The categorization of LSAT questions and the “READ” objective
The categorization of LSAT questions is the “rage” in LSAT preparation books and LSAT courses. The prep industry behaves as though the goal is to complicate the LSAT. The “National Anthem of LSAT Prep” is:
“The more categories of questions you can identify the higher your LSAT test score.”
According to conventional wisdom (much of it reinforced by the official LSAT publications) there are:
– four categories of LSAT Logic Games.
– a large number of specific types of LSAT Logical Reasoning questions including: assumptions (both necessary and sufficient condition types), inferences, parallel reasoning (conditional statement based and others), flawed arguments, verbal exchanges, necessary and sufficient conditions, etc.
– approximately six categories of Reading Comprehension questions
Does the categorization of questions help students perform better? After many years of classroom LSAT teaching experience I would say:
“Not necessarily, It depends on the student.”
You DON’T get credit for being able to categorize the question.
You DO get credit for identifying the best answer in a multiple choice context.
Therefore, the real questions are:
Does the categorization of LSAT questions improve ones chances of answering the question more accurately, more quickly or both?
Does the categorization of LSAT questions further the “READ” objective?
Does the categorization of LSAT questions assist you with:
“Reading Effectively And Deducing”?
I advise you to experiment. Some people are helped by categorizing and some are most definitely hurt. It is clear that the categorization of LSAT questions is (to use the language of some question categories) neither a “necessary” nor “sufficient” condition for answering the questions. Remember:
“It’s the READ test!”
If you are thinking about what category of question it is, you may not be thinking about what you are being told!
Copyright © John Richardson. All Rights Reserved.
Since we’re getting in the habit of commenting on each other’s blogs, thought I’d drop a short comment here.
This post is an excellent “first principles” point. Although a taxonomy of LSAT question types can be and often is quite useful (although categorizations of over 40 question types by some prep companies are not only a little show-offy, they’re also more damaging than helpful to those who actually have to take the LSAT), it’s also true, as you point out, that the real first principle is actually reading and processing information efficiently.
To the extent that categorizing questions helps LSAT takers do that, it’s great. To the extent it gets in the way of actually understanding the information, as it often does, it’s disastrous.
I think the tendency toward overly previous taxonomies is part of the “trickery school” of LSAT prep, the assumption that there’s some kind of secret knowledge in this test and, if you just learn enough tricks, you’ll get a high LSAT score.
Among the many problems with that theory is that the LSAT isn’t trying to trick you. It has a simple theory of argument that its writers execute to perfection. Very few tricks. To get your best LSAT score, you have to be able to execute and manipulate the LSAT’s theory of argument as well as the test itself does. And the first step to that is reading what’s in front of you–and then making it fit into what the LSAT is trying to test.
Fair warning to LSAT takers: the LSAT-prep industry’s “magic bullets” almost always backfire. There’s just no substitute for the first step you’re presenting–reading and understanding what’s in front of you.
–Kyle Pasewark, Founder, Advise-In Solutions
Thank you Kyle – your comment is a great addition to this post!