The Three Buckets of LSAT Answer Choices


Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - The Three Buckets of LSAT Answer Choices by Daniel Fogel

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Every time I wade through the LSAT answer choices of a Logical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension question, I follow the same time-saving process—as I read each option, I place it into one of three buckets: eliminate, defer, like.

The writers of the LSAT masterfully construct dense answers designed to befuddle test takers, and if you spend thirty seconds deep-diving into each answer, you’re playing right into the LSAT’s hands. But fortunately, you do not need to select the right answer as soon as you see it; answer choice A is still there for the taking after you read through all five options.

If you’ve been studying for the LSAT for a while, you can probably predict a good portion of the answers. Let’s say D matches your prediction, so you know that it’s right as soon as you read it; any time spent deconstructing and agonizing over answers A through C was a waste. If you know an answer is wrong immediately, cross it off. Otherwise, learn to love to defer, and defer quickly. When you’ve read all five choices, then you can dig into each one if the correct answer has yet to reveal itself.

If you can efficiently eliminate the three worst LSAT answer choices before returning to compare the two that remain, you’ve made your task much less complex. Then you can let any differences between the answers drive your process; these differences will stand out much more prominently with only two answers to compare.

I mentioned in the opening paragraph that I use this process on Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension; it works well for Logic Games as well, you just need to adapt it a little depending on the question type. Consider a question that asks, if X and Y both speak on Tuesday, which one of the following must be true?

As always on a conditional question (one that starts with “if”), make a new mini-diagram, fill in the condition (X and Y on Tuesday), and follow the inference chain. Imagine that forces T and V to speak on Wednesday. Scan the answers for something you’ve already inferred (T speaks on Wednesday, T and V speak on the same day, etc.), and if you find it, you’re done! No need to engage with the other answers, or even really read them. On Logic Games, when an answer is right, it’s right, and you know it.

But consider now if the “must” had instead been a “could.” In this case, since the answer doesn’t need to be true, you won’t have already inferred it. Thus, the right answer is much less likely to immediately jump out at you, and it’s worth engaging with each answer as you go. Nonetheless, avoid spending too long on any single answer.

Across all sections and question types, the principle is the same. Reduce your time spent engaging with LSAT answer choices until you’ve had the opportunity to consider them all. By the time you take the LSAT, many of the correct answers should jump out at you. Set yourself up for success by getting to see and select that answer as efficiently as possible. 📝

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Daniel Fogeldaniel-fogel is a Manhattan Prep LSAT instructor based in Miami, Florida. 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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