What makes Velocity better than the other guys?

Here’s what we think makes our course better than anyone else’s:

1. Dave Hall wrote it, based on his own experience earning perfect scores (three times! See his whole score record here). So you can be absolutely, completely certain that it worked for someone, at least (and Dave's not the only one who's benefitted from his methods).

2. Our course gives you a replicable, actionable set of steps for dealing with every kind of question the test writers ask. You will learn a complete methodology that you can take with you into test day and use to kick ass.

3. You get to prepare on your own time, at your own pace, with a Pause and Rewind button. We can’t imagine a better way to learn anything.

4. You get to ask questions when you’re stuck. You won’t be stuck very often (the videos are really comprehensive!), but if you do feel like you’re spinning your wheels, you can just ask for help, and Dave will record a new video response for you, or write you an answer, or maybe make you a drawing (he's been known to do interpretive dance, too).

6. You don’t have to take our word for it. You can get a sense of things for free. While our huge library of free video explanations is not a stand-in for our full course—in the free videos, we do not provide the methodology and the depth that we offer in our paid course—you can still get a good sense of whether Dave's someone you can learn from, and whether he's someone you’d enjoy learning from (and if you're going to spend 200-or-however-many hours with him, the answer to both questions had better be “yes” or you’ll just hate yourself by test day).

7. We’re easily the most bang for your buck! Thousands of videos, over a hundred hours of prep, and yet we're also enrolling students for less money than the other guys? KA-CHING.

But will it work on my iPad?

Yes!

Our videos will also play on your iPhone, Android phone, and every web browser in common use (we're talking about you, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, and even you, dreaded Internet Explorer).

Why Does Velocity Use All Tests from This Millennium?

When we created VTP, we were trying to balance competing aims - providing you with the most thorough possible prep while also offering the most cost-effective course.

We want to give you plenty of practice material, and we want to prepare you for the test as it is today, and we don't think it makes much sense to pay extra for a bunch of old tests that (A) you may not need, and (B) may not accurately reflect the LSAT as it's administered now.

How did we decide specifically to use tests only from this millennium? Mostly based on the Games sections, really.

Our earliest test is from October 2000 - in all the tests in all the years since then, only two games have not been readily susceptible to one of the five major templates that Dave outlines in our course. However, if you go back even a couple of tests earlier, you begin seeing more and more "weird" games. Go back past PrepTest 20, and you start to see lots of whole sections popluated by games that are very different from those on recent tests.

This phenomenon - the evolving test - isn't limited to the Games section.

We think you'll find that in the Logical Reasoning sections of the test, the older material contains a higher percentage of "weird" questions: questions that don't conform - either in their apparent demands or in their accepted answers - to the expectations set by today's tests. If you take these tests alongside your Velocity materials, we think you may find these older LR sections - like their older Games cousins - more difficult than current tests (largely because of the decreasing conformity to patterns that are strongly held on today's tests).

Finally, the Reading Comprehension sections of older tests often seem easier, on the whole, than do today's sections. On old tests, the RC answer choices seem more distinct from each other, and the wrong answers are wrong for what seem to be more obvious reasons.

Now, we don't mean to imply by any of this that all material older than PrepTest 32 is crap. We don't think you can draw a bright line like that. However, we do feel that basically all material since 2000 is very indicative of the test as it appears on modern administrations, and that material older than that often differs - sometimes significantly.

So, while a person can make good use of older material (just please keep in mind the potential for difference, as outlined above), we don't think it usually makes good sense—or smart prep—to spend more time and/or cash on material that may not be the best possible use.

Does VTP offer any discounts?

Totally. We got into this so that the best prep in the universe wasn't going to be available only to the rich (We can remember being poor college students, too).

Currently, Velocity Test Prep offers the following discounts on The Velocity Course:

  • Need-Based Aid. For anyone who qualifies for an LSAC fee waiver, we offer a 40% discount. To obtain this discount, please send a copy of your LSAC Fee Waiver letter to us at Info@VelocityLSAT.com, and we'll hook you up! Please note that this discount is good for the Full Velocity Course only.
     
  • Upgrade Discount. For anyone who has made the terrible error of having taken a comprehensive (live or online) LSAT course with—gasp!—some lame, non-Velocity prep company, we offer a $100 discount to ease your growing pains as you upgrade to Velocity awesomeness. To take advantage of this discount, just send us a copy of your paid receipt from your prior course (at Info@VelocityLSAT.com) and we'll get you a discount code to use at checkout. Please note that this discount is good for the Full Velocity Course only.
     
  • The No-Tests Option. Anyone interested in taking our course without receiving the PrepTests (if, for example, you already own the most recent PrepTests) can get access to all of the video lessons for any of our courses at a discounted rate. Simply select the "Videos Only" option when checking out. This option is available for all courses.
     
  • Military. We offer a 10% discount for all active U.S. military personnel. In order to receive your discount, please just send us an email and include proof of service (for example, a redacted copy of your orders). This discount is valid on all our course offerings.

We hope you find that one of these options is a good fit for you!

Where did the music in your videos come from?

All the music on the site is original and was composed by the talented Tim Hall (yes, this probably does constitute nepotism. We've had a long talk about it with Dave, and he will not relent. His exact words were, "What's it to ya?")

We urge you to check him out, if you don't mind braving the deserted wasteland that MySpace has become.

How are the free videos different from the Velocity Course?

You know how right now you have access to free explanations? The difference between those free videos and our paid membership is kind of like the difference between a dictionary and a creative writing class. In the free videos, we show you why all the right answers are right. In our paid course, we show you how to arrive at those answers.

With a full paid membership, you'll get a complete, action-oriented plan for dealing with every question the LSAT asks, and a replicable system for attacking the test and teaching it not to mess with you.

Your paid membership will add these benefits to your life:

  • Comprehensive attack plans for dealing with every kind of test question
  • Over 100 Theory videos to help you understand what the test wants, and how to deliver it
  • A complete context for every question—you'll learn to see things as part of a pattern, not just in isolation
  • Awesome video explanations for every single question from the PrepTests that form our course to show you how to put Velocity Theory into practice
  • Answers to any question you have—you'll have access to written and/or video responses for anything you need help with

If that sounds awesome and you want to learn more, check out our course offerings right here.

So, what are your top 3 general LSAT tips?

Whew. Just the top three? Really? OK, here goes:

  1. Think about the way that you've learned to get good at anything else you've done - hard work and smart practice. Expect to put in real effort if you want to succeed at this. Anticipate that you can probably benefit from a good coach. Know that you'll have to do organized review in order to grow.
  2. Don't just take practice tests - try instead to gain mastery of each individual question type. This will give shape and focus to your prep. In order to be fast for test day, you'll need to be good at what you do.
  3. (Really more of number 2) Pattern recognition is key. For example, there's just not enough time in a Logical Reasoning section (at least not for anybody over here - Dave included!) to analyze every argument. Instead, we've figured out how LR passaged are related to others by kind. That way, you get to recognize answers rather than having to synthesize them anew for every question you work.

OK, we know we cheated; that first one was, like, 6 tips squished together or something. Sorry.

Do you have any tips for dealing with test-day anxiety?

This is an important question, and one that I get a lot. Since it seems to have deep and complex psychological roots, test-day anxiety is tough for me to crack. But here are some thoughts that might help:

1. Knowledge kills fear. If you know that you're ready for everything the test will ask, then you can relax a little, secure in the knowledge that there's nothing they can throw at you that you haven't seen before. Dedicated, focused practice is required to get to that place, but I believe you can do it.

2. Do some of your prep in the food court at the mall. If you can learn to think under those conditions, then you'll be able to deal more easily with the smaller noises and distractions of the other test takers around you on test day.

3. Many prep companies offer free practice exams - take advantage (if you haven't already), just for the experience of sitting in a strange room, surrounded by strangers.

4. Learn and practice some visualization techniques: Picture yourself in the room on test day. In your head, walk through the entire experience of the day, from waiting in line, showing off your passport photo, to receiving the test booklet and listening to the inexorable drone of instructions, on through opening the seal with your pencil and turning the first page. Picture yourself owning that test. If you can see all of that, then once it happens, you'll already be in charge of it.

5. Find yourself a theme song. For my most recent test, I used "No Church in the Wild". You need something that kicks ass—you won't go wrong with "Eye of the Tiger". Play your song before every practice test you take, and play it on repeat as you drive to your test center on the day. YOU ARE ROCKY MOTHERF**ING BALBOA. 

6. Remember that anxiety is an evolutionarily pre-programmed response. It's nature. You cannot expect to not feel nervous, and just saying to yourself "Hey, self, don't be nervous," won't stop it. Instead, recognize that the nerves are part of the experience, and that they will come, but that they do not get to win. The nerves don't mean anything. You are in control, and you will stay in control by allowing the anxiety to come on, recognizing it for the purely physical reaction that it is, and moving straight on past it.

 

How do I get faster at Logical Reasoning?

The same way you'd get faster at typing (or running, or knitting, or doing Kung Fu forms).

Speed comes on this test from the same place it comes in every other thing we do in the world - by getting better at it.

Recognizing patterns is important (probably even essential - I know I couldn't've gotten all the questions right in the time allotted if I'd had to analyze each question individually). Instead, I learned to identify things by type. I sought patterns within the sections.

When I talk about pattern recognition, what I mean is this: something like 80-90% of the arguments within any Logical Reasoning section share something in common with other arguments in the section. To become a faster, fiercer test taker, you should spend a tremendous amount of time identifying those patterns, so that when you see an example of an argument type you've seen before, you can answer the question through recognition rather than analysis.

This work of identification and classification was the single most important thing I did in learning to succeed on this test.

How should I approach practice tests?

For your Practice Exams, I see at least four equally legitimate options, and I think you should probably use a mix of all four. In the earlier stages of your prep, the learning/review-type approaches are likely better for you. Then, as you gain confidence, you may want to do more practice/dress-rehearsing.

1. Take it for learning. Don't time yourself. Do it with your manuals at the ready, and take it nice and slow, making sure you suck the marrow out of each question. You can even look up right answers question-by-question as you go. If you take this route, it's very important that you never be satisfied that the right answer choice is (B), but that instead you make it your mission to understand why answer choice (B) is correct.

2. Take it like review. One thing I like to do to check that the skills are sharp is stop-time drills. Set the clock to run at 35 min/section, but pause it every time you run into something difficult. Then, write down what's difficult about the problem. Write what you think the answer is and why you think the attractive bad answer(s) is/are wrong. This will give you a real-time assessment of where your head's at, giving you a clearer review process than you could get after the fact.

3. Take it like practice. Time yourself, but with a stop-watch, not a countdown timer. Keep the stop watch face-down, and don't worry about the time (that part's just for helping you know how fast you're actually moving) - instead, concentrate on doing the work to the best of your abilities. At the end of every section, note the time it actually took you to complete the section along with the questions you got right and wrong. This way, you'll get a reading of how much you can do, and a sense of what you need to get better at in order to do it all within your 35-minute limit. (You can see how you could combine options 2 and 3 if you wanted to. You know, for fun).

4. Take it like a dress rehearsal. This method is probably most appropriate to the later part of your studies. If you do it this way (at a neutral site, strict timing, correct break after Section 3), you'll get the most-accurate possible measure of your current scoring range. This can be a useful barometer. If you do this route, then a proper review of your test becomes extra-super important.

What about reviewing practice tests?

One of the most important things to do in your learning is achieve a studied, deep review of your practice exams - something that can help you catch the points you'll need to hammer down.

Here's the basic approach I recommend:

  1. Make sure that you completely understand why every correct answer is correct. No half-assery will do! I'm always hanging around the Forum if you need help, but you have to totally get the reasons for right answers.
  2. Make sure you can articulate the weaknesses of any bad answer choices you fell for. Again, I can help if you're stuck, but you need to really understand what makes an attractive bad answer wrong.
  3. Think of it this way: If you had to teach someone else how to answer the question, what would you say?

While you're taking a practice test, find a way to mark every question that you're not 100% on (a box around the question number, for example).

It's totally cool if you end up with boxes around literally half the test. Just take time to mark every instance where you're not sure.

Then, when you do your review, concentrate on confirming all the right answers to those boxed questions - you made a lot of good choices: Why? - and on getting a deep understanding of where you went wrong. You'll need to know why every right answer is right if you want to repeat good performances and eliminate bad ones.

Couple review of those questions with complete review of any questions that you missed and yet didn't mark (i.e., the ones you thought you were 100% sure of), and you'll have a comprehensive overlook of your areas of weakness, so you can systematically eradicate those weaknesses.

Do you think I should read the questions before reading the passage?

I do recommend reading the question first in LR, but not in RC. Here's why:

In LR, many questions do demand the same basic work from you while you read, but there are also important differences between effective reading styles for different question types. For example, in the way you read a Logical Reasoning passage when you're answering an Inference question (in which case, you're thinking about what the passage proves to be true) as opposed to your reading when answering a Necessary Assumption question (in which case you're thinking about what the arguer has left out).

As a result of those differences, I think it makes good sense to read the question first so that you know how to read the passage most effectively.

So, why not in RC?

Theoretically, this system would be just as effective elsewhere as it is in the LR section, but there are two practical considerations that tell me it's not a good system in the Reading Comprehension section:

  1. You can't remember 7 questions. The theory is that reading the question first focuses your reading of the passage. The practical truth is that most people simply can't hold the content of 5-8 different questions in their head while at the same time doing an active, engaged reading of a 60-line passage. It's theoretically strong, but practically impossible.
  2. You already know what you're going to be asked. In much the same way that you know, for any page of the LR, what 6 or 7 question types are most likely to be on that page, you can know what questions you'll likely be asked on any RC passage. Since you know what's typically asked, you can simply structure your reading accordingly, with an eye to the ideas that are most likely to be tested.

Do you have any general tips for dealing with Games?

I'm so glad you asked: as it happens, I do!

The most important thing you can do is find a good way to graphically display the test material. The idea here is that you'll find it easier to see answers than to try to think up answers.

I don't believe I've ever made a deduction while working a game on an actual test. I wouldn't put any credence in a system that requires you to make deductions in games in order to be successful. You can learn to generate and process information visually, and then simply do the pencil work. My method isn't sexy - it's just brutally effective.

Maintaining a visual organization is a low-order thinking skill that you can easily master with practice. Once you have a strong technique, time is not a problem any more. It really doesn't matter precisely how you display information, but it does need to be visual, visual, visual.

(If you've taken the June test of 2007 (available free here), you might find it helpful to watch the free video explanations for all 4 games I've posted here).

What you can do is seek similarities between games. Every single game administered by LSAC this millennium (with precisely two exceptions, one each from PrepTests 40 + 41) has had strong organizational ties to many other games (and clear cues to those ties). If you can see it, you can work it.

The general principle is this: The games section heavily rewards your ability to efficiently follow directions. The rules of the game are those directions. So, if you can create a strongly visual iteration of the abstractions offered in the setup and rule-set, then you can use your pencil to work out what the rules dictate.

The difference between a deduction-heavy approach and my approach is almost exactly the same as the difference between dividing 7,654 by 12 in your head, and doing long division. The former is elegant and impressive and really hard to do.

I do long division. It's exacting and effective (though not very impressive at all), and it's very easy to do. I have a series of small, simple steps that I perform in the same way, every time, that transform the giant global conundrum of the game into a sequence of low-order actions.

I don't have to think very much during a games section, in much the same way that you don't have to think too hard to do long division with a pencil.

Any general tips for Reading Comprehension?

But of course, mon petit fromage.

For Reading Comp, generally, it's the answer choices, not the questions, that make the tasks hard. Answers are written deliberately to seem attractive when they're wrong, and to look ugly when they're right. You can go a long way toward short-circuiting those traps by disciplining yourself to always answer the question based on the passage before you look at any answer choices.

This does two things:

  1. Forces you to learn how to properly answer questions (you'll have to learn to stop relying on answer choices, and instead work from the passage itself).
  2. Makes you significantly faster over the long run. The place most people waste the most time is weighing answer choices. If you already know what the passage says on the matter, your choice will usually be faster (and more accurate!).

To accomplish these things, get some 3x5 notecards and use them to cover the answer choices. As you work a passage, instead of choosing an answer choice, write down on the card what the passage indicates is the right answer. Only once you've answered each question in the passage this way can you lift the card and choose the answer choice that matches your answer.

I can see a clear straight path from getting good at answering RC questions to being fast at it. It's much harder for me to visualize an avenue for success that doesn't include a disciplined approach to getting questions right.

How do I get faster at Games?

The same way you'd get faster at any repetitive endeavor: Practice!

The best approach to Games is almost exactly like the one you'd use in learning to play the piano. If you wanted to get good at playing the piano, you wouldn't try to do it by getting a whole lot of sheet music and playing each song through once, right? Same thing here.

If you wanted to play piano, you'd learn the finger positions, then you'd play a few songs over and over and over until you could play them fluidly. That sort of mechanical familiarity does two things that are the same things you want to accomplish in the Games section:

  • It establishes a skill set. You want to be fast at Games? Learn the process of doing games. You'll learn that process by focused repetition, in which you think long and hard about the most efficient way to deal with the material (and in class, I'll show you some very specific methods for increasing your efficiency). You learn how to do a few things well, and you'll be able to do new and similar things well, too.
  • It builds muscle memory - doing the same procedure over and over makes you better - and faster! - at that procedure. Today's games are all so similar to each other - in the same sorts of ways that many piano pieces are similar to each other - that if you learn a few basic moves, those will translate into an almost precognitive action plan on test day. You won't have to think about what you're supposed to do next, if you've already done the thing a hundred times before. You'll just do what comes next, without spending any time wondering or contemplating.

Games is a procedural enterprise - to be faster at the process, you'll want to get more comfortable at performing the series of small manageable steps that go into working any game. Learning the procedure is at the heart of efficiency, and efficiency means speed.

See this document for a structured approach to your study sessions to put these ideas in action.

What should I do when I'm trying to decide between the two answer choices I have left?

OK. Strap yourself in. This one's a long, multi-part answer:

Answer Part 1 - Inference Questions

For inference questions, remember that the right answer is something that you can prove based on the passage, right?

So, think about it this way: If you have four or five lines' worth of passage, how likely is it that in those few lines you'll be able to prove that "Most successful entrepreneurs have engaged in and enjoyed carnal relations with root vegetables"? Not likely at all, right? I mean, to prove it, you'd have to know how many successful entrepreneurs there are in the world, plus how many of them have engaged in the disgusting relationships indicated here. And if a passage had told you that much information, it would be too easy to answer.

Instead, you're much more likely to prove that "At least some successful entrepreneurs have engaged in and enjoyed carnal relations with root vegetables." To so prove, you don't need to know how many successful entrepreneurs there are in the world, and you don't need to know how many of that aggregate have filthy, filthy habits. You'd only need one example in order to prove that "some" enjoy those relations.

What I'm saying is this:

When you've got it down to two choices in an Inference question, choose the one with smaller, softer language every time. Generally, you'll eschew words like most, usually, all, never, and only, in favor of words like some, sometimes, not all, and not always.

Answer Part 2 - Sufficient Assumption Questions

These questions demand of you that you provide an answer that, if true, would be sufficient to prove that the argument's conclusion is true. And proof? That means that it's impossible for that conclusion to be false.

That's a really big job. How do you do that?

I mean, how do you prove, in a sentence, that some claim is true? It would take some heavy-duty information to do that, right?

So, expect that the right answer to a Sufficient Assumption question will be big. Expect it to employ what I call Load-Bearing language (the kind of language that can bear the burden of proof).

Words like all and always and never and every and only. Also superlatives - words like best and first and smartest and weakest and surest.

When choosing between two answer choices for a Sufficient Assumption question, choose the more-aggressively worded choice.

Answer Part 3 - In which we switch gears, to talk Reading Comprehension

In the RC, every question asks you what is supported "according to the passage," right? That means, of course, that the right answer to every question in the RC can be found within the passage that's on the page next to you. It tells us that the answer is available in print. That's something - it means that if we look efficiently enough, we can be guaranteed of finding the correct answer. I love RC because it's like an Easter-egg hunt in this way. The answers are all right there, just waiting to be uncovered. It's so great! So, that's one thing.

What it also says for us, that we may overlook, is that all RC questions are Inference questions. Every one asks us - explicitly or in essence - what we can prove on the basis of the passage. This means that the answers to all RC questions are Inference answers - the right answer choice, then, will tend very strongly to be small.

So, for all RC questions, when choosing between two answer choices, choose the smaller of the two. Exactly the way we talked about Inference questions in Part 1.

One other thing:

Imagine two answer choices, when you've been asked for the author's attitude. (A) says "scornful" and (D) says "critical." I can tell you right now, without any passage to reference, that the correct answer between those two has to be (D). I don't need any evidence at all in order to be positive in my choice.

Here's why: if an author is "scornful," then she must also be "critical." It isn't possible to express scorn without the element of criticism. So it isn't possible for "scornful" to be correct in this instance - if (A) were true, then (D) would also have to be true. And it's not possible to have two correct answers. On the other hand, it's entirely possible to be critical of someone without being scornful of her. There's no reason that (D) can't be true without needing (A).

In RC, when in doubt, choose the smaller answer.

You'll be right most of the time.

Answer Part 4 - Method Questions

Method questions ask you to articulate the method of reasoning used by the argument. The demand can be suitably met if you think of every Method question as asking you this: "Please describe the argument above" (in which the introduction of the word "please" makes the whole thing go down better, don't you think?).

So you begin your answer by describing the way the argument goes in gross, structural terms. And then you find an answer that matches that description. But what if there are a couple that seem enticing?

Before we tackle that directly, here's something important to keep in mind when you're looking at answer choices: the test writers are very unlikely to take sides. That is, the writers do not tend to denote any agreement with (nor disapproval of) the content of these passages. They just put the information out for us to reason through. And this makes sense, right? I mean, if the test writers were to indicate that any conclusion was, in fact correctly drawn, then that could potentially lead to challenges (this whole test is, after all, being administered to a bunch of future lawyers).

So rather than take any part, the test writers will pepper their work with phrases like "...according to the passage..." and "...if the above statements are true..." at least partly so that they, as an entity, cannot be accused of having taken an invalid or unsound - or just unpopular - stand on any issue.

Now, here's how we can use that bit of knowledge to our advantage: The right answer to a Method question is very unlikely to be declarative. Instead, the right answer is much, much, more likely to be qualified in some way. So, for a question asking

"The argument proceeds by..."

between these two answer choices:

(A) undermining a claim by attacking the evidence offered in its support

and

(D) attempting to refute a view by showing that it rests upon a questionable assumption

choose (D) every time, even if you don't have a passage in front of you to compare these answers to!

Here's why: if (A) were credited, that would mean that the test writers have said that this argument has in fact undermined some claim. This means the argument worked. Now, it's possible to undermine a claim, but it's incredibly unlikely that the test writers would ever indicate that an author has done so successfully (as we discussed above).

Instead, it's much more likely that the test writers will indicate that the argument has proceeded by attempting to refute a view. See, this removes all voice - the test writers aren't saying that the argument succeeded, and they're not saying that it didn't succeed. They're just describing - saying that the argument tried to refute a view.

And that's the kind of carefully-worded answer choice that's likely to be correct.

So, for Method answer choices, choose a moderated, qualified statement over an unmodified declarative answer choice. Almost all the time, you'll be correct.

Answer Part 5 - Necessary Assumption Questions

The right answer to the Necessary Assumption is, well... necessary to the conclusion. It's a piece of evidence that the argument needed, but left out.

This means two things for us:

  1. The right answer will often be small. Like most other necessary things in the world, the right answer is not likely to be something big and aggressive. Consider the things we need in life. We don't need the $600 bottle of Cristal, we don't need the McMansion - or the McDonald's, for that matter - we need only some food, some shelter, something to drink. In the same way that our physical needs tend most often to be little, the right answer to the Necessary Assumption question will tend to be little. Expect often to see the word "some" or "not all" and the like.
  2. The right answer is necessary - meaning essential, required, un-live-without-able, right? In other words, if you take it away, the argument will die without it. So, when you think you've found the right answer, ask yourself this question: "If this answer choice weren't true, would the conclusion still make sense?" If the conclusion can live without the answer choice, it's not the right answer! If the right answer isn't true, then the conclusion of the argument will become stupid. This is because the conclusion depended on the truth of the right answer.

So, when choosing between two answer choices in Necessary Assumption questions, choose the smaller answer, and try the test discussed in point 2 above.

Answer Part 6 - Weaken + Strengthen Questions

We've talked a lot about language cues, because they are among the most important indicators of correctness (and incorrectness) when you've got two answer choices left.

There are pretty strong cues at work for Weaken and Strengthen questions, too. Like this:

1. We know that the right answer to a Weaken or Strengthen question will (respectively) attack or assert the necessary assumption of the argument. In order to do so effectively, that answer needs to employ bigger, more powerful words than the soft language we expect from Inference and Necessary Assumption answers.

2. While the load-bearing language we know to expect from the answers to Sufficient Assumption questions would be awesome for doing the work of weakening and strengthening, experience teaches us not to expect such language to be used.

So, while it would certainly kick a lot of ass (in more ways than one) if an answer choice said "Nobody has ever enjoyed any Steven Seagal movie," such an answer isn't to be expected among the answer choices.

At the same time, an answer that said "People do not always enjoy Steven Seagal movies" is such weak sauce that it can't be expected to effectively counter (or support) much of anything, and would therefore be very unlikely to be the credited response.

Instead, we will expect language that's in between those two poles.

I'm thinking about words like these:

  • most
  • many
  • often
  • usually
  • rarely
  • few

I call these words (quite cleverly, I think) "Middle Language."

Denotatively, they're not so different from the soft language of previous discussions. However, these words trade heavily in connotation. So much of their force comes not from direct meaning, but instead from their evocative nature. "Many" doesn't mean much different from "some," but it sure sounds like more, doesn't it? For this reason (along with those given above) we can expect this kind of language within the right answers to weaken and strengthen questions.

So, when choosing between two answer choices for Weaken and Strengthen questions, look for Middle Language.

Answer Part 7 - Parallel Questions

The Parallel Question asks you to describe an argument (exactly the same task demanded by the Method Question), but then, instead of answer choices articulating that description, you're given 5 other arguments, one of which answers to the same description as the original.

There are three quick checks you can perform to get rid of many bad answers to these questions:

  1. Does the conclusion match? If our argument was prescriptive, then the right answer must also include a prescription (look for the words should, ought, must, + needs to). If our argument concluded that Thing X was not the cause of Thing Z, then the right answer must likewise conclude that Thing F was not the cause of Thing M. If the conclusion doesn't match in its form, that's not the right answer.
  2. Do the quantifiers match? If our argument said "most lizards are herbivores," then the right answer must say "most musicians are bassists," and not "some moles are cancerous." If our argument says "all members of the Kardashian family are vapid pretenders," the right answer cannot say that "many exotic birds are preening narcissists." The language of quantity is a major indicator of the underlying logical structure. It has to match.
  3. Do the topics match? If so, that's almost certainly the wrong answer. It is an extremely common red herring used by the test writers to present you with an argument about travel by train, and then a wrong answer choice about travel by bus, in the hopes that you'll mistake a similarity of content for a similarity of logical structure. Don't fall for it. Answer choices with similar subject matter to the argument are almost always wrong (really, I think they've actually always been wrong, but it's certainly possible to construct an argument with the same structure about the same content, so let's content ourselves with a strong warning against same-content answers, rather than a strict prohibition against them).

Running checks of those three items can help shorten the time it takes you to answer Parallel Questions, and can help you decide when you find you have two contenders left among answer choices.

Answer Part 8 - Flaw Questions

There are three kinds of answer choices associated with Flaw Questions. None of the three is more (or less) likely to be correct than the others. Instead, it's just that there are three flavors used by the test writers. Understanding these types of answer choices can help you understand when a choice is wrong and why it is.

Here are the three types:

  1. Choices that identify flaws. These answer choices are generic in language - they're not specifically tied to the content of the argument. They describe the flaw in structural terms (see this PDF - the same one I posted earlier - for examples of how LSAC identifies flaws in this way). When dealing with answer choices of this type, you must ask yourself only, Did we? "Did we, in this argument, really [generalize based on a sample, etc.]?" What sample? If you cannot identify the sample, then the argument didn't commit a sampling flaw, and this answer choice isn't correct.
  2. Choices that identify the assumption of the argument. These answers most typically begin with these words:

Presumes without providing justification that...
Takes for granted that...

Those two phrases mean "assumes." If an answer starts with that language, then whatever follows must be a necessary assumption of the argument, or it isn't the right answer. Answer choices that begin this way are Necessary Assumption answer choices, and are therefore subject to the same rules and tests as the answers to any Necessary Assumption Question (see Part 5 for more on this topic).

  1. Choices that negate the assumption of the argument. These answers most typically begin with these words:

Overlooks the possibility that...
Fails to consider that...
Ignores the possibility that...
Neglects the fact that...

All of those phrases are code for an answer that says "the assumption isn't true." Like this:

The only thing you can overlook (that it is a flaw to overlook) is the dreadful, ruinous possibility that the assumption of your argument is false. Consider this example:

She can't be a supermodel. She's only 5'3".

This argument has assumed that you have to be taller than 5'3" to be a supermodel.

It's flawed because it presumes without providing justification that you have to be taller than 5'3" to be a supermodel.

Another way of saying that is to say that it's flawed because it overlooks the possibility that you don't have to be taller than 5'3" to be a supermodel.

In other words, the reason it's flawed is that it has overlooked the possibility that its assumption is false. The wonderful thing about this 3rd type of answer choice is the clear effect that such a negation has on the argument.

If the right answer to a flaw question begins with this 3rd set of phrases, then whatever comes after them must ruin the conclusion, as in our example:

If you don't have to be taller than 5'3" to be a supermodel, then this argument is blown up. The conclusion becomes stupid, because the answer negates an assumption that the argument was depending on.

So, understand these three types of answers, and you'll go a long distance toward knowing how to get rid of bad answer choices in Flaw Questions.

Answer Part 9 - Point of Disagreement Questions

These questions ask you for the "point at issue" between two speakers, or for the thing about which two speakers "disagree" (hence my choice of name).

When deciding on the right answer between two choices, it will help to have a mechanism for making your judgments.

Here's a three-step approach that may help:

1. First, treat the question exactly like a Main Point question. The thing they disagree about ought to be their central conclusion, right? Articulate the end-of-the-day difference between the two arguers. Look for an answer choice that expresses that point. Experience tells me you'll find such a choice in roughly 1 of every 3 POD questions. When you don't find such an answer choice...

2. If no answer choice describes the main point of contention, treat the answer choices like the answers to Inference Questions; the answer will be the one choice that you can prove the
arguers take opposing positions on.

3. You may find it helpful to draw a two-column T-chart just to the left of the answer choices - one column is for Speaker 1, and the other for Speaker 2. As you read each answer choice, write down in your T-chart Yes or No answers for this question: "Can I prove that Speaker 1 agrees with this answer choice? Can I prove that Speaker 2 does?" If you cannot prove it either way, it's not the right answer. If they both say "no" to an answer choice (or, of course, if they both say "yes"), that's not the right answer. The right answer is the one with a firm Y in one column and a solid N in the other.

The right answer to the POD Question is the think you can prove they disagree about. For that reason, the answer is often pretty aggressively worded. When in doubt, choose the more aggressive answer choice. More often than not, that'll be the right choice.

Answer Part 10 - Main Conclusion Questions

I realize that for this question type, we'll really be talking less about choosing between two answer choices, and more about sussing the right answer from within the passage to begin with. I thank you for your forbearance.

Let's talk about three things that maybe don't get mentioned enough:

1. The But. Probably the single most important indicator of the main conclusion of an argument (in those cases when you've been asked to identify the conclusion, that is). So many arguments take one of these two forms:

(A) But ... since

Some people say that Tony will probably die alone [note the ascription!]

but this can't be true [see the conclusion here?]

since the ladies go crazy for guys who wear lots of cologne and say "broseph" a lot. [since always introduces evidence!]

and

(B) But ... so

Tony is afraid he will die alone, a victim of his own cologne [the setup]

but he needs to remember that there are some ladies who love them some cologne, [ah! competing evidence is offered!]

so maybe Tony will find love someday. [and we finish with a heartwarming conclusion]

In both instances, the word but can serve as an important indicator that you are nearing the conclusion. When you see that word in a phrase, determine whether the following phrase is evidence (as in the but ... since construction) or whether the phrase itself is the evidence (as in the but ... so construction).

2. The After All. These words (just like the word since, and the words to see this and this is because) always precede evidence. As a result of this rule, these words should then function for you like a giant, flashing neon light that says "Excuse me, Carl, but you have just now passed the Main Conclusion of this argument" (I'm assuming that if you're reading this, your name is Carl). When you see any of these words, you know you've found the conclusion. It's whatever sentence you just finished reading.

3. Therefore is wrong. Look, almost all the time, the word therefore is used to identify the main conclusion of an argument. But you tell me - if the test writers have asked you in a question to identify the conclusion, how likely do you think it is that they've telegraphed that conclusion by using the word thus or hence or therefore to signal it? Right. Not at all likely. When you're asked to find the conclusion, avoid the sentence that starts with therefore!

So, for Main Conclusion Questions, you'll be able to find the right answer most of the time (like 80% or better) by following one or more of these three rules:

1. Find the but.

2. Precede the after all.

3. Avoid the therefore.

Answer Part 11 - Role Questions

The Role Question asks you for the function of a statement within the passage as a whole. When deciding between answer choices here, the most important thing you'll do is develop a good initial assessment of the function of the statement.

To do this, start with a wide view - what's the argument about? Describe it in the same way you'd describe an argument when answering a Method question. Perhaps the most important thing to warn you of is to avoid the (completely natural) tendency to focus on the statement in question while you're reading the argument.

If your job is to assess the role of the statement within the passage (and it is!), then you have to be able to see the whole passage in structural terms. If you concentrate on finding that one sentence you've been asked about, you may be less able to provide a good description of the argument, and consequently less able to identify the function of the sentence.

So, for Role Questions, read structurally - the same way you would for Method questions. Prepare to describe the passage as a whole, and only then should you worry about the single sentence you've been asked about.

For answer choices, expect bad answers of these kinds:

1. Choices that correctly identify roles played in the argument by other statements. Your surest way to eliminate these answers quickly is to have at hand a strong, simple assessment of the role of the statement before you look at answer choices!

2. Choices that correctly identify the role of the statement, but incorrectly identify the conclusion of the argument. Many answers will have this form: "Evidence for the conclusion that [X]." Of course, those answers are correct when the statement in question is evidence, and the conclusion of the argument is [X]. However, it's often the case that the statement in question is evidence, but the conclusion of the argument is [Z], not [X]. The existence of these kinds of bad answers (and there are plenty of them) is perhaps the clearest reason why you need to strive for a good general description of the argument, and not worry only about the one statement in question. Stay on your toes, and you'll mostly be fine.

Knowing what you can expect from bad answers will help fill in the puzzle: For Role Questions, you describe the argument, eliminate choices that don't match your description, and eliminate options that don't match the argument.

Answer Part 12 - A final note on language cues

Think of language cues within answer choices sort of like modes of dress:

For example, if a person is wearing a wedding dress, then there are two additional things that are almost certain to be true:

1. The person is female.

2. The person is getting married.

Likely, well over 90% of all cases of persons wearing wedding dresses involve both of the above facts.

Of course, it's certainly possible that one or both of those things are false - maybe you see someone in a wedding dress and he's a man going to a costume party (or maybe he's in New York and he is getting married!)

It's possible for the cues regarding expected language to be misleading, in almost precisely the way that it's possible for someone in a wedding dress to be misleading. It could happen, but not very often.

To review:

For answers to Necessary Assumption and Inference Questions, we want Soft Language.
For answers to Weaken and Strengthen Questions, we expect Middle Language.
For answers to Sufficient Assumption Questions, we want big, burly Load-Bearing Language.

Any quick tips for dealing with Necessary Assumption Questions?

Yes! Let's start with these three:

  1. The necessary assumption is a piece of evidence that the argument needs but does not have. The right answer has to be something that fills in a blank within the argument - some place in which the arguer didn't provide you with the evidence, but instead just assumed that the evidence was true.
  2. To identify that place, look for shifts in language: Is there some place in the argument where the author changes the subject? If the author provides evidence about one thing, and a conclusion about something else, that author has assumed there's a connection between those two things. That shift in language gives evidence of the shift in logic.
  3. The right answer is necessary. That means that if you take it away, the argument will die, right? When you think you've found the right answer, ask yourself this question: "If this answer choice weren't true, would the conclusion still make sense?" If the conclusion can live without the answer choice, it's not the right answer! If the right answer isn't true, then the conclusion of the argument will become stupid. This is because the conclusion depended on the truth of the right answer.

Can you help me understand different “complete and accurate” Games questions?

What’s the difference between a question that says:

1. “Which of the following is a complete and accurate list of all of the cars, any one of which could be parked in the third garage?”

and one that says:

2. “Which of the following could be a complete and accurate list of the cars parked in the third garage?”

Answer:

Question 1 above asks for a global accounting of all of the cars that could ever park in the third garage.

Question 2 asks you for a single possible scenario - of all the possible combinations of cars, Question 2 just wants one such possibility.

You can quickly and accurately assess the different demands posed by these two questions by tracking the position of the word “could” within the sentence:

If the word “could” is near the end of the sentence (as in Question 1), then you’re looking for an answer giving a complete list of all possible entities.

If the word “could” is near the front of the sentence (as in Question 2), then you want a snapshot - an answer choice that gives you one possible permutation of elements to spaces.

To recap:

If could is near the end, then you want a global account.

If could is near the beginning, then you want a single permutation.

Concrete examples of these two questions are conveniently located back to back in your Games manual on pages 78 and 79, where question 16 is a real-word example of Question 2 above, and question 19 is an actual test example of Question 1 from above.

There are video explanations available for both games on page 78 and 79 in the paid course.

Would it be faster to do [whichever game you're thinking about] by mastering different scenarios?

I'm totally against the idea of "mastering scenarios". I just hate it to death. A lot, this is because the person who first introduced me to games did this, and it always seemed show-offy and of little help to someone (like me) who wasn't naturally good at doing games. I can totally see how if someone's already really good at games, that itemizing every possibility may seem comforting, but here are the three reasons I never do it, and I don't suggest for my students to, either:

1. If a person can't succeed in a game by following the explicit instructions of the rules, how could one possibly be more successful by isolating and acting upon the implicit inferences it contains? This doesn't make sense to me. It seems like telling someone who's struggling with Algebra to try doing Calculus instead.

2. How do you know when it's helpful to "master scenarios"? There are definitely, looking backward, many games in which there are only four or five total possible outcomes. This is what my trainer talked about, and it always felt ad hoc and hindsight-based. If there's such a thing as some games for which it's useful, and others for which it's not, how do I tell the difference? Again, it seems like in order to tell when it's useful, you'd have to already know how to do the game. If you are instead trying to figure out how to do the game, then adding the question of "Should I 'master scenarios' here?" seems to further complicate an already difficult task.

3. How does it save any time? And here, let’s consider the very typical Game 1 from PT 58. In completing this game, I answered question 1 first, then did 6, 2 and 3. Question 1 is just reading rules, and the other three meant applying rules. My work from those questions answered questions 4 and 5 completely, so in four lines of work (one line of which was just writing down the correct answer from Question 1), the entire game is finished. Looking at this work, I can see that there are at least 10 different ways these monuments could be ordered. So writing out 10 ways would be much, much less time-saving than writing out 4 answers.

That's how I do: It's brutal, but effective for someone who doesn't think in Games, which takes care of point 1. The technique I've described here is precisely the method I use for every game, with the same kind of results, and this solves point 2. Finally, it's much more efficient than any other method - by only answering the questions that I'm asked, I'll never end up with work that I don't need, and my work will always be done in service of directly earning points. This takes care of point 3.

But that’s like, just my opinion, man.

How do you deal with Flaw and Necessary Assumption questions?

Here's a start:

The flaw of any argument is the fact that the argument has assumed some information. In order to succeed, an argument must move smoothly, building from one point to the next without gap or interruption. When an argument fails to provide sufficient evidence for its conclusion - when it assumes that some important piece of evidence is true rather than demonstrating that it's true - that argument has failed.

Often, an argument will indicate its flaw on the basis of a shift in language: If an argument begins by saying that Mechanical Engineering majors are astonishingly physically attractive as a group, and that therefore, they must be a successful dating population, then that argument is flawed. The flaw is that it has failed to consider that the physical attractiveness of a group may not indicate its dating prowess. One necessary assumption of this argument is the assumption that they physical attractiveness of a group has some relationship to that group's success in securing dates.

So, identify the shift in language, and you'll have found the shift in logic. That shift is where the assumption lives, and that assumed evidence is the flaw of the argument.

Can you give any pointers for Strengthen (or Weaken) Questions?

Did you really think I'd say no?

Strengthen and Weaken questions are two sides of a coin. In both instances, we will answer by appeal to the assumption of the argument. You cannot strengthen an argument on this test by showing that the evidence on offer is true. We will correctly stipulate the truth of all the evidence (we have to. In a world where the facts are in question, how can we ever hope to reason properly together? See the US Congress for illustration). So, if the validity of the evidence is not in question, how can we make the argument stronger or weaker?

We can do so because the argument has assumed something. So, to make the argument stronger, we'll assert that the necessary assumption is true. To weaken it, we'll deny the truth of the assumption.

Consider an example: If an argument begins by saying that Mechanical Engineering majors are astonishingly physically attractive as a group, and that therefore, they must be a successful dating population, then that argument is flawed, because it has assumed a connection between attractiveness and success in dating.

So, to strengthen that conclusion, indicate that physical attractive does matter in dating. Say something like "Typically, the more attractive a person is, the more likely it is she'll be able to get a date." This doesn't prove that the conclusion is true, but it does make it more likely - and that's what we were asked to do.

To weaken this conclusion, attack the assumption: Say something like "Recent studies have indicated that physical attractiveness is a much less important consideration in dating than financial acumen." In this way, you're denying the strength of the connection between attractiveness and dating. This doesn't prove the conclusion is false, but it makes it less likely. That was its job.

Any quick tips for making Parallel Questions not suck so much?

Yes! Here's the basic idea:

I start by describing the argument, trying to take all of the content out of my description.

My description will sound something like this: "That goal cannot be the real reason the person took that action, because there's a better way to reach that goal." (this was my description of PT 37 Sec4 Q 14, if you're keeping score at home).

Then, I skim over answer choices, ignoring those that don't seem to match my description, and spending any analysis time looking at any answer that does match that description.

I'm kind of looking for the forest more than looking at particular trees. This bird's-eye-view strategy takes time to perfect, but it makes you fast when you get good at it.

To test this approach, see if that description doesn't make short work of the example question referenced above.

I've noticed that you don't always diagram conditionals. Is there a time when you don't recommend diagramming?

I'd say the best way to think of conditional symbolization is as a tool - really, in pretty much precisely the way you'd think about a hammer.

When you're driving a nail, there's just nothing better for the job than a hammer. I mean, you could do it another way (whacking at it with your tape measure, or with the sharp end of your screwdriver, if you're really precise and awesome with a screwdriver), but for putting a nail in, the hammer is your best bet.

At the same time, however, you don't go running downstairs to your toolbox to fetch your hammer every time you need to push in a thumbtack.

Conditional symbols are like that hammer - you should use them when you find they help you see the relationships, and you should feel fine with not using them if you can decipher the relationship in the passage easily without them.

As to language cues that tell you that you've got a conditional relationship, I'll direct you to this document, which contains all the conditional language in the world* (*probably not, really, but I am updating it every time I come across conditional language that isn't already on it. So, you know…).

I noticed in a video that you symbolized a non-conditional as though it were conditional. What's up with that?

My, what sharp eyes you have!

You are absolutely correct in your assessment that sometimes, I act as though I seem to think "most" means the same thing as "all" (or perhaps you've found me treating some other non-conditional relationship as though it were conditional)

And you're also correct in saying that those phrases are different. And you're also right to say that that difference is important.

So let me explain myself:

My use of conditional symbols for statements that aren't actually conditional is a kind of approximation.

Like this:

Imagine a multiple-choice math question that asked you for the product of pi and 13.

I know that pi is basically 3, so I can estimate the answer before I have to use my calculator to do any actual math. So, here, I would begin my assessment of answer choices by seeking an option that says 40 (give or take).

Now, pi is not 3. It's similar to 3, but it is absolutely different in a real and important way. Nevertheless, I may find great utility in beginning my approach with some approximation.

To continue the metaphor, imagine that the answers are:

(A) 22
(B) 27.5
(C) 31.45
(D) 40.84
(E) 49

I've got the right answer, even though I did so using a value that's inherently, really different from pi - and I did it fast.

Of course, what if the answers look like this?

(A) 39.85
(B) 40.15
(C) 40.45
(D) 40.84
(E) 41.84

In this instance, obviously, my approximation does me no good at all, and I'm going to have to be more precise in my calculations.

Questions in the LR are just like this.

I think it's appropriate and useful to begin our approach to a particular question by making use of estimation and approximation when we can (because estimates are often faster, simpler, and easier to perform than actual calculations), but that we must be prepared for the possibility that our estimation may prove insufficient for answers.

When that happens, we tighten up our calculations.

Any advice for avoiding careless errors?

Yes! Slow down.

I say slow down, when what I really mean is relax. The difference, measured in seconds, between the amount of time it takes you to read a sentence:

"As to the issue of Justin Bieber's romantic inclinations, I could care less"

or to correctly read the sentence:

"As to the issue of Justin Bieber's romantic inclinations, I couldn't care less"

almost can't be measured.

Probably you can't measure it using your wristwatch, anyway. But that miniscule difference in time means the difference between an author caring about the Biebs' love life in the first instance, and not caring about the Biebs in the second.

To catch that distance, you just have to read, which shouldn't be hard, but sometimes is hard nonetheless. So my best advice to you is to try to slow down, just a bit. You have the time to read properly. Make yourself know that - where it counts - and your actions will start to reflect it.

 

Another thing that may help you bring it home:
 
Think about the math. How many careless errors do you make in a section? We'll fictionally call it two for now.
 
If you slowed down enough to not make those two careless errors, even if it meant going so slow that you didn't have time to answer the last question, you'd still be better off! (Because you'd pick up two points for the four-fifths of a point you gave away by guessing on the last question).
 
And this effect is amplified if you skip very difficult questions as you encounter them: If you go methodically enough to avoid your two careless errors, and then run out of time and don't get to answer the incredibly-difficult question 18, you've gained two points, and probably haven't lost anything at all - question 18 was so hard there's a good chance you would have missed that one even if you'd worked on it.
 
And if you can internalize these facts, this should help you slow down enough to stop making careless mistakes.

I think that will help. Hope it does.

How do I get better at pattern recognition in the Logical Reasoning?

Start here:

Part (A)

Go through an entire LR section, looking at each question. For each one, answer the following questions:

1. What exactly does the question demand from you? (You must be able to answer for 26 of the 26 questions)

2. What can you expect the right answer to do? (You must be able to answer for 26 of the 26 questions)

3. What can you expect the right answer to sound like? (You must be able to answer for at least 22 of the 26 questions)

4. What is one wrong answer likely to say? (You must be able to answer for 26 of the 26 questions)

Part (B)

Then, go back through that section (without bothering with questions this time) and read each passage. For each, answer the following questions:

1. What is the main conclusion of the argument? (You must be able to answer for at least 20 of the 26 passages - no main conclusion for Inference and Resolution Questions!)

2. What is wrong with the argument? (You must be able to answer for at least 16 of the 26 passages - several passages don't exhibit flawed reasoning)

3. How is this flaw typical of others you've seen? (You must be able to answer for at least 10 of the 16-19 passages that exhibit flaws)

4. Which words are likely to be most important in determining the correct answer (no matter what question you might be asked)? (You must be able to answer for at least 20 of the 26 questions)

If you cannot answer all eight of these questions in the proportions indicated, then you do not yet have a strong enough grasp of the fundamental principles involved, and you'll know what you need to work on!

How do I get faster at the LSAT?

The same way you get faster at anything else!

This may help contextualize the job for you:

I recently finished reading one of the best books I've ever read (really. You should absolutely check it out).

It's called Born To Run, and it's about the Tarahumara, an ancient tribe of Mexican Indian runners. All they do is drink (home-brewed) corn beer, wrestle naked, screw (an obvious outcome of the naked wrestling), and run. They can run for days. They're faster, as a group, than anyone in the world. It's unreal - hundreds of miles at a stretch.

The author of the book spent time with them, and when I came upon this lesson, offered by a man who'd spent years with the tribe, I was blown away by how exactly it mirrored my advice for gaining speed on the LSAT (the book is by Christopher McDougall, and I urge anyone reading this to pick it up. It's breathtaking, and suspenseful, and moving, and inspiring). Anyway, here's the passage:

“ ‘Lesson two,' Caballo called. 'Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that's all you get, that's not so bad.

Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don't give a shit how high the hill is or how far you've got to go.

When you've practiced that so long that you forget you're practicing, you work on making it smoooooth.

You won't have to worry about the last one—you get those three, and you'll be fast'."

Emphasis mine.

I'm having trouble with "The Only"—is it the same as "Only" and "Only If"?

Yeah, "the only" is the tricky one.

As we've discussed, only and only if are arrows.

The only, on the other hand, means the same thing as All.

So, Only an idiot would buy that record, which clearly means the same thing as Buy that record only if you're an idiot, is symbolized the same way:

Record → Idiot

However, those are different from The only idiots here are the people who bought that record, which is the same as saying All idiots here bought that record:

Idiot → Record

All of this to say just remember that the only means all and you'll be fine.

I'm Having Trouble Deciding Which Template to Use to Diagram a Game. Can You Help?

If you are having a hard time picking the "right" template, here's what I think you should do: start every game by just choosing a template. Pick one at random at first, if you need to.

Then, before moving forward, check out the template I used for the game.

Take note of the reasoning I used (in the video) to decide on that template.

Write it down.

Over time, you'll begin to see the repeated features of games that suggest a template.

After even more time, you'll become so comfortable using the templates that you'll feel confident adapting them to the situation in front of you without regard to which template I'd use.

Make sure you're doing the rest of the work according to your study plan, and you'll get better!

How Can I Take 5-Section Practice Tests?

You may want to take 5-section (rather than the LSAC-provided 4-section) practice tests to better mimic your test day experience. If so, you can accomplish this quite easily! Here's what we recommend:

1. Set up your 5-section practice tests in four-test cycles. So, for example, set aside PrepTests 51-54 to use as 5-section timed tests.

2. Then, add one more test to that group, which will be your dedicated "experimental" section material. For example, you could add PrepTest 50 for this purpose. Just write EXPERIMENTAL across the top in black marker.

3. Now, each time you take a timed practice test, add one section from your EXPERIMENTAL test at the end.

Presto! You've got a 5-section timed test!

You Talk a Lot About Structural Reading. Any Tips on How I Can Get Better At That In LR?

Totally! Here's three things for you to try:

1. Try to think of the sentences within the argument as pieces of a puzzle. Their only meaning is their utility—they want to fit together so that there's no daylight between them, but they don't. So ask yourself why they don't. What's the missing piece? This is structural reading.

2. Try framing the argument in the following way: "This author believes Thing X because of Things Y and W. So, what do Y or W have to do with X?" This, too, is a way to read structurally.

3. When faced with a typical flaw, name each piece structurally, as a part of that flaw. For example, in 29.1.3, we have both a Prescriptive Error and a False Choice Flaw. I'd say the following: "This author wants us to use more gasohol (that's her prescription), but she never demonstrates that gasohol will be better than gasoline (that's the flaw!). Instead, she offers two benefits (more octane, less CO) and one feature that may not even be better (it doesn't add more CO₂ than plants remove. Does gasoline do that, though?). These three factors present a false choice—they neglect the possibility that there are other, possibly even more important factors!" Then I'd take a quick nap because that's a mouthful. But doing that repeatedly makes me better at it until I go from working it out, to thinking it, to just seeing it. That seeing is structural reading.

Do you have any advice for writing my Personal Statement?

Absolutely. Let's start with this:

To kick ass with your Personal Statement, accomplish these six things:

1. Find a story to tell.

Somewhere in your life, there is a story that indicates who you are, and why you're you. Think until you find that specific, true story, and then use this space to tell it. Your personal statement should be a narrative; it should show the reader why you're a good fit for her school, instead of trying to explain anything.

2. Demonstrate leadership.

Your story should indicate that you have an impact on your world. Show how you've changed your environment. This tells the reader that you are a go-getter; that you make your life happen instead of watching it happen to you.

3. Show why you're a good fit.

Your personal statement should show the school that you're a natural fit. It's like a first date; you need to show the school why you'll be compatible. You’ll do this foremost through strong writing. Think 4 C’s: your statement must be Clear, Cogent, Compelling, and Correct (free of all error).

4. Avoid cliché.

Everybody wants to change the world. Everybody wants to make the world a better place. Why, specifically and individually, do you want to do those things? By keeping your statement as specific and detail-oriented as possible, you'll avoid the tropes that every other applicant trots out come personal-statement-time.

5. Don't mention your weaknesses.

Readers have an emotional connection to well-written essays. You don't want that connection to be pity or scorn. Use the addendum to your application to talk about your low GPA (if you must). In your personal statement, keep the focus on all the things that make you wonderful, and that show what a great addition you'll be to the school(s) you're applying to.

6. Put yourself in their shoes.

Your personal statement is a sales pitch. If you want to convince someone that they need what you're selling, you have to first understand what it is they need. Admissions officers want bright, active, diverse, accomplished student bodies. Keep those attributes in mind as you write, and use this space to show how you are all of those things.

So first, plan and write an essay that does those things.

Then, if you want, I can help you hone the style till it's sharp enough to cut someone open. But that's up to you (individualized personal statement help begins at $400 for 3 edits).

Further questions? Sock 'em to me!

Should I write a Diversity Statement?

Yes!

You are you, which means you're not me or her or him. That means you're diverse, and you should tell your prospective law school why you are and why that matters.

Think about your diversity statement as being another chance for you to win the argument that you belong in law school X. One way in which you're not diverse is that you want that extra chance to make your case. You have the chance; use it.

Need help getting started? Click here.

Need help getting finished? Click here!

So, any advice for writing my Diversity Statement?

For your Diversity Statement, do these things:

1. Tell me where you come from. Your Personal Statement is about who you are. Your Diversity Statement is about how your background shaped you. It’s usually about your culture (ethnicity, religion, shared interests, etc.), but it can be about any aspect of your background that will show the admission committee how you will make their law school more diverse by your presence.

2. To frame your statement, it may help to start with these two questions: 

1. How are you different from your peers? What facts of your history—your own experience or family or culture—make you different from the people around you? Or, if you come from a strongly unitary cultural enclave (you’re a Mormon from Salt Lake, or an African American attending Howard), it may help to phrase the question like this:

2. How are you and your peers different from the larger American culture? What cultural (or other) factors set you apart? Does your religious belief inform your culture or history? Are you stereotyped by others?

3. Show me how those differences have made you who you are. Was being different hard for you? Did it make your life easier? Did it improve your ability to assimilate or did it provide challenges you had to overcome? What does your diversity teach me about who you are and what you'll do at my law school?

4. Show me that you’re not a stereotype. If you have cultural influences that make you different from the majority, how are you different from other people who share your cultural influences? Imagine a small box (your cultural heritage) inside a bigger box (the majority culture). You need to talk about how the small box changes your relationship to the big box, and you also need to talk about how you fit within the small box.

5. Don’t lecture me, particularly on cultural differences. Yes, the current state of American cultural intolerance seems to be at a low ebb, but this is not the appropriate venue for your treatise on race- or gender- or religion-relations in the US. This is about you. Keep the spotlight on how your diversity has shaped you and what you will bring to law school, not how you think things ought to be in the world.

Do those things, and you’ll accomplish your goal of a winning Diversity Statement that gives law schools more information about you and more reasons to want you.

OK, you said you do editing for Law School Statements - how does that work?

I can help you plan and execute an ass-kicking Personal Statement, Diversity Statement, or any other thing you'd like to write.

The cost for this comprehensive help is $400 for 3 edits (or $150/edit if you want to go one-at-a-time).

Here are the details for comprehensive editing service:

1. You write a first draft of your statement, using the outline here (for Personal Statements) or here (for Diversity Statements) to get you started.

2. You submit that draft to me via Google Docs (I'll set it up for you; you'll just need to write (or copy) your statement to it).

3. You visit our store to purchase your edit/s.

4. Once you've finished your first draft, you can send me an email telling me you're ready for the first round of edits, and I will make notes and revisions in the text. I'll suggest improvements to the overall structure, and offer (sometimes extensive) revisions for the sake of clarity, readability, and style (to see my revisions, you'll choose "See revision history" from the File menu at Google Docs).

5. If you get the Comprehensive editing package, then you take note of my suggestions, and when you've finished your second draft, you'll email me to let me know you're ready for the second round of edits. We'll repeat that process one last time for a total of three edits from me.

6. The entire process usually takes between one and three weeks, depending on how quickly you write and how quickly I am able to respond. Usually, I submit edits within 48 hours of receiving your notification.

7. To get started, send me an email.

Any Hot Tips for My Law School Résumé?

Look; you're a winner. You've used Kung Fu on the LSAT and beat it into submission. You've written an outstanding, tear-jerking, action-provoking, ass-kicking Personal Statement. You wear sunglasses, even inside. Everything's going your way.

But you're doing your Law School application résumé wrong.

Here are 6 mistakes people commonly make—and how you can avoid them!

1. You forgot it was supposed to be an academic résumé. Law schools don't care that you were salesperson of the month three months running while you worked at Plain Jane's Whips and Chains ("Your Pain is Our Gain!"). That doesn't tell them that you're likely to succeed in an academic setting. You aren't applying for a job, so don't résumé (totally a verb) like you are. Job listings are important on your résumé only inasmuch as they tell schools what you've been spending your time doing. Put your academic credentials up top, and expand them; instead of listing your work achievements, list your academic achievements. This is probably the only place on the résumé that warrants expansion. Your job is to highlight that you're good at school. It's parallel to how you'd try to impress a prospective employer, but the important parts are about college, not work. [NOTE. This advice should be mitigated by theamount of time you've spent outside of college. If you graduated many years ago, it's appropriate to put more weight on your career. Still, even in this case, start from the perspective that academics matter here].

2. You brought up old stuff. Schools don't care what you did in high school. Why would they? In the same way that a career after college erodes the importance of the academic sections, the fact that you've graduated from college erodes your high school achievements. When we talk about your educational history, we mean your college and post-grad work. Here, let's try it like a cheer: When I say Academic Résumé!, you say College!

3. You included a skills section. Why on earth does it matter that you're proficient in MS Paint? Who cares that you can manipulate an Excel spreadsheet like Dexter handles a Thermo Scientific Shandon Rachiotomy Bone Saw? (Yeah, I looked that up). Skills are important to employers; work skills are not very important (if at all) to law schools. Now, if you have learned to do legal research and write strong legal synthesis, that would be worth mentioning.

4. You omitted an awesome "Interests" section. Now, don't fake interests. That's gross, and law schools have excellent BS detectors. But, if you do have a deep abiding love for scuba photography, this is useful to share. Law school admissions officers are like everybody else in the world; they're attracted to passion. Show them what you're passionate about, and then your Personal Statement will help them see that your passion can translate into performance in school (and on the bar!).

5. Your résumé doesn't match your Personal Statement. In that incredible Personal Statement we were talking about earlier, you told the committee that what you really want to do is change the world (but you didn't say it like that, because you took my advice and wrote it mo' better). OK. Cool. THEN WHY HAVEN'T YOU DONE ANYTHING TO CHANGE THE WORLD? Seriously, to be effective, every aspect of your application should tell schools about the best version of who you actually are. In other words, the separate pieces of the app should corroborate each other. Your résumé should remind the reader of the person they met in your Personal Statement. I mean, the two should at least look like they came from the same person.

6. You wrote a damn novel, not a résumé. Almost nobody needs more than a single page for their law school résumé (if you think you do, revisit points 1, 2, and 3 here). Getting it all on one page shows schools that you're good at an essential lawyerly skill; analysis. It shows that you were able to comb through all the information scattered behind you like a tail, and you picked out the important parts. Your résumé should make you seem like a curator at a great museum; it highlights the important facts and leaves out the extraneous crap.

So, avoid those 6 common errors and you'll be on your way to the kind of résumé that opens doors instead of shutting them to you.

Why did a guy with 3 perfect LSAT scores not go to law school?

I get that a lot, as you might imagine.

The short version - I make more money doing this than I would practicing law, and I love it.

The long version follows (and is, I'd imagine, pretty boring to anyone not named Dave Hall, but remember that you asked, OK?)...

I'd say that if they really thought about it, there are three considerations most people (and I certainly include myself here) think they should weigh in choosing a career (as opposed to a job, which is mostly about one thing: money). Those considerations are, in alphabetical order:

  1. Growth potential - the belief that your work will have an arc, not just a long flat line. You want to know you're headed somewhere.
  2. Happiness - the belief that your work has meaning. When it does, you sleep good (even if not enough) and you're better to everyone in your world. You find it easier to become a citizen when your work fulfills you, and you're a better one for it.
  3. Money (of course. Come on).

​In other words, you want to do work that will allow you to retire someday. In this America, that's a tough proposition. You want to do work that's meaningful, so going to work isn't a chore. And for me, I wanted work that would allow my wife (who wanted to stay home full-time) to live the life she wants, too.

Velocity gives me all three of those - and in particular the second one of them - in a way that law school didn't seem to offer.

The particular history: When I took the test for the first time I got a 179 (those bastards) and figured I'd go to law school. This was for mercenary reasons - I had no particular love of the law nor calling to practice, but I'd just found out that my wife was pregnant. I needed a big kid job (before that, I'd been doing construction work in rural Appalachia, then teaching part-time for a national test-prep company. With a wife with a baby in her belly, I needed more income and security all of a sudden). Anyway, I do love to teach, and figured I'd go to law school just because I could, then teach law.

Then I started investigating law schools. Realistically, to follow the traditional path to a law professorship, I needed to go to Yale (or Harvard), which meant I'd shell out plenty of money for school to move my newly-growing family across the country for three years, then have to get a job practicing law for at least a little while before finding a position that might move us all across the country again… It wasn't an awesome-sounding life path.

Instead, I accepted a position running the LSAT program in Southern California for that test-prep company, and after some time doing that, I found that I was making more money than I would've been earning practicing law (At least, at any law firm I'd think about working for - my lawyer friends in such firms made between $65-90K. Yes, there are opportunities in law to earn 2-3 times that just to start, but like those friends, I wouldn't have even considered going into (highly-remunerative) indentured servitude at a big corporate firm. And look, if that's your bag, that's cool, and I'll help you get there, but it sounded like misery to me, even at the million-a-year I'd certainly eventually make as a partner).

So that was part three of my triptych from above, but I still had a significant hole at number one (growth potential - I had no intention of going any higher up the ladder than the Assistant Vice President label they stuck on me to justify my salary. Really, can you imagine me sitting behind a desk all day? Yeah, neither can I. So it seemed like I'd tapped out my potential for growth), and as a result, I wasn't all the way home at number two (happiness), either.

Then I did the deal that I'm proudest of in my whole working life; I negotiated a contract with that test-prep company that allowed me to work part-time teaching live classroom courses for them, while starting my own online-only venture at the same time. This deal satisfied my loyalty to the company and at the same time allowed my broader ambitions. I believe it's without precedent, and it managed to satisfy their needs and mine in a way that gives me a career doing meaningful work where I can grow almost without limits, work on my own hours, see retirement ahead of me, and still drop off and pick up my boy from first grade. Plus, think about how awesome this sounds: I get to offer the absolute best LSAT preparation available anywhere, and I get to determine the price, so we made it cheap so that it's not only rich people who get access to the best product.

We're trying to start a revolution, is what I'm saying.

And that, for the one person still reading this far, is how a guy with multiple perfect LSAT scores doesn't end up going to law school.

d

 

Hey - wake up! We've reached the end of the narrative, and you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. I've got a revolution to tend to!

What about the February LSAT?

What about it? Oh, you mean, what if I'm thinking about December and then thinking, Well... maybe not so much?

Here're some thoughts:

You can take the February test for Fall admissions, at least at most schools in Southern California (I have less direct experience with schools outside this area, but I'm confident that SoCal schools aren't unique in this regard).

The thing is that you'll guarantee by doing so that your application comes in late in the cycle. Here's what that means for you:

Being late in the admissions cycle is probably most detrimental to people at or slightly above the median admissions standards. Late in the cycle, there will simply be more applicants with similar numbers, and schools just can't admit them all. So, earlier is better, but that doesn't mean that a later application will disqualify you.

Qualified candidates are as well-qualified in November as in February. They're just competing for fewer open spaces as the cycle wears on. But schools don't finalize their acceptance offers ahead of their deadlines. Thus, you'll properly picture the relationship of timeline to admissions chances by picturing a 5% drop in your chances by applying in February rather than in November.

Obviously, such a formulaic response oversimplifies the matter - law schools are actively engaged in seeking the best candidates for their schools, and offering acceptance letters to the most-qualified candidates that they believe will accept their offer, so the whole relationship cannot be correctly boiled down to any mathematical formula. But this picture is much, much closer to the truth than to say applying later in the cycle removes your opportunity for admission.

With rolling admission, if you're in early and just above the median with strong letters of recommendation and an awesome Personal Statement, you may have an easier time getting an acceptance (schools know they're going to admit lots of people at or very near their median, so they may call you a presumptive admit early in the cycle, even though they might just not have room for you later in the cycle).

Of course, in these heady days, with applications down so much across the board, those normal rules may not fully apply as schools are more desperate to fill seats...

It also might help to think about it this way: 

If you're preparing for the December test and thinking you might postpone until February, I'd say that generally, if you're confident of doing more than 4 points better by waiting, you should wait. 

Of course, you should also consider waiting a whole extra year (if your life will permit it) so you can take that higher LSAT score into an earlier spot in the rolling admit process.

Just a few thoughts; I hope they help you plan.