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Skill, Puzzle, and Race Practice

When you study for the LSAT, you should be doing 1 (and only 1) of these 3 types of practice:

  1. Skill practice,
  2. Puzzle practice, or
  3. Race practice.

Skill practice is intentional and iterative

Intentional means that you decide, before you look at the question, what skill you want to work on. You choose questions based on what will help you practice that skill.

Iterative means that you learn from your experience on the last question to adapt your approach to the next question.

Puzzle practice is unhurried and curious

Unhurried doesn't mean slow or plodding, but rather that you take time to deeply understand the question.

Curious means that you leave expectations behind and allow the question to show you what matters.

Race practice is timed and limited

Timed doesn't mean rushed. It can involve a count-up timer instead of a count-down timer.

Limited means that you pick a certain number of questions or a certain amount of time, and stop when you reach that limit.

Each type of practice informs the others

Your races will generate mistakes, which become questions to puzzle over. Patterns will emerge from your puzzling, which become skills to work on. When you've done enough specific skill work, see if you can keep it all together during a race.

Keep your practice interesting by switching up your pace and objectives.

Evaluate yourself based on your intention

Don't criticize yourself for puzzling slowly.

Don't blame yourself for racing non-thoroughly.

Don't credit yourself for a correct answer, if you failed to use the skill you had intended to work on.

Skill Practice

Here are the steps of skill practice:

  1. Set an intention: Pick 1 skill you want to work on.
  2. Try it: Attempt to apply the skill on a real LSAT question.
  3. Reflect: Did you do it? Was it appropriate? Was it useful?
  4. Revise your intention: Update your intention based on your experience applying it.
  5. Repeat.

skill practice in action

If I were working on the Reasoning section, I might...

  1. Resolve to make predictions.
  2. Try an easy question.
  3. Maybe I get it right, but I didn't pause to make a prediction, I just rushed right to the answers. Drat!
  4. I revise my intention: to force me to make a prediction, I'll write it down before looking at the answers.
  5. I try again on another question.
  6. Maybe I get it wrong, but I did write a prediction. That's an improvement. And on second glance, the right answer was pretty close to my prediction.
  7. I revise my intention, again: this time I'll compare each answer to my written prediction.
  8. I do another question...

As your skill improves, you can attempt multiple questions at one go, or try harder questions. As your habits improve, you might find that some parts of the practice, like writing down your intentions, are no longer necessary. And eventually the skill should become so automatic that you don't need to practice it intentionally and can shift into race practice.

If you run into persistent difficulty, you might need to work on a different skill.

Going back to basics

It's hard to make predictions when you're struggling just to understand the argument. If your predictions are way off, you might need to go back to breaking down arguments.

Or you may be struggling to apply a skill on a question because that skill doesn't help on that type of question. Skills only work in certain contexts.

An unhelpful skill

Predictions work differently on SMALL Reading questions.


Keep track of your intentions and iterations in a skill log:

intention date iteration
predict yesterday don't predict on SMALL questions
predict today write predictions down
predict tomorrow check written prediction against each answer

Puzzle Practice

Puzzle practice is luxurious. It's a chance to dig into all the nuances of the test. To notice all the tiny clues it gave you. To figure out what everything means.

Puzzle practice is the best way to learn the test's patterns

Two variations on puzzle practice

  1. Once you know what the correct answer is, use it as a lens to see what words and ideas mattered in the prompt. The correct answers shows you how the LSAT thinks.

  2. Do it wrong. Approach a question the wrong way. No one's going to get hurt. Maybe you'll find a better way to do it. At least, you'll get out of a rut.


Keep track of the lessons you learn in puzzle practice by making flashcards and checklists.

Race Practice

Race practice is an attempt to practice like you want to play.

Race practice is timed, since the test is timed. But you don't always need to use the test's timer.

Give yourself more time at first, then increase the time pressure gradually.

Base your timing goals not on where you wish you were, but where you actually are.

You will mess up. You'll forget what to do. You'll fall into old habits. And that's a good thing. Mistakes are information.

Race practice makes you accountable. It shows you what you haven't really learned yet.


Keep track of the lessons you learn from errors and difficult questions with an error log:

date question lesson
yesterday PT1 S1 Q1 read the question first
yesterday PT1 S1 Q2 learn the Reasoning question families
yesterday PT1 S1 Q3 same