figure out which section is experimental and then just cruise through that section. That's an extremely risky proposition. Just do as well as you can on every section, and you're covered.
The Writing Sample
What It Is
The Writing Sample comes at the end of your LSAT day. You'll be given a scenario followed by two options and two criteria for decision making. And you'll have 30 minutes to make a written case that one option is superior.
Why It's on the Test
The writing sample shows the law schools whether you can argue for a position while breaking down the argument of an opponent. This essay is ungraded but is sent to law schools along with your LSAT score.
What It's Like
Here's a sample topic for a Writing Sample:
The Daily Tribune, a metropolitan newspaper, is considering two candidates for promotion to business editor. Write an argument for one candidate over the other with the following considerations in mind:
• The editor must train new writers and assign stories.
• The editor must be able to edit and rewrite stories under daily deadline pressure.
Laura received a B.A. in English from a large university. She was managing editor of her college newspaper and served as a summer intern at her hometown daily paper. Laura started working at the Tribune right out of college and spent three years at the city desk covering the city economy. Eight years ago the paper formed its business section and Laura became part of the new department. After several years covering state business, Laura began writing on the national economy. Three years ago, Laura was named senior business and finance editor on the national business staff; she is also responsible for supervising seven writers.
Palmer attended an elite private college where he earned both a B.S. in business administration and an M.A. in journalism. After receiving his journalism degree, Palmer worked for three years on a monthly business magazine. He won a prestigious national award for a series of articles on the impact of monetary policy on multinational corporations. Palmer came to the Tribune three years ago to fill the newly created position of international business writer. He was the only member of the international staff for two years and wrote on almost a daily basis. He now supervises a staff of four writers. Last year, Palmer developed a bi-monthly business supplement for the Tribune that has proved highly popular and has helped increase the paper's circulation.
Obviously, there can be no right or wrong "answer" to the Writing Sample topic, but there are good and bad responses. We'll show you one possible response to this topic later, in the Writing Sample chapter.
How Do You Take Control of the LSAT?
Now that you have an idea of what the LSAT is and how it's set up, let's talk a little about how to approach the test in a general way. As we'll see, knowing the specific strategies for each type of question is only part of your task. To really do your best on the LSAT, you have to approach the entire test in the proper spirit. That spirit -- and the proactive, take-control kind of thinking it inspires -- is something we call the LSAT Mindset.
The LSAT Mindset
The LSAT Mindset is what you want to bring to every question, passage, game, and section you encounter. Being in the LSAT Mindset means reshaping the test-taking experience so that you are in the driver's seat. It means:
• Answering questions if you want to (by guessing on the most difficult questions rather than wasting time on them).
• Answering questions when you want to (by saving tough but doable games, passages, and questions for later, coming back to them after racking up points on the easy ones).
• Answering questions how you want to (by using our shortcuts and strategies to get points quickly and confidently, even if those methods aren't exactly what the test makers had in mind).
The following are some overriding principles of the LSAT Mindset that will be covered in depth in the chapters to come:
• Read actively and critically.
• Translate prose into your own words.
• Prephrase answer choices so you know what to look for.
• Save the toughest questions, passages, and games for last.
• Know the test and each of its components inside and out.
• Allow your confidence to build on itself.
• Take a full-length practice test the week before the test to break down the mystique of the real experience.
• Learn from your mistakes -- it's not how much you practice, it's how much you get out of the practice.
• Look at the LSAT as a challenge, the first step in your legal career, rather than as an arbitrary obstacle to it.
That's what the LSAT Mindset boils down to: taking control. Being proactive. Being on top of the test experience so that you can get as many points as you can as quickly and as easily as possible.
To take control in this way, though, you have to be in command on all levels of the test. You may be great at individual Logical Reasoning questions, for instance, but that expertise won't do you much good unless you also have a plan for the entire Logical Reasoning section so that you get a chance to use your expertise on as many Logical Reasoning questions in a section as possible. That's why we've developed a plan for integrating strategies and techniques on all levels of the test -- from the microlevel of individual question strategies, to the midlevel of handling the mechanics of a whole section, to the macrolevel of bringing the right kind of thinking to the entire test as a whole. We call this plan "The Kaplan Master Plan for the LSAT."
The Kaplan Master Plan
Here we'll talk about managing individual questions, games, and reading passages. For success on the LSAT, you'll need to understand how to work through the specifics of each section. What's the difference between assumption and inference questions? What are the best ways of handling each? What's a matching game, and how do I approach it? How should I read a Reading Comp passage, and what should I focus on? What essay formats are best for the Writing Sample? We'll provide you with all of the information, strategies, and techniques you'll need to lay the groundwork for your LSAT success.
Test Expertise and Test Mentality
Next, we'll move up the ladder from individual questions, passages, and games to discussing how to manage full sections within the specified time limit. We'll show you how to handle the test mechanics so that you have a framework in which to use the content strategies -- and the time to use them. Then we'll show you how to pull it all together, marshalling the strategies and expertise with the right mindset, so that you're in control of the entire test. With good test mentality, you can have everything at your fingertips -- from the contrapositive to gridding techniques and from sequencing game strategies to pacing methods. We'll outline all of the subtle attitudinal factors, often overlooked, that are nonetheless integral to tying together all of the disparate elements of your training, so that you can perform your absolute best on the test.
Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan, Inc.
Excerpted from Kaplan LSAT 2005 by Kaplan Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted August 26, 2005
Let me first say that I used an edition from a year or two ago, but I SERIOUSLY doubt much has changed. Kaplan provides some general information about the test, the sections, the question types, etc. If you know NOTHING about the LSAT, you may benefit from looking it over. Particularly the chapter about the writing sample is okay. HOWEVER, for serious practice for the LSAT, this is not the book. The practice tests are NOT REAL LSATs. They seem similar until you've taken several real PrepTests, and then you can see a difference. You will get the best practice from REAL TESTS WRITTEN BY REAL LSAT TEST WRITERS. LSAC publishes over 30 of these tests in books and individually, and they provide the only realistic practice. DO NOT EVEN READ KAPLAN'S CHAPTER ON LOGIC GAMES!!! Whatever system they try to use, if they are even using a system, is confusing and disorganized. Instead, go through the Powerscore Logic Games Bible. They use REAL LSAT questions and have a very thorough and efficient method for addressing this section.(Powerscore has also published books addressing other LSAT sections since I took the LSAT. Though I did not have the opportunity to practice with these books, they are probably better than Kaplan. Ultimately, though, real PrepTests are the best practice you will get!) Again, unless you just want a general LSAT overview or are scoring very low on practice tests, this is not the book for you. No amount of books or 'studying' will prepare you more than practice, practice, practice. Discipline yourself to go through as many actual PrepTests as possible, and you will be as prepared as you can be! Good luck!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.