LSAT Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games) Tutorial
This Q&A-style LSAT tutorial describes the Analytical Reasoning format and the different types of logic games you're likely to encounter on your exam. It also explains why effective diagraming is so crucial in handling LSAT logic games. Finally, the tutorial suggests alternative time-management strategies for Analytical Reasoning.
Q: How many questions and question sets (logic games) will I find on an LSAT Analytical Reasoning section, and what is the basic format of an LSAT logic game?
A: An LSAT Analytical Reasoning section consists of 23-24 questions, grouped into four discrete question sets (logic games). The number of questions per set (game) varies from five to eight. (The average number is six.)
Every LSAT logic game consists of the following three elements:
A paragraph-length premise that establishes the game's setting, identifies the specific subjects (usually people or objects) involved in the game, and describes generally how those subjects are related to one another.
A series of conditions that impose specific restrictions on the relationships among the subjects. A typical logic game lists 4-6 conditions.
A series of 5-8 multiple-choice questions about the relationships among the subjects.
Q: Can LSAT logic games be categorized? If so, is it helpful to know what type of game you're dealing with?
A: LSAT logic games do indeed fall into fairly predictable categories, or types, according to how you are to organize the game's subjects. That's how the test makers design them.
Following are the basic types you're most likely to see on your exam. Keep in mind that a logic games might fall into more than one of these categories. For example, a particular game might call for you to order (sequence) the subjects in a row and to assign an attribute to each one.
Selection: You select subjects from a pool or roster.
Linear sequencing: You line up the subjects in order (in sequence).
Attribute: You assign characteristics, or attributes, to each subject.
Grouping: You divide the subjects into three or more groups.
Logical: You determine cause-and-effect relationships among the subjects.
Non-linear spatial: You determine how the subjects are arranged in some sort of two-dimensional space.
And yes, it is helpful to recognize which type of game you're dealing with. Each type calls for a distinct approach that has to do mainly with organizing the game's information in the form of a diagram.
Q: In what way are diagrams useful in answering the questions?
A: Very few test takers can handle a typical LSAT logic game without scratching out some sort of diagram that depicts the game's information visually. So if there is any single key to mastering LSAT Analytical Reasoning, it is to learn how to devise effective diagrams for the different games.
An effective diagram will allow you to see how the game's subjects are interrelated according to the conditions, and it will be flexible enough to use in answering most, if not all, of the game's questions. You can draw diagrams on the blank pages in the back of the LSAT test booklet as well as in the space at the bottom of each page of the Analytical Reasoning section.
Q: Are some types of logic games inherently more difficult than others, and do the games become more difficult as you proceed through an Analytical Reasoning section?
A: No logic-game type (such as those listed above) is inherently more difficult than any other. Nevertheless, the four games on any Analytical Reasoning section will vary considerably in difficulty. Challenging games typically appear later in a section than easier ones, but this is by no means a hard-and-fast rule. While the first game in a section is almost never the most difficult one, beyond that anything is possible.
Ultimately, the only way to determine the difficulty level of a game is to immerse yourself in it. Spending a few minutes assimilating the game's conditions, scratching out a diagram, and attempting the first question should give you a good sense of the game's overall difficulty level.
Q: How should I allocate my time among the four logic games in an Analytical Reasoning section?
A: For most test takers the best strategy is to attempt all four games. But if your LSAT practice testing reveals that you're having considerable trouble with logic games, a better approach for you might be to spend your entire 35 minutes on only three of the four games.
Regardless of which strategy you use, plan to spend about the same amount of time on each game, but be flexible. Some games will be more challenging and time consuming than others. (That's how the test makers design them.) Above all, try not to devote an undue amount of time to any single game, or you'll risk neglecting an easier game, thereby robbing yourself of points.
Q: What about the questions themselves? Do they increase in difficulty from one to the next, and, if so, should I skip the last one or two in each game?
A: The first few questions in a game usually focus on just one or two of the game's conditions and hence tend to be relatively easy. Later questions often require you to assimilate all of the game's conditions, a feature that can make for a relatively challenging question.
That said, if you've managed the earlier (simpler) questions then you probably understand the game well enough to handle the more difficult ones. In any event, attempt each question in turn without skipping any. If a particular question stumps you, don't get bogged down in it. Instead, move ahead to the next question, with which you may very well have an easier time.
Q: If I'm running out of time, should I "shop around" for easy questions in order to score a few last-minute points?
A: As noted above, the first few questions in a game are usually the simplest. You might be able to answer these questions quickly, possibly without reading the game's premise or constructing a diagram. Otherwise, a "hurry-up" strategy rarely works when it comes to LSAT logic games. Your final few minutes are best spent focusing on one or two questions in a game with which you're already thoroughly familiar.