If you want to know how to ace the LSAT analytical reasoning section, read on to learn more.
Sometimes called riddles or, more commonly, logic games, the analytic reasoning (AR) section on the LSAT is notorious for being challenging and time-consuming.
With the addition of the experimental section on the LSAT, students may have to complete two AR sections, meaning it’s essential to know how to tackle these challenging questions efficiently.
While these questions may be the hardest, they are also the most learnable because they tend to be quite repetitive. With enough practice, most students can quickly identify each question type and know how to set up and solve these questions properly.
This guide will go over how to identify, solve, and ace the LSAT AR section, while providing you with real practice questions and answers similar to those you’ll see on your LSAT test!
Please note that the Analytical Reasoning section of the LSAT will be removed after August 2024. The LSAT will be structured by having two scored Logical Reasoning sections and one scored Reading Comprehension section, plus one unscored section of either Logical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension.
On test day, there will be at least one section for analytical reasoning. Tests may have two sections, if you get AR for the experimental section as well. Each section will consist of four sets, each with five to seven questions you must answer. You’ll have 35 minutes to complete each section. All four questions will follow the same format:
You’ll first see an introduction to the logic game, including the variables involved in the setup and what you’ll do with them.
Next, you’ll see a list of rules that govern the setup so that you can solve the questions.
You’ll have five to seven multiple-choice questions asking you to use the rules to determine certain scenarios and results.
Before discussing the specific types of questions you’ll see in the analytical reasoning section, it’s essential to go over the three main types of logic games you’ll encounter. Almost every logic game will fall under these three categories, so you must know how to identify them to solve them quickly!
As these logic games require you to look at various rules at once, you should always create diagrams to visualize how these rules work and to make deductions. Each type of question is best suited for a different kind of diagram.
These setups require you to arrange or order elements by time, ranking, or placement.
The number of elements you are given can either exactly match the number of spots you have to arrange them into or not. For instance, you might have to place six people into a five-day chore schedule–meaning that two people will have to complete their chores on the same day to satisfy the rules.
To get a better understanding of how these types of questions look, here is a sample ordering question:
Seven piano students - T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z - are to give a recital, and their instructor is deciding the order in which they will perform. Each student will play exactly one piece, a piano solo. In deciding the order of performance, the instructor must observe the following restrictions:
T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z are the seven players you’ll be expected to order. “The order in which they will perform” is the signal language that tells you this is an ordering setup since you must decide the sequence in which the players will perform.
To answer analytical reasoning questions with the most accuracy and speed, you’ll need to draw diagrams to organize the rules and elements. On your diagram, you should write out all the elements and create blank spaces where you’ll be placing these elements.
The most common way to diagram ordering setups is by first listing all of the players on your page. If the question uses full names or words, you can write the first alphabet of each variable. Then, set up blank spots corresponding to the number of spots you need.
Below is an example of how the diagram for the above sample question would look using this method:
As you can see, the piano students are listed in red, with seven blank spots drawn to determine the order of the students. The blue numbers one to seven were logically deduced based on the number of students performing.
Most diagrams should be horizontally drawn like this. However, some diagrams should be vertical, such as those involving floor levels. This is because these questions will use language such as “A lives above B” or “D cannot live below C.” A vertical diagram allows better visualization of these rules.
Grouping setups will require you to group elements into separate teams.
Some groupings will be even, like six people being divided equally into three groups. Other times, you’ll encounter odd groupings where you’ll have to group seven people into three groups. At times, some groups can remain empty.
Here’s a sample grouping question:
From a group of seven people - J, K, L, M, N, P, and Q - exactly four will be selected to attend a diplomat’s retirement dinner. Selection conforms to the following conditions:
Out of the seven people, only four will be chosen for the dinner, but the order in which they’re chosen doesn't matter. There is simply an “in” group and an “out” group.
The grouping diagram should still have blank spots for you to fill in but should contain a table representing your “in” group and “out” group. For the sample question above, the diagram should look similar to this:
Regardless of the game type, it would help to write your player names near your diagram. This table uses the titles “in” and “out” because the game requires you to determine which four players will be picked and which will not. Some games may require different labels and more columns.
This game also states the number of people you need to put into the “in” group, allowing you to deduce how many will be out so you can create blank spots. For games that don’t specify how many blanks should be in each group, you can leave the columns empty and fill them in as you solve the questions.
A mixed setup can either involve ordering and grouping components or two or more grouping components.
For instance, you may have to determine which day of the week five employees will be working and whether they’re part-time or full-time. The ordering component will require you to determine which days they work, while the grouping component will figure out which employees are part-time or full-time.
On the other hand, you might also have to determine which team six players are on and which color, out of three, they’ll be wearing. In this case, both elements will fall under the grouping category.
You can easily tell which questions are mixed if multiple relationships and sets of elements are involved. So, instead of just giving you names may also give you another set of elements to arrange.
Here is a sample mixed question that has both an ordering and grouping component:
Each of the six tasks - harvesting, milling, plowing, spinning, threshing, and weaving - will be demonstrated exactly once at a farm exhibition. No two tasks will be demonstrated concurrently. Three volunteers - Frank, Gladys, and Leslie - will each demonstrate exactly two of the tasks. The tasks must be demonstrated in accordance with the following conditions:
There are two sets of elements, the tasks and volunteers, indicating this is a mixed question. The fact that none of the tasks are demonstrated indicates an ordering relationship which volunteers must be grouped with.
This question may be confusing, making it more challenging to set up a clear diagram with both components. In a mixed setup of this kind, it’s important to prioritize the ordering component over the grouping one. The diagram for this question can look like this:
You can draw most mixed questions as multiple stacks, with each stack representing a different set of elements and relationships. The first set of blanks allows you to plug in which task is being completed and the second set allows you to plug in which volunteer completes the task.
Since each volunteer must complete two tasks, the first letter of their name is written twice. We have kept one stack in lower case and one in upper case to more easily differentiate which relationships we’re working with.
Now that we’ve gone over the setup types you’ll see on the LSAT, we’ll cover different question types to prepare you for the AR LSAT section(s).
This question is very common on the LSAT and is always the first and easiest question in each game. Each choice generally presents a complete outcome and asks which is possible or not possible.
For instance, you could be asked which sequence students can perform in without breaking any rules.
The best way to solve these questions is to identify the rules presented in the question and see if any are violated in each of the answer choices. Usually, all but one answer will break the rules.
These questions present new conditions and ask which variables might act in a specified way as a result. They typically take the format of “If (insert new condition), then which variables will (insert behavior)?”
For questions that ask what could be true in a given scenario, you must find the answer that doesn’t violate any rules. Any answer that violates the rules cannot be true.
For questions that ask what could be false, you must find the answer that could be false even in just one hypothetical scenario, in that it breaks the rules somehow. The wrong answers will be those that do not break any rules.
If the question doesn’t provide any new rules, use your original diagram and any deductions you’ve already made to find the answer. If the questions provide new rules, you’ll have to incorporate them into a new diagram and make deductions to find the answer.
Depending on the question, you must identify the answer that is true or false in every possible scenario. For questions that must be true, the answer must be true in every scenario. For questions that ask what must be false, the correct answer must be impossible or break the rules in every scenario.
Like the previous question types, you’ll use original diagrams and deductions if no new rules are given and create a new diagram to draw inferences from the new conditions presented.
A question may also ask you to identify a new rule that would produce the same conditions if it substituted an existing rule. This results in the exact same number of outcomes.
While this question may be challenging and take some time to solve, paying attention to the other relationships in the question can help you find the answer. See how a certain rule is impacted by another rule being replaced. From that, eliminate wrong choices by making inferences from each answer choice.
If you have a few answers to choose from, you’ll likely have to recreate a diagram for each to find the answer.
While these questions are rarer, you should still prepare for them. You’ll have to determine the minimum or the maximum number of elements in a specific scenario. For the minimum, start with the lowest amount and make your way up. Do the opposite for the maximum.
The answer to this question will allow you to determine a complete picture based on the correct rules. This type of question is time-consuming and will require you to test each rule to find your answer.
These questions will have new conditions in each answer that indicate a causal relationship (i.e., if this, then that). You’ll have to determine which is true or violates the rules.
Each answer choice will be different but will follow the same if this…then that format.
As we stated, practice makes perfect! Here are some analytical reasoning sample questions along with their answers. Try creating diagrams and solving these LSAT practice questions before looking at the answers!
Here is an example of analytical reasoning ordering question:
On a particular Saturday, a student will perform six activities - grocery shopping, hedge trimming, jogging, kitchen cleaning, laundry, and motorbike servicing. Each activity will be performed once, one at a time. The order in which the activities are performed is subject to the following conditions:
If laundry is earlier than kitchen cleaning, then hedge trimming must be
If you got A as your answer, you’re correct!
Try this grouping question next!
A university library budget committee must reduce exactly five of eight areas of expenditure - G, L, M, N, P, R, S, and W - in accordance with the following conditions:
If both M and R are reduced, which one of the following is a pair of areas neither of which could be reduced?
Think you figured it out? The correct answer is C.
Now try putting the skills used in the previous questions together for this mixed question!
A charitable foundation awards grants in exactly four areas - medical services, theater arts, wildlife preservation, and youth services - each grant being in one of these areas. One or more grants are awarded in each of the four quarters of a calendar year. Additionally, over the course of a calendar year, the following must obtain:
If a wildlife preservation grant and a youth services grant are awarded in the same quarter of a particular calendar year, then any of the following could be true that year EXCEPT:
This is one of those tricky EXCEPT questions we previously mentioned! The correct answer is E.
Here are some analytical reasoning tips to help you improve your AR score:
Many AR games are very similar and can be solved using the same methods! But, you’ll only figure out these methods if you practice enough questions of different difficulties.
Ensure you read the questions and answer choices carefully! For instance, many questions will have the word EXCEPT bolded in the question, meaning you must pick the answer that does not follow the criteria of the question. Watch out for this, and ensure that you familiarize yourself with the language in AR questions as you study.
Figure out how you like to list your rules on and off of your diagram and stick to it. Before you move on to answering the questions, you should try making any deductions that will help you answer the questions easily. You should spend a decent amount of time just making your diagram and inferences for each question.
For questions that introduce new information, you should make a new diagram with the new condition. Using the initial diagram you created can cause confusion and lead to incorrect inferences. You’ll be allowed to have scratch paper to make these diagrams on test day.
Read on to find the answers to any lingering questions you might still have about the LSAT AR section.
Analytical reasoning covers logic games on the LSAT. This section deals with solving questions using rules and conditions.
Yes, there is still at least one analytical reasoning section on the LSAT. You may get two AR sections if you get it for the experimental section.
One section contains four different setups with five to seven questions each.
At least one section is logical reasoning, so 25% or 50% if you get it for the experimental section. Considering this, it’s essential you ace this section to avoid retaking this costly exam!
You’ll likely see at least one of each of the three types of questions on your test.
For the AR section, it’s very common for students to skip harder questions or leave them for the end. If you find you are running out of time, make your best inferences for the more challenging questions and focus on getting the easier ones right. It’s always better to guess than to leave any questions blank!
While the LSAT AR section might be challenging to master, once you grasp how to create useful diagrams and solve common question types, you’ll definitely see an improvement in your scores!
To help you improve your score with less guesswork, Juris’ 99th percentile LSAT tutors can help you. These tutors have helped students achieve an average 12-point improvement on their LSAT and get into their dream law school!