How to Train with 7Sage.com

I grew up way below the poverty line, so I am always thinking about free or inexpensive ways for students to excel on the LSAT. One of my favorite resources is 7Sage.com, which offers several priceless helps at no charge. In this post, we will explain how to make the most of 7Sage’s free tools for learning logical reasoning.

7Sage offers a free LSAT database that allows you to bubble in answers, score individual tests, and then sort and sift those results to find out where you need to focus your efforts. The more practice tests you enter into your personal database, the more you can see the patterns in your performance. The table that shows your results contains a lot of useful information, and you can select and sort what information you see with just one click. It is a free, simple, user-friendly “power tool” for LSAT success.

Your first step towards improving your score is to create your free 7Sage account. Sometimes “free accounts” just generate a ton of spam, but I have never felt that way about my 7Sage account. I do get occasional emails from J.Y. Ping, the Harvard Law graduate and educational genius who helped found 7Sage, but since I actually care about what he has to say, that isn’t a problem.

Once you have an account, click on the “Resources” tab and then select “LSAT Analytics” from the drop-down menu. You will see that you can score an LSAT, check your “trends,” or look at the “question table.” The “trends” and “question table” are both based on LSAT data you have previously entered, and you haven’t entered anything yet, so it’s time to score an LSAT. Dig out a test you have completed and scroll down the “Select PrepTest” list to get going.

Note–if you have done a lot of practice tests and have them lying around the house, it is well worth your while to bubble in the oldest test first, where “oldest” means “the first test you took,” not “the first test the LSAC published.” The “trends” feature will allow you to measure your progress from test to test, based on the date you entered your data. Starting with your oldest test makes those trend lines more meaningful.

Bubbling in the answers is easy. You can click each bubble with your mouse or other input device or use the keyboard. (Type “1” for A, “2” for B, etc.) 7Sage works on the iPad, so I can bubble in answers as fast as I can touch the screen. Once your data is in, just hit the “Save and Score LSAT” button at the bottom and check out your results.

The first thing to notice when you score your test is that 7Sage gives you two scores–one in black and one in blue. The blue number represents your “blind review” score. 7Sage has a fabulous approach to LSAT study called the “blind review” method, which is built right into the database at every level. We won’t cover that in this post, though, because today we’re focusing on using past practice tests to zero in on problem areas. These techniques are even more powerful when you add the blind review tools–but we’ll save that for another post. For the moment, you can just ignore the blind review results.

Scroll down a few inches and look at the “Question Performance” section. There should be an empty box that says “filter,” followed by a list of 100 questions. Look at the column headings–“question,” “type,” “tags,” your answer,” “answer choices,” “question difficulty,” “passage/game difficulty,” “priority,” “explanation,” and “quick view.” Each of these columns is sortable–just hover over the label and then click on the up or down arrow that appears.

Try clicking the “question difficulty” icon for one of the questions. The “filter box” at the top of your chart will suddenly read “+Hardest” (or “+Easiest,” “+Easier,” “+Medium,” or “+Harder,” depending on your choice).  Click on the “your answer” label to sort these questions out into “questions you got right” and “questions you got wrong.” Scroll down to the bottom of the chart and you will see how many questions of this difficulty level are on this test. Erase the “+Hardest” in the filter box and you’ll see all the questions again.

The 7Sage analytics are most useful for working on logical reasoning questions, so let’s limit your chart to those questions. Type “+LR” in the filter box, and only logical reasoning questions will show up. Now click the “tags” label to sort these out by question type. Hover over the first tag on your chart (usually “AP”) and it should pop up with an explanation for what that means (“Argument Part”). Click on that AP and your filter box will suddenly include “+AP” and your chart will only show Argument Part questions. Click the “your answer” label to sort these out by “questions you got right” and “questions you got wrong.” Take a look at the “question difficulty” to see whether you tend to miss easy questions for this particular type.

Now erase everything in your filter box except the “+LR.” Click one of your wrong answers (it will have a red circle around the letter you chose) and the term “+Incorrect” will appear in the filter box. Sort by “question difficulty.” Scroll down the list, noting which “easy” question types you got wrong. That’s a good place to begin your studies.

So far, we have only looked at test results for one preptest. You will get more insight into your weaknesses by looking at more than one test. Scroll all the way up to the top of the page, just under the “Question Analytics” header. Click the “Question Table” tab. You should see a line that says, “Review limited to 1 of 1 completed PrepTests” (unless you have already entered more than one test). You can select as many or as few tests as you choose by clicking the “tap to edit” button. If you have multiple tests saved, you will need the filter box to narrow down your data.

7Sage has built some remarkable tools into the remaining tab on the “Analytics” page. Click the “trends” button at the top of the page. There’s a tutorial video that explains these features. Take a look at the video–both to learn what you can do, and to “meet” J.Y. Ping, the master teacher who has made 7Sage the remarkable resource that it is!

 

Exploiting Antitheses

I have previously identified the “some people say” principle in an LSAT logical reasoning stimulus, and have engaged in some discussion of this phenomenon at 7Sage.com.  After some further thought and research, I have decided to revise and extend my earlier remarks.

The “some people say” formulation occurs anytime an LSAT logical reasoning stimulus refers to the words, thoughts, or beliefs of persons other than the author of the stimulus. This usually takes the form of indirect discourse (i.e., “critics insist” or “paleontologists hypothesize”) but it can be more subtle. The functional test that I apply is, “Can I put somebody else’s claim in quotes?” If so, we can label it a “some people say” claim.

In my original post, I argued that every “some people say” claim is the negation of the conclusion. That goes too far. There are a handful of cases where “some people say” something that directly supports the conclusion. I think of this as “expert testimony.” There are other cases where “some people say” what they will do in the future (campaign promises, for example). Logicians distinguish “promises” from “logical statements” (for good reason). There are some other cases where “some people say” things that are not simply the negation of the conclusion–but not many.

Instead of insisting that every “some people say” statement is the negation of the conclusion, it is more accurate and helpful to say that most “some people say” statements have this characteristic. I use the term “antithesis” for such statements, and define it as follows:

An antithesis is a claim which an LSAT logical reasoning stimulus rejects.

There are significant advantages to identifying an antithesis. The first is that it makes complex stimuli simpler. “Some people say” statements can be involved, and arguments involving them can get complicated. If you extract the antithesis, what remains is often short and simple.

The second advantage is in identifying the conclusion. While this is second nature for some students, it is very hard work for others. Since an antithesis is (by definition) a claim which the stimulus rejects, it is easy to look for a part of the stimulus that says so. If there is such a statement, that is usually the conclusion.

The third advantage is in understanding the argument as a whole. If you see a “some people say” statement and suspect that it is an antithesis, you know where the argument is going before you read it. There are only so many ways to deny a  claim, and a person who is thoroughly familiar with basic argument types can anticipate them.

Thus, for example, if the antithesis is a conditional statement (“A->B”), then the simplest argument to refute it is a counterexample (“A and ~B”). If the antithesis is an affirmation (“A”), the simplest refutation is a modus tollens (“A→B, ~B, ∴ ~A”). If the antithesis is a denial (“~B”), the simplest refutation is a modus ponens (“A→B, A, ∴ B”). While these aren’t the only ways to reject such claims, they are the most common–and a person who is actively looking for such argument patterns will be able to find them faster if they really are present.

The bottom line is this: identifying an antithesis can cut a complicated stimulus in half, expose its conclusion, and reveal the argument structure quickly and accurately. While not every “some people say” statement is an antithesis, the large majority are.

How to “Win” at Logic Games

There are two basic challenges to the “logic games” section of the LSAT: “learning to play” and “learning to win.” When you first encounter one of these “Alf, Bob, Chuck, Dan and Eustace go into a bar” problems, it seems like a joke–a cruel joke. It takes most people less than five minutes to realize they have no idea how to do a logic game. After an hour or so instruction, however, most people can work through a simple game on their own.

That’s the “learning to play” phase. It’s like learning to play chess or bridge. Most people can learn to play those games in less than an hour, but it takes much longer to win.

Learning to “win” at logic games is easier (and cheaper) than it used to be. It takes a lot of practice, and a fair amount of help. If you get stuck on a particular game (and I have been stuck more times than I can count), you either have to invest hours trying to puzzle out the puzzle or pay somebody to show you what  you’re doing wrong. Even if you can figure out an answer by “brute force” (i.e., try every combination until you find the one that works), that generally won’t help you on the timed test.

The fine folks at 7sage.com have made this problem simple. They offer free video explanations of every published logic game. This means that you can learn every trick in the book without paying a penny!

I routinely teach my students “how to play” and then send them off to 7sage to learn “how to win.” Here’s what that looks like in practice.

  1. Look up the  7sage video explanation for that game but don’t start watching it yet. Get some scratch paper. You’re going to need it.
  2. Try to work a logic game on your scratch paper (not on the test). If you can do it on your own, jump to step 4. If you get stuck at any point (most of us do), move on to step 3.
  3. Start watching the 7sage video until it explains something you didn’t already know. Hit “pause” as soon as you understand that one new concept. Then go back to step 2 and try the game again with that hint.
  4. Congratulations! You finished the game. How did you do on it? Did you get every question right? Move onto step 5! Otherwise, go back to step 2 and rework the game using everything you learned on the 7sage video.
  5. Great! You did the whole game perfectly. How long did it take? If it was more than 8 minutes and 45 seconds, you need to pick up speed. Get out a new sheet of paper and do it again. Stay here on step 5 until you get your speed up and your time down.
  6. Fabulous! You got every question right. You did it in less than 8 minutes and 45 seconds! Check the 7sage video one more time to see how long they say this game should take. If it’s a really easy game, keep working it until you match their expected time.
  7. You now know how to do this game. What have you learned about doing other games? Here are some questions to consider:
    1. Did I miss an inference? What can I do to look for a similar inference next time?
    2. Did I panic because the game was tough? What clues can I look for in the scenario, rules, or questions that might indicate that this is just one of those “brute force” situations?
    3. Did I learn a new way to sketch the scenario or code a complicated rule? Am I ready to use that new technique in a similar situation in the future?

 

World’s Best LSAT Tutors: JY Ping

Full disclosure–there is no evidence that JY Ping is actually tutoring anybody these days. His website says, “We make you feel like you have a private tutor,” which is not the same as actually having one. But JY’s contribution to LSAT preparation is so significant that we just can’t leave him off our short list of world’s best tutors.

JY Ping

JY is one of the founders of 7Sage.com, which exists to “liberate legal education.” The 7Sage website proclaims:

The LSAT is the gateway to the legal profession, and thus it is the gateway to key positions in our society. But those who are unable to hire $150/hr tutors, or take $1000 LSAT prep courses have been at an unfair disadvantage. Until now.

7Sage offers one of the greatest free resources in the history of online education–they explain every single LSAT logic game, for free.  As a professional LSAT tutor, there’s just no way I can help every student master every logic game. I am able to help them understand the approach, and zero in on specific mistakes they are making. But the logic games come in so many different sizes and shapes that it simply is not cost-effective for me to hold every student’s hand through every game. That makes the 7Sage site such a treasure.

7Sage also offers a free PrepTest scoring service which keeps track of every test a student enters and allows them to sift and sort their answers by question type, difficulty, priority, and more. I cannot overstate how useful this can be–in the right hands, it’s like a CAT scan for your brain. All you have to do to use it is sign up for a free 7Sage account.