Note! Today’s show notes are a direct transcription of the entire one hour, 36 minute show, with timestamps every 30 seconds. If you read them, you will learn that Nathan says “yeah” a lot. Also, that the sentence “You want to talk about Wonder Woman?” appears shortly before the 5:30 milepost. Find out what the hell Nathan is talking about and tune in!
Nathan Fox: Hello and welcome to episode 94 of the Thinking LSAT Podcast in Los Angeles. I’m Nathan Fox. With me in Washington DC, Ben Olson. Ben, how are you doing?
Ben Olson: Doing great.
Nathan Fox: We have big backlogs still of emails that we could try to crank through today. We also have a couple [00:00:30] new stories to talk about. The first one, I just got this this morning. Haven’t had much time to look at it, much time to look into it, but it’s a story from law.com about the LSAC’s new CEO, which I did see that headline yesterday. It’s University of Washington School of Law Dean Kellye Testy. Kellye, I [00:01:00] don’t know. Kellye maybe. It’s just K-E-L-L-Y-E. Let’s say Kellye. Kellye. Then, her last name is Testy. She’s going to be the CEO of the LSAT test maker in LSAC.
Ben Olson: Now, from what I understand, the CEO position rotates from law school dean to law school dean on a yearly basis, or every other year, or something like that. I actually don’t know. Is this something different in terms of … [00:01:30] I guess, what I’m wondering, is this a new position, a new process, or just a new person who’s like, “Hey, I think we should have more tests”?
Nathan Fox: That, I have no idea, but a couple of interesting things I thought in the story. One is that the LSAC is apparently kicking around the idea of offering additional test states, and they are going to, hopefully, decide [00:02:00] later this month at their Bay meeting. We don’t have any news about that, but we do have, at least, a teaser of, boy, that would be great if they did offer additional test states.
It seems as if she, or, at least, the story is positioning it as if she might be a little bit of a backlash from what happened in 1996. It says in ’96, that’s when Arizona became the first law school to accept GRE schools in addition to LSAT [00:02:30] scores. The counsel, the LSAC, threatened to boot Arizona from its membership. Deans from 149 schools, including Dean Testy, signed a letter supporting Arizona’s right to experiment with the GRE. The council eventually backed off.
Then, there’s a quote in this new story from Arizona Law [00:03:00] Dean Mark Miller who seems to be happy about Testy’s selection. It seems like Arizona is seeing this as a move in the right direction, and that they’re hoping to have a little bit better relationship with the LSAC moving forward.
Ben Olson: Yeah, that’s interesting. It’s so funny how these two things have come out in the last few months, right? One, the digital LSAT trial. [00:03:30] Then, now, someone who might want to offer additional test states. These are earthquakes in the industry that’s-
Nathan Fox: I know.
Ben Olson: … perpetually silent, yeah.
Nathan Fox: I’m wondering if we should take full credit or do you think partial credit?
Ben Olson: Let’s think here for a second. I think full is the only thing that makes sense.
Nathan Fox: None of this has ever happened until we started talking about it.
Ben Olson: [00:04:00] Yeah.
Nathan Fox: Correlation is a perfect causation. Yeah, we talked about it, and it started happening. Yeah, you’re welcome everybody out there. Cool. Yeah, this seems like good news. How quickly they will move, we don’t know or we could speculate that they’re not going to move very quickly, but the competition from GRE does seem to have [00:04:30] a lit fire under them. Yeah, cool.
Ben Olson: Nothing like a little motivation.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, yeah, immediate. Of course, that causal relationship isn’t 100% clear either. It could be that these things were already in the works, but, yeah, it does seem pretty convenient that as soon as the GRE starts posing them some real competition, they actually have to start modernizing and making themselves a little bit more friendly for test takers. The fact that it’s only offered for four times a year is really, [00:05:00] really unfriendly. That is such a pain in the ass that it’s only offered four times a year. They just need to double that, at least, or just go ahead, and make it continuously offered like every other modern test. There’s that. You posted to the agenda this thing about Wonder Woman. You want to talk about Wonder Woman?
Ben Olson: Yeah. The [00:05:30] movie, Wonder Woman, is coming out soon. The lead actress is Gal Gadot. I think that’s how you say her name.
Nathan Fox: You don’t want to say Gadot on that?
Ben Olson: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m horrible at pronouncing stuff.
Nathan Fox: I don’t know either.
Ben Olson: Gadot, yeah. The only reason I posted this is because, I guess, she’s been in the Fast and Furious franchise movies for a while. I guess she’s always been [00:06:00] getting these secondary parts. She’s wanted to get more of a main role in some movies, but she kept getting really close, and then not getting it. In this article on Yahoo! Movies, this is quoting her, she says, “I was very lucky to get this part,” the main character in Wonder Woman, the movie that’s coming out, “but I don’t feel like I just blew up.” I [00:06:30] don’t know what that means. “I got to a point, just before Wonder Woman, when I had so many almost a great audition, a great camera test, but always the runner up that I got to the point that I was ready to give up and go back to law school.”
When I read that, I was like, “What?” Even if you’re getting not the main part of a movie, I think that [00:07:00] even having a secondary role would just be so much more interesting and fulfilling than a law school degree.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, it would be more fun, more glamorous, more remunerative, better in every way. Yeah, she’s got the drive inside of her, I guess. Now, she’s rewarded. The fact that we grow in a DC [00:07:30] comics movie. Cool.
Ben Olson: Totally pointless. Just I was surprised that someone would still have a fallback to law school from an acting career. That seems pretty successful. People know who she is even if she hadn’t gotten this role.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. I hope that movie is good.
Ben Olson: Yeah, I hope so.
Nathan Fox: What did I see the other day about superhero movies? It was [00:08:00] a little quick infographic, and it was ranking weirdly by race and name. It was ranking all the Marvel superheroes. It had white dudes named Chris outnumber all women superheroes [00:08:30] in the entire Marvel universe.
Ben Olson: Yeah, wow.
Nathan Fox: White dudes named Chris, more of them have been in more Marvel movies than all women combined. It was pretty awesome. If I can take that up, I will. Wait, I’m going to try it right now. This is going to make for a great radio, by the way.
Ben Olson: Wait, the actor’s name is Chris or the character is named Chris? [00:09:00] I don’t even know these characters’ real names.
Nathan Fox: No, the actor.
Ben Olson: Okay, okay.
Nathan Fox: The actor, yeah. Wait, that’s not the one. I can’t find. Yeah, because it’s like Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris O’Donnell. That’s older, but yeah. Hemsworth has been Thor three times. [00:09:30] Then, it was a cool infographic, but it was stacked up like this bar chart. They were putting the head. It was like they had the square icon of the guy. It was a stack of these square images of white dudes named Chris. Then, it was like this multicolored stack of all women, but it didn’t come nearly as high as the stack of white Chrises.
Ben Olson: Yeah, it is weird. What’s her name? [00:10:00] Scarlet Johansson. That’s her name? Black Widow, right? Why hadn’t they done a movie about that? That would be cool. They should. I think one is in the works, I’m assuming.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Women just get hosed in Hollywood, period. Women just don’t get lead roles. That’s how it is. Movies are about men. That’s slowly, slowly changing in Hollywood, [00:10:30] especially as more women actually make films themselves, but that’s been a big time problem for a long time in Hollywood.
Ben Olson: That does seem a little ironic. Hollywood seems to portray itself as this holier-than-thou, we-know-what’s-going-on center.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, but, at the same time, it’s like unbelievably shallow, and unbelievably just marketing-driven and traditional really. [00:11:00] They’re making movies for the center of the country and for the entire world. They play it at the lowest common denominator. They put pretty faces and boobs. Then, it’s like all the dude actually are [inaudible 00:11:14]. It’s just the way they have historically rolled. It seems as if we’re coming into a more modern time. That’s good for everybody. We will post links to this stuff in the show notes. I’ll try to dig up [00:11:30] that cool infographic because I thought it was interesting.
Another email here. It says, “Hi Nathan and Ben. I’ve found that I perform best on the test after I listened to an episode of Thinking LSAT prior to taking a test, especially one that focuses on substance as opposed to admission advice or career advice.”
Ben Olson: I know, yeah, as opposed to your rambling.
Nathan Fox: Superhero [00:12:00] ramblings, yeah. Hey, listen. Our admission advice and career advice is substance. I think that this correspondent meant LSAT substance as opposed to admission and career substance. Anyway, “It’s like I can hear your voices in my head when I’m taking the test, which is incredibly helpful. I’m taking the June test, and will definitely be mining the podcast for episodes focused on LSAT substance/strategy advice to listen to as I drive to the test [00:12:30] center.
I think it could be cool to do a, “You’re about to take the LSAT,” episode where you essentially make an episode for people to listen to as they drive to the test center Obviously, nothing too in the weeds as far as substance goes, but just some general overarching substance reminders, necessary versus sufficient, et cetera. Anything to get our brains warmed up and ‘thinking LSAT.’ It could also include reminders not to freak out, to forget about each section when it’s over, et cetera. Basically, what you would tell/teach [00:13:00] a student if you only had 60 minutes with him or her. Just an idea. Thanks again. Thanks again. Thanks again.” Yeah, what do I think about that?
Ben Olson: I think it’s a great idea. This email does win for using the word substance more than any other email I’ve ever read.
Nathan Fox: Oh boy. We are just [00:13:30] ripping on our own audience. That’s awesome.
Ben Olson: Why do they keep writing us? I don’t know. Yeah. No, this is good. This is a great idea, I think. I don’t know that it would be 60 minutes, but we could have a short episode that was just, “Hey, here are some things to keep in mind, keep your head together, and go do awesome.”
Nathan Fox: I like to think that any of our episodes would be perfect for a driving to the test center.
Ben Olson: Sure.
Nathan Fox: Don’t you think we bring the calm and focus on [00:14:00] every episode?
Ben Olson: That is the goal.
Nathan Fox: I think so.
Ben Olson: Unintentionally, of course. We never set out to do anything intentionally, but-
Nathan Fox: No, we’re not. Far from it. Yeah, it’s a good idea.
Ben Olson: I think test-focused advice though, specifically thinking about, “Hey, take a few seconds before you start the section to just relax. Do the same thing when they call five minutes”. [00:14:30] Probably. Yeah, I think it would be pretty short, but it seems like it could be something that people would get into.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, okay. We’ll put it on the agenda, a plan. We’re going to have to plan a little bit ahead to do this, but maybe next week, Ben, we can record it and have it in the can.
Ben Olson: Sure, yeah.
Nathan Fox: Okay. All right, we’ll have to think about that. Thanks for this suggestion. I don’t see a name here, but thanks. Thank you for this suggestion.
“Hi, Ben and Nathan. [00:15:00] I have been enjoying your podcast as I prepare for the June LSAT. I was wondering if you had any insight on how much the difficulty of individual sections can vary from test to test. I’ve been thinking about this as I analyze trends in my performance. For example, I normally score minus zero and minus four on reading comprehension, but on my last test, my scores in the other two sections were significantly better than usual, while my reading comprehension score jumped to minus eight. Could it be that the [00:15:30] RC section was more difficult than usual on that test, and they made up for it with easier than usual LR and LG?
Similarly, I usually get around minus five on LR, but sometimes that means minus four on one section and minus one on the other. Is one actually more difficult than the other or is it all in my head? Related to that, I’ve gotten exactly 13 questions wrong, but different scores on three different tests. Should I take that to mean that my performance was similar on those tests or does [00:16:00] the curve mean that one test was much harder? Thanks. Caroline.”
Ben Olson: I think the best way to think about this is to think about a games section. I think that’s the easiest one to evaluate the difficulty of the games on that section. I would definitely say that some games sections are much less desirable than others. For example, the test 57 games [00:16:30] with the dinosaur game, I think that many people would prefer not to have gotten that section and would have preferred to get a different section. I do think these sections can vary in difficulty.
Part of the problem though in looking at your own results is that how much of that is just random variation and how much of it is a difficulty of the section. One thing that can help though, like in my score tracker, the difficulty of the questions, [00:17:00] and thus, the average difficulty of the section is determined by not just one person’s test results but several people’s test results. Actually, I’m not sure how many people are in there, but presumably hundreds. You can start to see, “Yeah. Actually, several people did more poorly on this section than usual. It appears to be a slightly harder question.” [00:17:30] I think that’s a much more realistic way to assess whether a section is actually harder.
I wouldn’t be surprised. I think just out of sheer randomness that the other sections in that test happened to be a little bit easier. On her last question though, she’s asking. She’s like, “Look, I got 13 wrong on three different tests.”
Nathan Fox: Different LSATs, yeah.
Ben Olson: Yeah. “Shouldn’t my score be the same?” I wouldn’t really look at the raw score. I [00:18:00] actually never really even think about the raw score in that regard.
Nathan Fox: For one thing, there can be 99, 100, 101 questions, minus 13. It’s out of a different number for one thing.
Ben Olson: Yeah, it’s out of a different number. I think the whole point of the curve, if you want to call it that, is to adjust for the potential differences between the tests, so that they can try to keep them somewhat [00:18:30] standardized. That’s what a standardized testing is trying to do.
Nathan Fox: They’re shooting for the same scale every time, but they don’t quite nail it every time, which makes me wonder why they don’t just curve it. We’ve complained about this in the past. If that was mine, I think I would just curve it. I don’t know what their rationale is for not curving it. Instead, they use the experimental section to predetermine the difficulty of the sections. Then, they try to put together a test that is approximately the same [00:19:00] difficulty as previous tests. They use that scoring scale to adjust the attempts to do that for slightly different tests. Yeah, I do think that they’re not the same difficulty. Even on the scale score, there are some tests that are easier than others on the scale score. Yeah, you’re …
Ben Olson: The lasso, right? The scale score is trying to account for that difficulty to some degree.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. When I administer tests, I can administer [00:19:30] tests that I think is on the harder end, and some people will do terribly or some people will do great on it. I’ll administer tests that I think are on the easier end, and some people will do poorly on that one. Yeah, the thing you said a second ago, Ben, I think is really the gist of that is that as a test taker, you’re going to have your own random variability, and there’s a lot of different reasons why your score is going to up and down.
I think [00:20:00] it seems to be that Caroline is just slicing the data way too thinly here. Instead of falling into the trap of looking at these numbers so finely and thinking that you’re spotting trends, you should just be reviewing your mistakes, and get better. I don’t care how many in which section. I don’t care about the fluctuation. I care which ones did you miss, and let’s talk about those. [00:20:30] I don’t care if the test was harder or easier. I don’t care of any of that stuff.
I definitely don’t care about your splits on logical reasoning. If you missed all five on one section or if you missed three on one section and two on the other, I give zero shits about that. That doesn’t mean anything. That’s just five logical reasoning questions that you’ve missed. We should talk about those mistakes because there’s reasons why. There was some way that you could have avoided that mistake. Rather than talking about the numbers, [00:21:00] let’s talk about the content, the substance, if you will, of the test.
Ben Olson: Yeah. Last night, I was just talking to someone about scores. This thing just comes up over, and over, and over again, but she was talking about how her scores have stayed somewhat similar over the last three tests. That’s making her worried, but she did say that her accuracy was going up. She just wasn’t getting [00:21:30] to as many questions. I said, “Hey, look, you’re on the right path.” She’s like, “Yeah, but I’m doing fewer questions and I’m getting more of them right. My score ends up staying the same. How am I going to make any progress?” I’m like, “You got to keep doing this.”
The reason for it is that as you focus on this accuracy, I know we’ve talked about this so many times, but I still feel like people are just drawn to the score. It’s hard not to be, of course, [00:22:00] but I was trying to explain to her that one of the questions that we had just done in class, I read the first four words of the answer choice. After reading the first four words, I stopped and I said, “Okay, this is wrong,” it was a parallel reasoning question, and moved on. This was the answer choice that some people had been stuck on, that they were debating between this answer choice and the right answer choice. I [00:22:30] said, “These four words make this definitively wrong because those words said, ‘Those people and only those people.'” What that creates is a double arrow, like if-and-only-if situation. I was like, “The original argument didn’t have any if and only if. This is way too strong.”
As soon as it says, “Those people and only those people,” I was like, “I’m out of here. This is done.” That took me the sum total of what? Eight seconds. [00:23:00] Here, this turned out to be the answer choice that most people in the class were debating. They were not only reading the whole thing, which is long in parallel reasoning, but they were also reading that, and reading the correct answer, and going back and forth.
Notice what happens, when you really start to understand something, that’s what allows you to go so much faster because you’re illuminating the answer before you even read the whole thing, and confidently. [00:23:30] You’re like, “This is it,” or “This is not it. I’m out of here.” Then, you go back to the right answer. You pick that and you move on. If you don’t have that level of understanding, then you’re going to take time. Slowing down and increasing your accuracy is a reflection of your deeper understanding of the test, which will eventually translate into very concrete and enormous speed gains, I think.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, I agree. That’s where the really big scores come from is from [00:24:00] deep understanding. Yeah, you might go slower today and tomorrow. For the next week or two, you might go slower. Eventually, you’re going to be going much, much faster because you’re answering these questions like a mile away.
It’s happening to me more and more. Read the first sentence of an argument in logical reasoning, even on a question I’ve never seen before. I was talking about this, what, last episode, Prep Test 80. I’m looking at a question I’ve definitely never seen [00:24:30] before. I read one sentence, and I already know what they’re going to say next. I know what they’re going to ask. I know what the answer is going to be. It’s like, “That’s because I’m tuned in and I’m going slowly, and carefully, and really listening to what they say.”
Yeah, when I think about a student, all 150s are not created equally. I would vastly prefer that you only did the first 10 questions on each section and got 150. Maybe that’s not quite possible, [00:25:00] but let’s say you did the first 15 questions on each section, you can easily get a 150 by just doing the first 15 questions. Boy, that’s a better candidate for improvement than the person who does all 25 questions in each section and gets a 150.
If you do every question on the test, and you only get 60 of them right, you’re skimming the surface, and you’re training yourself to just miss questions, and not really understand. On the other hand, if you only do 13-14 questions, and you get [00:25:30] almost all of them right, and then you run out of time, and you get a 150, the sky is the limit for that person because you have arrived at a place where you are actually understanding the test. You know what the answer is.
Holy shit, imagine that. You’re not just narrowing it down a little bit and guessing. You’re not just scratching the surface and going, “Probably. Maybe this one, I don’t know,” and then getting it right half the time. Instead, you’re taking [00:26:00] the time to really sort it out and figure it out. That’s real understanding and that’s where the real speed and real big scores can come from sometimes.
To get back to Caroline here, I think you’re slicing the numbers way too finely. I think you’re worried too much about section difficulty. I think the answer is yes, [00:26:30] sections can be harder and easier. Yes, tests can be harder and easier. So what? Let’s go back to reviewing your mistakes.
Ben Olson: Yeah. At the end of the day, that’s what you always got to do. It doesn’t matter what your score is. You got questions wrong. Those are all opportunities. Every single one of them is an opportunity to figure out how the heck you messed up. Learn about yourself and do better on the next test. It’s great.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. There’s [00:27:00] no trend here either. I usually get between minus zero and minus four on reading comprehension. Now, I got minus eight. Okay, that’s just a few coin flips one way or the other. Now, you’re looking at a minus eight instead of a minus four. It’s not a big deal. Students love to see trends on one data point. We would need five tests’ worth of [00:27:30] reading comprehension scores before we could start talking about what a trend is. Whichever ones you miss, those are the ones we should talk about, and that’s where the real work gets done. You want to read this next one?
Ben Olson: Sure. “Ben and Nathan, thanks so much for getting back to me.” I don’t remember what this is about, but anyways, “I think I’m going to take your advice and take the test earlier. The only [00:28:00] reason I had thought June was a good time was because I’m on the debate team, and the season is really busy and time-intensive from basically August until March,” blah, blah, blah. He has some tournament in September, “so I can’t take it then, but I should still be able to study a lot this summer, do the section most days during the semester, and there’s a small break between Thanksgiving and the start of the second semester, which should give me a couple of weeks to be doing nothing but thinking LSAT [00:28:30] before the December LSAT.” Okay, I’m remembering. Did we read Henry’s email on the podcast before?
Nathan Fox: Probably. It sounds like maybe we did.
Ben Olson: Maybe we did. I think what it was, if I remember it correctly, he was planning to take it within a couple of years or something like that. He’s a sophomore, I think. Anyways, now, he’s going to take it [00:29:00] earlier. Instead of taking it in a couple of years, he’s going to take it in December, which is still a little way off, but I guess he can’t do it in September.
“I want to thank you guys for exposing me to a lot of the myths that purveyed pre-law advising. I don’t have a pre-law advisor per se, but when I was talking with my advisor this morning, he was spewing a bunch of bullshit that I only knew as bullshit because of the podcast.” [00:29:30] Great. “That includes the LSAT isn’t really a learnable test.” Lovely. “Nobody retakes the LSAT.” This is good bullshit. “Course difficulty is more important than GPA.” Okay. “Legal research and internships are critical,” wow, “and a lot of stuff like that.”
Yeah, that’s pretty bad. That’s like [00:30:00] everything this person is saying is wrong. That’s great in some ways. If you’re a podcast listener, and you get these all right, and you know that everyone else is getting this stuff all wrong, then they can be going off in the wrong direction. That is cynical, but, hey, the world is competitive. Anyways-
Nathan Fox: Especially in the legal world, it’s competitive.
Ben Olson: Yeah.
Nathan Fox: That’s the road you’re going down. You’re entering a zero-sum game. [00:30:30] Yeah, you should be happy when your opponents lose.
Ben Olson: He says, “Thanks again for your advice on this particular issue and training my ear to shift through all the advice I’m given.” You had something you had said about this, right? This advice.
Nathan Fox: We were emailing with Henry, and someone said something about pearls of wisdom, [00:31:00] but they’re not pearls of wisdom. These are thirds of wisdom. I was pretty proud of that phrase, thirds of wisdom. The LSAT isn’t really a learnable test, wow, that’s a big third of wisdom.
Ben Olson: Not only because we say that and we think that we’re all right in a lot of stuff, but that is seriously backed up by study, after study, after study. The idea that that is wrong is backed up [00:31:30] by study, after study, after study. Whoever is saying this is just completely ignorant.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, and anecdotally, but it’s a large anecdote. I’ve had thousands of students now. Everybody improves. Everybody improves. The only way to not improve is just don’t do the work, but often, your first practice test, you are going to score higher. There’s just no way you’re not going to score higher. It’s learnable [00:32:00] in a million different ways. When your advisor, your college advisor, or whatever, pre-law advisor starts saying that the LSAT is learnable, and nobody can improve their score when they retake it, you can go ahead and just discount that, and heavily discount everything else they’re going to say because they are saying things they don’t understand. That’s very common.
Ben Olson: You say, “I’m sorry. My next class [00:32:30] is starting soon. I got to get going.”
Nathan Fox: Yeah. I’m sorry to shit on all of the pre-law advisors there. There are great pre-law advisors out there, but they aren’t specifically trained in the LSAT. They have no real experience with the LSAT. They just say a lot of myths and things that aren’t true, but no, the test is learnable a lot. People improve by 10 points or more, which is a life-changing amount of improvement. [00:33:00] That’s tragic if you’re a pre-law advisor. I’m especially AGRO about bad advising because I got really, really bad advising at my high school.
Ben Olson: I’m sorry. You said you’re especially AGRO?
Nathan Fox: Yes.
Ben Olson: Aggravated? Is that what you mean by that?
Nathan Fox: Aggressive, aggravated. I have a lot of aggression toward not-
Ben Olson: Is that a social media term that I’m unfamiliar with as I remain-
Nathan Fox: You’re just an old man.
Ben Olson: As I remain off the grid?
Nathan Fox: [00:33:30] It’s probably more like a gaming nerd term, AGRO.
Ben Olson: I had to look up IRL the other day. I was like, “IRL, what the hell does this mean now, man?” One more thing I got to look up. Anyways, sorry.
Nathan Fox: I got horrible advice from my high school counselor. [00:34:00] My college advisor in high school gave me just epically bad advice like, “Don’t bother applying to Stanford because we had someone from our school get into Stanford last year, and they never admit a student two years in a row.” Seriously.
Ben Olson: You’re good. You’re really good, but we already took some guy from your school last year, so we’re good.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. That was the advice that was given to the guy with the highest SAT score in recent memory at the school, but it was just [00:34:30] like, “Don’t even bother because, what’s his name, last year got into Stanford. You’re not getting to Stanford this year.” There was that advice. There was also the advice to apply undeclared to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Ben Olson: Undeclared, what does that mean?
Nathan Fox: Not declaring a major. Just apply undecided, undeclared, whatever. That school does not allow you to apply undeclared or undecided. That was the only school I did not get into. Of all the schools I applied to, that was the only school I didn’t get into.
Ben Olson: Wait, you’re talking about advice [00:35:00] from someone who is advising you on how to get into undergrad?
Nathan Fox: Yes, in high school.
Ben Olson: Yeah, okay. Okay, got it. Got it.
Nathan Fox: My college advisor when I was-
Ben Olson: You have a history, not just pre-law but pre-college advice.
Nathan Fox: I never got any pre-law advice. This is just only pre-college advice. Sorry, it’s a bad story.
Ben Olson: No. I know. I was not paying close enough attention.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Anyway, the point is I’m tuned in to people getting bad advice from people are supposedly giving them solid advice. It really does set [00:35:30] me off when I hear a pre-law advisor giving that bad of advice. That’s terrible. You might want to tune your pre-law advisor into the Thinking LSAT podcast, so that they can get solid information about the LSAT.
Ben Olson: Dude, that just gave me a great idea. Every episode, we should have a little game show thing where we say some advice very confidently. Then, the listeners have to decide, is this good advice, or is this a pearl of wisdom or is this a third of [00:36:00] wisdom? No, no. Then, there’s this moment of silence, and they’re thinking like, “Oh no. I don’t know. Is it good or bad?” Then, we tell them.
Nathan Fox: That’s a great plan. I like that.
Ben Olson: It probably will never be implemented but if it does, we could say, “Thanks, Henry.”
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Okay, cool. Enough ranting about bad advising. There’s a lot of good advisors out there.
Ben Olson: By a lot, you mean more than one?
Nathan Fox: By a lot, [00:36:30] I mean not Henry’s apparently because, yeah, it seems like everything that Henry’s advisor is saying is the exact opposite of what’s true.
Ben Olson: Yeah, that’s great. Then, Henry says, “PS. Also, not to keep milking you guys for free advice.” Yeah, it’s enough, buddy. We’re moving on. “How old is too old for practicing with old LSATs? I definitely like the approach of just [00:37:00] doing as many practice sections as possible rather than reading someone talk about it, but has the test changed to the extent that some of the earlier tests don’t reflect the test anymore?”
I would say yes and no. I don’t think most people have the time to go through all the tests. Generally, I’m encouraging people to focus on test 52 and up. Test 52 is the September [00:37:30] 2007 LSAT. That said, I give a lot of people super hard questions from the older tests. If they’re looking for more work, you might as well cherry pick the hard ones to work on those if you’re struggling with something. I think you go back a little bit further to know, right?
Nathan Fox: Yeah. I don’t mind if people go back further. The test has evolved very slowly over time. There [00:38:00] are games. Even the old S test have games that looked exactly like some of the games these days. Logical reasoning questions, there are certainly logical reasoning questions that looks exactly the same. Reading comprehension stuff that looks exactly the same. Yeah. I would just say how much time do you have and how many tests are you really going to do.
Ben Olson: Yeah. Don’t start at test one, and then get to test 15-
Nathan Fox: Yeah, that’s the thing. People do do that.
Ben Olson: … and say, “I only [00:38:30] have three weeks left, so I guess, I better do test 74 now.” Then, discover that it’s a lot harder.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, that’s silly.
Ben Olson: Some parts are. I think the reading comp is harder now, but yeah.
Nathan Fox: I would say just focus on the most recent ones, but if you have a book of old tests or whatever, that’s totally fine. Especially, you could just grind your way through the games. Some of the games stuff, there are going to be principles that you can use. They’re identical [00:39:00] to the principles that you can use today on some of those old games.
Ben Olson: Sure. Some of the old games because they’re weird, some of them we haven’t seen since they were created back then can be good practice on getting used to dealing with stuff you’re not familiar with. Taking a deep breath and just figuring it out.
Nathan Fox: I would do the games from prep test one before I would do Sudoku or something like that.
Ben Olson: Yeah, for sure. [00:39:30] Yeah.
Nathan Fox: If you’re going to do LSAT prep, you should be working on real LSAT questions. Those old tests are definitely worth something. They don’t have zero or negative value. They have positive value and just a matter of how much time you have.
Ben Olson: I’m going to use a very legal word because I think that it’s apt for this situation.
Nathan Fox: I can’t wait.
Ben Olson: They’re such a corpus of texts [00:40:00] of tests that are official, that, yeah, you can’t run out of material.
Nathan Fox: Corpus, that’s a good one. You know what’s another good one?
Ben Olson: Yeah, go for it.
Nathan Fox: Corpulent.
Ben Olson: Whoa, what’s that mean?
Nathan Fox: It said fat.
Ben Olson: Fat?
Nathan Fox: It does.
Ben Olson: Yeah. That makes sense. It sounds like they probably come from the same root, right?
Nathan Fox: Of course, yeah. There’s got to be body. Corpus, corps, [00:40:30] corpulus. Is that what I said? Corpulent. No.
Ben Olson: I think you-
Nathan Fox: Shit. Now, I confused myself.
Ben Olson: I don’t know what you said now.
Nathan Fox: I think I said corpulent. Yeah. It means obesity.
Ben Olson: Thank you.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, you’re welcome. That’s it for that one.
Ben Olson: Yeah, cool.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. This is a quick one. [00:41:00] “Hey, Ben and Nathan. Quick question. I’ve been studying the LSAT, and believe in part because you guys have supported it in the past, but working with others studying for the test can offer value.”
Ben Olson: Wait, hold on. He says, “I believe. I believe that working with others can offer value.” Here, we can do the quiz. Is studying for others good advice or bad advice?
Nathan Fox: Studying with others, good or bad
Ben Olson: Yeah. What did I say?
Nathan Fox: Is that [00:41:30] a pearl of wisdom or is that a third of wisdom?
Ben Olson: We’ll give you 60 seconds.
Nathan Fox: Play along at home. No, we won’t. We’ll give you six seconds. It’s obviously good advice, yes. Studying with other people is very, very helpful. It doesn’t matter even if they’re way below your level, you will benefit a lot from teaching them. If they’re above your level, then they would be able to explain things to you. If they’re right at your level, then you’ll probably have a little mix or sometimes, you’ll know it and sometimes, they won’t know it, and you can help each other a lot. [00:42:00] Also, it can be definitely motivating and more fun to get together for coffee or a beer once a week, and talk about the test. It can be a little lonely just to try and grind it up by yourself. Study partners are strongly encouraged.
“My question is I have a bank of many PDF prep tests. Can I really share and distribute these prep tests with others, so we have a common problem set for practice review and discussion? [00:42:30] I would share only a single paper copy of a given test. Of course, I wouldn’t be making money from such sharing. Many thanks. Perry Mason.”
Ben Olson: No.
Nathan Fox: Quick answer to that.
Ben Olson: No, you can’t legally share them with other people.
Nathan Fox: No, you can’t. The copies that you have, the PDFs that you have should have a big disclaimer on there saying that you’re not allowed to distribute or copy in any way. It doesn’t matter if you’re making money off of it or not. Of course, what [00:43:00] would the LSAC have to do to find out about this distribution, and come after you, and sue you? It would be a lot. It’s a little bit farfetched that that’s going to actually happen with you and your study partner.
Ben Olson: A test company that shall remain nameless would be more likely to go after you than LSAC, I think.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, right. Exactly. I [00:43:30] don’t know. I think probably. Is it a moral issue? It’s technically illegal but driving 56 miles an hour is also technically illegal. Yeah, we condone it, of course. Ben and I each have licenses to print LSAT test for our students, and we have to be careful like walking on eggshells all the time around LSAC for fear that they will strip our license. We have to be super careful [00:44:00] about distribution of tests. That’s why when people email us and ask us for test, we have to always say no. You’ll get test as part of the class, but then, I’ll also pay a gigantic fee to the LSAC at the end of the year. You do not have a license to distribute these tests. Yeah, you are technically not allowed to. Now, you’re not going to go to prison for it. What would happen, I guess, LSAC, they would start [00:44:30] by sending a letter.
Ben Olson: To tell you to cease and desist.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Then, they would have to go get a court order somehow. They would have to sue or get a … I would think they would have to probably sue you.
Ben Olson: They might tell you stop and they might … If they were savvy about it, they’d ask you to pay a certain amount because the reality is that I don’t think they would pursue it. It’s not worth the cost of litigation. [00:45:00] Their only hope is to, at the very least, have you stop and be on that, hope that you pay for what you’ve done. That would be cheaper than actually trying to pursue it and get you to pay it yourself in the time, effort, and all that stuff.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. In reality, I think people are sharing the stuff all the time. This is a long time ago. I remember a student sending out, just bombing [00:45:30] an email with every PDF of every test to his study group. I was like, “Whoa, you are not allowed to do that.” I am not. I cannot condone any of that type of thing. You have to stop. I’ve never let people use my class Google group or anything like that. You definitely can’t distribute it via me at all. People have these PDFs, and they do in reality get distributed around. [00:46:00] Don’t do it. You can but the books for 20 bucks on Amazon. Then, they print it for you and everything. I would just buy the books.
Ben Olson: Cool.
Nathan Fox: Okay, cool. All right. You want to do the next one?
Ben Olson: Sure. “Hi, Nathan and Ben. I hope all is well. I love the podcast. It’s a bit of a text wobble. Here’s the [00:46:30] TLDR. Should I time my sections using 35 minutes or the time and a half that I think that I’ll be allowed?”
Nathan Fox: Time and a half.
Ben Olson: Short answer, time and a half, yeah. Practice the way you’re going to play because you’re going to play like you practice. Should we keep going?
Nathan Fox: No. I don’t think we should. We could get into the more moral quandary that this whole thing [00:47:00] presents because it is pretty crazy. Here’s the deal-
Ben Olson: That sounds interesting.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. This correspondent, Ryan, says “In case this reaches the podcast, feel free to use my first name, Ryan.” Thanks, Ryan, for writing in. It says Ryan was approved for end use combinations on the SAT. That means he’s going to get automatically accommodated for the LSAT. [00:47:30] He doesn’t know until he registers for the test and actually applies for the accommodations. He’s shooting for the September test. Ryan, you should register and submit your application for accommodations right away, so that you can get the confirmation that you are getting accommodations. Then, you should immediately start giving yourself the full 53 minutes for each section.
The [00:48:00] moral quandary is for the logic games, I’m already getting zero to minus two within the 35 minutes. Now, he’s going to get accommodations. He would get guaranteed minus zero 100%.
Ben Olson: Yeah, obviously, in the games. His issue is reading comprehension, right?
Nathan Fox: “I’m slower at LR and RC.” It doesn’t say how slow. [00:48:30] I just got to tell you, even from the grammar in this email, do you notice that it doesn’t really have spelling mistakes? Do you notice that?
Ben Olson: Yeah, the commas are well placed.
Nathan Fox: The commas are well placed. The punctuation on the whole is correct. There is a double period at one point. Anyway, Ryan is going to be an elite scorer. I can [00:49:00] tell by the email. Ryan is going to score 170 something.
Ben Olson: That’s the moral quandary. That’s what you’re saying. It is like-
Nathan Fox: Is it not?
Ben Olson: Yeah, should Ryan get this.
Nathan Fox: I have no idea. He’s specific. Sorry, it’s an auditory processing disorder, which amounts to difficulties with reading comprehension. Sure, yeah. That’s great. You’re going to get a 99th percentile score on LSAT with your extra time, [00:49:30] which is great for you. As long as you can sleep at night, I think you should absolutely take advantage of that. I do also think that we have the, we’ve talked about it a lot on the show, the comma apocalypse. It’s just very difficult to see how this is in any real sense fair. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Ben Olson: [00:50:00] No, you’re absolutely. Hey, Ryan, not to make any assumptions about your background, but I think for most people, it’s fair to assume that if you got accommodations, especially in high school, you come from a background where you have more money.
Nathan Fox: I bet money. I bet a lot of money. I wouldn’t be right every time, but I would bet money that Ryan is white. I would also bet money that Ryan is from reasonable means. I [00:50:30] bet he went to a better than average high school. I bet he went to a better than average grammar school.
Ben Olson: Yeah. I feel like testing accommodations is something that, how do we say this, a wealthier neighborhood, wealthier school districts, high performing schools are talking about, concerned about, they’re looking for that in kids when they’re very young. [00:51:00] Any discrepancy in learning is dissected and categorized to some learning disability, which it may be. I’m not saying that it’s not, but that’s not something that’s happening in a lot of middle or lower income schools. My sense is that they’re not necessarily … Maybe they don’t have the resources for that. I don’t know. It’s not to say that it doesn’t happen [00:51:30] there but …
Nathan Fox: You have to go to special doctors. You have to be paying attention. Mom and dad have to be tuned in. The school has to be tuned in. You’re taking the kid to the special doctor. The special doctor is going to be … This isn’t asthma or actual … not actual. I’m going get email but-
Ben Olson: Oh my god.
Nathan Fox: Listen, I have the best of intensions here. Everybody can [00:52:00] just save it. Just keep it to yourself if you want to criticize me for this because it’s something that I think about a lot. I don’t have an answer. I do know that rich kids get accommodated, at least, anecdotally. In my experience, it’s the richest and highest scoring kids that get accommodated.
Ben Olson: Yeah. There’s a strong correlation.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. If you take, what, 10 people that I’ve ever seen [00:52:30] score 175, half of them did that with accommodations. If you want to call that leveling the playing field, by all means. I wouldn’t call that leveling the playing field.
Ben Olson: I think getting back to Ryan, gosh, I wouldn’t have a problem sleeping at night. I will take advantage of every [00:53:00] advantage that you can take advantage of.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, it’s the system. The rich are going to get richer. That’s never going to not be the case that the richer getting richer. You have some privilege, and you should just go ahead, and take advantage of that privilege. You can be a good person. You can give back in a million different ways. If they’re going to give you 53 minutes, you should just go ahead and get 53 minutes, and score your 170 [00:53:30] something. I don’t think I would take the moral high ground on that.
It’s like, “Hey, you want to train? You want your kid to go to law school? You want your kid to get a full ride? You want your kid to go to Harvard?” Yeah, start getting the accommodations when they are in junior high, so that they get accommodations for the SAT, so that they get the automatic accommodations for the LSAT. [00:54:00] Hopefully, you’re not doing too much damage to them along the way by convincing them that they have some difference. By the way, Ryan, I’m not saying you don’t actually have this processing disorder. I believe that you have an auditory processing disorder. I don’t know what that is but I believe you. It’s just that the accommodation is overpowered.
Ben Olson: Yeah. It’s too much of an accommodation.
Nathan Fox: It’s too much.
Ben Olson: They don’t have a way of tailoring it. Of course, that adds complexity, and people [00:54:30] would cry unfairness there too. In this case, if it’s a reading disability, then it seems like you should get accommodations in the reading section, but not in the other sections.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, yeah. I guess, he doesn’t really need it on the games, but he is going to be able to roll in. Boy, if you have 53 minutes, so many of my students would be able to score perfectly on the games.
Ben Olson: Yeah, yeah.
Nathan Fox: [00:55:00] Yeah.
Ben Olson: Going back to your advice, you’re saying, “Hey, look, if you want your kids to do well,” one other thing is even if you can’t get them accommodations, hold them back a grade. That might sound cool or demoting.
Nathan Fox: No. That’s the Malcolm Gladwell thing.
Ben Olson: That’s the Malcolm Gladwell thing. It’s so true.
Nathan Fox: That’s just obviously correct. That’s one of the best Gladwell things I ever read was the thing about NHL hockey.
Ben Olson: Yeah.
Nathan Fox: That was amazing.
Ben Olson: The birthdays [00:55:30] and everything.
Nathan Fox: They were overwhelming. NHL stars were overwhelmingly born in two or three months of the year or way over weighted in two or three months of the year. It was because of Canada’s system of junior hockey where they would rank people. The older kids, when you’re five, and you’re born in … If you’re almost six instead of barely five, you then become like a monster on ice because [00:56:00] you’re basically a year older.
Ben Olson: Yeah. You’re 10 months older than the youngest one. At age five, that’s huge.
Nathan Fox: You’re bigger, stronger, smarter, faster, everything. Then, they have this whole system of you play your way on to these all-star teams, and the all-star teams get extra coaching, extra time on the ice-
Ben Olson: Time, yeah.
Nathan Fox: … extra attention.
Ben Olson: You parents are like, “Wow, you’re pretty good. I’ll put some money into this.”
Nathan Fox: Pats on the back. Yeah, you start to think that you’re good. Your parents are buying you equipment, coaching, and all that shit. [00:56:30] Because of that system, next thing you know, NHL is like, “Yeah, you’re twice as likely to be in the NHL if you’re born in December than if you were born in June or whatever.” It’s just insane.
Ben Olson: Note, that was for hockey. He went through so many other things. You take a look at Math scores. You take a look at anything in the school system. You look at the cutoff dates, and it’s different around the country, which actually adds for a little bit different, I think. [00:57:00] It makes it easy to study. You say, “This isn’t something that’s arbitrary.” Look, you change that cutoff date. All of a sudden, that’s the cutoff date for success. Anyways, yeah, if you hold your kids back one year, then, all of a sudden, they do awesome at everything compared to their peers. Just like all human being, they then compare themselves to their peers, think that they’re awesome, which is honestly half the battle. You think you’re good at math, then you’ll be good in math. If you [00:57:30] don’t think you’re good-
Nathan Fox: The teachers think your good too. They aren’t looking into it very deeply. They just know who their best readers are, and they know who their best at math are. By virtue of being a year older, have better abilities, then you’ll just be in the top of the class, and the teacher pays more attention to you, and gives you more positive feedback, and all kinds of good stuff happens. If I had kids, I would hold them back five years.
Ben Olson: Five years?
Nathan Fox: 10.
Ben Olson: We’ll have Billy Madison here.
Nathan Fox: They would [00:58:00] be dunking on people on the playground, beating everyone up.
Ben Olson: Yeah. I think at that point, they might have a complex.
Nathan Fox: There wouldn’t be like, “My dad can beat you up.”
Ben Olson: Seriously something wrong with you.
Nathan Fox: It would be like, “No, I can beat you up.” Like, “Look at you. I’m twice as tall as you because I’m 10 years older than you.” Was that good for Ryan?
Ben Olson: Yeah, I think so.
Nathan Fox: Thanks, Ryan.
Ben Olson: More than he bargained for. Sorry Ryan. Thanks.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. I get it. I want to apologize. I’m really [00:58:30] trying to be a good person. I do not want to be insensitive about this issue. I don’t know what the correct answer is. I just know that we are in a weird sticky situation. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. We will, obviously, keep talking about it. If I hurt your feelings, not Ryan specifically, but if I hurt anybody’s feeling out there, I do apologize. It’s not my intention at all. [00:59:00] I don’t know where this situation is going to … where we’re going to land on this whole thing.
Ben Olson: Yeah. Sorry, last comment on this. Just as you’re talking, I was thinking about anecdotal evidence that I have of people who have come to me and said, “Hey, I think I have a learning disability. Should I apply for accommodations?” I’m telling them, “Yes, you should.” They’re saying “Okay. I looked into it. I’m going to have to pay $2000 to go get this test because I think I have this learning disability, but no one ever diagnosed it [00:59:30] in me in the past, Now, I’ve got to fork out this cash and go do this. My parents are saying, ‘Hey, you’re on your own now. That’s your choice if you want to do that.'”
Most people don’t have an extra $2000 sitting around to go do this test. Then, there’s this risk of, “I do the test and it comes back negative,” or “I do the test, and maybe the doctor says something, but that’s not something that LSAC will accommodate.” A [01:00:00] lot of times, and granted this is anecdotal, but a lot of times, they’re just like, “Yeah, forget it. I’ll just take the test.” In that case, it might be for the best. Sometimes, you just have to decide what you can change and what you can’t. Then, just press forward, and do the best with what you’ve got. That is hard evidence that money is standing in the way of accommodations.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. That $2000 is not going to stop all the rich white folks from doing [01:00:30] that. That’s nothing to them. Not only that they already had it done while they’re in high school, or junior high, or something, but even if they hadn’t, that $2000, when your mom and dad are already lawyers, that $2000 is nothing. You just roll in there and get your accommodation. I always hear, “You can’t fake this stuff. It has to be.” The testing is very rigorous. By rigorous, I think a lot of times they mean expensive and time consuming. Fine, [01:01:00] I believe you. I’m not saying that the ailment doesn’t exist.
Ben Olson: No, no. The results are real. We’re not disagreeing with that. It’s that the people who should also get them are not.
Nathan Fox: The distribution of how these accommodations are sold out is not fair just because people don’t even know that … They don’t even know that these issues exist.
Ben Olson: Yeah. They just think, “This is hard stuff for me to work with,” or maybe-
Nathan Fox: Right. That also [01:01:30] goes back to the privilege of being white and privilege of being wealthy. When you’re a rich white kid, you do bad on a test, and you immediately think, “Oh, boy. There must be some medical issue.” When you’re not of those same means or the same socioeconomic background, you do poorly on a test, and you go, “Yeah, people like me don’t do well on tests.”
Ben Olson: Yeah. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s coming.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. We might set [01:02:00] the new record for most hate mail received. Actually, that’s not true. We haven’t really gotten hate mail, have we?
Ben Olson: No. I do know that the last time that we talked about this that people wrote us and said that their emotions are running high.
Nathan Fox: Oops, sorry. Sorry.
Ben Olson: I don’t know if they’re necessarily disagreeing with us. I think they’re just frustrated about the situation, [crosstalk 01:02:22].
Nathan Fox: It’s a weird situation. It’s just very hard. It’s like something that would be debated endlessly in law school.
Ben Olson: Yeah.
Nathan Fox: [01:02:30] Okay. Next one.
Ben Olson: Yeah. Do you want me to read it?
Nathan Fox: Yeah.
Ben Olson: Okay. “Hey, guys. Please don’t use my real name.” Smiley face. We’ll call you Smiley M. “I’m looking to take the LSAT, hopefully, in September, but I have just started, so that might be pushed back.” Really? September is a long way away. Right now, it’s May.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. People overestimate how much time it should take. If you started right now, you would have time easily to be [01:03:00] ready by September.
Ben Olson: Yeah. “Just a little bit about my background I majored in Quantitative Economics and Math at the University of Colorado Boulder.” I don’t know why I can’t say that.
Nathan Fox: I want to double down on my … You definitely have time to get ready for September test.
Ben Olson: Yeah, I would agree. I can say this because of the Quantitative Economics and Math. Yes, for sure. I don’t know if it’s correlation or causation. I would imagine it’s a little bit of a mix of both. [01:03:30] By doing that, you have prepared your mind for this test.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Just studying anything that gets closer to hard science. Economics, Math, especially Quantitative Economics. I imagine that he was taking Econometrics, and probably took how to take some statistics, and probably how to take some computer programming. I think you are going to take to the LSAT quite well. Yeah, [01:04:00] I wouldn’t drag this on forever. I would start studying a little bit every day right now, and I would knock it out of the park in September.
Ben Olson: Yeah. Physics, Math, Econ.
Nathan Fox: Electrical Engineering, Computer Science.
Ben Olson: Yeah, we’re seeing it there.
Nathan Fox: Any engineering.
Ben Olson: That’s a good sign for you. This is back upped by studies. It’s shown that these people tend to do better on the LSAT. Anyways, “Long story short, I had some health issues and a very hard time adjusting to college life in my freshmen year, and ended up [01:04:30] changing my major from Chemical Engineering,” yet, another hard major, “to Economics. Because of that, my GPA is much lower than I would like. My major GPA is 3.5, but my accumulative GPA was 3.1 because of a 2.0 GPA from my freshmen year.”
First of all, this is very common. I don’t think it’s a problem. I think what law schools are interested in is who you are now, not who you were four years ago or five years ago, whenever you’re [01:05:00] applying. If you can show grade improvement, yeah, sure, they’re going to get the 3.1. Once you get in the door, they’re going to see that you ended much higher. That’s going to be who you are, and where you’re at, and what you’re going to come to when you arrive at their school.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Ben Olson: “I’ve taken only one full length time practice test and scored a 151, which was without any study.” It’s a pretty good starting score. “I know it’s not [01:05:30] the best right now, but I do think that I will improve once I start studying.” For sure.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, people think that’s a bad starting score. That’s a great starting score. You show me a 151, especially, okay, you majored in economics and you scored 151 without any studying at all. That’s a home run. You are in great shape. Higher than 160 is easily within range. I wouldn’t be surprised at [01:06:00] all if you scored 170. 151, that’s almost the average of all LSAT, final LSAT scores. You are starting in the middle of the pack, and that’s with zero prep. You’re in the middle of the pack. You can definitely differentiate yourself with a 165 or higher.
Ben Olson: If it’s any help as a reference, I started with a 153.
Nathan Fox: Wow, okay.
Ben Olson: [01:06:30] “My main question is regarding my GPA. Is it a good idea to take some additional classes to bring up my GPA to submit to law schools, or will it make no difference because they only look at your transcript from the school you graduated from?” Yeah, actually, I think they only look at the transcript from the school you graduated from. They will see the transcripts from other schools, but it won’t factor into that initial assessment. They’re just going to look at your undergraduate GPA.
Nathan Fox: Once you graduate, you’re locked in.
Ben Olson: Yeah. [01:07:00] It would only be a soft factor, and it’s such a small thing that I would not do it at all. I would focus 100% on the LSAT. One more point on your LSAT is going to have much more of an impact than these grades.
Nathan Fox: Absolutely do not take additional classes. Spend that time, money, energy on the LSAT. We said this a lot. I do think that Smiley wants to write an addendum [01:07:30] to point the committee’s attention to the fact that he had a 2.0 GPA in his freshman year with Chemical Engineering. Then, he switched to Economics. He ended up with this much stronger GPA of 3.5 in Economics. It’s just quick. It’s one paragraph. Notice my increasing grade trend, basically, as an addendum.
Ben Olson: Plus, he said he had some health issues. If those are legit health issues, then say what they are, and get them out there. If they’re [01:08:00] not, then don’t mention them.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, don’t muddy the waters too much. I like the idea of picking one excuse rather than giving all 10 excuses because it just gets complicated.
Ben Olson: Pick the best one if there is one.
Nathan Fox: That’s what I would do, yeah. You want to keep it simple for them. You want to make your lies believable. Don’t pile up.
Ben Olson: It could be true.
Nathan Fox: No, I’m sure it’s all true, but it starts to sound like lies when you have 10 excuses.
Ben Olson: Yeah, for sure. I had headaches and I couldn’t [01:08:30] sleep.
Nathan Fox: Pick an excuse, especially because the switch from Chemical Engineering to Economics, that happens. People start in their freshmen year with an overly aggressive major. They realize it’s not what they hope it would be. They switch to something that’s more suitable to them or that they’re more interested in, and they do much, much better. That’s super common. All you have to do is just point the committee’s attention to the fact that that’s what happened to [01:09:00] you. All that said, there’s one thing that’s going to really bring that home to the committee and make them actually believe you.
Ben Olson: That is?
Nathan Fox: A big LSAT score.
Ben Olson: Oh, no, no, no. No, no. You go back here. I think we read it earlier. It’s legal research and internships are critical.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, [01:09:30] yeah. That’s a third of wisdom right there.
Ben Olson: It all lives up.
Nathan Fox: No, if you show them your 2.0 in Chemical Engineering, and then you got it all the way up to 3.5 in Economics, but then you show them your 155 LSAT score, they’re going to go, “All right, that’s a 3.1 and a 155.” If you show them [01:10:00] your 3.1, and your 170 LSAT score, and then you say, “Hey, I was a Chemical Engineering major, and I change to Economics. I did much better in economics,” and then, they will look at your 170, then they go, “Oh shit. Yeah. We should think about this 3-point. Maybe this guy is much more of a 3.5 than a 3.1 because this LSAT score, he just did that. This 2.0 from his freshmen year is a long time ago. [01:10:30] Cognitively, we believe you that you have the capacity because you can’t fake that 170.”
That’s all I would say to Smiley is just like write an addendum, but also show them a big LSAT score. It can really drive the point home. Again, when you start with 151, the sky really is the limit there. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Smiley made it to 170.
Ben Olson: [01:11:00] Cool.
Nathan Fox: Don’t bother taking additional classes post graduate that makes no sense. One more LSAT point like Ben said.
Ben Olson: Yeah.
Nathan Fox: “Hey, Nathan and Ben. Love the podcast. I started listening months ago when I was first thinking about law school. Before I knew it, I managed to plow my way through every episode.” Wow. “Despite your best efforts, I’m even more sold on law school than I was at the beginning. I appreciate the straight [01:11:30] talk on the dangers and downsides.” Okay. Yeah, if you made it through the gauntlet of 90 episodes of me and Ben, of us just yelling at you about how law school sucks, and legal career suck, then yeah. Maybe you’re one of the rare ones where this is the right path for you. That’s awesome.
“I really wanted to take this junior LSAT, so I can apply early in September, but I had a surprisingly tough semester in grad school, so I haven’t had enough time [01:12:00] to study. My plan right now is to take an LSAT course this summer and prep for the September test, but there’s a catch. I’m starting a second one-year masters in London next year, so I will have to take the test over there. Unfortunately, I’ll also be stuck taking the test a few days after a Trans-Atlantic Red Eye Flight, and I won’t have settled into London yet, or probably be staying at an Airbnb or something, so a few questions for you.”
Ben Olson: I already don’t. I don’t like [01:12:30] that.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. This is like a good point. This is exactly why it sucks so bad that the LSAT is only offered four times a year because people end up doing crazy show like this. “Here’s a few questions for you. One, any word on how different it will be taking the LSAT at a foreign testing site, specifically in London?”
Ben Olson: I don’t think London would be any different than here. Do you?
Nathan Fox: I had a student who took it while [01:13:00] she was in grad school at Oxford. The one funny thing that I remember specifically is that she was taking the test in a castle.
Ben Olson: They have those? I guess, they have those, but do they use them?
Nathan Fox: There was mouse in her room. In the room that she was taking the LSAT, there was a mouse.
Ben Olson: That’s cool.
Nathan Fox: That’s the one story I know about taking the LSAT in London, or actually maybe that wasn’t in London. Maybe that was somewhere else in England. [01:13:30] Anyway-
Ben Olson: The people won’t let us take this down. We must use them for something. Let’s use them for the LSAT.
Nathan Fox: That’s your British accent?
Ben Olson: I don’t know what it is. It’s an administrator who’s frustrated at this.
Nathan Fox: I see. I see.
Ben Olson: Okay, castle, right.
Nathan Fox: I would speculate that there’s going to be less people taking the test with you. That’s just a guess. It depends on how many sites they have and how much time.
Ben Olson: I was thinking about that. I was thinking, yeah, because in London, [01:14:00] there’s a lot of people. You still might end up having a decent size group.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know. Otherwise, it’s going to be the LSAT. I wouldn’t make too much of it. I don’t think it’s going to be any different. What is that? That’s going to be prep test 82. The September LSAT is prep test 82. You’re going to have done prep test 60 through 81 before you set for that test, hopefully. [01:14:30] When you set for prep test 82, it’s going to be just another LSAT. I don’t know why it would have to be any different at all.
Second question, “Any ideas on how best to prepare myself for the test after a long flight before I’ve totally settled into a new city? Probably have four to five days between landing and test day.”
Ben Olson: That’s not so bad. For some reason, I had the impression that it was like-
Nathan Fox: The day before.
Ben Olson: Yeah. [01:15:00] That would be hard. Just make sure to get some sleep, get caught up, get caught up in your sleep, so you can be focused.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Get some fresh air. Get some exercise. Get some sleep. Four to five days, that’s plenty. You can get over it. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for jet lag. I always feel like, “Yeah, whatever.” Stay up late one night, maybe sleep a little extra the next day. Yeah, get over it. How hard is it? [01:15:30] I don’t know.
Ben Olson: I used to feel that way, but then I read some research about it. I guess, it really just starts to mess with you.
Nathan Fox: Really?
Ben Olson: Yeah.
Nathan Fox: I guess, I haven’t flown that far that often. Maybe I’m immune. Can you be immune to jet lag?
Ben Olson: I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s always outliers.
Nathan Fox: Okay. I’m now insensitive also to people who have bad jet lag. I don’t know. This isn’t breaking rocks. The LSAT is a half-a-day [01:16:00] test where you’re going to be sitting in a chair doing some mental exercises. It’s not agricultural labor and …
Ben Olson: Break you up.
Nathan Fox: It’s not. It’s just people act like … I don’t like hearing people whining and complaining about how taxing this whole thing is. It’s not taxing. I don’t know. Tell me about your grandparents, Ben. Where did your grandparents come from?
Ben Olson: That’s a good question.
Nathan Fox: [01:16:30] Were you created in a lab?
Ben Olson: No. Actually, okay, hold on. I do know now. I’m thinking that should have been faster in my mind, but I was creating the lab, and I have to make up the story. My grandparents actually owned a farm in Idaho, up in the Panhandle. They have since passed away, but we are going there this summer because the family, my dad is the [01:17:00] executor or the … Who’s the person who takes over the estate after its-
Nathan Fox: That sounds right. Executor of the will or something like that.
Ben Olson: Yeah. He’s finally decided to sell the farm because it’s a pain to-
Nathan Fox: Because it’s in Idaho, yeah.
Ben Olson: Yeah. We’re going to go up there and check it out. They were farmers, so they did break rocks.
Nathan Fox: Dude, farming is so hard. Farming is so much work. It’s insane. [01:17:30] I grew up in a little farm town. My grandparents were agricultural laborers. My mom’s dad had an almond orchard. My dad’s dad came from Oklahoma when he was in fifth grade with no education, no money, no nothing, just came out to California. From the Dust Bowl, like Grapes of Wrath style to find work, to just do any work like picking cotton, picking peaches, just busting their ass. Both of my grandfathers are just like … [01:18:00] One of them is alive, one of them is dead, but they were both just such hard workers.
My grandmothers are well. I remember going out in the almond orchard with my grandma one day to rake almonds. You have to rake them into rows, so that the machine can come by and pick them up. I raked almonds with her for an hour and a half. I was dying. It was the most back-breaking, hot, dusty, just awful. [01:18:30] I feel like that’s helped me in a lot of ways to have a bit of perspective sometime. Not that I’m not like whinny a lot. You start thinking about the LSAT, and how hard it is, how hard your life is. I don’t go very far down that road without thinking about my grandparents and even my parents. They knew what actual work was like and hardship.
[01:19:00] Like look at this email, not to just mock this one that much, but it’s like, “I’m going for my second masters in London. I’m going to be on a transcontinental flight. I’m not sure if my four to five days between landing and the day of the test is going to be enough to recover.” This is like, “Yeah, I think you’re probably going to be all right at all.”
Ben Olson: Yeah. No, I agree with you on that one.
Nathan Fox: I think you’re fine.
Ben Olson: Pretty soon, we’re going to go into a post LSAT world once the GRE [01:19:30] takes over. You and you and I will be looking for work, but I think we’ve already found it. You should have the Nathan Fox boot camp in California. People fly out and they rake almonds for an hour and a half. They go in and have some lemonade.
Nathan Fox: Absolutely.
Ben Olson: Then, you yell at them. You can swear them. Then, they can say things like, “Oh, it’s so hot out here,” and you’re like, “You don’t even know what it’s like.”
Nathan Fox: It’s going to be awesome because Trump is going to build the wall. Then, California is no longer going to have anybody to harvest [01:20:00] anyway. Then, I’ll actually be able to charge a lot to the farmers. I’ll be able to pimp these LSAT kids out in the fields. They’ll be so terrible though. They’ll be so soft and just not good at working at all, but whatever. I’ll just have a lot of them. Then, I’ll send my crew out there into the fields, and then yeah. I’ll get paid. Then, the kids would be paying me for the privilege. This is a great idea, Ben. This is a win all the way around.
Ben Olson: [01:20:30] Okay, yeah. Next question.
Nathan Fox: “Any idea how taking the LSAT and applying from abroad will affect my application process? I’ll be applying to the top 14 and a couple of others like UCLA and Fordham.” I don’t think taking the LSAT in Wanton has anything to do with anything. You’re just going to get a score of 120 to 180. I don’t think that has anything to do with anything. [01:21:00] As far as applying from abroad, you’re going to have a foreign masters on your resume and in your transcripts, which makes you different, interesting, adding diversity to the class. It can’t hurt you, it can only help you. How much is it going to help you? I have no idea. I think that’s maybe it for that email.
Ben Olson: Okay.
Nathan Fox: Okay. [01:21:30] You want to read the next one? Cody, I’m not calling you specifically soft. It’s just funny that LSAT students tend to get myopic about the process I think that the LSAT is like a be-all-end-all hardest thing in the world. It’s not nearly as hard as actual work. By the way, it’s also not near as hard as law school or the bar exam.
Ben Olson: Yeah. All right. “Hey, guys. My first diagnostic was a little over a month [01:22:00] ago, a month and a half ago, and I scored a 162.”
Nathan Fox: Whoa.
Ben Olson: Holy smokes.
Nathan Fox: Yeah.
Ben Olson: Yeah, it’s really good. “In the last three weeks, I’ve been scoring in the 168 to 173 range.” All right we’re done with this email.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Congratulations. Thanks for writing.
Ben Olson: Yeah. That’s good to hear. “I only missed one to two questions per logical reasoning and the reading comp. I’m usually only able to complete two to three of the games, and only score from 13 to 18 [01:22:30] correct in the game section. Typically, what happens is I run into a game, either two or three that throws me off, and I spend all my time on one or two questions that I just don’t get. Then, I don’t even have time to start the fourth, and sometimes the third game.”
First of all, Zach, I hope we can use your name. You’re in a great place. The games section is the easiest one to improve. All you have to do is improve that [01:23:00] section, which will come, if by nothing else, through just brute force, doing tons of games over, and over, and over again until you understand them and get the process down. You’re set. You’re already set but you’ll be set even more.
“In any case, two questions. One, how would you approach studying for this section? I’ve already read the LG bible, and I am currently doing a mix of full sections and single games, timing myself in addition of two full tests [01:23:30] on the weekends.” Two full tests on the weekends? Stop doing two full tests. Do a test and learn from it. Then, go back to whatever you’re doing, like 35-minute sections. Only do one or two tops a day. “I typically study two to three hours a day.”
Nathan Fox: Good, that’s plenty. I think two to three hours a day is plenty for someone in Zach’s position. I would not be doing single games timed. I would only be doing [01:24:00] full sections timed because single games timed is not a thing. It’s just not part of the LSAT, that the LSAT is 35 minute chunks. I would be doing 35 minute chunks. Yeah, I totally agree with Ben. I would not be doing two full tests on the weekends. That’s way overkill. I guarantee that Zach is not reviewing fully all of his mistakes or he’s not reviewing with the kind of quality that I would like to see. Let’s cut that down to one full test a weekend or even [01:24:30] every other weekend. You’re just doing way to many full tests.
Ben Olson: I don’t have any problem with Zach timing single games, as long as he’s timing and having the time to go up to see just to know how long it’s taking him. When it comes to the logical games bible, I do take issue with that book because I think it focuses too much on negative rules. One of the things that I always tell people is when you’re done setting up the rules, I go through three things. One, I look for floaters, variables that were never mentioned.
Two, [01:25:00] I look for negative rules that can be turned into positive rules. For example, if a rule says that H and L cannot be together in the same group, I try to think about what that means in terms of H and L. Does that mean that they both have to be in these other two groups or something? Sometimes, you can’t turn negative rules into positive rules, but a lot of times you can.
[01:25:30] Another example of this would be S and T cannot be together. That means in an ordering game, the S and T have to be at least one apart. Sometimes, I’ll turn that negative rule into a positive rule, so that I can see the S and T. I’m going to take up, at least, three spots. Things like that; whereas, I feel like the logic games bible focuses a lot on, “Hey, you’ve been given a positive rule. [01:26:00] Now, tell me all the negative implications of that.” I feel like positive rules are much easier and faster to process. That’s one of the things I take issue with that book. I don’t’ think it’s like fundamentally bad. I just think that it’s pushing people in the wrong direction.
The third thing I suggest that people look for after they’ve looked for floaters, after they’ve tried to turn negative rules into positive rules to the extent that they can, [01:26:30] is to look for opportunities to create worlds. We’ve talked about this before in the show. Those are things I don’t feel like are as emphasized enough in the bible and other things are emphasized. I think that there could be something to his approach that he might be missing. I hate to say it-
Nathan Fox: I want to agree with that last thing. The bible does have … What do they call it? I’ll think if I can remember what they call it. They call it identifying the templates trademark [01:27:00] or identifying the possibilities trademark.
Ben Olson: Trademark.
Nathan Fox: They have a section on that in the LG bible. Yeah, I don’t think they make nearly enough of that. It’s an extremely powerful tool. I think that they should emphasize that much, much more than they actually do. I have students. I was working with one private, a one-on-one student last night on Skype. She was talking about the [01:27:30] numerical distributions a lot because the bible has this whole chapter on the numerical distributions. She was doing distributions on games where she should have been making worlds.
It was like, “Whoa, that distribution stuff.” It can be powerful when it works, but it’s especially powerful when you realize that there’s only two distributions. Then, you use that to make two worlds. She wasn’t doing that stuff. Yeah, the bible, [01:28:00] it’s good. It’s not going to hurt you. It’s all real games in there. Yeah, you can do it, but it’s not the be-all-end-all magic formula. I think there are better. Also, power scores sequencing notation looks is just ridiculous. Those arrows are just stupid.
Ben Olson: Yeah, alligators.
Nathan Fox: I don’t understand that at all.
Ben Olson: How would you approach studying for this section? [01:28:30] I would suggest, continue doing timed 35-minute sections. I would say do single games. I have a book of single games from older tests that tend to be harder. If you’re, Zach, taking classes with me, I would suggest using that book, unfortunately. Maybe not, but if you’re interested, let me know. Yeah, I don’t know. Do you have anything else to suggest?
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Zach’s profile [01:29:00] is a lot like mine when I started. I was already a G Math teacher when I started studying for the LSAT. I was crashing the LR and reading comprehension just right off the bat. I was barely missing anything on LR and RC. Just like Zach says, one or two here and there. Zero, one, or two per section. On games, yeah, I was exactly the same. I would be pretty [01:29:30] consistently able to do two, and sometimes three. I wasn’t missing questions. I was figuring them out, but I was just running out of time. I was ending up with something like 13 to 18 points on the game section.
I will tell you what I did, which was I only ever did 35-minute timed sections of real logic games. I did one or two sections a day timed. When I would run [01:30:00] out of time, then I would take all the time I needed to complete the section, and work my way through it, and frequently go back, and look at game one and game two because your problem is very frequently, actually, game one and game two. You think you did great there because you got them all right. You might have missed an opportunity to do it in half the time. You can go back and look at game one, game two. See if there’s anything that tripped you up. Ask yourself, “Hey, am I testing a lot of answer choices here because [01:30:30] if I’m testing had a lot of answer choices, there’s probably a better way.”
Yeah, I think I studied probably six days a week. I did a section or two. I got just a bunch of old tests. I did a section or two and reviewed it. Eventually, it just clicked. I think two or three hours a day is plenty. I think this is going to work out very, very well for Zach.
Ben Olson: [01:31:00] Yeah. Question two, “Do you have mental strategies to keep calm and focus during the games? One of my problem is that I get angry and anxious once I’ve learned how much time I spent on a question. Then the whole section falls apart.”
Nathan Fox: I have a suggestion.
Ben Olson: Don’t use a watch.
Nathan Fox: Stop looking at the watch, dude. You’re getting angry and anxious once you’ve learned how much time you’ve spent. [01:31:30] Okay, don’t learn how much time you’ve spent. Set the 35-minute timer, and put it across the room somewhere. Maybe, then, you will just calmly, carefully just work your way through the games. It’s pretty clear to me. He’s getting angry when he looks at the watch, so don’t do that anymore.
Ben Olson: Yeah. He goes on and he says, “Should I plan on only spending a minute or two on a question before I move on?” See, I think this reflects just a [01:32:00] broader misunderstanding of not only the game section but the test as a whole. Whenever you’re stuck on a question in games, it probably doesn’t have a whole lot to do with that question. It has more to do with your initial understanding of the game.
To avoid getting angry and anxious, to relate it by different emotions that are negative, [01:32:30] slow down and spend more time upfront doing those three things. Find floaters, try to turn negative rules into positive rules, and look for worlds by testing extremes like saying, “Hey, how many different places could this thing go? It can only go in three different places. What if I created worlds on the basis of those three assumptions? How would this game work out?”
Maybe you shouldn’t create them. Sometimes, they’re not that helpful. Then, you don’t end up creating them, but just going through that process will get your mind wrapped around the game in a way that it doesn’t sound like it’s wrapped around it right now because if you’re [01:33:00] getting into a question, and spending tons of time, then there’s something you don’t understand about the game, period. It’s not necessarily about that question.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. Certainly, you should not be looking at the watch, and thinking about, “I’ve already spend one minute on this question or two minutes on this question.” It sounds to me like he needs to take a deep breath before [01:33:30] the game, make more inferences, maybe make worlds. Worlds are going to be huge, I think, for this guy. I think that is the difference a lot of times. I don’t know anybody who makes it all the way through this section without doing worlds sometimes.
Ben Olson: I know, at least, one game.
Nathan Fox: I would never be able to make it through this section if I didn’t make worlds on, at least, one game. I don’t know which game it is. I can’t predict it in advance, but I’m looking for opportunities to make worlds.
Ben Olson: Every time. Every time, [01:34:00] yeah.
Nathan Fox: Yeah. There are sections where I will make worlds on every game. That happens sometimes. If you end up doing that, if you can see that there’s a dividing line here, and there’s really only two sets of solutions. There’s a solution that starts with this, and there’s a solution that starts with this, and you make some inferences in both of those worlds, or at least one of those worlds, and then you end up just destroying that game. It has nothing to do with checking the watch. It has nothing to do with timing yourself on every individual question. It’s just you’re predicting everything [01:34:30] in advance when you make those inferences upfront.
I think this is going to work out really well for Zach, but I would throw away the watch, Zach, and I would start doing this on a zen. You’re going to be doing the test on a much higher level than everyone else in the room. He’s got the subject of the email. There’s logic games, slow poke. For one, you’re already better than half the people in the room [01:35:00] for getting two or three games. That’s like average at worst. I wouldn’t say it’s … You shouldn’t be thinking of yourself as a slow poke. You’re perfectly fine. You’re getting it. You’re going to get a lot better. Write us back in and let us know. Give us an update from now on how you’re doing, but I think you’re going to be doing awesome.
Ben Olson: Yeah.
Nathan Fox: Cool. We have made it [01:35:30] through our backlog, Ben, of emails.
Ben Olson: Yay.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, that’s awesome. I guess, we should promote our subscription page, which is thinkingLSAT.com/blog/subscribe. You can also please rate and review us on iTunes. I was looking the other day reading the reviews. They’re very nice. People say very nice things about us in reviews. We definitely appreciate [01:36:00] that. It really helps people to find us when you do that. Go to iTunes, and rate and review us. Email the show.
Ben Olson: Have we gone above two stars yet or where we at there?
Nathan Fox: Yeah, we’re knocking on the door of three stars, dude. It’s awesome. Please email us anytime if you have questions, help@thinkingLSAT.com. We will probably mock you, but we do it from a place of love. Don’t take it too personally, but, [01:36:30] no, we will respond. We respond to every email we get. Most of them will get on to the show. Please email us. I don’t know. Anything else Ben?
Ben Olson: No, that’s it. Looking forward to hearing from everybody.
Nathan Fox: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for listening. Tell a friend. We will talk to you soon.