If you are thinking about retaking the LSAT and you’ve practiced so much that you’ve seen most of the questions (or at least all of the problems of one type, such as Logic Games), what should you do? This can be pretty tricky question, because once you’ve seen a question, you are more likely remember the correct answer, and that takes away the originality, surprise, and challenge of the question.
While I can’t produce a time machine that allows you to go back to the days before you saw all those LSAT questions, there is a way to study from questions you have seen before and still learn from them. What is this magic approach? Well, it’s actually fairly simple one, and that is to approach the questions as though you will have to teach them to someone else. Let’s first talk about why this approach works, and then let’s talk about how to go about teaching the questions.
First, how can this an approach help you increase your score?
- You can’t get all of the relevant info from a question by looking at it just one time. While many people can answer LSAT questions correctly after one read-through, most questions are so well-constructed that students miss a lot of the nuances on their first read of the question. Re-reading the questions alone will help you better understand all of the pieces of the argument, and better acquaint you with the way the questions are constructed.
- Teaching a question to someone else requires a greater-than-minimum level of understanding.To teach a question to someone else, you really have to understand all of the pieces first (see point #1 above). This typically requires re-reading the question several times, and really contemplating the relationship of the various pieces. Then, to explain the ideas to someone else, you not only have to understand the various solution possibilities, but also how to explain the broader concepts involved. Thus, as you undertake the process of explaining a question to someone else, it forces you to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses, and it often reveals holes in your own knowledge.
Second, how should you go about approaching the questions as if you have to teach them, and how can you derive the greatest benefit from doing so?
- If you can, find someone else to teach. If you can’t, act as if you will have to go in front of a large class. If you know you have to actually explain the ideas to others, your level of preparation will tend to be higher than if you are just doing it for yourself. You will focus more on the subtle differences that are present, and those subtle differences often prove critical in choosing the right answer. So, if possible, study with a friend and take turns explaining the concepts and questions to each other. Critique the explanations and ask probing questions—this will help the teacher clarify his or her understanding of the material. That’s where the opportunity is here: you can now get into the questions on a deeper level than when you see them the first time.
- As you prepare, focus on the abstract connections between the questions and ideas. One of the benefits of seeing the questions again is that you often have a better perspective on how each one fits into the overall catalog of LSAT questions. In a sense, you have to see all the questions first before you can start to properly classify them all and see how they are related. So, once you’ve seen every Logical Reasoning question, for example, when you go back and start examining them again, you will find that you are better able to recognize how questions relate to each other on a more abstract level. This increases your understanding of the LSAT and ability to spot patterns in new questions.
The bottom line is that having seen any given question isn’t a bad thing, and you can actually use that information to your advantage. You just have to approach your studying differently!