Timing & Endurance, the Final LSAT Frontier(s)

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The September LSAT is a few weeks away, and it’s time to start thinking seriously about timing and section strategy. Most Blueprint courses are wrapping up the new material around now. It’s time to review a bit and shift your focus to the big picture. Here are some tips:

Start by reviewing any problem areas. It’s useless to try to do something faster if you’re not sure how to do it in the first place. If there are any kinds of questions you’re hesitant about how to approach, or that you’re getting wrong at a high rate, review the relevant strategies and don’t rush yourself — you need to be confident about how to do it before you try to do it faster. And even when you’re seriously working on timing, if any problem areas pop up you should take the time pressure off and go over those areas.

Bring the pace up gradually. If you have to get much faster, it’s not going to happen all at once. What’s more likely is that if you try to go faster all of a sudden, you’ll start getting things wrong left and right. That kind of, you know, defeats the purpose of going faster. So work on increasing your pace a little at a time. If your accuracy takes a dive, slow down a little. But how should you try to increase the pace?

Focus on efficiency, not on feeling fast. If you try to rush, you’re in trouble. If you’re feeling the time pressure in reading comp and you rush through the passage and don’t understand it, well, congrats, you go through the passage faster. Unfortunately, you don’t get any points for that. And if you don’t understand the passage, the questions are going to take longer to answer, or your misunderstanding will lead you to incorrect answers. The same goes for the stimulus in logical reasoning and the setup in logic games — you’re in a bad position if you don’t understand what you need to understand.

The way get faster is to calmly and efficiently work through whatever you’re doing. This ties back to the first step about reviewing problem areas. You go fast not because you’re rushing, but because there’s no wasted effort. In logical reasoning, you read the stimulus carefully and take the time to anticipate what you’re looking for out of the answer. It’s tempting to rush to the answers but you’ll get through them quicker if you know what you’re looking for. In reading comp, you come out of the passage with an understanding that’ll help you answer at least some of the questions without doing any more work. In logic games, you take your time assessing how the rules work together, and you split the game into scenarios when it’s called for, because you know that even if it takes a little longer up front it’ll help you go faster in the long run.

It’s better to do the work once than five times. In logic games, for conditional questions (the ones that give you a new piece of information), don’t jump to the answers until you’ve assessed how the new info affects your setup. Once you’ve done that, looking through the answers should be easy. In reading comp, if going back to the passage would get you a definite answer to a question, do it. Now. Before you get lost in all five answer choices.

There’s no prize for finishing. If you won’t be happy with less than a 180, then you pretty much have to get to every question. For everyone else, it’s about maximizing points. If skipping that long parallel reasoning question lets you get to a few other questions, then it was worth it. Sometimes it makes sense to direct your efforts at doing three of the four reading comp passages or games really well, and guessing randomly on the fourth. If getting to everything would rush you enough to send your accuracy in the toilet, then it’s time to consider stepping back and trying a little less.

Getting faster is hard and it’ll take a while. As you work on it, review is as important as practice. If there’s a question that you got right but weren’t confident in, you need to review that question along with the questions you got wrong. Your goal should be to understand each question well enough to explain it to someone else. If you can do that, the next time you see something similar, it’ll go faster without even trying.

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