My oldest cat, Echo, has been studying hard for the LSATs. He's taking it more seriously than the other two. He signed up for a course, but it didn't really help, and there were no treats like there are at home. He's working on logic games, but it's not going well. While taking a break on the cat tree, he said "You know, I feel like it's always just one or two inferences that I miss. If I could just get better at finding those inferences, I know I could do well!"
"Hmmmm," I said. "Ok, let me see your diagrams."
"Oh, diagrams aren't the trouble. I told you, INFERENCES! INFERENCES!"
Frustrated, he went to Mommy for hugs. Ungrateful hairball. So, I dug through his diagrams. I found this:
"Yeah," I told him, "the problem is NOT inferences. It's your diagrams."
How can you expect to find the inferences you need if you can't properly organize your information? The logic games give you an enormous amount of information, and the LSAT will test you on ALL of it. To succeed, you need to quickly, accurately, and completely represent that information in visual form.
You want to see at a glance all the information contained in the problem. Then you will be able to see inferences. This is especially important because the LSAT tries very hard to confuse you with the information it does give you, and it tries to make it hard to put that information in visually complete form. That's how mistakes...
...hey! put that down! Don't eat that!
That's how mistakes happen.
"Ok," Echo said, "so what are the features of a good diagram, Mr. SmartyPants?"
Well, this will get you started:
1) Organize your diagram around a central, STABLE variable. In Linear problems, for example, this means using the sequence they give you: days of the week, or docking bays, or order of deliveries. Your foundation should be built around the most stable variable.
2) Draw your diagram in a way that visually represents the logic of the problem! If you're organizing stores on different floors in a building, use a vertical diagram. If it's days of the week, use a horizontal diagram, for example.
3) Visually represent the rules as they would appear in your diagram! This makes it easier to understand how the rule functions and how it would fit in your diagram.
4) Always have a master diagram and put as much information in it as you can! If a rule says R is second, then put R in the second place. If it CAN go in your master diagram, put it there.
5) Diagram only what you are given. One of the ways the LSAT gets you to make mistakes is by getting you to make assumptions that seem natural but are not in the problem. For instance, the problem might say, "Six delivery trucks service three buildings K, L, and M, with each truck servicing at least one building." It is natural to assume that each building is served by at least one truck. But in the way it is worded, that is not necessarily true. All six trucks could service only one building and still meet the condition. If the problem said instead, "Six delivery trucks service three buildings, K, L, and M, with each truck servicing at least one building and each building is served by at least one truck," then yes, we know now that all buildings are served, and each truck serves at least one building.
"Got it? ---- hey, wake up!"
Free stuff related to the LSAT. This blog includes reflections, tips, strategies, and problem solving for the LSAT. Feel free to email questions. I'll be happy to answer them on my blog.