Mastering the Analytical Reasoning Section
Although it may be frustrating to pre-law students who enrolled in college-level logic classes, those courses provide little solace on this portion of the LSAT. Philosophical argument, and especially the terminology and symbols used in formal logic, is of no practical use in the exam’s logic games.
However, not all is lost. There are two points to keep in mind that will allow you to master this section. The first is that your scores will start climbing immediately once you start practicing solving logic games. Because this section of the LSAT bears such little resemblance to any other test question you may have seen, the more you practice, the less the unfamiliarity of the questions will be a factor.
The second key concept to the mastery of this section is your ability to recognize patterns. For example, a great number of logic games will involve spatial awareness. These can be drawn from questions where
You line up objects or people in a sequence.
You divide up an object or set of objects into specific groups.
You arrange subjects in a specific pattern, say on a shelf or around a table.
Other logic games involve applying seemingly random criteria to a category or people or objects to create a specific kind of order:
You draw conclusions as to the sequence of events. (If A, then B happens, creating condition C.)
You select an object that has one or more characteristics.
You assign attributes to each object in a set based on the question’s descriptions.
The reason that these two attributes of the Analytical Reasoning section will help you is that logic games, though they look like a tangle of yarn at first glance, are innately limited in how they can be written. With enough practice, it is highly unlikely that the writers of the LSAT will be able to come up with a challenging question that you haven’t tried to tackle before.
Some other items to keep in mind to master this section include
Throughout the section, the difficulty of the logic games presented will vary randomly, but there are two general rules. First, the initial game that opens the section will not be the most difficult one. Second, the final one or two questions are typically more complex than the others.
Time is your enemy in this section. You will not be able to rush on any question—there are no "easy questions" that take significantly less time than others. If you can keep a steady place and not allot more than 10 minutes to any one logic game, you will be fine. Of course, the amount of time that you spend on any logic game depends upon how complex or simple it is. A simple game could take you 6–7 minutes, while more complex games might require a solid 10-minute investment of your time.
If you’re stuck on one game, it may be best to skip it and return if you can. However, don’t skip more than one game. Allocating your entire time to only two of four game results is proof that you need to practice more to pick up your pace. Additionally, trying to skip over no more than one game will reduce the chance that you’ll be left with blind guessing over a large number of remaining questions, giving you a better chance for a higher score.
Diagramming out the question will be useful in this section, so remember that the LSAT includes a couple pages of scratch paper in the back of the test booklet. You can also use the space provided at the bottom of each page of the Analytical Reasoning section.
Unless you think best in your head as opposed to on paper, for most people an effective diagram will help you to think about a question clearly. The key to an effective diagram is to keep it neat. If you misplace people in the wrong set of chairs, it’s best to cross out the diagram and redo it; simply scratching out names or writing on top of incorrect answers will likely confuse you at a critical time.