Flaw Questions and Bird-Watching

More students get more flaw questions wrong than anything else. (That’s because flaw questions are hard for many people, flaw answers are hard for most people, and there are lots of flaw questions on every test.) Every LSAT curriculum includes a chapter on flaws, but nothing that I have seen in print will enable a student to dramatically improve on flaw questions. That’s a pity, because flaws–more than any other question type–can be conquered with sufficient time and effort.

I want all my students to get every flaw question right every time. To achieve that goal, I start with the answer choices. Every LSAT flaw question has five different answers, and the overwhelming majority of those answers describe specific errors that any student can learn to identify with a little help and a lot of practice.

It’s a little like bird-watching. Here’s an example:

There’s a bird at my bird-feeder. It’s small bird, all black, gray, and white. There’s some white on its cheeks  but the top of its head and the underside of its chin is black.  I see plenty of them every winter, but the only time I’ve seen one in summer was up in Maine.

  1. Chickadee
  2. Nuthatch
  3. Flicker
  4. Junco
  5. Cardinal

Most readers can probably rule out a cardinal instantly, but the rest of the options are harder. Most readers are going to have to click the hyperlinks to look at the pictures before they can identify this bird. But once you know exactly what these five birds look like, it’s (fairly) easy to pick the right one from the list.

Once you know your flaws, you can eliminate wrong answers in a hurry.  In our bird example above, only two of those five birds are white and gray and black. One of the others is a dark gray and white, but there’s no white on the head so it isn’t an option. Of the two that really are white and gray and black, one is migratory and the other isn’t. Any decent bird-watcher could pick the right answer in about five seconds without ever needing to click on a hyperlink. I want you to be that fast (and that accurate) on flaw questions.

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