I’m on a roll explaining a game when a student interrupts: Nathan, I just really need to know: What type of game is this?! It’s a simple question, but it gives me pause. That’s because I’m not sure game types even exist. And even if they do exist, I’m pretty sure that learning types and labeling games doesn’t help students solve them. It can actually be counterproductive. The purpose of this lesson is to give you permission to ignore the whole “Games Types” chapter of the traditional LSAT-prep catechism. Stop worrying about the semantics, free up a bit of your brain’s processing power, and use that power to actually solve each game. Do Logic Games types even exist? No, not really. Never is any sort of “type” mentioned on the actual LSAT. Nor are you required to solve any game in any particular way. Categorizing games by type seems to be an invention of the LSAT prep industry. This is obvious when you consider that every prep company specifies a different number of types and uses different names for those types. For example, Kaplan teaches five types. Princeton Review teaches five slightly different types. Some of the funnier, more obviously heavy-handed examples of names for these types include Powerscore’s “Linear (Basic & Advanced),” “Grouping/Linear Combo,” and “Pure Sequencing.” Prep companies disagree about game types like religious fanatics argue about how many books there are in the Bible. They even trademark the names! But none of this came down from the LSAC mountaintop on stone tablets, and I question whether any of it is real. Has the whole test prep industry adopted this fetish for “game types” just because some old white guy at the Princeton Review did it first, a hundred years ago? I have no interest in learning Kaplan and Princeton dogma or the Powerscore/Blueprint/7Sage repackagings thereof. Same shit, different box. None of it’s real. Okay, maybe they’re fake. But are they helpful to learn anyway? Nope. I’ve been teaching Logic Games successfully for more than a decade, and I never talk about game types. They’re more of a distraction than anything else. Sure, there are common operations in LSAT Logic Games. We put things in order a lot, and we put things in groups a lot. But many other times, we do other weird, one-off operations. Like maybe we’re drawing an airline map. Or maybe we’re turning switches on and off while we count the “circuit load” of a panel. Sometimes we’re mixing vials of colored chemicals. Or making nonsense “sentences” out of nonsense “words.” Or figuring out who can pass a workpiece or a computer virus to whom. The list of “weird” or “quirky” games is long. And somewhere in each section of games, we’re guaranteed to do some combination of these operations. Big Prep blithely refers to this ginormous category of games as “Hybrid Games,” as if that label carries any meaning whatsoever. All it means, as near as I can figure, is “this doesn’t fit neatly into our fake categories.” Students commonly think they have a weakness in “hybrid games,” but that’s close to meaningless since so many games require us to do some combination of operations. When they say “I’m weak at hybrid games,” all they’re really saying is that they’re not good at games, full stop. Their problem is worrying about game types in the first place. The thing they’re missing, by focusing on types, is that every LSAT Logic Game in history contains all the information you need to perfectly solve every question. Big Prep can keep inventing new categories, of course, in reaction to the LSAC introducing subtle twists and turns into the test. But this retroactive labeling doesn’t help anyone taking the official test. You’ll do the games on your official test before Big Prep has a chance to stroke their Gandalf-like beards and decree which old or new category each game belongs to in their fake, culty hierarchies. You’re *still* going off about how they’re fake? Yes, because labeling game types pisses me off! It distracts students from the real task at hand, which is reading each unique game, understanding each unique rule, and cobbling together a unique improvised solution. Games are easier than students think, and all this heavy-handed dogma interferes with what could be a natural, intuitive process. Students stuck in “game type” mode are attempting to cram square pegs into round holes. Instead, they should just read, understand, connect, and solve. A pillar of Kaplan’s terrible Logic Games instruction offers some insight into where the “game types” fetish came from: Kaplan doesn’t think you can be comfortable with every game! They’re explicitly telling you to waste precious time looking at all four games and deciding which ones to do “first,” so you can “go for” the one or two of them that you understand. Of course, students who allow themselves to do this are likely to run out of time before they can return to the games they were uncomfortable with. But if you don’t do the stuff you’re less comfortable with, you’re not going to score perfectly on the Logic Games. And I say fuck that. Logic Games is the section on which it is easiest to improve. Many LSAT Demon students start with games as their weakest section and end up scoring perfectly on it. They do this by doing all four games in order, not by skipping around. They do it by carefully reading each rule, and solving each system, not by skimming all four games and “going for” the stuff they’re “comfortable with.” At LSAT Demon, we don’t want to help you go from 140 to 150. If you max out at 150 and apply, you’re going to end up paying too much for a shady school. We’d be doing you a disservice if we took you from bad to mediocre at games. Being mediocre at games is not how you go to law school for free. We’d be hurting you, not helping you, if we taught you to get good at some “types” but freeze up and skip the others. We want you to reach perfection on the games, even the “hybrid” or “quirky” ones. So how do I solve the games then? By using your normal, rational, commonsense brain! You’re not going to law school because you’re dumb, are you? No, you’re going to law school because you’re smart. Stop freaking yourself out by going into “LSAT Logic Games mode.” Instead, use common sense to think about the system they’re presenting you. The computer viruses game from a few years ago is a perfect example of why this is so important. Students who were stuck trying to apply pre-ordained formulas to novel logic games panicked when they saw this game. I got dozens of emails from students that sounded like “Omg Nathan, you’re never going to believe this brand new game type that just came out on the most recent test.” My response, of course, was “What are you even talking about? New game type? Game types aren’t even a thing!” This game, in case you haven’t seen it, is about a computer network getting infected with a virus. As always, the game gives you 100% of the information you need to solve every question perfectly. And the easiest way to solve the game is to ask the question that everyone in the office would ask in real life: “Okay, who is responsible for this? Who was torrenting Space Jam 2 on the office computer network and caused our whole system to crash?” When you ask this question, you immediately realize that there are only two possible culprits in the office, and the entire game unlocks. This approach has nothing whatsoever to do with game types. Folks with half a brain and no traditional LSAT prep can actually be better at solving this game than people steeped in Big Prep. The insistence that students memorize a 9-type or 13-type or 17-type taxonomy actually interferes with students’ natural, intuitive approach to games like this. And there are lots of “quirky” games like this—lots and lots and lots! Even games that seem traditional, like putting things in order, often have strange quirks like “two sites are visited on Saturday.” I’ve seen students completely ignore a rule like this, or add an extra day, because they’re so focused on executing a memorized recipe that they don’t even realize the ingredients on hand require a different dish. At LSAT Demon, you might hear us sometimes talk about “ordering” or “grouping” because those operations do pop up on almost every test. But you won’t hear us over-classifying games or asking you to memorize scripted approaches. Instead, you’ll just see us ruthlessly chew through game after game with careful reading and a commonsense, natural approach. I promise I can show you how easy the LSAT can be. What do you think about this lesson? Anyone can email me directly. I’m email@example.com.
Students sometimes feel lost when making worlds. They sound like this: I’m good when it’s just two worlds, but I don’t know when it should turn into four or eight.I end up with so many worlds, but still I leave things out.I don’t know when to stop splitting.I can do it for ordering, but I get lost when it’s grouping.I freeze up—I can’t figure out where to start. These students know more than they realize. At its core, making worlds on LSAT logic games consists of just a few basic principles: We are simplifying the game, not making it more complex. We are baking rules into our worlds so that we don’t have to think about them anymore. Worlds encompass all possible solutions to the game—they don’t leave anything out. The point isn’t to complete every world. The point is to eliminate rules and variables so that we can play a simpler game from there. There are common triggers that indicate a good place to start with worlds, but it’s not about making the perfect choice. Many roads converge on the same destination. Start with one rule or one variable. Split later, if necessary. Don’t try to determine the total number of worlds up front. You understand more about worlds than you think. Consider a toy game where you have to put six people—P, Q, R, S, T, and U—into two groups, 1 and 2. There are three spots in each group. P and Q are together. If R is in group 1, so is S. Does this seem like a good game for making worlds? In my experience, worlds are the best way to destroy a game. I make worlds whenever possible—on 75 percent of all games, maybe more. This game looks like a good opportunity. Most games do. If you were going to make worlds, which rule would you start with? It doesn’t matter! Pick either the first rule or the second rule, and get to work. Then incorporate the other rule, splitting if necessary. I’ll set it up both ways below. But now is a great time for you to get a sheet of scratch paper and do it yourself first. If you’re an intermediate or advanced student, try it both ways instead of one. Compare your results to mine. Okay, here we go. Worlds based on the first rule—“P and Q are together” The first rule, P and Q are together, is a good candidate for making worlds because it’s a big block that can go in only two places. The first step looks like this: World 1: 1: P Q _ 2: _ _ _ World 2: 1: _ _ _ 2: P Q _ By the way, I’m using the labels “World 1” and “World 2” for teaching purposes only. In practice, I would omit these labels. These worlds are mutually exclusive and encompass all possible configurations of P and Q. So with this first move, the rule that “P and Q are together” drops from our consciousness. As long as we stay in one world or the other, the rule will be satisfied. If we can’t break a rule, we can stop worrying about it. Now what about that other rule? “If R is in group 1, so is S.” Consider what happens in each of your two worlds. Is the rule still active? Has it already been triggered in one or both worlds? In the first world, if R were in group 1, we’d be in trouble. P and Q are already there, so there wouldn’t be room for R and S both. We can’t allow the game to break itself, so the only way to satisfy this rule in the first world is to put R in group 2. World 1: 1: P Q _ 2: R _ _ In the second world, it’s a bit more complicated. But not as much as you might think. In the second world, there’s room for R to be in either group 1 or group 2. To eliminate this rule from our consciousness, we’ll split the second world based on R. If R is in group 1, there’s plenty of room for S to be there as well. It looks like this: World 2(a): 1: R S _ 2: P Q _ If R is in group 2, it looks like this: World 2(b): 1: _ _ _ 2: P Q R Here, the rule that “if R is in group 1, so is S” doesn’t apply because R isn’t in group 1. However, group 2 is now full in this world, so all three of the remaining players have to fill up group 1. Like this: World 2(b): 1: S T U 2: P Q R Our final worlds look like this: World 1: 1: P Q _ 2: R _ _ World 2(a): 1: R S _ 2: P Q _ World 2(b): 1: S T U 2: P Q R Some students feel dissatisfied at this point because they didn’t get to fill the first world or world 2(a) out completely. But that’s not the point! The point is that, in all three worlds, we no longer have any rules. All remaining players are wild cards, free to fill any available spots. In the first world, players S, T, and U can all go wherever they want as long as a spot is available. In the second world, players T and U will flip-flop between the only remaining openings. There is no point in splitting these worlds further because all we have left are wild cards—there are no more rules to eliminate. If this were a real game, the questions would be trivial from here. Worlds based on the second rule—“if R is in group 1, so is S” Now consider making worlds with an entirely different first move. The rule that “if R is in group 1, so is S” is a good trigger for making worlds because it is conditional. That is, R in group 1 “triggers” the rule and tells us where S goes. And if R is not in group 1, then the rule simply doesn’t apply. Start here: World 1: 1: R _ _ 2: _ _ _ World 2: 1: _ _ _ 2: R _ _ In the first world, the rule gets triggered and S must be in group 1 along with R. In the second world, the rule doesn’t apply. So we’re here: World 1: 1: R S _ 2: _ _ _ World 2: 1: _ _ _ 2: R _ _ These worlds are mutually exclusive and encompass all possible configurations of R. So with this first move, the rule that “if R is in group 1, so is S” drops from our consciousness. As long as we stay in one world or the other, the rule will be satisfied. If we can’t break a rule, we no longer have to worry about it. Now, what about that other rule? “P and Q are together.” Consider what happens in each of your two worlds. Is the rule still active? Has it already been triggered in one or both worlds? In the first world, there’s only one remaining group that can accommodate both P and Q—group 2. Like this: World 1: 1: R S _ 2: P Q _ In the second world, P and Q can still go in either group. So to eliminate the rule, we split: World 2(a): 1: P Q _ 2: R _ _ World 2(b): 1: _ _ _ 2: R P Q Finally, in world 2(b), since group 2 is full, everyone else has to pile into group 1. Our final board looks like this: World 1: 1: R S _ 2: P Q _ World 2(a): 1: P Q _ 2: R _ _ World 2(b): 1: S T U 2: R P Q Once again, we have not completely filled out two of our three worlds. T and U will flip-flop in the first world, while S, T, and U have flexibility in world 2(a). Once again, we’re playing a very simple game from here. We can forget about all the rules and just place the remaining wild cards in open spots. There is no point in splitting these worlds further, because all we have left are wild cards—there are no more rules to eliminate. We got to the same destination via two different routes. If you compare the two solutions, you’ll see that we ended up in the exact same place even though our first moves were completely different. Only the labels have changed—the possible solutions are exactly the same. This was just a toy game. Most games have more rules. But the principles don’t change. Remember: 1) Worlds simplify the game, not make it more complex. 2) Bake rules into your worlds so that you don’t have to think about them anymore. 3) Worlds encompass all possible solutions to the game—they don’t leave anything out. 4) The point isn’t to complete every world. The point is to eliminate rules and variables so that we can play a simpler game from there. 5) There are certain common triggers that indicate a good place to start with worlds, but it’s not about making the perfect choice. Many roads converge on the same destination. 6) Start with one rule or one variable. Split later, if necessary. Don’t try to determine the total number of worlds ahead of time. Like everything else on the LSAT, worlds are easier than you think. Sometimes students struggle for weeks or months before things finally click for them on LSAT logic games. Keep grinding! Students frequently improve from the low single digits on a section of logic games all the way up to perfection—a reliable 23-for-23 every time. If you’re not there yet, that’s okay. You probably just haven’t put in the reps yet. We have over 90 full sections of games to practice. If you spread them out, you could do one new game a day for an entire year. The rewards for mastering the logic games are enormous. Your breakthrough might be right around the corner. I’d love to hear what you think of this lesson—my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. My goal, as always, is to show you how easy the LSAT can be.
Last week I ended with a brain teaser. Seven clowns of different colors are getting out of a clown car, one at a time. 1. If the red clown gets out of the clown car before the blue clown, which one of the following must be true? A. The orange clown gets out first. B. The purple clown gets out last. C. The red clown does not get out first. D. The red clown does not get out last. E. The blue clown does not get out last. 2. Unless the red clown gets out of the clown car after the blue clown, each of the following could be false EXCEPT A. The orange clown gets out first. B. The purple clown gets out last. C. The red clown does not get out first. D. The red clown does not get out last. E. The blue clown does not get out last. 3. Which one of these questions is harder, and why? Ready for the answers? Okay, here goes: D D They’re the same damn question—but the second one is worded in a more difficult way. LSAT novices are frequently intimidated by Logic Games, perceiving them as “mathy” and therefore impenetrable for a future lawyer. In truth, the only math that appears on the LSAT—such as knowing what “more than” or “twice as many” means—is well within the range of an average second grader. My brain teaser, which contains no math whatsoever, is far more representative of a real LSAT logic game than any Sudoku puzzle. If you’re struggling on Logic Games, there’s a very good chance that you’re just not reading carefully enough. Students may crash and burn on a question, a full game, and even an entire section because they misread a rule. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard variations on the following: “I thought it said ‘before,’ but it actually said ‘after.’” “I read it as ‘X must be before Y,’ but really it said X can’t go later than Y—I didn’t realize they can go at the same time.’” “I thought the scheduled days were Monday-Saturday, but now I see that it was really Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday, with an off day on Thursday.” “I didn’t understand that line about the circuit load of the panel being equal to the number of switches that are on, so I just ignored it.” “I thought we had to use all the colors of glass, but really it just said that those were the available colors.” “When it said ‘Yakira appears in every photograph that Raimundo appears in,’ I thought that meant Yakira and Raimundo were always together.” “I thought that question said ‘which one of the following could be true,’ but actually it said ‘which one of the following could be false.’” Any of these mistakes has the potential to derail an entire section of games—which, in turn, can easily ruin your entire LSAT. Read it carefully, take your time, and think it through. Consider my brain teaser, above. Just about anyone can figure out the first one—if the red clown gets out of the clown car before the blue clown, then the red clown can’t get out last. The second one is trickier on the surface, but it’s the same question when you take the time to parse it. “Unless the red clown gets out after the blue clown” means “if the red clown gets out before the blue clown.” And “each of the following could be false EXCEPT” means “which one of the following must be true.” Same shit, different box. They do this sort of thing all the time on LSAT Logic Games. And it does make perfect, common sense—if you take the time to make sense of it. “Unless” just means “if not.” We have an entire lesson on that at LSATdemon.com. And as far as that “except” is concerned, one useful trick is to think about the nature of the wrong answers in contrast to the nature of the right answers. For example: If the question says “which one of the following must be false,” that means the wrong answers do not have to be false—in other words, they could be true. If there’s one right answer that must be false, there are four wrong answers that could be true. If the question says “each of the following could be true EXCEPT,” that means the four wrong answers could be true. The one right answer, then, cannot be true—in other words, it must be false. Therefore, “which one of the following must be false” means the same thing as “each of the following could be true EXCEPT.” Please do not memorize the following list. Instead, make sure you actually understand it. Your memory will fail you. But once you understand this concept, you can reconstruct it anytime—no memorization required. “Each of the following could be false EXCEPT” means “which one of the following must be true.” “Each of the following must be false EXCEPT” means “which one of the following could be true. “Each of the following could be true EXCEPT” means “which one of the following must be false. “Each of the following must be true EXCEPT” means “which one of the following could be false.” If the above doesn’t make perfect sense, it’s because you haven’t read it carefully enough. I know I’m a broken record on this, but please slow down. The cardinal rule of LSAT logic games: safety first When students struggle mightily on a single question, a full game, or an entire section of games, it’s almost always a failure of reading comprehension. When you misread or neglect to read one tiny bit of the provided information, the entire game stops making sense. This causes panic. Panic, in turn, causes a cascade failure that can ruin your day. We can’t ever stop these incidents entirely, but we can minimize their frequency by slowing down and reading everything more carefully. We should expect each game to make sense once we’ve taken the time to make sense of it. When things start seeming murky, we can nip the panic outbreak in the bud by reminding ourselves that the LSAT always gives us all of the information we need to solve every question with certainty. If something doesn’t make sense, it’s because we haven’t read it properly, haven’t translated it into plain English, or haven’t made simple connections between the rules. It seems like a good time to sum up my last three lessons: On Logical Reasoning, it’s all about attacking the argument. On Reading Comprehension, it’s all about comprehending the passage. On Logic Games, it’s all about understanding each rule and each question. It’s never about speed. It’s never about arcane LSAT theory that can only be gleaned at the feet of some fancy LSAT tutor. Careful readers sometimes score 165 or 170 on their first practice test, simply by taking their time and actually understanding the words on the page. Study with me, for free. I love teaching the LSAT. In LSAT Demon Live, I currently teach four classes per week.
On Instagram this week, we started a series of “My LSAT Journey” videos starring Becca, Matt, and the rest of our team. They all have one thing in common: Nobody starts at perfect. Every one of the amazing teachers at LSAT Demon trained their way into the 170s with consistent, focused effort over a long period of time. That’s true for me and Ben as well. Everyone starts with different strengths and weaknesses. I was pretty solid on Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning with just a couple of weeks of study. I’m a strong reader, and I learned quickly that all I had to do was take my time—there’s just one answer that makes a shred of sense on these questions, once you parse them carefully. But those Logic Games, man! The red clown gets out of the clown car before the blue clown, and the vermillion clown gets out immediately before or after the chartreuse clown, and if the mauve clown gets out last then the goldenrod clown gets out first, third, or fifth… WTF? Like a majority of LSAT novices, I was bewildered by Logic Games. It’s extremely common. Just last night, I asked for a show of hands in my live class, and almost everyone said LG was their worst section when they first started. But many of these same students will say that LG is their best section once they’re prepped. That’s how it was for me, too. On my first test, I think I finished two games before the 35-minute bell rang. How the hell was I supposed to finish all four in that same amount of time? I did a little bit—one or two sections—every day until the games started to make sense. I chipped away at it. I worked no more than an hour or two each day—that’s as diligent as I get—but I did it for a sustained period of time. Six or eight weeks later, I scored my first perfect practice section. Then the floodgates opened. I added one perfect section after another to my study record. On my official test, not only did I score perfectly on Logic Games, but I finished the section in 20 minutes. No joke. I literally sat there twiddling my thumbs for 15 minutes while I waited for the next section. There was no need to check my answers—I knew every one of them was correct. Think about how much I improved: I went from two games in 35 minutes to all four games in 20 minutes. Work on your weaknesses. Turn them into strengths. Last week, I laid out a basic LSAT study plan. This week, I’m going to tweak that schedule for a typical new student with a weakness in Logic Games. If your weakness is in another area, you can do something similar for RC or LR. This basic plan involves only seven hours a week. That’s enough to make progress in any section, but if you have a particular weakness in games, you have an opportunity to make big improvements right away. It’s a mistake to ignore any section entirely, so let’s stick with the basic plan and add some supplementary work on games. Demon Free users have access to all four games from the June 2007 test and another two games from PrepTest 65. We’d love to give you more, but this is all we can share publicly under our LSAC license. Free users should do all six of these games and watch all the videos. There are videos from both me and Ben for each of these games. You’ll see some similarities in our approaches, but you’ll also see some differences. Neither of our approaches is the “right” one—or, rather, both are equally right—to be good at the games, you need to learn to improvise. Even when we attack a game in different ways, we’re both going to find the one correct answer for each of the questions. We love helping all students, regardless of their budgets, as much as we can. That’s why we offer a robust fee-waiver program. If you qualify for the LSAC fee waiver, we can give you a Demon Basic subscription for just $38. We don’t keep a dime of that—that’s the fee LSAC charges us for working with you. The LSAC fee waiver is probably worth a couple thousand bucks. You get two cracks at the official LSAT, the LSAC Credential Assembly Service, a bunch of LSAC reports, and a LawHub Advantage subscription, among other things, for free. That LawHub Advantage subscription, combined with the Demon fee waiver, opens up a world of logic games for you to practice—and hundreds of our videos to get you unstuck. Demon Basic students—whether they’re in our fee-waiver program or not—can master a new logic game every day for months without covering the same ground twice. I recommend trying each game on your own before watching any videos. When you do look to the videos for help, I recommend pausing frequently. Take a little guidance from me or Ben, stop the video, and see how far you can get from there. When you get stuck, watch a bit more of a video. But keep returning to your own work. Don’t just passively watch us do it—the real learning comes from solving the puzzle yourself. Master at least one game every day. The LSAT’s Logic Games are an excellent test of how hard you can work. No one is even slightly familiar with these games when they start their LSAT prep. But we have almost 400 official games to practice and study. You could do one game a day for a year, or a full section every day for three months, before running out. If you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded. If you don’t put in the work, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to do it alone, of course. We’re here to help. Demon Live students have several opportunities to practice games in a group setting each week. I end each of my Tuesday and Thursday classes with a single logic game. I like to give my classes a tip or two before we start each one—frequently, if I just give students a place to start, they can breeze through the game on their own. I love it when that happens. We offer Logic Games Fundamentals, Intermediate Logic Games, and Advanced Logic Games classes throughout the week. Some students attend all of these classes; other students choose classes based on their proficiency. Once a week, we offer a timed section of games. Students do the section together, training themselves to focus on accuracy and ignore the clock. Whether they ace the section or crash and burn, our games guru Matt is there to review all four games when time is up. For students who want an extra challenge, we offer “Mega-Games” once a week. This is a custom-made section of four hard logic games. If you can get through these four games in 35 minutes, you can surely handle any games section you’ll see on a real LSAT. If you’re stumped, Madison’s there for the review. However you choose to study, do a little bit every day to turn your weakness into a strength. Don’t neglect the other sections—keep doing your daily hour of rotating topics throughout the week. Just put in some additional work on games each day. I can’t promise that it will click this week, or this month, but I guarantee that the work will pay off in time. It did for me, like it’s done for so many others.
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