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Topics - EarlCat

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Studying for the LSAT / EarlCat's LSAT Goal Calculator
« on: March 24, 2008, 04:19:47 PM »
Pacing is one of the most difficult things to manage on the LSAT.  If we go too fast, we get sloppy and miss questions.  If we go too slow, we run out of time and miss questions.  At some point between blazing through everything, and carefully considering every answer choice eight times is a sweet spot--the ideal balance between speed and accuracy.  Easy concept. 

The hard part is figuring out where that sweet spot is.  You just got through the args section.  You managed to answer 20 questions but you only got 13 of them right.  Should you speed up?  Should you slow down?  Is this as good as it gets? 

I had a student once who was having a very difficult time.  She literally attempted 25 questions on a section and got 10 right.  I handed her a calculator.  "You've did 25 questions in 35 minutes.  How much time per question did you take?" I asked.

"1 minute 24 seconds."

"Okay.  How much time per questions would you have if you only tried 15 questions?"

"2 minutes 20 seconds."

"Now think about this," I said.  "If you took almost an extra minute to consider every single question you attempted, do you think you might get just one more right?"  Of course she could.  And that's an extra raw point on her score.  But that's not all.  Given the 4:1 odds against guessing correctly, she should get an extra 2 points on those remaining 10 questions just by choosing D for "Don't know."  By simply slowing down, she could raise her score by as many as 3 points.  Hell, even is she only got 9 correct, she's still likely to come out ahead.

Now 15 questions isn't necessarily her magic number, but it illustrates an important point:  Managing your speed has the potential to increase your score even if you don't improve your skills.

For a while I have been brainstorming a way to figure out exactly where the LSAT sweet spot it.  Obviously, someone breaking 165 or 170 ought to be completing the test.  Someone who can literally never get a question right is better off guessing on every question.  The people in the middle are a bit more difficult to manage.

A friend and I worked for a long time trying to find a way to point people toward the ideal balance of speed and accuracy for their current skill level.  With a little bit of math and game theory, we came up with a formula we call OFI.  OFI is  based on several assumptions that I believe to be relatively safe.  In general:

  • There is an inverse relationship between speed and accuracy.  To a point, increasing speed decreases accuracy.  You will do better on 20 questions in 35 minutes than you would on 1000 questions in the same amount of time.
  • The increased likelihood of a correct answer is somewhat proportional to the amount of extra time spent on that question.  An extra 30 seconds is more helpful than an extra 5 seconds.
  • A student will guess on any unanswered question.  (Which he/she always should.)

I've incorporated this into a simple calculator designed to point you in the right direction regarding how to pace yourself on future practice tests.   It uses data based on individual sections of your most recent test to generate a speed and accuracy goal for that section on your next test.  If your accuracy is too low to justify your speed, it slows you down.  If your accuracy is too high, it speeds you up.

Not everyone's speed/accuracy curve is identical, but in theory, your required adjustment on each test should be smaller and smaller until you are consistently reaching your pacing goals.  Once you meet a goal, the calculator will challenge you with a slightly higher goal next time.

Please try it out on your next several tests and let me know how things go.

EarlCat's LSAT Goal Calculator

Studying for the LSAT / What do you want in prep materials?
« on: November 16, 2007, 06:05:28 PM »
If a retail LSAT prep book could have ANYTHING you wanted in it (besides anything that would let you cheat) what would it be?

Studying for the LSAT / Talking proctor at Vanderbilt
« on: October 01, 2007, 05:29:43 PM »
Did anyone take at Vanderbilt and have a proctor who talked through the whole test?  One of my students reported that that was the case.  If you were in the same room, please contact LSAC to complain.  215.968.1001


This happened yesterday and it's not really well known, so I figured this info might help other people on the next test.

A student called me yesterday evening in a panic because she had lost her wallet that had ALL of her LSAT-approved IDs.  She was about to ask her mother to drive down from Chicago overnight to deliver her passport.

Anyway, I called LSAC and found out that they can provide an "Emergency Identification Form" for just such an occasion.  It's a one page form that asks for name, height, weight, eye color, gender, social security number, a recent photograph, and a notary seal.  The form still requires ID, but is more flexible than the actual LSAT admission requirements.  She was able to use an unsigned student ID and an insurance card (and my word) as proof for the notary.

I called a friend of mine who is a notary public to stamp the form and all was well.

Studying for the LSAT / Why you should NOT shoot for a 180
« on: May 29, 2007, 11:53:25 AM »
I hear this advice quite often.  "Shoot for a 180!  What do you have to lose?"  I know these are merely words of encouragement.  Along the lines of "Do your best," and "Be all you can be," or "Win one for the Gipper."  It's a nice gesture to encourage our friends to aim for perfection on the LSAT.  "Aim for the best, you might just hit it."

Unfortunately, this is not good advice.  There is an ideal pace for every skill-level on the LSAT, and the mathematics behind the test reward those who recognize their own abilities and alter their strategy to compliment it.  Likewise, it punishes those who bite off more than they can chew.

LSAT takers should take multiple diagnostic exams not only to improve their scores and hone their skills on the test, but also to assess their overall abilities and craft a strategy that plays up their strengths.  The later goal is too often ignored, and students keep beating their head against a wall when they can't break a score of X. 

Getting a 180 requires attempting every question on the test.  Shooting for a 180, then, requires the same.  But most LSAT takers SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT EVERY QUESTION.  The vast majority of students are not accurate enough to reliably find the credited response in the time required to finish the whole test.  It sucks, but if this were otherwise, the test would be pointless.  Slowing down is an important tool to raise that accuracy.  Higher accuracy plus random guessing, balanced properly, yields more points than rushing to finish in hopes of approaching a 180.

This example is a bit extreme, but the lesson applies to most people taking the test.  I had a student who was doing very poorly.  She literally was getting 10 correct on an args section attempting about 25 questions.  Her correct answers were mostly at the beginning where the easy questions lie.  I made her calculate the average time she spent on each question.  1 minute 24 seconds.  Then I asked her to calculate the time spent per question if she only attempted 15.  2 Minutes 20 seconds.  I said, "Okay, 56 seconds is a long time.  If you spent an extra 56 seconds--almost a full minute--on each and every question to doublecheck that you ID'd the question right, found the conclusion, found the flaw, and made sure the answer fit what they're asking for, do you think you might be able to get just one more right?"  Of course she could, and I said, "Well, then your score's gonna go up."

More importantly, when she snags that extra question, her score doesn't just go from 10 raw points to 11.  She gets 1/5 of a point for picking D on each of the 10 questions left.  By purposely NOT shooting for that elusive 180, she is likely to raise her raw score 3 points on that section.

Law School Admissions / Reapplying
« on: February 19, 2007, 08:13:36 AM »
So I got into several top schools, but not my #1 choice (Stanford).  I've been out of school for almost 7 years, so it's not a big deal to put off law school another year.  Should I just settle for another school or try to reapply to everyone next year (earlier this time) or am I risking a worse turnout like rejections from the schools that accepted me this tim?

FWIW, LSAT 173, GPA 3.85 from the University of Nowhere.

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