Two different kinds of skipping pop up on the LSAT. Some students want to skip questions and do them out of order. Some students want to skip answer choices when they think they’ve found the correct answer. Both types of skipping should be avoided, with a few exceptions.
Don’t skip questions on Logical Reasoning.
The questions on LSAT Logical Reasoning are arranged, roughly, in increasing order of difficulty. Harder questions come later. So students who skip questions are, for the most part, increasing the average difficulty of the questions they attempt.
You can’t tell how hard a question is until you do it. For example, questions with convoluted arguments but obvious answer choices are easier than they might appear at first glance. Similarly, certain question types—Parallel Reasoning comes immediately to mind—can intimidate novices but turn out to be formulaic and easy with some practice.
At LSAT Demon, we’re not happy getting you into the 140s or 150s. We want to get you into the 160s or 170s. Doing so requires actual understanding of the test. This starts with the first 5 questions, then the first 10, then the first 15, and then the first 20. If you can’t start running the table on the easiest questions, which always appear at the beginning of each section, you will never reach your potential. Skipping questions is anathema to this. Do not skip questions on Logical Reasoning.
Don’t skip questions on Reading Comprehension unless you’re skipping an entire passage.
It’s difficult to reach the 170s without reading all four passages, but some students can reach the mid or even high 160s using a three-passage strategy for Reading Comprehension. Disregard this section’s advice if you’re able to do all four passages with high accuracy.
If you’re going to read only three passages, you might consider skipping a passage based on the topic or the number of questions.
On Reading Comprehension, the subjective difficulty of the questions can be affected by the reader’s interest in and facility with the topic of the passage. Some people really hate the passages about science. Others, like me, are bored by literary criticism—especially passages about poetry, yuck. If this describes you, and you’re going to read only three passages anyway, you might consider skipping a passage with a topic that immediately turns you off.
I am not saying to skim all four passages and decide which three you’re going to do. That’s a waste of time. Assume that you’re going to do the first three passages, in order. But you might allow yourself to skip passage two or three if you really hate the topic. This is a one-time, forward-only maneuver. Don’t skip passage three, look at passage four, decide you hate it even worse, and go back to passage three. If you’re going to skip, skip immediately and never look back. Invest every minute wisely.
Don’t skip questions on Logic Games unless you’re doing the “if” questions first.
It can be helpful, on certain games, to prioritize doing the questions that sound like “If X is fourth, which one of the following must be true” before broader questions, like “which one of the following can’t go fourth.”
This approach isn’t necessary by any means. I, myself, don’t bother doing this if I nail the setup (especially when I’ve crushed it with worlds). But some students really like doing games this way:
- Most games start with a “list” question, like “which one of the following is an acceptable arrangement of site visits, from first to last.” Always do that question first, when it appears. The wrong answers can easily be eliminated because they directly violate one or more of the rules.
- Then, do the questions that start with “if.” Make separate diagrams as you solve each question. This gives you some experience working within the game and provides some examples of working scenarios. Note that this is not “making worlds.” These scenarios are not mutually exclusive, nor are they all-encompassing. They’re just some random working scenarios, prompted by new restrictions posed by each question. Still, they might help you when you go back and pick up the remaining questions.
- Finish up whatever questions remain.
This technique is especially useful for games with a ton of flexibility and games that can’t be crushed by worlds. But it’s not necessary. If you don’t want to do it, it’s fine to just do the questions in order.
One final exception to “don’t skip on Logic Games” is the occasional rule substitution question. I’ve explained that elsewhere.
Don’t skip answer choices, ever.
Sometimes you’ll be sure the answer is A or B. Maybe it just fits, or maybe it perfectly matches your prediction—or maybe both. You might be tempted to save time by not even reading the remaining answer choices. Most of the time, you’ll be right. But once in a while, you’ll be wrong. The potential cost of a wrong answer outweighs any minuscule benefit gained by skipping the remaining answers.
Note that I’m not saying to try to make wrong answers right. I’m also not saying that you should conclusively disprove all four wrong answers before choosing one. All I’m saying is that you should take a peek at each answer to make sure it’s not an even better version of the answer you were about to choose.
This happened to me in class just the other night. I was reading answer choice B, and it seemed to perfectly match my prediction. I said, “I’m 99% sure this is correct, but I’m going to read all five just in case.” Sure enough, when I got to E, I saw that it was an even closer match to my prediction than B was—and in fact, there was a fatal flaw in B that I hadn’t recognized until E confronted me with a corrected version of what I thought B had said.
If I’d skipped reading C–E, I might have saved 15–30 seconds. But I’d also have missed a question that I ended up getting right.
The way we go fast on Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension is by generally disrespecting the answer choices. We make strong predictions, then we expect each answer to be wrong 80% of the time. If it doesn’t match our prediction, if it doesn’t sound like it’s answering the question, or if we just don’t understand it, it’s probably wrong.
On a first read-through, it should take only 5–10 seconds per answer choice to evaluate them. The right answer is the one that probably matches our prediction and definitely answers the question. It’s the one that makes sense. When you think an answer makes sense, that’s great! It’s probably correct. But be sure to take a few seconds to glance at each answer choice. Make sure there’s not something else that makes even more sense.
Reading all five answer choices is like having a backup parachute. It takes two mistakes to miss a question—your main chute has to fail (the answer you were about to pick turns out to be wrong) and your backup chute also has to fail (you didn’t recognize, and failed to select, the correct answer). If you skip the remaining answer choices, it’s like jumping out of the plane without a backup chute. It’ll work most of the time—but it’s a bitch when it doesn’t.
What do you think about this lesson? Anyone can email me directly. I’m email@example.com.