We’re three days into the new year, and our review of 2020 so far? It’s already pretty scary. Not only is the January LSAT scheduled to go in ten days, but WWIII is now trending on Twitter. So excuse us for continuing to bask in the warm bath of recent nostalgia. In our last post, we reviewed all the LSAT news from the news-packed year of 2019. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the all the LSATs published in 2019. As we did last year, we’ll do so by rewarding LSAT superlatives to these exams …
Hardest Logical Reasoning Question: September 2019, Section 2, Question 21 — “Seven-day weather cycles”
We overlooked this one as one of the hardest questions on the September 2019 exam in our initial run-down, but after talking about this exam with a number of students, this is the question that always comes up. This Necessary question used all the tricks an LR question will use to make itself more difficult — garbled syntax, a confusing discussion of scientific phenomena, answer choices that look almost identical on first read. It’s a lot, and it was the hardest question of the year. (Pro-tip: focus on the cause and effect in this question when you try it. When the conclusion of a Necessary question makes a causal claim, the right answer will almost certainly eliminate an alternate cause.)
Hardest Logic Game: September 2019, Game 3 — “The flower game”
I actually thought that game four of the November 2019 test was a little harder, but this is sort of a 50,000-frustrated-test-takers-can’t-be-wrong situation. Y’all hated this game. What made this game so difficult for so many? For one, it was a grouping game with 20 slots to keep track of — way more than the typical grouping game. For two, it was severely underbooked, which means certain players would appear way more than just one time in your set up. For three, the rules were many, labyrinthine, and rested on the subtle but crucial distinctions between phrases like “exactly one” and “at least one.” Those who claimed this was among the hardest games to ever appear on this exam were probably afflicted with a severe case of recency bias, but the consensus stands that this was the hardest game of the year. (Pro-tip: Every person in this game gets a flower arrangement with four flowers drawn from three different kinds of flowers. Which meant each person got two flowers of the same kind — they could get one gardenia, one hyacinth, and two roses, for instance. Keep a slot in your set up for the flower that goes twice for each person, and keep track of which flowers can’t go in that slot for each person. The deductions come swiftly with this organized set up.)
Hardest Reading Comprehension Passage: November 2019, Passage 3 — “Computer chips and peptides”
This passage about the arms race to make computer chips smaller — and how short amino acids called peptides might help us do this — was confusing as heck. It drew the ire from some test takers, and stress it produced may have exacerbated a peptic ulcer or two.
Honorable mention: June 2019, Passage 2 — “Accomplice witnesses” (I personally hated this passage, as I truly believe that many correct answer choices were not well supported by the passage. Fortunately, this exam was given as the last pencil-and-paper LSAT; otherwise, I might have hurled an expensive Microsoft Surface Go tablet across my test center.)
Hardest* LSAT: November 2019
*Hardest being a totally unscientific determination of the LSAT I would have least wanted to take, based on my personal feelings about the difficulty of the questions relative to the severity of the curve; it’s important to note the subjectivity involved, because the sliding scaled score of the LSAT ensures that all LSATs are, objectively speaking, more or less equally difficult.
Most Notable Trend: The underbooking of logic games
Of the twelve logic games published in 2019, seven were “underbooked.” That means that there were more slots to fill that game than players to fill them. Which usually means that at least some of the players must occupy more than one slot. We discussed this trend and how to tackle it here.
Most Implausible Names: “Grocerytown” and “BigFoods,” two fictional grocery stores from November 2019, Section 4, Question 8
Most Unintentionally(?) Funny Sentence: “Many of the pilots, including both dieters and nondieters, consumed alcohol before the tests, and dieting increases vulnerability to alcohol’s effects” (the tests apparently involved the pilots flying a plane, by the way) from June 2019, Section 3, Question 13