On LSAT Logic Games, speed is more important than on any other section. There are specific ways you can improve your speed on logic games, whereas on logical reasoning and reading comprehension, speed tends to depend almost entirely on how well you understand the material.
The key to speed on logic games is how and where you draw your diagrams. This is easiest to show in person, but I’m going to do my best here.
(Btw, LSAT logic games are officially known as LSAT analytical reasoning, but few people call them that.)
Place your diagrams on the second page, below the questions
From preptest 66 onwards, you have two pages to use for logic games diagrams. This seems like a good thing, but it’s a trap. Do not use the first page. Instead, your diagrams should be as close to the questions as possible. This reduces eye scanning distance.
Looking from one page to another is an easy way to distract yourself and lose everything you’ve been working on. Logic games are hard. You have to do an elaborate chain of deductions in your head. If you are even slightly distracted, the whole chain of deductions falls apart. Distraction causes you to go slower and make mistakes.
This is not a hypothetical risk. I’ve watched students do logic games in person. I see their eyes go back and forth between questions and far off diagrams. They make the same deductions over, and over, and over, not even realizing they’re forgetting deductions and repeating their work. Large eye scanning distances are disastrous.
Experts use only the second page. Why would you do things any differently? For more detail, see Jeffort’s excellent reply on this Top Law School thread. He’s replying to a comment I made describing my diagramming method.
What your diagrams should look like on LSAT Logic Games
Here’s what my two pages look like. This is a game from Preptest 72. But it’s all blurred out, so you don’t need to worry about spoilers:
Notice that I’ve drawn nothing on the first page. That’s because it’s far away from the questions. Instead, my main diagram is just below the questions. It’s cleanly drawn, so I can instantly find it, with no confusion.
I drew my extra diagrams beside the questions. This has two effects:
- My main diagram stays clean. I can refer to it to see the rules, with no confusion.
- The diagrams for each question are right beside the answers. There’s zero delay between looking at the deductions I’ve drawn and the answers.
Practice with this method a few times. You’ll notice the speed difference once you get used to it.
Draw small diagrams for LSAT Logic Games
Look closely at my diagrams. They are not large. This is how I draw all my logic games diagrams. If you practice making small diagrams, you’ll find they’re just as easy to understand as large diagrams.
Small diagrams are much better than large ones. They’re very quick to draw. And you can place a small diagram in a small space near the question. Having a diagram near the question offers a massive speed advantage.
Draw simple diagrams
Notice that the diagrams I drew on my page above don’t have many details. You should try to reduce details down to the bare minimum. Extra details increase the difficulty of reading your diagrams, and they take longer to draw.
The diagrams I make for my explanations are fairly simple. But the diagrams I draw myself on my own paper are even simpler. I keep additional details on my online drawings so they’re clear for you to read, but for my own purposes I trim diagrams down even further. Here is one of my online diagrams for PT 72 (game 2). I’ve also uploaded what my own hand drawn diagrams for that game looks like.
Here’s PT 72 game 2, the way I drew it online:
Here’s how I drew it on paper:
Notice that I didn’t number the spaces. It’s a small difference, but it makes the diagram faster to draw, and smaller. At first, you’ll find it confusing to read the diagram without numbers. But if you do games like this a few times without numbers, you’ll find you can instantly see which spot is 4th, 2nd, etc.
Another small difference. This second diagram below is drawn with a method I do not use. You may have seen this Q/S, S/Q diagram style before. It means that Q and S are interchangeable. This method is valid logically, but it takes longer to draw than mine:
Instead, I draw “Q, S” above the diagram, like in my first diagram above. To me, “Q, S” represents: “These two variables are left to place, and are interchangeable.”
What’s the advantage of small diagrams beside the questions?
First, I find my version cleaner. There’s more white space. I can scan the diagram faster. Also notice that “Q, S” requires two letters, while “Q/S S/Q” requires four letters. So my version is faster to draw and produces less visual clutter.
On its own, using “Q, S” is a small change. And removing the numbers is a small change. But my diagrams have dozens of small changes like this, and these add up to a massive speed advantage.
Search for small optimizations everywhere. Constantly simplify your diagrams. You’ll go much faster for it.
Memorize the rules on logic games
Of all my speed tips, this is the most important. Memorize the rules. On logic games, you’re meant to solve the questions the way a computer would. And computers don’t forget the bloody rules!
When I suggest this to students, the usual response is “I caaaaan’t memorize the rules! It’s hard!!”. But then I ask the student if they had ever practiced memorizing rules. “Well, no….” is the usual answer.
You’d be surprised what you can do if you actually try. I believe that, if you’re intelligent enough to read this article, you’re intelligent enough to remember 4-5 rules for nine minutes. Here’s how I memorize the rules. I read them four times:
- I read the rules once to understand the game.
- Twice: to draw.
- A third time: to check for mistakes and look for deductions.
- A fourth time: to eliminate answers on the first question. (if it’s an “acceptable order” question)
Memorization is actually a byproduct of good form
I would do all of this even if I wasn’t trying to memorize the rules. This four step method is the best way I know of reducing mistakes, getting the best setup, and going fast.
The first read makes your setup more efficient. Most people just start drawing as soon as they read the first line of the setup. But if you haven’t read the whole game, how do you know what to draw?
The second read it obvious, that’s just to draw the diagrams. The third read, error-checking, is a step a lot of students mistakenly skip. A single LG error can cost you 3-5 minutes and make you lose 2-7 points. That’s a horrifying risk. Just read the damn rules one more time to check. You’ve got time to double check the rules….and double-checking will save you time. You’ll also find deductions while doing this step. The extra 10-20 seconds is worth it. If you notice even one deduction, that can shave minutes off your game time.
Finally, the fourth read is simply the most efficient way to solve the first question, which is usually an acceptable order question. All four readings of the rules make sense on their own. But a massively beneficial side effect is that you will effortlessly memorize the rules if you follow the method above. Try this method, and time yourself. I guarantee you won’t take much longer on the setup, if you even do take longer.
How to drill rule memorization
Like anything else, you can get better at memorizing the rules if you practice. Here’s how to do it. Print two copies of a game. Give one copy to a friend. Go through the four readings I described above, and draw your main setup. Then turn over your sheet. Try to list all the rules for your friend.
The first step on this drill is merely succeeding at memorizing the rules. If you can’t do that, then repeat this exercise with new games until you can routinely memorize the rules. The next step is learn to memorize the rules fast. Time how long it takes you, and keep trying to go faster (faster on average; games are different).
You will get good at this if you practice.
How memorizing the rules makes you faster
Games are about combining rules to make deductions. If you don’t know the rules, you can’t combine them. Whereas, if you know all the rules by heart, then a lot of “tricky” deductions become obvious.
Logic games ask you to be like a computer. And computers…don’t….forget….the rules! If you want to think like a computer, then at minimum you need to know the rules. And if you know the rules, you’ve already done 70% of what’s required to do logic games fast.
More speed tips:
- How to go faster at the LSAT
- How to go faster at reading comprehension
- How to go faster at logical reasoning
LG Mastery Seminar
Update: If you need more help on logic games, I’ve created an advanced seminar on how to do better at them: https://lsathacks.com/lg-mastery-seminar/