Taking a Quick Look at the Types of LSAT Questions

The LSAT has three different kinds of multiple-choice questions. Each type has its virtues and vices, and you will come to know and love them all.

Analytical Reasoning — playing games with your head

The Analytical Reasoning section consists of four logic problems — the infamous "logic games" — each of which is followed by between five and eight questions. These problems involve a group of players that need to be arranged and the rules that govern how you can arrange them.

Many people call Analytical Reasoning problems "logic games." This article doesn't use the term "logic games"; it calls them "Analytical Reasoning problems." The reason for this is that there's another section on the LSAT called Logical Reasoning, and it gets terribly confusing if two different sections of the LSAT have almost identical-sounding names.

You may get something like: Five college students, B, C, D, E, and F, must share three rooms in a house. B can't stay with D. E must stay with F. This fact pattern is followed by several questions that allow you to explore your understanding of the relationships between the students and the dorm rooms. One question may propose five possible roommate arrangements, and ask you to choose which one is the only one that could work.

This kind of puzzle commonly appears on IQ tests or in books of games to amuse travelers on airplanes. What they have to do with law school is a mystery to many people. The LSAC PrepTest booklets say that these types of problems "simulate the kinds of detailed analyses of relationships that a law student must perform in solving legal problems." That may be exaggerating the amount of logical analysis that law students must perform.

Still, the skills that the Analytical Reasoning section tests are important in law school. To answer these questions correctly, you must read carefully and accurately. You have to apply rules to a system, which is similar to applying statutes or case law to a problem. You have to restrict your analysis to what is directly stated or that can be logically inferred. So the Analytical Reasoning section is fairly useful at predicting who might succeed in law school.

The Analytical Reasoning section is worth 25 percent of your LSAT score.

Logical Reasoning — putting your arguing skills to good use

The Logical Reasoning section consists of about 25 short (for example, three or four sentences) passages about various topics. Each of them is followed by one or two questions. The questions ask you to identify the point of an argument, to make deductions about what the author is assuming, to draw conclusions, to identify principles or argument structures, to spot logical errors, and so forth.

You don't need to know any formal logic to answer these questions. All you have to do is read carefully (and quickly) and think clearly. Sometimes the wording is tricky, and you have to concentrate to avoid getting confused. Sometimes jotting down some notes or paraphrasing the passage in your own words can help you focus.

Every LSAT has two Logical Reasoning sections. Together, they're worth 50 percent of your LSAT score.

This point may seem obvious. Because the Logical Reasoning section is with 50 percent of your total LSAT score, work hard on your technique for these problems. You get twice the benefit if you do well on this section!

Reading Comprehension — concentrating and remembering what you've read

In the Reading Comprehension section, you read four fairly long passages on particular topics and answer several questions about them. The questions ask about the author's conclusion, the author's tone, the meaning of words, how the passage is organized, and other points designed to test your ability to understand what you read. The good news: The LSAT uses a limited pool of question types over and over again. Because you can predict the types of questions being asked, you can practice reading to answer the questions you know you'll see.

Topics range from humanities and science and social science disciplines to political writing. You don't need any expertise in any particular area; in fact, if you have expertise in the subject of a passage, try to forget your outside knowledge. You want to answer all the questions from the information given to you in the passage. Outside knowledge may actually distract you!

This section tests your ability to read and understand a fairly long reading passage. Reading and understanding a long passage is applicable to law school because most law classes consist of reading long, densely worded passages on obscure topics and then answering questions about them.

The Reading Comprehension section accounts for 25 percent of your LSAT score.

The Writing Sample — jumping the final hurdle

The last part of the LSAT is the Writing Sample section. You receive one sheet of lined paper, and you get 30 minutes to write your essay on it. (Yep, that means you write it by hand.) The essay topic lets you exhibit your skills at arguing one side or the other of a proposition.

For example, your question may ask you to decide which dog a widow should buy: a German shepherd, who would be a good guard dog but eat a lot of food and not be very affectionate; or a Pekingese, who would make a good companion and be cheap to feed but would be utterly useless for home defense.

Your selection doesn't matter. There's no right or wrong answer. All you have to do is pick a side and justify your decision.

You don't get a score on the writing sample, but the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) sends a copy of your essay to every law school that receives your LSAT score.

Some folks wonder why they should prepare for the Writing Sample section if it's unscored. Law schools often read essays in deciding borderline cases or comparing similar applicants. If your profile is substantially similar to hundreds of others, law schools often look at the essays to compare like candidates.

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