What Does the LSAT Test?

Nathan Fox

Nathan Fox

Apr 8, 2021

LSAT novices—and refugees from major prep companies, their minds clouded by useless gimmicks and bad habits—wash up on LSAT Demon shores sounding like this:

I’m lost. I have no idea what this test is even asking.

The test is so subjective! I can’t understand why one answer is better than another.

This doesn’t have anything to do with law school.

Sound familiar?

Comments like these indicate that a student is resisting the test in a way that impedes progress. So, first things first. My goal today is to help you understand how the LSAT tests—and builds—skills that you will use in law school and legal practice.

The LSAT tests and builds your reading comprehension.

One of the three scored sections on the LSAT is entitled Reading Comprehension. What’s required here? Well, it says it right in the name. The LSAT tests your ability to carefully read—and comprehend—dense blocks of English text.

“Comprehension” is defined as “the action or capability of understanding something.” It couldn’t be more straightforward. The LSAT asks you to carefully read something you probably don’t know anything about—and frankly, might not care to know anything about—then answer questions about what you’ve read.

You’d better figure out how to care, because the passage can correctly be thought of as a collection of all the right answers. Each question tests whether you understood what you read.

Without being intentionally obtuse, it’s impossible not to see how this applies directly to law school and legal practice.

In law school, you will read thousands of pages of material far more dense and boring than anything the LSAT will ever throw at you. Have you ever seen a law school casebook? They are thousands of pages long, with microscopic print. They use that ultra thin paper that always reminds me of bibles. You will have so many of these books that your colleagues will cart them around in dorky rolling backpacks. You will study these books endlessly, and at the end of the semester, you will take all-or-nothing exams that determine your entire grade based on your understanding of the arcana contained in these books. Your grades will determine your class rank. Your class rank will determine the jobs you’re invited to interview for. These interviews will set a trajectory for your entire career.

Your performance in law school relies critically on your reading comprehension.

This makes sense, because in legal practice you will be a gladiator of the English language. Your client will depend on you to understand the documents relevant to their court case, contract negotiation, or patent application. Your failure to understand one provision of one document could result in your client’s deportation or imprisonment. It could cause the loss of millions of dollars. It could get you sanctioned by the court or even disbarred.

You will read dense, boring documents every day of your legal career, no matter what area of law you choose.

If you can’t learn to love—or at least excel at—the LSAT’s Reading Comprehension, you might be headed down the wrong path. It’s not too late to turn back. The Logical Reasoning, and even the Logic Games, also rely heavily on your ability to understand what you read. For those who can’t learn to slow down and understand the words on the screen in front of them, only misery lies ahead.

The best way to improve at Reading Comprehension is to thoroughly review your mistakes. The wrong answers are wrong because they are different from the passage in some way. The right answer is right because it’s exactly what was said in the passage. When you miss a question on RC, you’ve misread the passage, misread the question, or misread the wrong answer you picked and the right answer you didn’t pick. Read more carefully and clean up these mistakes. Here’s an example of how to read an RC passage with the appropriate level of attention.

The LSAT tests and builds your command of basic logic and reason.

The LSAT’s Logical Reasoning section tests your ability to understand and analyze an argument or short set of facts. Most of the arguments are bogus, frequently in obvious ways. You will be asked to identify their conclusions, describe their weaknesses, and find ways to make them better or worse.

Consider an example from PrepTest 73.

The conclusion here is that “this move is rarely good from a business perspective.” The evidence is that a single video game movie failed.

In formal terms, the argument has used an unjustifiably small sample. But any smartass teenager could tell you it’s dumb. One video game movie that flopped doesn’t justify a conclusion about all video game movies.

Again, the parallel to law school and legal practice is clear.

In law school, the majority of those all-or-nothing exams I mentioned above will be “issue spotters.” You’ll be presented with a complex set of “facts,” then asked to assess the parties’ potential legal claims. As you do so, you’ll consider what solid claims they have and get bonus points for any “novel” claims you might be able to muster. It’s perfectly fine to propose a losing argument, so long as you note its weaknesses. Law professors will reward you for your ability to think around all sides of the various legal matters.

They test this in law school because in real life, plaintiffs make absurd claims against other parties. Defendants attempt to escape punishment for their crimes with laughable excuses. Border agents turn people away at the border on specious grounds. Parties to business deals try to hoodwink their future partners.

Poor attorneys are surprised by these arguments. Better (perhaps unethical) attorneys bring these arguments themselves. The best attorneys anticipate all of the arguments—good, bad, and ugly—before setting foot in court or sitting down at the negotiating table.

LSAT Logical Reasoning trains you for law school and legal practice by priming you to anticipate, recognize, and attack bogus arguments—it’s lawyering, plain and simple.

The best way to improve at Logical Reasoning is to carefully drill, one question at a time, using the LSAT Demon’s AI smart drilling. Try it here with a free LSAT Demon account.

The LSAT tests and builds your capacity for work.

LSAT Logic Games are the most confusing section of the test for new students because these puzzles are unique beasts found nowhere else but the LSAT. They sound something like this: “Nathan is going to eat this whole giant Costco tub of multicolored mini-tomatoes without washing them, but first he is going to put them into three piles like an overgrown toddler. The tart green ones are his favorite, so he puts those in pile one. The overripe big red ones are the worst, so he puts those in pile three. If pile three is bigger than pile one he feels sad so he puts the orange and yellow ones in pile one to make it bigger. Half of the small red ones go in pile two”—you get the point.

After setting up an arbitrary system of rules, the game then asks you five or six questions about my tomato piles, like “which of the following must be true” or “each of the following could be false EXCEPT.”

Games are bewildering for novices, but the one thing all LSAT logic games have in common is that they always give us all of the information we need to answer every question with certainty. Our job is simply to hang in there, work hard, and figure that shit out.

If I locked you in a room with any random section of logic games and said you couldn’t come out until you punched the correct answers into a keypad, I guarantee that you would figure them all out. You wouldn’t need special LSAT skills, theory, or preparation. You’d just sit there and work your ass off until you’d solved it. You want to escape, right? You know that all the information you need is right there on the page, right? Nothing’s stopping you from fashioning your own key using hard work and the awesome power of your basic commonsense brain. I believe in you. I’m just testing how hard you can work.

But the real test of your capacity for work is the fact that you can, and should, prepare for these games. As of April 2021, we have almost 400 logic games to practice. Some of the setups we see on these games have repeated themselves over and over—basic sequencing and basic grouping are the most obvious examples. Practice makes perfect. Do enough of these games and you will improve dramatically over weeks or months. The fact that these games are so learnable makes them a perfect test of how hard you can work.

And even so-called “hybrid” games, which might ask you to sequence and group in the same game, and other weird games—like ones that ask you to draw a map, or determine the “circuit load” of a panel of switches, or diagnose the spread of a computer virus in a network—are highly learnable if you put in the reps. Many of your competitors will do every single game in the history of the LSAT before they sit for their official test. Some of them will do every game multiple times. It’s your choice whether to let your competition outwork you.

If you haven’t done every practice game and you don’t score perfectly on games on your official test, you have failed the LSAT’s test of how hard you can work.

Do I really have to tell you how hard you’ll have to work in law school?

Do I really have to remind you how hard you’ll work in legal practice?

The best way to improve at Logic Games is to do as many of them as possible. You’ll be able to solve many on your own, and videos will help you to quickly unlock the rest. LSAT Demon offers multiple high-quality video explanations for every game in LSAT history. Check them out for free, here. When you’re stuck, watch a minute or two of a video to get yourself unstuck. Then figure it out for yourself until you get stuck again. Remember, they’re testing how hard you can work. Real lawyers don’t let themselves get outworked.

The LSAT tests and builds your reading, logic, and capacity for work.

In this light, it’s hard to imagine a better test of a prospective law student and eventual lawyer. If you’re struggling, there are three main causes: You’re not reading carefully enough. You’re not thinking through the logic critically enough. Or you’re not working hard enough.

These aren’t just LSAT problems. They will haunt you in law school and beyond if they’re allowed to fester. Correct them now, and you’ll not only improve on the LSAT, you’ll also be better prepared for law school and beyond.

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