Folks, it’s that time again. We summoned our in-house LSAT prognosticator from his lair, and he arrived in a tattered red tunic and blue wizard hat embroidered with good stars and crescent moons. (We ask if he’s been paying close attention to the LSAT, but by the looks of it he’s mostly been watching Fantasia on Disney+.) Nonetheless, we retrieved his crystal ball and his LSAT-themed tarot cards, we hired an astrologer-consultant to assure everyone that Mercury is in fact not in retrograde, so we need not expect a crazy weird logic game — and our prognosticator will finally to make some predictions for the January LSAT.
But before making these predictions, His Clairvoyance has prepared a brief statement about the nature of making LSAT predictions. And, just so you’re prepared, he only speaks in arcane riddles and analogies. Anyway, here’s his statement:
“In most ways, predicting what’s going to be on a given LSAT is similar to reaching your hand blindly into a bowl of trail mix, and predicting what will be in that handful. In a broad sense, that prediction is very easy to make. You’ll retrieve some cashews, some raisins, some almonds, maybe a morsel of chocolate or two. On any given LSAT, you’ll get some conditional logic, some common fallacies, some cause and effect, and maybe a difficult passage and game or two.
“But in other ways these predictions are quite inexact. Exactly how many cashews, raisins, almonds, and morsels will I pull? Might I uncover a pistachio? Will the morsels be chips or M&Ms? And, if the latter, which colors? So we ask, ‘How many questions with conditional statements will appear?’ ‘How many times will we see an exclusivity fallacy, or an absence of evidence fallacy?’ ‘How hard will the difficult game truly be, and what form will it take?’ All I can do is tell you what has occurred the last time I reached my hand into the proverbial trail mix bowl, and make an educated guess from that.”
OK, if you were able to follow that, you’re now ready to hear our predictions for the January LSAT …
After turning the tarot cards, peering into his crystal ball, consulting the learned astrologer, our prognosticator thinks this will be the distribution of LR questions …
The prognosticator notes that there were an abnormally high number of Must Be True and Soft Must Be True questions on the last few LSATs, so he expects that number to regress in 2020. The number of questions asking you to characterize a formal aspect of an argument — those that ask you to break down an argument and identify its main point, or the role of a given statement, or its technique of argumentation — has been increasing recently, and our prognosticator believes this will continue into the new year. Flaw and Strengthen questions will be the most prevalent. And His Clairvoyance believes that four of those eight Strengthen questions will be Strengthen Principle question (i.e., the ones that say, “Which one of the following principles, if true, most help to justify the above reasoning?” or, “The reasoning above most closely conforms to which one of the following principles?” They say “following principles” in the prompt, basically. These require you to find a broad rule that will connect an argument’s reasoning to its conclusion). And, of course, our predictor has the Operation family taking up the lion’s share of LR questions, with twenty-three Operation questions in total (compared to the seven Implication questions and twenty-one Characterization questions, adding up to the typical fifty-one LR questions).
Our predictor’s cashew count — if we followed his analogy correctly — has this test at twelve diagrammable questions. Expect those to appear in the Must Be True, Parallel and Parallel Flaw, Strengthen Principle, and Sufficient questions mainly, but also watch out for a diagrammable Flaw or Necessary question as well. And our predictor’s going chalk on the common fallacies — he thinks the typically dominant causation, exclusivity, and equivocation fallacies will continue to dominate these tests.
Our predictor also thinks abstract, difficult to parse language is going to be pretty common on some of the more difficult LR questions, so he advises everyone to read up on how to deal with confusing and abstract answer choices.
Will this be, on the whole, a difficult Logical Reasoning section? Our prognosticator does not think so, but is quick to note that your opinion may vary. And that’s sort of the nature of Logical Reasoning sections. A section that prominently featured questions suited to one test takers’ strengths would feel easy to that test taker; the same section with the same questions may be ill-suited to another test taker. Or, as he put it, “One may prefer cashews to almonds, another may only enjoy raisins. The same handful cannot suit the tastes of every mouth. The same questions may not suit the strengths of every test taker.”
Our prognosticator notes that the last few Logic Games sections followed a familiar template: three manageable (though-by-no-means-easy) games and one very difficult game. The oracle thinks the January 2020 will follow the same template. The one difficult game was the fourth game in June and November 2019, but it was the third in September 2019. Our predictor is getting a fuzzy read on which game will be the difficult one in January. He doesn’t know which morsel of chocolate you’re going to get, to extend his metaphor. So this is what he’s recommending:
After finishing games one and two, take a look at games three and four. Set each up, represent the rules, if there’s an Elimination question first, try doing that one (without making any deductions or scenarios or anything like that). At that point, you should have a strong sense of which one is more manageable. Do that one first. Take the time you need to do it perfectly. Then try the really difficult one. If you have a surplus of time to do the last game (like ten or more minutes), make scenarios, and try to answer the questions. If you don’t have that luxury of time, however, just try to answer the Conditional questions (the ones that start with the word “if”) with whatever time you have remaining.
Our prognosticator notes, smugly, that you don’t need a crystal ball to notice that a lot of recent games have been “underbooked” — which means that there are more spaces in your set-up than players available to occupy them. November 2019 had three underbooked games; September had two. Our soothsayer believes there will be one underbooked game here — specifically an underbooked stable grouping game. The seer thinks there will be only two groups in that game.
Elsewhere, His Clairvoyance believes there will be a 1 to 1 ordering game, a tiered ordering game, and a combo game — a game with both ordering and grouping. Recently, the makers of the LSAT have been fond of throwing in small twists to this otherwise common games, so our prognosticator advises you to watch out for those. Mainly, he recommends not letting any small twists derail you — usually a small change to your set-up or rules is enough to account for these twists.
Finally, we’d all like to remind you to look our for rules or constraints in these games that will enable you to construct scenarios. Scenarios have made almost every recent game a whole lot easier, so don’t forget to look for rules that are suitable for scenarios, or for very constrained players, groups, or slots that can allow you to construct scenarios.
Recent Reading Comp sections have all been fairly similar. Each section of late has featured one passage about the sciences, one related to the law, and one related to the arts or humanities. The remaining passage has been somewhat variable, but is usually related to history or culture or some combination of the two. So our crystal gazer doesn’t feel like he’s going out on a limb in predicting that January 2020 RC section will take a similar form.
The topics of these passages are notoriously hard to discern for our soothsayer. He does note that many of the recent passages on the arts have discussed either types of artistic media (like film) or a specific genre of literature or film or music or theater. The prognosticator suspects that painting or another static visual art — which haven’t been featured in quite some time — might be the topic in January. He thinks the passage might be about some specific genre or movement of painting — its goals, its aims, its practitioners, and cetera. He thinks the legal passage will be about international law — especially with multiple recent passages focusing on international environmental law, he thinks this is a pretty safe bet. A slightly less safe bet our prognosticator is willing to make: the science passage will be the comparative passage, something that hasn’t happened on any published passages since September 2016’s comparative passage on muscle memory.
Finally, His Clairvoyance thinks that Reading Comprehension will be, on balance, the most difficult section for most test takers. As a fortune teller, it is his duty to tell you that he wishes you good fortune.
Finally, here’s the curve he’s predicting for the January 2020. He notes that he’s probably wrong about at least a few of these figures, but with a nondisclosed test like January’s, where the curve never gets released, we’ll never know one way or the other. As always, these figures refer to the number of questions you can get wrong and still earn a given score:
Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the most forgiving curve. But it wouldn’t be the least forgiving curve either. And in the end, neither I nor our prognosticator thinks you should worry about the curve all that much.
But before we go, our prognosticator wanted to share one final note. Here’s what he said:
“Of course, in any handful of trail mix, some cashews, some almonds, some raisins, and some morsels of chocolate are bound to appear. A true trail mix connoisseur acquires a taste for these components both individually and together, and can stomach any combination or permutation of them. Likewise, the truly prepared LSAT taker learns to relish the components of the LSAT that are bound to appear — conditional reasoning, common fallacies, cause and effect, ordering and grouping games, passages about the sciences, the arts, the law. No matter the permutation, the truly prepared LSAT taker can vanquish any exam.”
OK, sure. Good luck next Monday, every one.