Ben and Nathan advise LSAT Demon student Harry on his LSAT study plan. Nathan advises to start out with Demon Live for a month and see for yourself the progress you can make in just one month.
No need to spend valuable study time going down the rabbit hole of logical contrapositives. Here’s a quick, easy breakdown of what they are and why you don’t need them on the LSAT. What’s a contrapositive? A Contrapositive is the logical equivalent of a conditional (“if–then”) statement that you get by switching the sufficient and necessary conditions and negating both of them. Here’s a simple example: Conditional: If A, then BContrapositive: If not B, then not A And another one: Conditional: If it’s raining, then the grass is wet.Contrapositive: If the grass isn’t wet, then it’s not raining. A conditional statement and its contrapositive say essentially the same thing—they’re like two sides of the same coin. Where does the concept come from? Contrapositives didn’t come from the LSAT—the term never even appears on the test. Contrapositives have a long history in formal logic and mathematics. Both math and logic use contrapositives to prove the validity of concepts or theorems, for example, in geometry proofs. Should you use contrapositives on the LSAT? Many LSAT courses and prep books teach contrapositives. Some even claim they’re “essential” to mastering Logic Games and Logical Reasoning. But contrapositives by themselves can’t simplify games or increase understanding of arguments. More often, they confuse students and waste time. Conditional statements are easier to grasp when you have an intuitive understanding of sufficient and necessary conditions. And while the LSAT doesn’t explicitly test contrapositives, sufficient and necessary are some of the most commonly tested LSAT concepts. Many students use contrapositives as a crutch, needlessly diagramming without actually understanding the original statement. There’s an easier way to unlock conditionals in LSAT Logical Reasoning—ditch the diagramming, and go for real understanding. Let’s look at an example (Test J, Section 3, Q22): If the price it pays for coffee beans continues to increase, the Coffee Shoppe will have to increase its prices. In that case, either the Coffee Shoppe will begin selling noncoffee products or its coffee sales will decrease. But selling noncoffee products will decrease the Coffee Shoppe’s overall profitability. Moreover, the Coffee Shoppe can avoid a decrease in overall profitability only if its coffee sales do not decrease. The question then asks us to find what Must Be True. This setup is overcomplicated and unhelpful when looking at the answer choices. A) If the Coffee Shoppe’s overall profitability decreases, the price it pays for coffee beans will have continued to increase. B) If the Coffee Shoppe’s overall profitability decreases, either it will have begun selling noncoffee products or its coffee sales will have decreased. C) The Coffee Shoppe’s overall profitability will decrease if the price it pays for coffee beans continues to increase. D) The price it pays for coffee beans cannot decrease without the Coffee Shoppe’s overall profitability also decreasing. E) Either the price it pays for coffee beans will continue to increase or the Coffee Shoppe’s coffee sales will increase. The quickest way to the correct answer is to understand the passage in commonsense terms. If the bean price increases, we know that coffee prices will too, which leads to selling non-coffee products or sales decreasing. Either of those things leads to profitability decreasing. Once we can simplify the passage down to this relationship, we don’t need to worry about contrapositives to figure out the answer. A and B are out—they get the relationship backwards. D is out because the passage doesn’t mention anything about the price of beans decreasing. E is out because the passage doesn’t mention coffee sales increasing. That leaves us with the correct answer, C, which captures the chain of events simply and correctly. If the price of beans increases, we know the final result will be profitability decrease. Boom. On Logic Games, use worlds to deal with conditional rules. If the game says, “If A is fifth, then B is sixth,” make one world where A is fifth and B is sixth. Then, make another world where A is not fifth and so the rule doesn’t apply. Bam. The rule is now fully incorporated into your setup, and you never have to think about it again. Common sense trumps gimmicky diagramming strategies every time. If you’re ready to ditch the dogma and learn the LSAT the easy way, start drilling questions from every official LSAT.
A misunderstanding of conditional statements is the most common source of error on the LSAT. Conditional statements are at the heart of logical reasoning. They’re also at the heart of how human beings make arguments in regular, day-to-day discussions. Here are some examples of conditional statements at work in daily life: If I increase my LSAT score by a handful of points, I’ll be able to go to law school for free. I want to go to bed early tonight; I don’t want to be too tired tomorrow morning. If I fail this exam it’ll hurt my GPA. He agreed to get us a table if he arrives at the restaurant first. If you’ve never studied formal logic, or if you hate it with a passion, don’t worry. Conditional statements are common sense. You just don’t know it yet. What Is a Conditional Statement? A conditional statement is just an if-then statement like this one: If you drink that poison, then you will get sick. The if-clause is called the “sufficient condition,” and the then-clause is called the “necessary condition.” If nothing else sticks from this lesson, remember this distinction. What Is a Sufficient Condition? LSAT test-writers refer to the if-clause as the “sufficient condition.” It’s sufficient because it’s enough to guarantee that the then-clause will happen. You don’t need anything else. If you drink that poison, then, according to this rule, you will get sick. In real life, we might think of cases when people drink the poison and don’t get sick. There are always exceptions in life. But when you read an if-then statement on the LSAT, you have to take it at its word. It didn’t say that you might get sick or that most people get sick; it said that you will get sick. Remember: Accept premises, but attack conclusions! The if-clause is sufficient for triggering the then-clause. If the if-clause is triggered, then the then-clause has to happen. See what we did there? Examples In the following samples conditional statements, the if-clause is italicized: If the sun spots continue to grow, then we will lose all our crops this year. If the car costs more than $2,000, don’t buy it with cash. We can sell all our spiders if we clean out their cages. Take a moment to try and come up with your own examples. What Is a Necessary Condition? Test-writers refer to the then-clause as the “necessary condition.” Above, you learned that if the if-clause is triggered, then the then-clause must happen. The then-clause is necessary. If you drink the poison in the example above, you necessarily will get sick. There is no world in which you drink that poison and don’t get sick. Notice, however, that the reverse is not true. If you get sick, we can’t say for sure that you drank the poison. You could have. But you also could have gotten sick for some other reason. The then-clause is not a sufficient condition because it does not guarantee that anything happened. For the same reason, the if-clause is not a necessary condition because it doesn’t always have to happen when something else happens. Keep reading to learn about how to avoid confusing a necessary condition with a sufficient condition. Examples In the following sample conditional statements, the then-clause is bolded: If the sun spots continue to grow, then we will lose all our crops this year. If the car costs more than $2,000, don’t buy it with cash. (Note: The word “then” doesn’t need to be explicitly stated. The word “if” is enough to signal a sufficient condition in the first clause, so the second clause must be the necessary condition.) We can sell all our spiders if we clean out their cages. (Note: The sufficient condition doesn’t always come first! Again, focus on the word “if.”) Confusing Necessary with Sufficient This is one of the LSAT’s most common flaws, so make sure to learn it inside and out. Now that you understand the difference between a sufficient condition and a necessary condition, you should be able to spot instances when an argument confuses the two. The names “sufficient” and “necessary” are important because most people think about if-clauses incorrectly. Consider the following silly if-then statement: If you eat at Chipotle, then you will get a special tax credit. What do you need to do to get that “special tax credit”? If your gut reaction is “eat at Chipotle,” you’re not alone, but you’re misinterpreting the word “need.” Eating at Chipotle is the sufficient condition—eating there guarantees that you’ll get the special tax credit. But is that the only way to get the credit? Eating at Chipotle might be the only way to get the credit, but there could be any number of other ways. Maybe you can get the credit by eating at McDonald’s or by just calling the IRS. There is not enough information in the argument to know. All you know for sure is that eating at Chipotle is one guaranteed way of getting the credit. So, what do you need to do to get the credit? The short answer is that it’s unknown. The rule doesn’t tell us what’s necessary to get the tax credit. It tells us only what is sufficient to get that credit. Eating at Chipotle is sufficient for getting the tax credit. But the reverse is not necessarily true. Eating at Chipotle might not be necessary for getting the credit. You might be able to get the credit some other way. If you initially answered “eat at Chipotle” to the question above, you mistakenly turned the sufficient condition into a necessary condition. Known Unknowns When faced with a conditional statement, it’s important to be as aware of what you don’t know as you are of what you do know. What you do know: You know what is sufficient to trigger the necessary clause (eating at Chipotle is enough to get the credit). You know the guaranteed result (getting the tax credit) of the sufficient clause (eating at Chipotle). What you don’t know: You don’t know what is sufficient to trigger the sufficient clause. Try to fill in the blank: “If ____, then you will eat at Chipotle.” You can’t! There might not even be a sufficient condition for eating at Chipotle. If you tried to fill the blank with “you get a special tax credit,” you mistakenly turned the necessary condition into the sufficient condition. You don’t know what is necessary to trigger the necessary clause. Try to fill in the blank: “If you get a special tax credit, then ____.” Again, you can’t fill in this blank! If you tried to say, “you ate at Chipotle,” you mistakenly turned the sufficient condition into the necessary condition. Want to learn more about this topic? Watch Ben discuss the difference between sufficient and necessary here. Pop Quiz Using the rule below, answer each question: If you sell your soul to a big law firm, then you will wallow in misery. What is a sufficient condition for wallowing in misery? What is a necessary condition for wallowing in misery? What is a sufficient condition for selling your soul to a big law firm? What is a necessary condition for selling your soul to a big law firm? Which clause—if-clause or then-clause—is necessary for the other clause? Which clause—if-clause or then-clause—needs the other clause to happen? Answers: Selling your soul to a big law firm. This condition is a sufficient condition because if it happens, then you will definitely wallow in misery. (In the real world, of course, this is not true for every attorney—just, well, the vast majority.) We don’t know. The rule never says what is “necessary” for wallowing in misery; it only tells you what is “sufficient” for such wallowing. The if-clause is a sufficient condition. And although it could be a necessary condition as well, you simply don’t know because there might be other ways to get yourself to wallow in misery. We don’t know. The rule never says what is “sufficient” for selling your soul to a big law firm; it only tells you what is “necessary” for such a sale. The then-clause is a necessary condition. And although it could be a sufficient condition as well, you simply don’t know because the fact that you’re wallowing in misery does not guarantee that you sold (or will sell) your soul to a big law firm. Maybe your significant other just broke up with you after saying, “It’s not you. It’s me.” Wallowing in misery. This condition is a necessary condition because it has to happen if you sell your soul to a big law firm, at least according to this rule. Then. The then-clause is a necessary condition. It has to happen if the if-clause happens. The if-clause, however, doesn’t have to happen if the then-clause happens. If. This is tricky. Because the if-clause guarantees that the then-clause will happen, it needs the then-clause to happen. If you eat at Chipotle, then you have to get that credit. If you don’t get that credit, there’s no way that you could have eaten at Chipotle. The then-clause, however, doesn’t need the if-clause to happen. You could get the tax credit some other way.
Congratulations, you’ve completed your first practice LSAT. There are 90-something more of them available. Most students will do at least 10 tests before they’re ready for their first crack at the real thing. (Many students will do 20 tests, or 40 tests, or more.) You’ve dipped your toe in very big water. Nice job! Let’s start by talking about what your diagnostic test is not. Your diagnostic, no matter how high, is not a guarantee of success in law school or in a legal career. My own diagnostic was right around 170. This indicates an aptitude for the LSAT, for sure. But I was miserable in, and sucked at, law school. I was never cut out to be a lawyer, despite my high LSAT diagnostic. Your diagnostic, no matter how low, is not a limitation on your potential. It does not indicate that the school of your dreams is impossible. It does not preclude you from getting a full-ride scholarship. Your diagnostic is not grounds for discouragement. Students can improve by 10 or 20—sometimes even 30—points from their initial score. Your diagnostic, critically, tells us nothing about your capacity for work. Work ethic is handsomely rewarded on the LSAT, in law school, and in legal practice. Your LSAT diagnostic is just a snapshot, one single data point. It tells us nothing about what gains you might achieve if you work your ass off—which you will if you were ever meant to be a lawyer in the first place. Your diagnostic is not an excuse to immediately do another practice test, pulling the lever on the LSAT slot machine in hopes of a different result. Students who “study” this way, hammering test after test after test, don’t actually learn anything. It’s magical thinking and a waste of time. Okay, so what is it then? Your LSAT diagnostic is an extremely useful jumping-off point. It’s a critical first step. The benefits are manifold. Your diagnostic is the first in a long line of data points that will allow you to track your progress over time. If you follow my advice, there’s near-limitless upside from here. The LSAT Demon will keep track of your progress automatically. Do all your tests in the Demon if you’re a subscriber. If you’re not studying in the Demon, use a spreadsheet. It will be gratifying to see your scores improve over time. Your diagnostic gives you a glimpse of your strengths and weaknesses. Most students need to work on all three sections of the test—Logic Games, Logical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension. If you have a glaring weakness in one of the sections, you’ll want to spend more of your study time on that section. No shit, right? Yeah, but you wouldn’t even have known about that weakness if you had not done a diagnostic test. So congratulations on sucking it up and doing your first practice test. We can make progress from here. Your diagnostic, most importantly, offers jumping-off points for improvement. Every mistake you’ve made is a golden opportunity to understand more of the test. Why is the answer you chose wrong? Why is the right answer, the one you didn’t choose, right? The LSAT repeats itself. Certain flawed patterns of reasoning, like confusing sufficient for necessary, show up on every test. If you missed any of those questions on your diagnostic, you need to figure out why—otherwise you’ll miss them again next time. I can’t stress this enough: Go deeper on each mistake. The LSAT makes perfect sense, and the vast majority of your mistakes at this early juncture come from simply not reading carefully enough. But Nathan, what does score X mean, really? First, please stop asking this question. Instead of focusing on your 120–180 score, you need to ask about individual LSAT questions that you failed to solve correctly. (By the way, I love the word “solve” in reference to the LSAT. The test makes perfect sense, and the correct answers are right there on the page. When you miss a question, you have failed to do the work of a lawyer and figure that shit out. You should expect to solve each question. When you can’t solve a question, you should figure out why. That’s where your teachers can really help—tell them what you don’t understand, so they can help you!) If you really must ask, “What does this score mean?” it doesn’t mean that much. But in broad strokes, it does indicate something about your level of understanding: If you’re scoring anywhere in the 120s, it means you’re understanding almost nothing. You’re sitting there for 35 minutes—or 53 or 70 if you’re accommodated—thinking you’re doing the questions, but you’re really not. If you’re scoring anywhere in the 120s you are adding almost zero value for the time you’re spending. Random guesses would lead to the same result. At this level, you need to slow way, way down and start getting the first five questions in each section right. If you solve just the first five questions and randomly guess on the rest, you should see your practice tests break into the 130s immediately. If you’re scoring anywhere in the 130s, you’re starting to understand some of the questions—you can’t score in the 130s via random guessing—but you’re still not understanding very much. Students at this level have no business doing any question higher than number 15 in each section. In fact, you should probably reach only question number 10 or so. If you solve just the first 10 questions and randomly guess on the rest, you should break into the 140s. If you’re scoring in the 140s, you’re starting to understand the easy ones. Keep focusing on accuracy. Get the first 15 in each section correct and you should break into the 150s. In the 150s, you’re getting most of the easy ones and some of the harder ones. But you still have no business trying to finish the section. Focus on accuracy on the first 15–20 questions in each section until you reach the 160s. In the 160s, you’re getting almost all of the easy ones—and starting to realize that they’re all easy if you just slow down and carefully solve each one. You should still focus on accuracy, not speed, even at this level. If you can just nail the first 20 in a row on each section, you’ll already be in the 170s. In the 170s, you’re understanding that the LSAT makes perfect sense. You can’t half-ass your way to this score. You’ve realized that every question has one correct answer and four wrong answers. If you take your time, you can get every one right. At this level, you still don’t need to worry about speed. You just need to steadily solve each question, one at a time, while getting paid for your work. But Nathan, when should I start worrying about speed? Never. Lawyers don’t rush. If you focus on accuracy and think about solving each question before moving on, the test will get easier and easier. As that happens, you’ll steadily progress deeper into the sections without even trying. From here, all you need to do is carefully review every mistake you make. The test makes perfect sense, and we’re here to help you make sense of it. 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.
Two different kinds of skipping pop up on the LSAT. Some students want to skip questions and do them out of order. Some students want to skip answer choices when they think they’ve found the correct answer. Both types of skipping should be avoided, with a few exceptions. Don’t skip questions on Logical Reasoning. The questions on LSAT Logical Reasoning are arranged, roughly, in increasing order of difficulty. Harder questions come later. So students who skip questions are, for the most part, increasing the average difficulty of the questions they attempt. You can’t tell how hard a question is until you do it. For example, questions with convoluted arguments but obvious answer choices are easier than they might appear at first glance. Similarly, certain question types—Parallel Reasoning comes immediately to mind—can intimidate novices but turn out to be formulaic and easy with some practice. At LSAT Demon, we’re not happy getting you into the 140s or 150s. We want to get you into the 160s or 170s. Doing so requires actual understanding of the test. This starts with the first 5 questions, then the first 10, then the first 15, and then the first 20. If you can’t start running the table on the easiest questions, which always appear at the beginning of each section, you will never reach your potential. Skipping questions is anathema to this. Do not skip questions on Logical Reasoning. Don’t skip questions on Reading Comprehension unless you’re skipping an entire passage. It’s difficult to reach the 170s without reading all four passages, but some students can reach the mid or even high 160s using a three-passage strategy for Reading Comprehension. Disregard this section’s advice if you’re able to do all four passages with high accuracy. If you’re going to read only three passages, you might consider skipping a passage based on the topic or the number of questions. On Reading Comprehension, the subjective difficulty of the questions can be affected by the reader’s interest in and facility with the topic of the passage. Some people really hate the passages about science. Others, like me, are bored by literary criticism—especially passages about poetry, yuck. If this describes you, and you’re going to read only three passages anyway, you might consider skipping a passage with a topic that immediately turns you off. I am not saying to skim all four passages and decide which three you’re going to do. That’s a waste of time. Assume that you’re going to do the first three passages, in order. But you might allow yourself to skip passage two or three if you really hate the topic. This is a one-time, forward-only maneuver. Don’t skip passage three, look at passage four, decide you hate it even worse, and go back to passage three. If you’re going to skip, skip immediately and never look back. Invest every minute wisely. Don’t skip questions on Logic Games unless you’re doing the “if” questions first. It can be helpful, on certain games, to prioritize doing the questions that sound like “If X is fourth, which one of the following must be true” before broader questions, like “which one of the following can’t go fourth.” This approach isn’t necessary by any means. I, myself, don’t bother doing this if I nail the setup (especially when I’ve crushed it with worlds). But some students really like doing games this way: Most games start with a “list” question, like “which one of the following is an acceptable arrangement of site visits, from first to last.” Always do that question first, when it appears. The wrong answers can easily be eliminated because they directly violate one or more of the rules. Then, do the questions that start with “if.” Make separate diagrams as you solve each question. This gives you some experience working within the game and provides some examples of working scenarios. Note that this is not “making worlds.” These scenarios are not mutually exclusive, nor are they all-encompassing. They’re just some random working scenarios, prompted by new restrictions posed by each question. Still, they might help you when you go back and pick up the remaining questions. Finish up whatever questions remain. This technique is especially useful for games with a ton of flexibility and games that can’t be crushed by worlds. But it’s not necessary. If you don’t want to do it, it’s fine to just do the questions in order. One final exception to “don’t skip on Logic Games” is the occasional rule substitution question. I’ve explained that elsewhere. Don’t skip answer choices, ever. Sometimes you’ll be sure the answer is A or B. Maybe it just fits, or maybe it perfectly matches your prediction—or maybe both. You might be tempted to save time by not even reading the remaining answer choices. Most of the time, you’ll be right. But once in a while, you’ll be wrong. The potential cost of a wrong answer outweighs any minuscule benefit gained by skipping the remaining answers. Note that I’m not saying to try to make wrong answers right. I’m also not saying that you should conclusively disprove all four wrong answers before choosing one. All I’m saying is that you should take a peek at each answer to make sure it’s not an even better version of the answer you were about to choose. This happened to me in class just the other night. I was reading answer choice B, and it seemed to perfectly match my prediction. I said, “I’m 99% sure this is correct, but I’m going to read all five just in case.” Sure enough, when I got to E, I saw that it was an even closer match to my prediction than B was—and in fact, there was a fatal flaw in B that I hadn’t recognized until E confronted me with a corrected version of what I thought B had said. If I’d skipped reading C–E, I might have saved 15–30 seconds. But I’d also have missed a question that I ended up getting right. The way we go fast on Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension is by generally disrespecting the answer choices. We make strong predictions, then we expect each answer to be wrong 80% of the time. If it doesn’t match our prediction, if it doesn’t sound like it’s answering the question, or if we just don’t understand it, it’s probably wrong. On a first read-through, it should take only 5–10 seconds per answer choice to evaluate them. The right answer is the one that probably matches our prediction and definitely answers the question. It’s the one that makes sense. When you think an answer makes sense, that’s great! It’s probably correct. But be sure to take a few seconds to glance at each answer choice. Make sure there’s not something else that makes even more sense. Reading all five answer choices is like having a backup parachute. It takes two mistakes to miss a question—your main chute has to fail (the answer you were about to pick turns out to be wrong) and your backup chute also has to fail (you didn’t recognize, and failed to select, the correct answer). If you skip the remaining answer choices, it’s like jumping out of the plane without a backup chute. It’ll work most of the time—but it’s a bitch when it doesn’t. What do you think about this lesson? Anyone can email me directly. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s lesson was prompted by an earnest question from LSAT student Andrew B. I’m right smack in the middle of my test prep and am methodically working my way through your Logical Reasoning Encyclopedia. Something that has become a concerning trend however is my lack of accuracy on the final 5–7 questions on LR—questions that correspond with the “Hardest” difficulty in the book. I frequently will go -1 or -2 on the first 18–20 questions of an LR section, then completely shit the bed on the last 5–7. Obviously this is tanking my LR score. Can you provide any tips? Thanks, Andrew. I’m glad you like the book. All of those explanations—plus thousands more—are included with a subscription to LSATDemon.com. If you like the book, you will love the Demon. In response to “I’ll go -1 or -2 on the first 18–20 questions, then completely shit the bed,” you are far from alone in your bed-shitting. The questions at the end of each section are much, much harder than the questions at the beginning. You’re good but far from great at the LSAT. You’re getting almost all of the easiest ones right—but not all of them—and then you’re crashing and burning at the higher levels. Crashing and burning at the higher levels isn’t surprising in the least. Analogy time! On my podunk high school golf team, I was the #1 player for four years in a row. I was the MVP of the league as a junior and senior. Then I got to college and didn’t make the team. Not even close. There are hundreds of incredible athletes in the NCAA tournament every year who will play zero minutes in the NBA. Even those who do make it to the big show spend most of their time getting viciously dunked on by Giannis Antetokounmpo. Half of the world’s prom kings and queens move to Hollywood every year and fail to even get agents, let alone become movie stars. Thus is LA’s supply of shockingly attractive bartenders and waitstaff ever refreshed. All I’m trying to say is that there are levels in everything. The LSAT is no exception. Minus one or two on the first 18–20 questions is okay, but it’s nothing to write home about. Each mistake you make probably means there’s another one that you get right without fully understanding. It’s multiple choice, so sometimes you get a little lucky. The harder ones are a lot harder, so these weaknesses are exposed. As far as “can you provide any tips,” no, I’m sorry, I can’t. Real improvement has nothing to do with “tips.” Reaching a higher level of LSAT performance isn’t about tips and tricks. As I wrote last week, the only thing we do here at LSAT Demon is increase our students’ real understanding. If it ain’t about understanding the test, then we ain’t about it. The book Andrew holds in his hands contains 550 logical reasoning questions, each with a full, detailed explanation. There are thousands more at LSATDemon.com. Instead of looking for tips, Andrew, you need to clean up your mistakes. Each missed question requires not one, but two, mistakes: You have to pick a wrong answer while also failing to pick the correct one. It’s like your main parachute fails, and then your backup parachute also fails, and you go splat. The solution is to take better care of your two parachutes. Look for holes and patch them, so the next time you jump out of the airplane you’ll have a less dramatic landing. Thoroughly review every question you miss. Why is the right answer right? Why is the wrong answer wrong? How could you have avoided making these mistakes? Do you feel confident that you’ll avoid making these mistakes next time? We’re here to help—but it’s not about gimmicks. It’s not as simple as “just do this one weird trick and you’ll find instant success.” It’s about reading more carefully and actually understanding the damn test. It’s not as hard as you think, but it does require more careful attention than most novices tend to pay. Step one is to slow down and be more careful. Then, ask for help on the stuff you don’t understand. At LSAT Demon, we have an entire team of 99th-percentile LSAT scorers, including me and Ben Olson, who are ready to help you make sense of the test. Come to class, ask questions, and let us show you how easy it can be. Come to class and ask me specific questions about stuff you don’t understand. Just don’t expect my answers to contain any tips or tricks. If you study with us, we’re going to guide you toward real understanding, not hocus pocus.
Last week, I announced in class that LSAT Demon is now a “contrapositive-free zone.” That’s because “contrapositive” is a five-syllable word that (1) appears only in LSAT classes—never on the actual test, (2) doesn’t really mean anything beyond common sense, and (3) perversely, has the unintended consequence of causing some people to commit the sufficient vs. necessary flaw—the avoidance of which is supposed to be the reason for bringing it up in the first place. Going forward, we are eliminating the term “contrapositive” from our LSAT vocabulary. There are easier ways of dealing with conditional rules: On logic games, make worlds instead. For a rule like “if X is third, Y must be seventh,” don’t make a messy diagram of the rule and its “contrapositive.” Instead, just make a world where X is third and another world where it’s not. In the world where X is third, put Y seventh. In the world where X is not third, the rule doesn’t apply. It’s simpler this way. Not only will you never have to think about this rule again, but you’ll also have started worlds, which you want to do anyway. On logical reasoning, just understand the rule in your own words. There really isn’t any such thing as the “contrapositive”—it’s just another way of making the same statement. The statement, “If your house is made of brick, it is susceptible to earthquake damage” means the same thing as, “If your house isn’t susceptible to earthquake damage, it isn’t made of brick.” Yes, you must be able to transition fluidly between these two statements—but thinking of one as the “original rule” and the other as the “contrapositive” isn’t helpful. They mean the same damn thing. Diagramming them is an error-prone waste of time. Instead, read the statement carefully, and put it into your own words. Don’t diagram. Go for real understanding. Ben and I both are guilty of having taught the “contrapositive” too dogmatically in our own LSAT classes. That’s because every LSAT book and class that preceded ours did the same thing. That’s what an LSAT class was “supposed” to do. Ben and I each did a solid decade of full-time LSAT teaching before we realized that talking about contrapositives is confusing and counterproductive. Fortunately, some old dogs can learn new tricks. Henceforth, Ben and I will not utter the word “contrapositive” except to explain why you don’t need that word. Nor will our teachers. If any of us slip up, please call us on it. It may take a while to drum it out of our vocabulary. Creating the first contrapositive-free zone on the LSAT landscape is just the beginning. Across the board, we’re aggressively eliminating jargon, dogma, and any other fancy bullshit that makes LSAT teachers sound smart at the expense of student understanding. Recently, for example, we realized that there’s no such thing as a Principle question (Thinking LSAT episode 298, minute 1:01:36). These questions are intensely confusing when taught by Khan Academy and just about everyone else. They’re confusing because they are lumped into one category even though some of them are Must Be True questions while others are Strengthen questions—two precisely opposite question types. I can’t blame them for getting it wrong; I didn’t realize it myself until years after I had written an entire 600-page book about LSAT Logical Reasoning. Editing the “Principle” category out of that book was a pain. Thankfully, making similar changes in the Demon is easy. We promise to show you how easy the LSAT really is. Another example: LSAT Demon logic games guru Matt DuMont recently decided to stop saying “inference” in his classes. I wholeheartedly support this shift—I’ve always thought that the term sounded too magical and mystical and LSAT-jargony for what it really is. All we’re doing is learning things that must be true about the game. Matt started saying “realizations” instead. I’m fine with that. “Facts,” “truths,” or “must be trues” would work just as well. The point is that you don’t have to go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat or smoke peyote to discern magical “inferences” on an LSAT logic game. Just follow the breadcrumbs. If one rule says X is before Y, and another rule says Y is before Z, then it’s pretty obvious to “infer” that X is before Z. It ain’t rocket science. The term “inference” makes it sound more complicated than it actually is. So we’re dropping that term just like we’re dropping “contrapositive.” If it doesn’t make the LSAT easier to understand, you won’t hear us say it. My to-do list for drumming out confusing, overly technical, jargony “LSAT teacher stuff” from the LSAT Demon currently includes the following items: Archive old lessons that dwell unnecessarily on jargon like “contrapositives” and “inferences.” Edit written explanations to eradicate these terms. Replace old logical reasoning videos that rely on diagramming. Replace old logic games videos that rely on writing down conditional rules. Replace old logic games videos that focus on diagramming every rule instead of eliminating those rules via worlds. De-emphasize or archive lessons that focus on lists of keywords or anything overly technical. Rewrite lesson titles using natural language Replace downvoted explanations Review and highlight upvoted explanations What other LSAT dogma can we debunk? If we ever say anything that makes the LSAT seem more complicated than it really is, please let us know. I’m email@example.com, and I read every one of your emails. Demon users can also help tremendously by upvoting our best explanations and downvoting our worst. If you see me or Ben in an old video, doing convoluted, dogmatic things, smash that downvote! We’ll replace low-rated explanations with something fresh. Upvotes help, too—we’ll use those to identify and highlight the most helpful explanations. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to host and record multiple live LSAT classes seven days a week. We’ll keep writing new explanations for logical reasoning and reading comprehension. We’ll keep responding to Ask-button requests within 24 hours. We’ll add new videos across the board. We’ll provide six podcast episodes a week at Thinking LSAT and Demon Daily. We’ll post all the free clips we can on our two YouTube channels. Alongside all this construction, you’ll see quite a bit of demolition. Without the dynamite, how do you make room for something new?
Folks love throwing money at their LSAT studies—I never stop getting emails asking for book, class, and tutoring recommendations—but some of the best LSAT resources are absolutely free. Today I want to make sure that everyone who reads these lessons is aware that we offer not just one but two LSAT podcasts. They’re free to download, and you can listen to them while you’re doing other stuff. So not only do they cost you zero dollars, but they also magically cost you zero time. Pretty hard to beat. Our LSAT podcasts let you “study when you can’t study.” Ben and I started the Thinking LSAT podcast on a lark way back in 2014. The way I remember it, I said, “Hey Ben, want to start an LSAT podcast?” And Ben, ever the innovator, said, “Yes! ... Now, what’s a podcast?” If you’re new to the show, I don’t recommend going all the way back to Episode 1. Instead, start with the most recent episode and work your way backward. As I write, in June 2021, we’re currently up to Episode 304. The episodes average about 90 minutes a piece. Holy hell—that’s about 450 hours of content. If you wanted, you could listen 24/7 for 19 straight days. Please don’t do that. It would be bonkers to do that. But please do use Thinking LSAT when you’re working out, walking your dog, or killing time at your mindless, soul-crushing job. (Actually, just quit that job.) Point is, the Thinking LSAT podcast is an excellent way to get tips on the LSAT and law school admissions while you’re doing other things. We release new episodes of Thinking LSAT each Monday. They’re available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, ThinkingLSAT.com, YouTube, and about a bazillion other podcast apps. Time is your most valuable resource. Listening to the Thinking LSAT podcast helps you carve some of that time back and put it to productive use. And if that’s not enough, this week we launched a brand new show: LSAT Demon Daily. The Daily features shorter episodes, released first thing in the morning, five days a week. This week, we’ve already tackled scholarships for part-time law school, whether to take the August LSAT, and an interview with student Ron, who went from 147 to 171 using the LSAT Demon. Be sure to subscribe so you can get episodes automatically delivered to your inbox each morning. They’ll be primed and ready for your commute, your coffee, or however else you want to incorporate them into your morning routine. Don’t use the podcasts as a substitute for focused studying. When you have time to sit down and focus, you should be doing some combination of drilling, timed sections, and classes. But when you can’t devote 100% of your attention to studying, consider giving these two podcasts a listen. You might be surprised by how much LSAT and law school admissions knowledge can sneak into your brain while you’re pretending to do other stuff. The podcasts cost you no time and no money. You can’t get any freer than that.
I don’t get enough emails. You should email me! I’m firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’d love to hear what you think of these lessons. Ask a question, make a comment—I’m here to help. Here’s one that just came in: Subject: SOSI am a long-time Thinking LSAT podcast listener and have been studying for the LSAT for the past 12 months. My most recent months of study have been through the Demon. At the moment I am feeling defeated and frustrated, and I hope you guys can provide words of encouragement. I took the test last November and scored a 163. After Christmas I began to study again and took the test this past April. I moved up only one point. I feel like a hamster in a wheel. I have the games down. I’m missing 2-4 questions on LR (lots of room for improvement there I know). And I’m missing between 6-9 questions on RC. I desperately want this to be over in August so I can focus elsewhere. My issue is not the number of hours I put in or my work ethic; rather it seems to be the way I am studying. I think part of the reason I am not improving is due to my comprehension speed on RC and partially on LR. Anway, I know I’m supposed to review one question at a time and understand the root of why I made two mistakes (picking the wrong answer and not picking the right one). I guess I am looking for words of encouragement or how I should best utilize the next two months. Thanks for writing. I’m sorry you’re feeling defeated and frustrated. But I’m more of a tough-love guy than a words-of-encouragement guy. There’s a lot here that worries me. I’ll take it piece by piece. I took the test last November and scored a 163. After Christmas I began to study again and took the test this past April. A score of 163’s not bad—but this student wanted more. That’s great! But this student made several tactical mistakes. The November LSAT was in the beginning of November. This student waited at least a month and a half—likely, two months or more—before resuming study. This flouts the advice we always give on the Thinking LSAT Podcast and at LSAT Demon. Law schools care only about your highest score, so there’s a big incentive to take the test multiple times. Students should plan ahead for multiple consecutive attempts. It’s a mistake not to study for three weeks while waiting for results. It’s an even bigger mistake to wait weeks or months after results come out to get back on the horse. This student skipped the February LSAT, which was a third mistake. I’m glad you’ve been listening to the podcast, studying with the Demon, and writing to us for advice. But dude—please take the advice we constantly give! Once you’re ready for your first official LSAT, take each consecutive LSAT until you achieve a score that reflects your full potential. I moved up only one point [to 164]. I have the games down. I’m missing 2-4 questions on LR. And I’m missing between 6-9 questions on RC. Scoring 164 is a step in the right direction—congratulations on that. Baby steps are good! But this math doesn’t add up. If you’re perfect on games, minus 2 to 4 on LR, and minus 6 to 9 on RC, that should be a minus 8 (171) on a good day and a minus 13 (166) on your worst day. So, where’s the 164 coming from? Are you actually perfect on the games? Might you be a bit worse at LR and/or RC than you’re fessing up to? If you really want to improve, you can’t fall victim to wishful thinking. You need to be honest about your weaknesses and ask for specific help. I think part of the reason I am not improving is due to my comprehension speed on RC and partially on LR. “Comprehension speed”? That’s not something that a longtime Thinking LSAT / LSAT Demon student should say. It’s actually an oxymoron. “Comprehension” means “understanding,” and that’s not something that can be rushed. I bet your entire problem on RC (and, to a lesser extent, LR) is that you’re still thinking about speed, trying to rush to the finish, instead of actually understanding what you’re reading. This flies in the face of every last bit of advice we’ve ever given. Speed comes from accuracy. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. I’ve written and podcasted about this over and over and over. See also here, here, and here. This is Thinking LSAT / LSAT Demon 101. If you actually understand what you read, the questions will get easier and you’ll start to go fast. Refusal to take this advice fully on board will forever prevent you from reaching your LSAT goals. Stop reaching for speed before you actually understand. I desperately want this to be over in August so I can focus elsewhere. Oh no—this is the part that worries me the most. This student already skipped the February LSAT and has now also skipped June. He “desperately wants it to be over,” but he hasn’t taken the steps that would allow him to get it over with as efficiently as possible. And he seems to be ignoring the critical fact that the LSAT is the primary determinant of where he’ll go to school—and how much he’ll pay to go there. It’s the foundation of his legal career, and it sounds like he’s about to settle for a half-assed job. Can you imagine a building contractor looking at a cracked foundation, saying “welp, we’ve been at it for so long already,”—despite repeated, extended breaks—“and I desperately want this job to be over, so let’s just call it good”? Settling for anything less than your best on the LSAT is building your legal career on a shaky foundation. I understand the desire for it to be over. Nobody wants to live with the LSAT forever—except for me, of course. But we have to deal with what actually is, not what we hope for. You’re allowed to take the LSAT five times within the current and five previous testing years. Don’t make the tragic mistake of treating August as the be-all and end-all of your LSAT career. We’ve sent people to Yale, for God’s sake, who took the LSAT five times. Law schools care only about your highest score. If you’re not willing to exhaust your five attempts, are you sure you really want to be a lawyer? What is this “elsewhere” that is so worthy of your focus that you’re willing to settle for a mediocre LSAT, a mediocre law school, and a mountain of debt? I’m sorry for the tough love, but if you’ve been listening to Thinking LSAT and studying in the Demon for a year, none of this should come as any surprise. Maybe you just needed to be told directly?
Just kidding. Some of you will take the LSAT in a couple of days. Some of you won’t. No one should suffer heart palpitations either way. If you’re not taking the official test this week, you should be doing your regularly scheduled drilling, timed practice sections, and occasional full timed practice tests. If you are taking the official test this week, it’s just one more day of LSAT stuff. Nothing different, nothing special. Don’t overthink it. Don’t overengineer it. It’s just another practice test. Law schools only care about your highest score. This provides a strong incentive for applicants to retake after scoring anything lower than their best. So if you’re taking the June 2021 LSAT, you should also be planning for retakes in August, October, and/or November. If the June 2021 test doesn’t reflect your full potential, you’ll continue studying over the upcoming weeks and months for retakes later this summer and into the fall. In that sense, the June 2021 test is literally a practice test for your future attempts. It deserves no more respect than your typical LSAT study days. You’ve been practicing regularly, right? You’ve been taking it seriously when you do? Good. Then this is just another practice test. You will perform better if you don’t give the test too much power. Ben and I have long given the advice that you should take the day off before the test so that you can avoid overdoing it and “rest up.” But lately I’ve been worrying that students take this advice to the extreme. We just had a long discussion about it on the Thinking LSAT Podcast. When students are super precious about relaxation in the days leading up to the test, they are by definition doing something different from what they would do if this were just another practice test. Think about it. If you’re taking the day off of work, arranging a hotel room so you will have a quiet space for “the real test,” or intentionally tapering down your studies a week or ten days prior, aren’t you treating the test as if it’s something different and special? You’re relaxing as hard as you possibly can for the big scary official test that gets bigger and scarier the more you worry about it. Ironically, you might be setting yourself up for exactly the anxiety bomb you’re trying to defuse. Results won’t come out for three weeks. You should be studying while you wait for your results. It’s absurd that it takes three weeks for LSAT results—GMAT and GRE scores are instant, and have been for years—but that’s the world we live in. You won’t know for certain whether you killed it or got killed until scores are released on July 1. If you didn’t do your best, you’ll retake in August. You can’t afford to waste three weeks of study time while you wait for your results. If you want to take the day off after your test, that’s fine. But your competitors on the August exam will be using these days and weeks to study. So you should plan to get right back on the horse. This means that your official test can and should feel like just another practice test. It’s not too late to withdraw. With less than a week remaining, you’re either ready or you’re not. You’ll know you’re ready when you’re happy with the full range of your most recent five to ten practice test scores. For those of you who have been diligently preparing, go kill it this week. You’re happy with your range, and this is just one more practice test. Break a leg. But if your practice test range—the entire range, not just your best one or two scores—doesn’t reflect your full ability, it’s not too late to withdraw. You won’t get your $200 back at this late stage. But it won’t count as one of your limited number of official attempts. It won’t show up on your LSAC record at all. I will not judge you if you withdraw. I would, however, judge you for wasting an official attempt hoping for a miracle. Whether you’re taking the official test this week or not, I wish you the best of luck with your ongoing LSAT studies. It’s a lot easier and less stressful than you think—and I’d like to show you in person. All you need is a Demon Free account.
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