Ep. 299: Slow Down to Speed Up
“How do I get faster?” LSAT teachers hear some version of this question every day. And Nathan and Ben’s answer will always be the same: Slow down and focus on accuracy. Speed comes naturally with time and practice—you can’t force it. The guys discuss what Nathan calls the fundamental paradox of the LSAT on this week’s episode. They also evaluate a submission for Pearls vs. Turds, tackle another logical reasoning question from PrepTest 73, and answer a variety of questions from the listener mailbag.
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5:13 – Pearls vs. Turds
This week’s Pearls vs. Turds candidate comes from the makers of the test. Demon user Ronnie requests Nathan and Ben’s feedback on the suggested approach to logical reasoning found on LSAC.org. They consider one sentence at a time:
“Read each question carefully.” It’s hard to disagree with that—assuming LSAC is talking about the passage and question as a whole and not just the question stem. They could’ve simply said, “Read carefully.” Ben and Nathan endorse this advice.
“Make sure that you understand the meaning of each part of the question.” Again, “Read carefully” would cover that. But nothing wrong with doubling down on the advice.
“Make sure that you understand the meaning of each answer choice and how each may or may not relate to the question posed.” This is a definite pearl. Here are the makers of the test straight-up telling you that the wrong answers sometimes don’t connect to the question at all.
“Do not pick a response simply because it is a true statement. Although true, it may not answer the question posed.” Another pearl. Sometimes they may even write an answer that they know to be true in the real world but is false given the context of the question and what they said in the passage—which you have to accept as true regardless of whether it’s true in the real world.
“Answer each question based on the information that is given even if you do not agree with it.” Yep. The LSAT isn’t testing your knowledge or morals. They don’t care what you think of the information in the passage. They’re testing your ability to read and reason. Accept premises as facts, and think about whether they justify some conclusion.
“Work within the context provided by the passage. LSAT questions do not involve any tricks or hidden meanings.” A lot of students, especially novices, may feel that is the case, but it’s not. The test makes perfect sense if you understand it properly. In everyday life, people often are illogical and misuse language. People jump to conclusions based on logical fallacies all the time. Lawyers must rid themselves of that kind of folly. That’s precisely what the LSAT is testing.
Ben and Nathan agree that there are several pearls here. It seems that the people who wrote this advice are the same people who write the test—not the people who administer the test.
30:43 – Slow Down to Speed Up
Nearly every day, LSAT students ask their teachers how to get fast enough to finish all of the questions. The answer at LSAT Demon never changes: Your problem is not speed. Slow down and focus on accuracy. As you get better at answering the questions with 100% accuracy, your speed will naturally start to improve. To speed up, first, you have to slow down. Nathan calls this the fundamental paradox of the LSAT. If you slow down, the test gets easier, and then, eventually, you won’t have a problem with speed anymore. Ben points out that this paradox is true in other domains as well—for example, the military has a mantra, “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”
Instead of wasting your time and your teachers’ time by asking how to speed up, ask better questions. Ask questions that will help you to better understand the content of the test. Most questions probably need to start with “I don’t understand.” A