Ep. 157: Trees Grow as Tall as They Can

Even though the guys have tried to omit discussions of the weather at the top of the show, the summer heat is getting to Ben. But he’s sweating it out for this action-packed show. The guys share updates about the LSAT Demon and their upcoming weekend course in Chicago. We get to hear some warm and fuzzy stories from your fellow listeners. Plus, Nathan and Ben take a look at a GPA addendum, and answer your standard stack of other LSAT questions.

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3:50 – The LSAT Demon is an artificial-intelligence LSAT prep tool that Ben and Nathan developed for you to do LSAT prep on the go. Pretty awesome, right? The guys talk about some recent updates and give you more information about the tool, including what test questions and explanations you get access to through the platform.

6:03 – The Thinking LSAT live class is going on the road! Thanks to a poll from the Thinking LSAT Facebook Group, the guys are headed to the windy city of Chicago on October 20-21 to help you mid-westerners get a leg up on the November LSAT. Sign up here to join the Nathan and Ben for a weekend of LSAT prep, fun, red hots, and deep dish pies.

7:56 – Email 1—Trevor has gotten a ton out of prep materials from the Thinking LSAT duo. Ben’s free resources, Nathan’s private tutoring, and of course the podcast were instrumental in bumping his July score into the 170s. Thanks for the update, Trevor!

9:00 – Email 2—The guys read a GPA addendum submitted by Mango and offer some feedback.

13:03 – Email 3—Katie enrolled in a…Kaplan LSAT course, and then she found the podcast. Now that she’s a listener, she chuckles out loud at advice from her poor Kaplan instructor. The class is learning some “tips and tricks” for reading comp that we over here at Thinking LSAT would describe as…pretty f*ckin’ kooky. The guys ponder why these terrible “methods” are being espoused.

19:15 – Email 4—Nathan and Ben are challenged on their position that principle questions do not exist. Listen as they duke it out with an anonymous correspondent who sports a very smart nom de plume.

27:19 – Email 5—Now for the “warm and fuzzy” segment of the show. Steve writes in to share that the podcast helped him abandon his aspirations of going to law school. Even though he’s a successful engineer, Steve dreamt of money and prestige that he thought came with being a lawyer. The show made him think twice. Tune in to hear his heartfelt thanks to Ben and Nathan.   

32:13 – Email 6—Anonymous just got the green light for accommodated testing. And his practice test scores now show a 20-point increase over his recorded score (from a test with no accommodations). He’s heard that schools can inquire about a big score jump like this, and he’s wondering if he needs to disclose that he received accommodations. Pretty reasonable question, right? Well anon need not worry, because you don’t have to say a damn thing.

37:08 – Email 7—AF is a behavior analyst and she’s been applying “behavioral momentum” principles to her LSAT prep with positive results. She agrees that practicing 35-minute sections is more beneficial than practicing entire tests, and she offers a science-backed reason as to why this might be the case.

42:16 – Email 8—Oh boy. L presents a long list of events that culminated in her dismissal from law school after her 1L year. But to add insult to injury, the freakin’ law school lost accreditation and closed shortly after she was kicked out. Now she’s making a bid for law school again and wants to know if she should include this information on an addendum to her application. The answer? Yep. Actually, you’re going to have to. The guys give some advice to L about how to move forward.

55:19 – Email 9— McKenna asks the guys to share some of their favorite personal statements and what made them stand out. The guys discuss what makes a killer personal essay.

1:03:28 – Email 10—Think studying for the LSAT is hard? Worried about your GPA? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired of studying for this law school shit? Well, dear listeners, you should be. Because if you do indeed become a lawyer someday you may find yourself quaking in your boots on the other side of a legal battle with College Debater. CD is a college junior. She has a 3.9. AT HARVARD. And she scored a 180 the last two times she practiced the LSAT. And does she think she’s gonna breeze into a testing center and crush it? NO. In fact, she’s considering canceling a trip to Oxford where she will represent her debate team so she can study more. It’s like WTF. How prepared can you be? “Never too prepared,” thinks a savvy lawyer-to-be like CD. Nathan and Ben let her know that she’s probably pretty ready to take the test, and that she should definitely not miss the opportunity to head to Oxford.

1:13:36 – You may have heard the guys mention that there is an ABA rule that regulates if or how much you are allowed to work while attending law school. Well guess what. That rule was actually eliminated. However, Ben and Nathan say that your law school may still have a similar rule you should be aware of. Still, they agree it’s probably not enforced too often. Just a friendly PSA from your friends over here at Thinking LSAT.   


  1. This is my full email regarding principles, for those who are interested. I didn’t feel like ThinkingLSAT engaged with my question enough…kinda dismissive 🙁

    On several recent episodes you have denounced the practice of making a distinction between “strengthen” questions and “strengthen-principle” questions and have criticized sources that do so. You said that you don’t identify questions as “strengthen-principle” because you don’t find the fact that we’re looking for a principle to be helpful for solving the question. In your view, this is overcomplicating things. But isn’t there a meaningful difference in the kind of answer we should predict when we’re looking for a principle that strengthens the argument compared to when we are just looking for information that helps strengthen the argument? I have found this distinction to be helpful. For example:

    Example argument #1:

    Among the students in Ms. Johnson’s high school calculus class, there’s a strong positive correlation between the amount of time spent studying calculus and grades on quizzes in the class. The students who study more have higher grades than the students who study less. Therefore, studying more causes higher grades on the quizzes.

    If this were a strengthen question that did NOT indicate we were looking for a principle, I’d be anticipating an answer that eliminates an alternate cause. I’d want to know that the students who study more did NOT start the class smarter than the students who study less.

    But if this were a strengthen question that WAS asking for a principle, then eliminating alternate causes is NOT my prediction. Instead, I would anticipate something like, “If there is a strong correlation between two things, then that means that one thing causes the other.” I would be predicting a direct link between the premise and the conclusion rather than eliminating some specific alternate cause.

    Example argument #2:
    Although young people have no trouble using smart phones and other high-tech communications devices, old people tend to have immense difficulty with them. This can cause problems when old people have to call 911 and don’t know how to use a smartphone. Thus we should ban the use of smart phones and other high-tech communications devices.

    If this were a strengthen question that did NOT indicate that we were looking for a principle, then I would be thinking, “What about the benefits of smart phones…maybe they outweigh the issue of older people have trouble using it.” Or I’d be thinking “What if we could teach the older people how to use the tech or design something that could solve the 911-issue without banning smartphones.” I’d want answer choices that address these weaknesses.

    But if there were a strengthen question that WAS asking for a principle, I would anticipate something like “If something can cause problems for at least one category of people, then that thing should be banned, even if other people don’t have problems with it.” Does the distinction I’m pointing out make sense to you? For a strengthen-principle, I’m predicting a direct connection between the premise and the conclusion, whereas on a non-principle strengthen question I’d be open to a wider range of predictions – answers that address various weaknesses in the argument. Obviously I’m also open to picking a stronger “principle-type” answer, but that wouldn’t be the first thing I’m thinking about.

    Any thoughts?


    1. Albert Einstein: “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

      The quote itself could probably be simpler. But the idea is good. Don’t make the LSAT more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve done that too many times. And it rarely helps people improve their scores. But I appreciate your perspective and taking the time to share it.


      1. Thank you, Mr. Olson, for your response. I think I understand your perspective, it’s just that the distinction between “principles” that strengthen and “information” that strengthens seem concrete and real to me. The examples I provided above about principles vs. non-principles seem to be *real* differences and I struggle to see why you and Mr. Fox don’t think the difference is there (or is it that you acknowledge the difference but just don’t think it matters?) It’s not that I’m closed-minded, as Mr. Fox seemed to suggest about my approach. Clearly the “principle” type of answer could very well be correct on a “non-principle” question, and I did take care to note that in my original email. But my point was that my prediction would be different depending on whether I’m looking for a principle – and it’s an approach that has not seemed to fail me so far. That’s why I was interested in your take on it and was honestly surprised to be basically back-handed like a fly — I didn’t even get a “what you say does make theoretical sense, and if it works, great, but I don’t encourage it in most students” — I was shut down like you thought I was some idiot. It’s frustrating to have that happen when so many other emails that aren’t digging into actual LSAT concepts (how should I study? How do I review? Etc.) are covered so much!


        1. Part of the problem is that I can’t remember ever seeing an argument like your first example that’s asking for a principle to strengthen the argument. So your self-made examples, which you’re using to prove your point, don’t seem to conform with the trends in the test. I could be wrong. If so, will you include some official correlation-causation questions that are presented as principle-strengthen questions? Thanks.


          1. If you don’t like my first example, what about my second? And in any case I believe I could draw this distinction clearly in any strengthen principle problem.

            For example, how about PT68, Section 3, #12 (the dried parsley problem). Because I’m looking for a principle to strengthen this problem, my anticipation is “if something is not as tasty or not as healthful as fresh parsley -> then it should never be used in cooking.” I’m predicting a direct connection between the premise and the conclusion (but obviously I’m flexible and open to unexpected ways of giving me what I predicted).

            But if this were NOT asking me for a principle, then my first thought would be about weaknesses in the argument – “what if there’s something better about dried parsly compared to fresh parsley besides taste and health? maybe dried parsley in combination with other ingredients results in overall better taste?” So I’d be looking for answers that address that weakness. I’d be open to the principle-type strengthener but it’s not the first thing I’d be thinking about.

            Does this difference make sense? One way to put it is that if I know I’m looking for a principle, I’m not really thinking about “weaknesses” in the sense of ways to attack the argument. I just go directly coming up with the principle that connects the dots between the logic and the conclusion. That process feels meaningfully different to me than looking for objections and weaknesses in the argument. Do you disagree with this conceptual distinction I’m identifying?

          2. Here’s my last example (don’t want to inundate you with this stuff).

            PT61, Section 2, #21 (setting uniform speed limit for highways)

            Because I’m looking for a principle on this question, my anticipation is something like “If something can help reduce the accident rate in some places, then it should be done” – that’s a direct connection between the premise and the recommendation in the conclusion.

            But if this were not a principle question, then I’d be thinking a lot more about the “uniform” aspect of the conclusion, which strikes me as a weakness, because we only know that 120mph “tends to be” the average, but is not necessarily the average within each section of level, straight roadway. What if 120mph is actually much too slow for level, straight roadways in many parts of the country? So to help the argument I’d want to know that the variability in average speeds on such highways in different parts of the country is not significant. This line of thinking seems very different to me from just looking for a principle that helps the argument.

          3. Hi again, these principle questions don’t have correlation-causation. Did you find any principle-strengthen questions with a correlation-causation flaw? I doubt they exist. I suspect that you’re right — that principle-strengthen questions connect the premises to the conclusion more often than traditional strengthen questions. Regardless, my prediction is based more on the argument itself than on whether it’s a traditional strengthen question or a principle-strengthen question. For that reason, I doubt that this nuance adds more than it takes away. Over the past ten years, my advice for LR has gotten shorter and simpler because nuance often creates confusion. Sometimes, we need to understand the nuance. But I doubt the benefits outweigh the costs here.

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