When you take a PowerScore LSAT course, one theme you are constantly reminded of is the importance of accurately identifying every element you encounter on the test. Be it Logical Reasoning question types like Assumption and Flaw, underlying conceptual ideas like Causality and Formal Logic, Game constructions such as Grouping and Advanced Linear, or any of the other unique scenarios the test makers throw at you, you simply MUST be able to distinguish them consistently from one another. Only by doing so can you be certain that your plan of attack is the most appropriate one!
It should come as no surprise then that we devote a lot of class time, and a lot of course text, to examining each of these individual elements in great detail. First, we explain how each piece works and in doing so how each can be consistently recognized, in all its potential iterations. Then we outline a powerful system by which every idea, question type, and answer choice can be attacked, so that students are perfectly equipped to overcome any possible difficulty on test day. Essentially we build from the ground up, instilling a strong foundation upon which even most the most complex test elements can be examined and conquered.
And while that's an incredibly effective approach that has helped tens of thousands of students achieve their LSAT goals, the truth is, for a lot of people, especially at the outset as they're encountering concept after concept, it can feel a bit intimidating. Simply put, it's easy for some categories to get lost in the shuffle, or begin to bleed into one another so that their distinctions become, well, less distinct.
So I'm going to pass along some advice that I've been giving my students for years, and I'm going to do it by taking a cue from our best-selling LSAT Bibles, borrowing that nomenclature to describe something you should create for yourself: an LSAT Study Bible.
An LSAT Study Bible is a personal journal of sorts where you devote short sections to individual ideas, question types, concepts, and anything else that needs to be understood independently. Let me give you an example of what this might look like, and then explain the benefits.
One of the first things you encounter in our books and courses, and one of the most fundamental concepts in all of Logical Reasoning (and the most commonly-occurring, turns out), is a question type called Must be True. So in my Study Bible I would have a page near the beginning labeled "Must be True" and on that page I would begin to list out all of the important aspects of this particular question type:
- it's a First Family question where the stimulus is given as truth and the answer choices are all to be challenged based on it;
- stimuli tend to be fact sets (premises) rather than arguments, and the correct answer will then provide a valid conclusion for that set of facts;
- because there isn't typically argumentation in the stimulus, the key to success in MBT is usually dependent on your attention to detail and language, particularly how strongly-worded the fact/premise set is;
- question stems will always tell you to accept the stimulus and determine what follows from/is supported by it (that's how you know it's a Must be True question!);
- some specific examples of question stems that are used in Must be True (actually write the wording of a few MBT stems to highlight the recognizable features);
- the correct answer choice must conform to the Fact Test, where it can always be reasonably inferred ONLY from the information above it, and will never rely on outside knowledge;
- incorrect answers often present traps like New Information, Could be True, Opposite Answers, Shell Game, and Extreme Language.
Then, as I continued to study, I would add relevant Must be True information to that page if/when I encountered it, and I would return occasionally to that page as I moved forward to ensure that the information was still fresh (returning more frequently if I found that Must be True questions were particularly challenging for me).
Similarly, I would create a page for EVERY other major element that appears on the test, as described in the class I was taking, or books I was reading. So pages for overall section strategies including things like Prephrasing, a page for the other 12 LR question types with information relevant to each, pages for the major reasoning types such as Principle, Conditionality, Causality, Formal Logic, Numbers and Percentages, pages for Reading Comp in general and for the passage types (comparative, science, law, diversity), and pages for the major Games categories, as well as Numerical Distributions and Templates/Possibilities.
The benefits of this are numerous, and hard to overstate, but let me quickly point out two of the biggest:
- By writing all of this down, and writing it all out as physically distinct pieces (one page for this, another for that...), you not only reinforce the critical ideas on the LSAT that any successful test taker must know, but you also compartmentalize them in a way that makes mistaken overlap less likely. For instance, writing out the highlights of Assumption questions separately from those of Justify means that your brain is much better at treating Assumption and Justify as unique ideas on test day. That's huge!
- In addition to the categorical reinforcement this exercise provides, you're also creating an extremely valuable physical resource! That is, you're making an awesome all-in-one repository of information that you can keep as a constant companion while you study, and that you can refer back to and amend as needed based on your performance and growing knowledge base.
So, in conclusion, as you begin working through material getting ready for the LSAT, immediately begin to build yourself a Study Bible as I've described above. You'll find it's a great resource the first time you encounter a new or challenging idea, and it will remain invaluable as your knowledge continues to grow.