Slow Down to Speed Up (And Ask a Better Question)

Slow Down to Speed Up (And Ask a Better Question)

This week’s lesson is written with my fellow LSAT teachers in mind. Trust me when I say that I feel their pain. I’ve spent the last fourteen years of my life answering questions like,

How can I improve at speed?

How can I get faster?

What can I do to finish the section?

As one of our Demon teachers put it, we get this “every class, every day, from at least one student.” Which is puzzling, since our answer never changes:

If you’re struggling to improve your LSAT score, your problem is not speed—it’s accuracy.

Yes, you.

Unless you’re getting 15 out of 15 or 20 out of 20 correct on each section and running out of time—and maybe I’ve seen one student do this in my entire career—then your real issue is accuracy, not speed. Each question you miss is an indication of why you’re slow: You’re just not reading carefully enough. You’re not making good enough predictions. You struggle to get them right. That’s why you’re slow.

I’ll break it down one section at a time.

On RC, you’re slow because you’re not reading the passage carefully enough.

On Reading Comprehension, you’re not reading the passage carefully and aggressively enough. You “read” it, but not enough sinks in. You don’t understand the purpose of the document—in short, you don’t comprehend it. But you think speed is your issue, so you race ahead to the questions anyway, where, lo and behold, the questions seem difficult. You pat yourself on the back for narrowing the questions down to two answers, but this is actually the kiss of death. You’re between two answers because you don’t really know what the passage said. It takes you forever to answer the questions, and you miss some of the questions you do attempt. It’s slow and painful.

On LR, you’re slow because you’re not reading the passage/argument carefully enough.

On Logical Reasoning, you’re not predicting the answers at all, or not well enough. If there’s an argument, it’s probably flawed or incomplete in some way. But you didn’t attack it, so you can’t make a strong prediction when it turns out to be a Strengthen, Weaken, Flaw, or Assumption question. You’re either comparing answers to one another without knowing what you’re looking for, or you’re starting over by rereading the argument, which you should have read more carefully in the first place. If it turns out to be a Must Be True question, you haven’t connected the dots that were sitting there in plain sight waiting to be connected. Again, you’re either hopelessly comparing answers to one another or rereading the passage, or both. You miss questions because you’re essentially guessing. It’s slow and painful.

On LG, you’re slow because you’re missing opportunities to make inferences/worlds.

On Logic Games, you jump into the questions before fully considering the setup and rules. You don’t connect the rules to each other, even when two rules mention the same variable, so you don’t make inferences that are begging to be made. You don’t make worlds, or you half-ass them when you do. Instead, you panic and start brute forcing the questions, missing bountiful opportunities to solve the systems first; you grind out one question at a time instead of harvesting them by the bucketful.

Stop asking your teachers how to speed up. Instead, ask a better question.

If you really want to improve—and I can’t for the life of me figure out why you’re in LSAT class otherwise—then you need to stop asking “how do I go faster” and instead ask questions that will deepen your understanding. Not “how do I go faster on games.” Instead, “this game took me too long—did I miss a shortcut?” Not “how do I finish the sections on LR.” Instead, “this LR question was a doozy. Was there a more efficient way to nail it?” Not “how do I start getting to the fourth passage on RC.” Instead, “I found this passage difficult—why didn’t I comprehend it?”

In all cases, you need to slow down and go deeper if you want to find the shortcut to the correct answer. Students are incredibly resistant to this idea. I can’t tell you how many times students have asked me about an LR question, for example, and when I start attacking the argument they interrupt me with “but I really just want to know about the difference between B and D!” which is a total waste of time, since the answer was obvious and predictable from a proper understanding of the argument. It’s the same everywhere: On RC, students want to talk about answer choices when they didn’t predict the main point. On LG, students want to talk about the fourth game in the section, when their real problem came from an inefficient approach to games one, two, and/or three.

We appreciate every student, and we especially appreciate your questions. But here at LSAT Demon, “how do I speed up” will always be met with “first, slow the F down.”

At LSAT Demon, we’re about real understanding. This test is easier than you think. But you have to slow down to see the shortcuts. The less you think about speed, the faster you will eventually go. Stop asking about speed, and instead humble yourself by asking a substantive question.