Many law school applicants preparing for the LSAT panic when they first encounter logic games on the analytical reasoning section. While the reading comprehension and logical reasoning sections test skills like critical thinking and textual analysis that are fundamental to both higher education and legal practice, logic games seem confounding — like half-finished brain teasers.
LSAT logic games set up a scenario, like a series of items that need to be arranged in order or a group of workers who must be assigned to a schedule or set of tasks. Then they question test-takers about what can or must be true under various conditions.
With practice, many test-takers grow to appreciate logic games and find their learning curve rewarding. The section features the most precise and predictable questions on the LSAT. Like math problems, once you know how to solve a logic game, you can feel confident in your answers.
Like every section on the LSAT, the best way to master logic games is through focused and methodical practice. Each game setup follows the same basic steps:
1. Identify the game type.
2. Draw a diagram.
3. List the variables and rules.
4. Find deductions.
5. Look for alternate options.
6. Tackle the questions.
Identify the Game Type
Start by reading all the game rules. Resist the urge to start writing before finishing the rules, as one rule may change your understanding of the whole game.
Once you have a general grasp of the scenario, identify the game based on what it asks you to do. Different authorities divide games in different ways, but there are basically three major types:
— Sequencing games ask you to put variables in order. Sometimes the order is numerical, with rules determining each variable’s possible placement from first to last. Other times it is relative, with rules determining which variables can come before or after one another.
— Selection games ask you to put variables into groups, like dividing campers among bunks or figuring out who is coming to a party.
— Matching games ask you to match different sets of variables to one another, like determining which riders ride which horses on which days.
There are also a few rarer types of games. For example, mapping games put variables in a specific spatial relationship, like train lines that connect different cities. Nevertheless, test-preppers will be relieved to find game scenarios more repetitive than they first appear.
Draw a Diagram
Use scrap paper to make a master diagram of everything you know to be true about the overall game.
Each type of game has a different setup, but they generally involve a series of slots, which are like underscores and designate a space for each variable. The slots might be ordered in a sequencing game or grouped together in a selection game.
There might even be multiple rows of slots. For example, if students are being assigned to morning and afternoon classes from Monday to Friday, put a row of five slots for morning classes labeled M to F underneath another row of five slots for afternoon classes.
List the Variables and Rules
Variables can be alphabetical, like a list of names, or they can be another set of options, like the sex and color of a horse. Use capital or lower-case letters to represent each variable. It can help to write how many variables are in each set, so you don’t accidentally leave any out.
Whenever possible, try to integrate rules right into your master diagram. So, if David doesn’t have math on Tuesdays, for example, put a crossed-out D under Tuesday’s slot.
Next to the master diagram, make a column of any rules that cannot be integrated into the diagram. However you want to express those rules, keep your symbols easy and consistent. Try to keep to a minimum the number of rules expressed with words rather than symbols.
Use your master diagram and rules to make logical inferences based on how the rules narrow down possibilities. For example, if you know that Alvin goes before Belinda in a sequence, you know that Belinda cannot possibly be first in the sequence and that Alvin cannot possibly be last. Again, aim to integrate that information directly into your master diagram.
Early on, err on the side of looking for as many deductions as possible before moving onto the questions. One key deduction can save you a lot of hassle.
Look for Alternate Options
Sometimes in life, one key decision has major consequences. The same is true for some LSAT logic games.
Sometimes after you fully set up a game and find every deduction, you realize that just one missing piece of information would have ramifications for other variables. Perhaps the placement of one key variable determines where other variables can go. Or there may be a group of related variables that can fit only in certain places. Or maybe knowing whether a key variable goes first or second would unlock the whole setup.
In such a case, create two or more master diagrams, each of which explores an alternate path for the game setup. This is an advanced game strategy that takes extra time and effort, but it pays off enough of the time that it is worth learning. Practice will help you hone a sense of when alternate options are worth the gamble.
Tackle the Questions
Don’t be afraid to create new diagrams to answer specific questions, either to experiment or to integrate new information provided by the question. But keep your master diagram clear and neat.
If you find yourself stumped by a hard or tiresome question, flag it and save it for the end. Each question is equal, so there’s no point in wasting time that could be spent setting up the next game.
Once you are ready to get started, there are a wide range of free and paid resources available online to practice LSAT games. The best way to learn is by doing.
More from U.S. News