LSAT Kung Fu Blog / How To Assess Games Difficulty

How To Assess Games Difficulty

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Charlie Day is figuring it out.

Charlie Day is figuring it out.

A few weeks ago, we discussed whether you ought to spend a little time assessing Reading Comprehension passage difficulty. That discussion also applies, in pretty much exactly the same way, to LSAT Games. You should assess difficulty! You shouldn’t spend much time doing it, though! And you should definitely not try comparing games in a section to each other.

It’s time-consuming, dumb prep to compare games within a section. Instead, you should use a system that will allow you to tell, in just a few seconds, whether the game in front of you is the kind of thing you should just pull up your britches and do now, or whether it’s best saved for later. This is the system I endorse.

Like the one I use for Reading Comp, I’m suggesting a 4-star approach. Thinking in star-ratings is helpful at the beginning of your LSAT prep, when you’re first getting the hang of things. As you use this system, it will become second nature, such that you aren’t really assigning stars anymore after a while; you’re just saying to yourself, “Harvey [if your name is Harvey. If your name isn’t Harvey, though, why are you calling yourself that? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING], this here is a Now type of game,” or perhaps alternatively, “Harvey, this here is a Skipper kind of game.” Sensible? Of course. Now, let’s talk about our system, in which the likely easiness of a game is directly proportional to the degree to which you answer each of the following questions with the word “very”:

STAR ONE: How quickly can I visualize which template to use? If you know immediately which template you want for organizing your thinking about the game, then give the game a star. However, if you’ve read the setup and you cannot figure out which template would be most useful, don’t do anything else at all except turn the page; this game’s a Skip for sure. Now, at the beginning of your LSAT prep, there may (will) be lots of games that you can’t immediately summon the proper diagram for. That’s not a problem; that ability comes with exposure and repetition. But by test day, if you’ve prepped properly (by which I mean with me), then not being sure which template to use means that the game you’re looking at is very likely to take you more time. It may not be awful! Sometimes, such games are pretty straightforward! But any time you spend deciding on an organizational template is inherently extra time spent; it’s time that you wouldn’t have to put in for the normal game. Don’t pay the test writers your time until you absolutely have to.

STAR TWO: How tight is the fit of elements to spaces? You want a nice tight fit. A one-to-one correspondence is ideal (and pretty common!). That is, if you have seven elements to place, then you want to have seven places to put those elements in. A game that lets you leave out some elements, or repeat some of them, may take you longer. Notice that it’s the fit that we care about, though; the ideas of nonuse and/or repetition are not in themselves harmful to us. For example, having 7 candidates for a space program and always choosing 4 of them yields a perfect fit; we’ll have 4 slots to fill in our “chosen/selected/in” column, and 3 slots filled in our “not-chosen/unselected/out/off” column. The problem might arise if you’re asked to display two articles of clothing in various colors, but not all the colors need to be used. It may not ruin the game (or your life), but it probably means you’ll spend a little more time wrestling with the game than you would if you knew that every color had to go just once. So, good fit? Give it a star.

STAR THREE: How clear are the rules? Like, when you read them on the page, do they make immediate sense to you? Because if they do not, then this game will inherently take you a little longer to do while you work out what each of the rules is saying to you. For example, a game with rules like “Korver is assigned to flight 3” has clear rules. Do it! On the other hand, if you’re seeing rules like “If Gonzalez sits in the same row as Kyle, Mason occupies the seat immediately and directly behind Iman’s seat,” then, I mean, just, ugh. It’s not that we can’t work our what that means. We’re bright people, and we can handle it. It’s just that it’s going to take more time to make sure we’ve understood and are correctly applying such a rule than it would take with the “Miller is group 1 or group 2” kind of construction.

STAR FOUR: How restrictive are the rules? This is obviously related to Star Three, but it’s a little different. In both cases, it’s a question of applying the principle that in working through LSAT games, our success is determined by the efficiency with which we can apply rules to circumstances. If the rules aren’t clear (above) then it takes more time to apply them. If they aren’t restrictive, then they’re a lot less useful, and are therefore indicative of a more difficult (or more time-consuming) game. So, for example, the rule that “Korver is assigned to flight 3” is very clear and also very restrictive. However, the rule saying “The flights take off in numerical order”, while very clear, is not particularly restrictive. I mean, I had totally already assumed that flights numbered 1 through 4 would be so numbered because they’re going in that order. What deranged lunatic would imagine otherwise? Oh, yeah, LSAC might. But who else would think that? The point is just that if they’ve taken information that by all rights belongs in the setup, or could—for practical and moral purposes—simply go unsaid, then they are confounding the matter with the introduction of nonrestrictive rules. Doesn’t mean you can’t do the game! Does mean that working through it may take a little longer than would a similar setup with a more-restrictive rule set.

And that’s it! I mean, the type of questions you’re asked will play a role in how difficult the game is, when you compare one game to another, but only if the four considerations above are equal (in other words, if you’ve given the game 4 stars using my system, then the question set can’t do much to make the game really hard). So I just don’t consider it, personally. But I’m throwing it out there for your consideration. You know, different strokes for different people and whatnot (ed. note: Dave knows full well he didn’t write that saying properly. He is just being obstinate).

I expect that in every section, one or two games will get 4 stars, one or two games will get 3 stars, and none (or maybe one) game will get 2 or fewer stars. 

APPLICATION: 

  • Always do a 4-star game if it’s in front of you. 
  • Always skip a game with fewer than 2 stars. 
  • If any game has exactly 3 stars, do it if you’re a confident gamer, or skip it if you’re not quite fully confident in your skills.

Questions? Comments? You can leave them below, or hit me up by email if you prefer.

Be good to one another,

d

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