Results-Oriented Thinking

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Results-Oriented Thinking

Postby Blueprint LSAT » Fri Feb 15, 2019 3:25 pm

Results-oriented thinking, for those who haven't heard the term, is the idea of judging a past decision based on what ended up happening as a result regardless of the probability of that outcome at the time the decision was made. It is not optimal, but it is a trap all of us can fall into if we are not careful.

In the context of the LSAT, it comes up a lot when you look back at how you scored on a section. For example, say you are taking a logical reasoning section. Your average has been about 20/26. You have a plan for how to attack LR sections and when you stick to it you consistently hit around your average.You take the new section and you get an 18. Does that mean you throw out your plan? Of course not. There is a lot of variance on the lsat and there may be any number of causes for the lower score. You want to test things a few more times and if the problem persists, think about what you may have changed without realizing it.

This seems pretty obvious, but I bet if you think about it you will remember times that you wanted to change your approach because of a single bad result. Regardless, it is useful to apply the same logic you are learning to use on the test to take a logical approach to prepping for the test.

A related concept from game theory is "expected value." You want to make the decision that has the highest expected value. Say, for example, that you have an 80% accuracy on questions 1-10 (again on LR) giving yourself about a minute/question. You can do about the same on the next 10 if you give them 1.5-2 min/each but if you have to rush that accuracy drops to about 50%. If you have 2 minutes each for 21-26 you can score 70% but that drops to 10% if you try to get through them in 5 minutes total.

When taking an LR section and deciding your pace, you need to take all that into account and make the decision that gives you the best chance at the most points. Spending 1 minute/question of the first ten, given the above numbers, will get you .8 of a point per question. Taking longer might improve that to .9 or even 1, but is that time worth it if you then have to rush through the next ten. No. You just gained 1-2 points at the cost of 3. On the more extreme end, in this hypothetical, if you came to the last 5 questions with 5 minutes left you would be better off guessing and twiddling your thumbs for 4:30 than you would rushing through all 5. Guessing is worth .2 of a point so you would average 1/5 instead of .5/5.

Obviously you can't do this sort of math without a lot of drilling practice sections and thoughtfully going over your performance, but if you do that you can use these concepts to fine-tune your timing approach and pick up those last few points.

Andrew McDonald, Blueprint Instructor


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