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 Dave Killoran
PowerScore Staff
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Recently, I've received several messages from students that either ask about seemingly random score fluctuations, or alternately about scores being stuck or not increasing quickly enough. While each person is different, and the reasons for having difficulties vary from person to person, the way to study to address these issues is often very much the same. So, I'm going to post some of the general advice I often pass along in the hopes it might help anyone else who is struggling:

  • First, if you are reading this, I'm terribly sorry to hear things aren't going the way you want so far, but the nice thing is that the end of the journey isn't dictated by the problems you have along the way. It's normal to encounter some troubles while studying, and many students have had a serious issue only to go on and end up scoring extremely well. The key thing is not the problem you have, but how you react to it and the steps you take to eliminate it! With that in mind, let's talk about how to go about identifying and mastering the multifaceted issues that tend to accompany score fluctuations or just being plain stuck as far as improving your score. Just as a warning, this is a long reply, and it's upside down in a sense: I go from broad ideas to more specific ideas, and end with recommendation for a specific next step. So, please bear with me until the end :-D

    The inconsistency in scoring you are seeing relates to how the LSAT tests a wide variety of areas each time, which makes some tests better for you and some worse. I talk about that here: Welcome to the LSAT Casino. For students who aren't 100% on the fundamentals or who aren't machine-like in their approach, these variations in exams often reveal themselves in up and down performances. LR is great on one test, but then not so great on the next while LG seems to do the same thing, but on different tests, and so on. When your scores are jumping around and not rising the way you want them to, there are two broad areas you should look at:

    • LR/RC—Your understanding of the stimulus/passage: Inconsistency often relates to your analysis of the stimulus. How confident do you feel coming out of each stimulus or passage? Do you feel like you understand what is being said? Is your clarity on the argument as good as you'd like, or do you find yourself uncertain of exactly what has been said in many cases? If it's the latter, then the first place to start is with that—try some sections of untimed questions, and then stop after the stimulus and make an assessment of how strongly you feel about your stimulus understanding, and then compare that to how you perform when answering each question. If you see a connection between problems with the stimulus and missing questions, then you'll know that has to be part of your study focus. The question is, how clear are you on what you've read? Could you condense the stimulus into a sentence or two that captures the essence of what was said, or a whole passage into a few sentences? If not, start practicing doing so. How well you can quickly grasp what was said is critical.

      Another way to think of it is this way: everything you need to know to answer any questions is either in the stimulus or passage, so if you don't understand something in one of those, it's going to be difficult to confidently answer a question.

      LR/LG—Your recognition of the things the test makers do over and over: Good test takers save time by knowing the things that the test makers do often, and then being able to immediately recognize and process those things during the exam. That could be something as simple as recognizing a question stem wording or as important as knowing how to properly diagram a rule and knowing its implications. I'll talk about how to do those things below, but the key here is to not lose time on the things you can know beforehand.

    Ok, those are two broad areas to think about, and to get better at each do the following:

    • 1. Track everything that gives you problems. Miss a question? Mark it down and why. Don't feel 100% comfortable? Same thing—mark it down. Then, every so often, go through those lists and look for patterns in what you are missing. There will be patterns!

      2. Make sure you really know the the concepts that appear most frequently on the test, as well as the various techniques and methods for attacking ideas. For example, can you identify premises and conclusions without thinking, do you know the basic argument flaws, do you know all the ways to break down causality in LR, and so on. Instant execution with no delays is your goal. A good self-test of how well you know the ideas is to review the ideas in the book and ask yourself if you could teach them to someone else. If the answer is no, then review them again!

      3. Look at questions repeatedly until they are second nature. Review, review, review. Stumble on a question? Look at it again a few days later. Get to know questions so well you could teach them to your friends without missing a beat, and without stumbling over any of the ideas. One of our students talk about how he does it here: ... ent-part-1. His pattern of mastering the questions has taken him from the 140s into the 170s now, but it's hard work and involves a LOT of review.

      By the way, to prove whether you really know a question, ask yourself this: if you brought me the LG/LR/RC that troubled you the most, could you explain it to me perfectly right now? If not, that means you didn't study it enough previously. You have to master that which is most difficult, and doing so helps unlock the underlying problems you have.
    Last, if you feel like your scores are bouncing all over or that you aren't improving in a way that satisfies you, try this basic assessment: sit down and take a totally new practice test, one you haven't seen before. Time it, and then follow the rules for blind review outlined in the first method listed here: ... tice-tests. Use those results to make a cold appraisal of how well your LSAT radar is working in terms of when you feel confident vs when you know something is wrong. If you find that your radar is well off, go through the above steps to break down each part of your process. For example, first go back and study your identification of stimulus ideas—are you understanding what was said? If not, practice with analyzing and summarizing stimuli, etc. Next, how well are you seeing arguments, fact sets, flaws, etc. don't be frustrated if you miss questions the first time; each miss is an opportunity to learn more about how they make this test, and what problem areas you have and what you need to fix. Don't get bummed out by missed questions—instead use them to learn from and to get better!
Those are broad sketches of how to attack this, but hopefully that helps give you some structure to place around your studies so they are maximally productive!

Please let me know if this helps. Thanks!

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