The Most Common Reasons For Getting LR Questions Wrong
Tough Logical Reasoning will torment your soul. However, I’ve noticed that many of the Logical Reasoning mistakes my students make can be traced back to the same few common errors.
The good news is that these errors are all preventable. If you faithfully implement the following list of tips, you can dramatically reduce the number of mistakes you make on this section. Read carefully:
- Don’t rush to the answer choices.
Read slowly through and understand the paragraph before you start looking at the answers. If you get to the end of it and you don’t quite understand it, go back and read it again until you do. Moving onto the answer choices without having a strong grasp on the paragraph is a recipe for disaster.
The authors of the LSAT are about to throw a bunch of very tricky and very wrong answers at you. If you’re not 100% clear on the exact logical progression of the paragraph, things won’t get better once you start reading through the answers – they’ll get worse. In fact, many of the wrong answers were specifically designed to trick someone with only a superficial understanding of the paragraph.
Be deliberate. Make sure you thoroughly understand everything that is stated or argued in the paragraph, so you can have something clear to hold onto in your mind as you read through all the tricky answer choices. Think of it like anchoring onto some rock before a tsunami comes and tries to sweep you away.
- Don’t get married to the first answer that looks right.
The LSAT is chock full of trick answers – answers that seem 100% right even though they are 100% wrong. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on question #1 or question #25 – tricks are everywhere and can catch you anytime if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s important to always read every single choice. But more than that, you have to really consider all five of them.
Even if you’re positive that (C) is right, don’t just skim through (D) and (E) as a formality. Give them the exact same consideration that you gave to (A) and (B).
The reason is, because if you honestly analyze (E), you may also be positive that it’s right! Whoops – guess one of these two answers was a trick answer. Here’s the rub – the trick answer is just as likely to be (C) as it is to be (E). But had you just skimmed through (E), you may never have been forced to reanalyze (C) as being potentially incorrect.
If you notice that your wrong answers are usually higher up on the list than the right answer (i.e. you’re picking (B) when the answer is (D) more often than vice versa), that’s a sign you may be doing this.
The kicker here is that once you think you have the right answer, you have a strong emotional bias in favor of eliminating the other answers. You want to make things as simple as possible for you and not have to reconsider (C) all over again, and you also want to feel smart and confident in your first extinct. Emotional biases are very hard to work against, as unconscious as they may be. You must force yourself to honestly consider all five of the answer choices, regardless of whether you think you already have the answer. It doesn’t necessarily even mean taking more time – it just means being more mentally aware and critical as you are reading them.
- Don’t mentally check out halfway through reading the answer choice.
This one is quite pernicious, but once you catch yourself doing it, it gets easier to stop yourself the next time.
What I mean by this is that we often assume we know what a sentence is going to say when we are halfway or two thirds done reading the sentence, and fill in the rest in our minds. Our eyes move over the last few words, but we’re not really paying close attention – we’ve already decided what the sentence says, and whether it’s a right or wrong answer.
The thing is that a lot of curveballs on the LSAT come at the ends of sentences – all it takes is a couple of words to turn a wrong answer right or a right answer wrong.
For example, let’s say you’re looking for an answer choice that will strengthen the argument that kidney beans are healthier than any other type of bean, and you get hit with this:
(C) In a recent study, people who ate kidney beans regularly were shown to have greater health in the long term than people who ate only non-bean foods.
By the time you get to the words “long term” you could easily have decided that this was going to be the right answer, especially in the heat of the moment while taking an LSAT.
What’s the trick here?
The argument you’re trying to strengthen is that kidney beans are healthier than other beans, not that kidney beans are healthier than no beans at all. (C) does nothing to prove the former argument.
But if you allowed yourself to lose a bit of critical focus while reading this, you could easily have thought:
(C) In a recent study, people who ate kidney beans regularly were shown to have greater health in the long term than people who ate…other kinds of beans.
You would have completely imagined those words without even realizing it, since you already were thinking (and hoping) that that’s what the answer choice was going to say!
This error can often be an offshoot of #2 – if you think you already have the right answer, you are more likely to check out midway through reading the other ones.
- Don’t be afraid of an answer that looks too easy.
This is a common one.
There are a lot of very tricky questions on the LSAT. There are also some easier ones. In general, if you see an easy answer, circle it. Don’t assume there’s a trick unless you find one.
I find it ironic that many of my students in the 160s and 170s are very prone to falling for this. I assume it’s because they forget that once their scores are that high, it means that much of the test will naturally seem easy for them. Especially if they’ve been improving quickly, they may be taken aback when confronted with a question that seems eerily too simple.
Even if it’s towards the end of a section, and #21-#23 were Olympically difficult questions, and now #24 seems like a cinch – don’t doubt yourself. The LSAT authors like to mix it up. Also, a question that may be considered very hard for most people may be easy for you. If an answer looks obviously right, and none of the other answers do, it’s probably the right answer.
You can even spend 5-10 seconds double-checking to make sure you didn’t miss anything and that this answer is not a trap. But unless you find something wrong with it, don’t let the fact that it seemed easy to you be a cause for doubt. On the contrary – be happy that an LSAT question was easy, and move on (assuming you’ve properly analyzed all the other answers of course – see #2).
- When you’re down to two answer choices, don’t look for the right one – look for the wrong one.
Do you feel like you’re constantly narrowing it down to two answers on tricky questions, and then picking the wrong one?
You’re not alone. Granted, there may be a selection bias here in that you’re only noticing the questions you got wrong this way, and not the many other ones that you narrowed down to two and got right. But even if this were the case, all in all it’s good news – it means that you correctly analyzed 3 out of 5 of the answer choices. In other words, you’re 60% of the way there!
But of course, you want to remedy this problem. What do you do when you’re down to two answer choices and you can’t figure it out?
Look for a reason why one of them is wrong.
Why? Because the reason you weren’t able to cross either of these answers out is because they both seem potentially right to you. If you now look for which one seems “more right”, you’d essentially be going with your gut – i.e., which one “feels” right.
The worst thing you can do on the LSAT is to go with your gut. The LSAT uses concrete logic, and many wrong answers were crafted in such a way as to seem like they’re right to your “gut”.
Remember, there is a reason that one of these answer choices is wrong – it could be a tiny word or phrase. But whatever it is, it’s right in front of you on the page, in black and white, staring you in the face, and you’ve (so far) missed it. You just need to find where and what it is.
That’s why a much better strategy is to be on the hunt for what is making one of these answer choices wrong. That’s what you must have missed on your first pass through them, and that’s what you’ll need to find in order to prove which one is correct. Practice doing this instead of going with the one that seems more right.
So that’s it! If you find yourself making any or all of these mistakes, come back and read this page before every practice test you take – it could have a great impact on your score. A lot of it is just reminding yourself not to fall into these habits. The good news is they are very breakable habits.
Also, check out my video explanations for very tricky logical reasoning questions that have you stumped.