Because I wrote a negative review of the Princeton Reviews Cracking the SAT, I decided to give the series another chance by checking out Cracking the LSAT, 2011 Edition.
Fortunately, the LSAT installment is far better. For one thing, cracking the LSAT doesn’t waste energy attacking the test and generating negativity. There is some minor griping about how unfair it is that the LSAT counts for as much as GPA in law school admissions and that it appears to test only a narrow range of critical thinking and reading skills. But the book doesn’t dwell on attacking the LSAT or the wonderful folks at LSAC.
The overriding point, according to Cracking the LSAT, is that it doesn’t matter what it is testing- your goal is to do as well as possible.
Cracking the LSAT also doesnt suffer from the gimmicky marketing that plagues the SAT book. Rather than promising miracle techniques, cracking the LSAT forthrightly tells students that the best way to improve your score dramatically is to work steadily on hundreds of problems throughout the course of a few months.
The arguments chapter is the highlight of Cracking the LSAT. It offers rock-solid techniques presented in a clear, user-friendly package. Digestible mantras at the end of each tip nicely summarize the points, and each discussion of a new question type ends with a succinct chart that gives you sample language to identify the question type, and what actions to take on the question type.
Rather than overwhelm you with endless practice questions, Cracking the LSAT illustrates each point with a few examples that it dissects in detail. Because they model the thought processes of a student going through the questions, the explanations have a more general applicability.
The arguments chapter quite sensibly advises students to read the question stem first and to think of an answer first, before jumping to the answer choices. Emphasis is in exactly the right places: distinguishing the conclusion and premises, identifying key assumptions, and effectively using process of elimination. Cracking the LSAT also consistently emphasizes choosing your battles and smart pacing, which can make a significant difference in your score.
A real strength of Cracking the LSAT is that the book explains important concepts in several different ways, from different perspectives. For example, the book offers multiple ways to define, understand, and identify an assumption, including a negation test. This is critical, because explanations that work for some students might be lost on others. Cracking the LSAT avoids a one-size-fits-all approach.
Unfortunately, the emphasis on flexibility may go a bit too far in the Games chapter. Unlike the arguments section, which emphasizes identifying the question type and handling each question type in specific ways, the games section of cracking the LSAT de-emphasizes trying to categorize the games. Although types are mentioned- ordering, grouping, and in/out games (what other companies call selecting), these types are never fully explained, and the material is not organized by game type.
The rationale for avoiding a strict categorizing of games is that you never know what to expect on the LSAT games, so you should maintain maximum flexibility. While there may be some logic in this, I believe most students are more comfortable with a stricter system for identifying games according to type (and for knowing when the LSAT has created a hybrid game or a completely anomalous game).
Despite this weakness on the games chapter, the system of symbols and charts set out in Cracking the LSAT will absolutely provide students a strong foundation for solving LSAT games.
The reading comprehension chapter continues the focus on smart timing, with useful tips on prioritizing the passages and reading efficiently. The method is simple and effective- read for the main point, purpose, and bottom line of the passage.
I was pleased to see that Cracking the LSAT shares my antipathy for underlining. In my experience, students who underline have no idea why they are underlining some parts and not others, and end up underlining 75% of the passage, which is altogether pointless.
Instead, Cracking the LSAT offers an intricate system of annotation using circles, stars, brackets, and plus-minus signs. It may not work for everyone, but at least it forces students to read actively and think about the significance of different parts of the passage.
I can nitpick aspects of Cracking the LSAT, but overall this test prep book is winner. It gives you effective strategies that are sure to raise your score if you consistently practice with them.
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