Can I Master the LSAT by Studying Only the Hardest Questions?

questions-1151886If you’ve decided to take the LSAT, you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about the perfect study plan. Everyone has limited time and resources, and creating the optimal strategy under these constraints is crucial. Students often ask whether studying only the hardest LSAT questions is a good idea. I’d actually recommend the exact opposite approach: a study plan with an emphasis on easier questions is the way to go. In theory, studying only the hardest questions makes sense. Maybe, if you can crack the hardest questions, the easier questions will be simple in comparison. You’ll then have a good understanding of the entire test, thereby quickly and efficiently mastering the LSAT.

The problem is that while the hardest LSAT questions are a great test of your skills, they make very poor study tools because they’re harder to learn from. Harder questions repeat the same principles and patterns as easier questions, but are designed to be more obtuse, and the patterns are harder to discern. By studying the easier questions, where logical flaws, game rules and reading passage content are more straightforward, you’ll gain a greater understanding of the LSAT make-up. Your mastery of the easier questions more readily boost your pattern rendition, helping you dodge through the tricks, traps, and general obfuscation of the harder questions to get to the right answer. The easier questions will help you master the harder ones, not the other way around.

Studying easier questions is also more rewarding. You’re more likely to understand these questions and get them right. Studying for the LSAT is an incredible feat in self-motivation, and nothing fuels that motivation better than a series of checkmarks. Heck, you don’t even need to answer all the questions on the LSAT to get an awesome score. Start with the easier questions, and work your way up. If you start with the hardest questions, you’re more likely to get discouraged or burn yourself out. You don’t need to make studying for the LSAT any harder than it already is.

So that’s why I recommend that students emphasize studying LSAT easier questions. I think this strategy applies no matter what your diagnostic score. I scored a 179 on the LSAT and there are still some logical reasoning questions I’m not 100% sure about. It’s my rock solid knowledge of the easier questions that allows me to A: get through a section quickly and confidently and B: deconstruct the harder questions, and get the right answers. If I had skipped the easier questions in my studying, I wouldn’t have built the foundation of my LSAT abilities.

There’s an analogy Nathan likes to use for this situation: Playing one-on-one hoops with LeBron James might seem like a good way to learn basketball. But if he never let you get a shot-off and just dunked in your face 10 times in a row, would you really be learning? The LSAT questions are not your friends, and the hard ones are never going to go easy on you. LeBron James wouldn’t either. So, instead of learning how to play, you’d probably just leave the court forever, plagued by a feeling of total failure. Don’t let this happen to you with the LSAT. Everyone can learn better by playing in their own league.

I’m more of a dork than Nathan, and don’t know much about sports. The question of whether or not to study only the hardest questions reminds me of math class. There’s a reason our teachers always assigned us questions that ranged from the easiest to the hardest. Mastering easier math questions helps you answer harder questions. The patterns you ingrain into your thought process by successful answering the easier questions helps you deconstruct more abstract problems. You really shouldn’t be doing advanced linear algebra without learning basic matrix arithmetic, just like you shouldn’t be doing questions 11-25 in a logical reasoning section without understanding the difference between the necessary and the sufficient.

So do yourself a favor when studying the LSAT and focus on the easier problems. Not only will it be more rewarding, it’ll also give you a much better understanding of the LSAT as a whole. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, a mastery of the easier LSAT questions will eventually make even hardest questions seem simple.

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