Speed vs. Accuracy on the LSAT

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Speed vs. Accuracy on the LSAT by Daniel Fogel

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Most LSAT students who encounter time trouble attempt to speed up. This is a natural reaction, of course, but there’s an inherent tradeoff of accuracy when you increase your speed. You may finish the section, but that won’t translate to a higher score if rushing leads to mistakes. So how do you know the right balance of speed vs. accuracy on the LSAT?

It might be helpful to draw an analogy to a musical instrument. Imagine you’re trying to learn a fast and complicated piece on the piano. How would you approach that challenge? Consider it for a second before reading on.

To play a piece fast and well, you must first play it proficiently at a slower pace. In other words, accuracy precedes speed. If you’re struggling with the fundamentals of the song at half-time, you won’t be able to play it properly at full speed. The LSAT is no different; your priority should be accuracy until you’ve achieved mastery at a comfortable speed. Only at that point should you begin to really push the pace.

For example, take a student who finished the Logic Games section, nailing 4 questions per game, for a total of 16/23 correct questions on the section. That’s not a bad performance, but it also demonstrates that said student hasn’t completely mastered the Logic Games material. This student is sacrificing accuracy in the pursuit of all 4 games, but this approach solidifies bad habits and accepts gaps in comprehension. This student would be better off spending the full 35 minutes on the first 3 games and aiming for perfection (perhaps save for a nasty Equivalent Rule question!). This will shine a spotlight on any weaknesses, which is the first step towards fixing them.

Think back to the piano analogy for a moment. Once you can play the piece perfectly at a comfortable pace, slowly up the tempo until you’re playing it as intended. There’s no need to go from 3 perfect games to 4 perfect games all in one step; it’s likely that attempting this will lead to a dip in accuracy. Instead once you’re (nearly) mistake-free on 3 games, aim for 3 perfect games and a complete setup of Game 4 in 35 minutes.

As you begin your LSAT journey, focus on deeply understanding the material. Complete timed practice sets once you’ve studied a new topic to assess your comprehension, but your prime directive should be mastery of the relevant concepts. Aim to finish your study of strategies, concepts, and question types with 4 to 6 weeks of test day, at which point you should shift your practice to timed practice sets, sections, and full PTs. Mastery of the underlying concepts is necessary for success on the LSAT—add on 6 weeks of timed practice and it should be sufficient as well. 📝


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Daniel Fogeldaniel-fogel is a Manhattan Prep LSAT instructor based in Boston, Massachusetts. He has a degree in government and legal studies from Claremont McKenna College. Daniel scored a 179 on the LSAT and a 770 on the GMAT, which he also teaches. Fun fact: he’s a former top-ranked competitive Scrabble player. Intrigued? Check out Daniel’s upcoming LSAT courses here!

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