I have been struggling to explain “must be” questions to my logic games students. Sometimes they are super easy. Sometimes they are super hard. In the first case, you can read the correct answer right off your sketch. In the second case, the only way to solve one “must be true” question is to find four “could be false” solutions–and my students who are having trouble with logic games in general get tied up in knots trying to figure that out.

i have also been struggling with helping students know when to stop working out initial inferences. They know they are supposed to draw a sketch, write down the rules, and start looking for the obvious implications of those rules, but how do you know when you’re done?

As things would happen, it turns out that there is one simple answer to both of these difficult problems. I call it the “must be easy” rule.

Most logic game questions fall into one of two categories: “must be” and “could be” questions. “Which of the following must be true” is an obvious “must be” question, and so is “which of the following cannot be true.” In theory, the answer to “must be” question is something you might add to your logic game sketch. Thus, if question 3 asks, “Which of the following cannot occur on Tuesday,” you should be able to pencil in a “Not X” underneath Tuesday on your sketch.

A “must be easy” question is one where the answer is *already* penciled into your sketch. The only way to tell whether a “must be” question is a “must be easy” question is to look at it. It should take about three seconds per answer to decide whether you have already deduced the answer to this question. If you have, you’re done. That was fast–and easy!

If you haven’t already found the answer to your “must be” question, take another look at it. Is it a “focused” question? Logic game questions that ask about a specific entity or slot are “focused,” a “must be focused” question is practically shouting at you, “Hey! There’s something about this slot or entity that you haven’t figured out yet.” If so, now is the time to think it through and add it to your sketch.

If it’s not easy, and it’s not focused, it may still be important–especially if it comes early in the game. I have seen this on several grouping games that have “/A->B” rules on grouping games. (I have written about the importance of such rules here.) Take a moment to ask whether this is a “must be important” question.

If it isn’t easy, and it isn’t focused, and you can’t quickly think of any less-common but very-important deductions you should be making, it “must be hard.” That is a subject for another day. (Add hyperlink HERE when that day comes…)

Here are some examples from “10 Actual, Official LSAT Preptests Volume V.”

Preptest 62, Game 1, Question 4: if you already noticed that both gas and satellite must both fall on the last three days, Question 4 is a “must be easy” question. If not, now’s the time to ask, “What do I know about these days?”

Preptest 62, Game 2, Question 8: if you realized that “/P->O” means you have to have either purple or orange in every window, this “must be easy.” If not, this is neither easy nor focused–but it’s a critical inference. If you don’t understand that every window must have either purple or orange in it, this is one of the two hardest logic games in recent years. If you do see that the “/P->O” rule means “P or O” in every window, then it’s pretty straightforward.

Preptest 63, Game 1, Question 2: if you realized that “/H->P” means “H or P” on each court, including the appellate court which only has three slots and one is already filled, then this “must be easy.” If not, this is neither easy nor focused–but it is important! Question 3 and 4 both depend on exactly the same inference.

Preptest 63, Game 2, Question 7: if you noticed that W can’t come last and T comes before W so T can’t come next to last, then this was easy. If you notice that “at least two of the members dive after so-and-so,” then this is focused. The question is asking, “Who can’t dive last or next-to-last?”

Preptest 63, Game 3, Question 12: if you always knock out a whole staircase of entities at either end of a sequence that includes an ordered chain (“A…B…C” means B and C are out on the first day, and C is out on the second day, and A and B are out on the last day, and A is out on the next-to-last day), then this question “must be easy.” If you don’t, then it focuses your attention on Thursday.