Many test-takers find the logic games on the analytical reasoning section of the LSAT the most intimidating part of the test. But like everything on the LSAT, completing logic games with speed and accuracy is a skill that can be mastered through focused and methodical practice.
LSAT logic games set up a scenario, unrelated to law, involving variables that must be categorized or put in order. Then they question test-takers about what can or must be true under various conditions. For example, imagine a zoo is setting a feeding schedule, and the seals must be fed before hippos but after polar bears. In which order could those animals be fed?
There is a clear-cut answer: Only the polar bears can be fed first, followed by the seals and finally the hippos. (But I would advise against keeping those hippos waiting too long!)
The logic games on the LSAT are more complex, involving multiple variables and incomplete information. To answer them, it helps to break them down into smaller parts.
One way to do this is by dividing up different types of game scenarios, like sequencing games, selection games and matching games. The differences between these game types determine how you should set up a diagram before tackling the questions related to the game.
However, the LSAT awards no credit for drawing good diagrams. Points are based on multiple-choice questions answered correctly under the time limit. Each analytical reasoning section has about 24 questions divided among four games, with five to eight questions per game and 35 minutes total to spend on them.
The questions in the analytical reasoning section generally fall into four basic categories:
— Complete and accurate questions
— New information questions
— Universal questions
— Hypothetical questions
Complete and Accurate Questions
These questions ask you how the game can turn out under the rules provided in the initial scenario. The above question about the feeding schedule for the animals in the zoo is a good example.
Most test-takers find these questions relatively easy. In fact, the first or second question for each game is almost always a question like this, and it can be useful as a check to make sure you set up the game correctly and did not miss any rules or deductions.
Even though this question type is not hard, it can waste a lot of time if not approached strategically. A common mistake is to examine each answer choice, one at a time, and look for ways that it violates the rules.
Instead, proceed rule by rule and knock out incorrect answer choices until only one is left. Start with the simplest rule first. For example, if seals must be fed before hippos, quickly scan each answer choice to cross out any that show the hippos eating before the seals.
New Information Questions
These common questions ask you to make inferences based on new information. For example, imagine that the zoo scenario now includes seven different kinds of animals. A question might ask: “If the seals eat second, then which animal must eat first?”
If you set up the game correctly, it may be easy to remember that the polar bears have to eat before the seals, so they must eat first if the seals eat second. But it is often best to sketch a new diagram for a question like this. Put the seals in second, fill in all the information you can based on your initial setup and note that those polar bears will necessarily fall into the first slot.
If the game gets more complicated, you may find you have to draw two or three diagrams to explore possible outcomes based on the new information provided. Usually that will lead you to the right answer, but as a last resort you can try testing a compelling answer choice. Testing answer choices takes time and energy, however, so first confirm you made every possible deduction.
Universal questions ask about the implications of the game scenario without providing new information. They usually ask what “must,” “could” or “cannot” be true based on the rules provided. For example, if the seals, hippos and polar bears are all fed, which of the three animals could be fed first?
To answer a universal question, first try to use your master diagram that you set up at the beginning of the game. Often, your original deductions will lead you to the right answer: the polar bears.
If not, look back at the setups you created to answer previous questions in the game, especially new information questions. Since those are all possible game outcomes, they may help you determine what could or must be true. If not, try testing contending answer choices.
Sometimes the last one or two questions for a game will ask for the implications of a change to the game scenario or rules. These hypothetical questions can be tricky. Because a simple change in rules may have cascading implications, you may have to set up the whole game anew just to answer the question.
Fortunately, hypothetical questions are infrequent. If you find it difficult to finish the analytical reasoning section in time, flag any hypothetical questions and save them for the end. In a pinch, make an educated guess. Your time is better spent on game questions that require less work.
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