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Getting started with Analytical Reasoning

Analytical Reasoning overview

On Test Day, you'll see four Analytical Reasoning setups and associated questions for each setup. You’ll have 35 minutes to tackle the four setups with the highest accuracy possible. More details on the Analytical Reasoning section can be found here.

What can I expect to see?

An Analytical Reasoning setup is made up of the following:
  • An introductory passage: This text will introduce you to the “players” of the setup and what you’ll be determining about them. For example, the players may be six dogs and your task may be to determine in which order the dogs are adopted (from 1st through 6th).
  • Rules: You’ll be given at least one—but usually several—rules that govern the setup. You can also think of these rules as “restrictions”, without which you wouldn’t be able to make any determinations. For example, if playing a hide-and-seek game with someone, you’d likely set a restriction that someone can’t hide beyond the confines of the property—if they could hide anywhere, that would mean they could leave the country! So the rules in Analytical Reasoning constrain the “solution space” of the setup; they govern what’s possible and what’s not possible.
  • Questions: You’ll see between 5 and 8 multiple-choice questions per setup. The questions may be based on the setup rules alone, or they’ll provide a new, temporary rule to consider. The questions will often ask you for what must be true, could be true, must be false, and could be false, so it’s important to understand these degrees of certainty.

What can I do to tackle the Analytical Reasoning section most effectively?

✓ Understand the passage: Sometimes the introductory passage will be relatively simple, but other times it can be quite complex. Who/what are the players involved? What are we doing with those players (ordering them, grouping them, or applying a mix of actions to them)? Are there special rules embedded into the passage that it might make sense to notate or diagram?
✓ Make a supporting diagram: It’s rarely a good idea to keep information in your head when tackling Analytical Reasoning, so many students find it helpful to create a diagram that reflects the task. After building rules and deductions, you’ll have an initial diagram that will serve as a starting point for the questions, and this initial diagram will reflect only what is always true/false. We recommend ways to approach diagramming ordering, grouping, and mixed setups in individual articles, which we've linked at the bottom of this article.
✓ Note the rules: The rules are at the heart of the task. Each rule affects the possible outcomes in a significant way. Sometimes, you’ll be able to note the rule directly into your diagram (for example, “the Chihuahua is adopted on Tuesday”), but if you’re not able to, it’s common to have to note the rule separately from your diagram (for example, “the Chihuahua is adopted sometime later than the Beagle.” Accuracy is hugely important here—it can take much longer to go back and fix a mistake in reading or noting a rule than it does to take your time the first time.
✓ Make deductions: In Analytical Reasoning, you’re being tested primarily on your ability to make deductions. When considering all of the statements (rules), what else must be true that wasn’t stated explicitly? What must be false that wasn’t stated explicitly? We recommend making as many deductions as you can up front—before heading to the questions. This time-saving strategy can help you avoid wasting precious time with trial-and-error, which generally involves making the same deductions over and over again as you test each choice.

Dos and don’ts

The earlier you shed ineffective habits and adopt effective habits, the easier (and more enjoyable!) your road to success in Analytical Reasoning will be. These lists are in no way comprehensive, but we’d like to start you out with some ideas to keep in mind:
  • Don’t panic: You will always be given enough information to answer the questions, even if it isn’t always immediately obvious. You’re also not obligated to do the questions in any order, or even to do a given question at all. Many students find success maximizing their score by skipping a select handful of questions entirely, either because they know a question will take too long to solve, or because they just don’t know how to solve it.
  • Don’t feel like there’s only one way to do things: There isn’t a “magic formula” to memorize—AR requires critical thinking and an ability to look beyond what you’re explicitly told. When we provide suggestions for diagrams and notations, they’re just that—suggestions.
  • Do practice being organized and neat: Some students feel pressured by time, and they don’t want to take the extra few seconds here and there to keep their diagram and notes neat. However, this will very likely cost you points in the end! You have enough room for notes on Test Day, so don’t worry about space. Make sure to label your work; if you’re drawing a diagram that’s applicable only to question #12, then label that diagram with a “#12”.
  • Do get the rules right the first time: Few things are more frustrating than realizing—when you’re in the middle of a set of questions—that you wrote a rule down incorrectly, or misinterpreted a rule, or missed a rule entirely. It costs precious time that you often can’t get back on Test Day, depending on how late you catch the error. An extra 30-60 seconds of rule review before heading to the questions can save several minutes later.
  • Do spend the majority of your study time working on notating and diagramming setups: The stronger and more consistent your notation strategies are, the more manageable the questions will become. So if you’re rushing through a setup in which you only saw one deduction out of a possible 5-10, you’re going to struggle with the questions and waste precious time. Instead, when practicing Analytical Reasoning at Khan Academy’s Official LSAT Practice, it’s a good idea to check your setup diagram and deductions against our suggested setup before tackling the questions. If you missed a ton of important deductions, take the time to understand how you could capture them the next time.

More resources

Before trying an Analytical Reasoning setup on your own, you may want to work through our detailed introductory articles, which include actual LSAT Analytical Reasoning exercises that we’ll work through with you:
Good luck, and refer back to these articles if you ever feel “stuck” down the road!

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user Prerna Sood
    say if you got a question right , methord wrong is it still a point?
    (0 votes)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user gaultnoah
      I'm not sure if you'd still like a reply, but the LSAT takers don't care how you reach your answers just whether or not you answered correctly. If you guessed on all your answers and got them all right then they would just say you did that section correctly. Hope that helps
      (8 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user theelevater
    For clarification purposes, does unanswered/blank questions on the official LSAT equate to point deductions? I ask because I am certain I left a few question on numerous sections unanswered and didn't have the desired score.
    (0 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user