Start With a Practice Test (Ep. 320)

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Today on the show, Ben and Nathan discuss a turd regarding LSAT diagnostic tests. They explain why they advise new students to just start with a practice test. The guys also go over LSAC’s recently released data comparing August test scores from 2019 through 2021. Then, they answer a harder LR Weaken question and host the personal statement grand finale.

As always, if you like the show and you want to get more from the Thinking LSAT community, check out the links below. You can connect with other folks studying for the LSAT and get more useful resources from Nathan and Ben.

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10.27.2021 — October LSAT Score

11.12.2021 — November LSAT

12.3.2021 — January LSAT Registration Deadline

3:40 - “Keeping Up to Data” Podcast

Nathan and Ben discuss the new episode of LSAC’s podcast, Keeping Up to Data. This particular episode talks about an analysis of August LSAT scores that compares the five-section test in 2019, the three-section Flex in 2020, and the four-section test in 2021. Josiah Evans and his psychometrics team have determined that the test length did not have a significant impact on scores. Curiously, they chose not to address the most noteworthy change to the test—one of the two scored sections of Logical Reasoning was dropped in 2020, shifting the overall balance of the test.

14:37 - Pearls vs. Turds

Ben and Nathan read some Twitter advice from another LSAT tutor in the industry. This tutor recommends that you “build the foundation first” before taking a diagnostic test. This is a turd. Nathan reminds listeners that the point of a diagnostic score is to dip your toe in the water and to learn what the test actually is. It’s not about how well or how poorly you do. It gives you a baseline so you can start learning from your mistakes.

Scoreboard Update: 16 pearls, 55 turds, 24 ties

Got a pearl vs. turd candidate? Email, or find us on social @thinkinglsat.

30:55 - Test 73, Section 2, Q19

On a Weaken question, you should always predict what kind of answer you’re looking for before diving into the answer choices. The guys throw out multiple potential answers that could weaken the argument.

If an answer choice strengthens the argument or leaves it the same, then you can dismiss it. Ben and Nathan use this method to quickly dismiss answers A, C, D, and E because they all strengthen the argument. B is easily the correct answer.

Nathan says that there are two ways to get to the answer. You can dismiss answers that would strengthen or not affect the argument and find the weakener by process of elimination. Or you can identify the one answer that weakens the argument. As long as you fully understand the argument before going into the answer choices, either method will bring you to the correct answer.

Try this question here.

48:48 - Ashley’s Personal Statement

Ben and Nathan like the “I” statements in Ashley’s first paragraph, but it’s too wordy. They recommend that she cut the overly corporate speech and make it sound a little more natural. Reading your statement aloud can help you to notice lengthy sentences and repetition of the same words or phrases.

Nathan reminds listeners of the commandment to “use a damn period sometimes.” Avoid long sentences with too many commas. He and Ben want Ashley to write in a way that frames her as a successful, productive person.

1:01:02 - Layla’s Personal Statement

Layla should omit her first few sentences because they are setting a scene rather than talking about things she has done. Layla also starts her story too far in the past. You want to frame yourself as a successful adult. Focus on your professional experiences in the real world.

Nathan recommends that Layla use “I” as the subject of most of her sentences and that she use action verbs. To help avoid using passive language, Nathan tells listeners to search for all forms of the verb “to be.” The guys want to know more about what Layla does on the ground. They don’t want a list of bold and broad conclusions. They recommend that she cut her entire last paragraph to make more room for talking about things she has done.

1:13:18 - Liv’s Personal Statement  

Nathan wants Liv to skip her origin story and just talk about what she actually did that was successful. She may briefly mention the fact that she won state for moot court in high school, but she should focus more on her adult experiences in college.

Liv should also run her personal statement through Grammarly and remove all mentions of the word “would.” She should make her sentences more concise and make her timeline of events flow more smoothly.

1:22:51 - Emily’s Personal Statement

If Emily removes the word “today” from her first sentence, she has a really strong start. She should talk only about items that give her points in her favor. If Emily can focus on the work she does at CPS, it will frame her as a successful adult with experience in the legal world. The guys think Emily should rethink her overall topic. She should talk more about her work life and less about her personal life.

1:40:04 - K’s Personal Statement

Ben and Nathan immediately correct and restructure the first sentence of K’s personal statement. The guys tell K and listeners never to use quotations as they move into the second sentence. K’s personal statement mentions mental states and violates multiple other commandments in the first paragraph. K needs to cut her origin story and avoid talking about other people. K should focus on her work in her law firm and what she has done that was successful.

1:57:36 - Chris’s Personal Statement

Chris should remove the vague word “served” from his first sentence and explain what he actually does. He should also remove any passive words and swap them for action verbs. Nathan wants Chris to shorten all of his sentences and remove superfluous words like “additionally.”

Ben tells Chris that every sentence needs to move the ball forward. The timeline of events and the flow of the overall personal statement should be connected. Each sentence should be another point in your favor. Nathan adds a new commandment: Never talk about how good of a writer you are in your personal statement. All this does is draw attention to mistakes in your writing. Chris has good material to work with, but he needs to work on his overall writing and grammar to get this personal statement ready for submission.

2:11:41 - Chase’s Personal Statement

Chase needs to explain what “ABCToday” is because it’s mentioned multiple times in her first paragraph. Three sentences in, the guys aren’t sure what Chase is trying to convey. She needs to set the stage so the reader understands what she does for a living. The guys encourage Chase to re-write her personal statement with clearer explanations of what she does and to run her statement through Grammarly. Back to the drawing board, Chase!

2:22:10 - Today’s Violations

  • Don’t write long sentences. Use a damn period every now and then.
  • Don’t use footnotes.
  • Don’t use the incorrect form of a word. (For example, it’s “toward” in the US and “towards” in the UK.)
  • Don’t talk about mental states.
  • Don’t capitalize random words in the middle of sentences. (It’s Trumpian.)
  • Don’t use overly specific numbers. (For example, don’t say things like “over $25,000.00,” “at least 64 hours each week,” or “239 cases and counting.”
  • Don’t use “to be” verbs.
  • Don’t use the word “would.”
  • Don’t use -ly words like “initially.”
  • Don’t use fancy words like “ergo.”
  • Don’t use more than 25 words in a sentence.
  • Don’t ass-kiss the school you are applying to.
  • Don’t use two spaces after periods.
  • Don’t use temporal references like “today” or “fall 2019.”
  • Don’t dwell on negative aspects of your life. Things like divorce, high body mass index, and low credit scores don’t belong in a personal statement.
  • Don’t waste space. Every sentence must move the ball forward.
  • Don’t use quotations, ever.
  • Don’t focus on random aspirations or origin stories.
  • Don’t talk about your writing skills.
  • Don’t start sentences with heavy words like “additionally” or “however.”
  • Don’t write out numbers over ten.
  • Don’t tell. Show.