Logical Reasoning: The Dangers of Over-Categorization
By John Rood, President of Next Step Test Preparation
One thing that continually amazes me each time I review an LSAT prep book is the huge amount of space spent in categorizing and sub-categorizing question types in logical reasoning. I just flipped through a 2009-edition prep book from one of the big national LSAT prep companies, and it literally had 2 pages devoted to finding assumptions in logical reasoning but over 20 pages explaining each different question type. I can also tell you from experience that categorization is a big part of the curriculum in large LSAT classes.
I think that the big prep companies do this for three reasons.
- It helps fill space in prep books where the industry standard is several hundred pages, and actually licensing questions is expensive
- In live classes or videos, it gives teachers something smart to say regardless of their experience level
- Teaching categorization requires absolutely no customization for individual students. It’s like teaching the names of all 50 states — rote memorization. There’s no comprehension or understanding to check; if there was, there’s no personal attention to fix it.
I think that students should be aware of the different question types in the section, but students can gain this awareness by reading through a few Preptests. Time spent categorizing each question into a certain group or “family” is a waste of time on the actual test. You get 0 points for correct categorization, but you have a great chance at 1 point for correctly understanding and applying logic.
The skills that actually increase student scores are
- Understanding the basic format of an argument — premise(s), assumption(s), conclusion.
- Being able to identify each of these components and be able to intelligently manipulate them (strengthen/weaken questions require this, among others).
- Be able to apply these basic skills quickly and accurately.
It’s hard to teach these basic skills to large groups, but this is what students need to learn to succeed. In our tutoring sessions, these three skills are the main focus of LSAT logical reasoning training.
Next Step provides one-on-one tutoring on the LSAT, GRE, GMAT, and college entrance exams. Check our website for more information, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-530-NEXT begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 888-530-NEXT end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Image courtesy davidw.