Q and A: Should You Diagram Logical Reasoning Questions?

tools-673837-mA student recently asked me whether I recommend diagramming Logical Reasoning LSAT questions. I'm asked this a lot, so I wanted to answer it here for anyone who is wondering the same.

Student: Firstly, I have all of your books, and I think they're great! I never thought I'd be actually laughing out loud while studying for the LSAT! :)

I've noticed that in your Logical Reasoning (LR) explanations, you rarely diagram the questions. I'm just wondering what your general opinion is on diagraming/using formal logic to answer some of the questions. I find that as I get into the late teens-and into the twenties, the questions get more convoluted and generally harder to follow/keep in my head. In your explanations, I've noticed that you solve these problems by just using the stimulus - but some of these the questions are so dense that I find it difficult to keep the main points in my head (especially for Inference questions and SA questions with a lot of conditional logic).

I want to tackle these questions in the most efficient way possible. So do you think I should practice diagramming, or is that a waste of time? What's the best approach? And do you have any specific diagramming techniques?

Nathan: Thanks for writing! I'm glad you've enjoyed my books. If you have a chance to write me a review, the phrase "laughing out loud while studying for the LSAT" would go an awful long way. No pressure, of course.Your question about diagramming on the Logical Reasoning section is a common one.

You should diagram only when necessary for understanding the argument. What type of question you're dealing with is irrelevant. What's relevant is whether or not a diagram is the only way to understand the argument itself. If you understand the argument, don't diagram. If you don't understand the argument, but you can re-read it and now you understand, then good, don't diagram. If diagramming won't help you understand the argument (like if it is very long, or has rules that don't follow a clear "if->then" or "only if" or "unless," etc. pattern, then don't diagram. If you suck at diagramming, then don't diagram.

Diagram if you can't understand any other way, and if diagramming will actually help. Otherwise don't.

Your practice test scores will clearly indicate whether or not you're ready for the December LSAT. If you want a 165, and haven't gotten a 165 on a practice test, then I'd bet against you getting a 165 on the December LSAT. On the other hand, if you had achieved a 165 on an actual LSAT, strictly timed, then I would clearly bet for scoring a 165 on the December 2014 LSAT. No need to speculate. Instead, get back to work and make it happen. If you're not ready, you can always withdraw.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

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