Using the LSAT for GMAT Practice: User Beware
As an independent tutor, I pride myself in taking unorthodox approaches to meet my clients’ needs. Sometimes, this requires creativity in how I teach a concept, how I structure a lesson, or how I assign homework to my students. A good GMAT tutor will target your specific needs, and if that requires breaking from convention, then that’s what we’ll have to do.
However, one area in which I’m a traditionalist is in the content I use. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the core of any GMAT preparation program must be official GMAT questions. Though the study guides of various companies can be useful in helping build a foundation in the core concepts that the GMAT tests, there is simply no substitute for the unique style and wording of official GMAT questions. The test-makers spend countless time and thousands of dollars constructing each question and meticulously researching its validity, and focusing exclusively on third-party questions won’t let you develop the higher-order reasoning skills needed to succeed on the GMAT.
But what about using official questions from other standardized tests? Some tutors and companies have recently begun espousing the use of LSAT Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension passages to prepare for the GMAT. And, to be brutally honest, a few years ago, I was part of this camp. The reasoning for using LSAT questions makes sense. Superficially, LSAT Logical Reasoning and GMAT Critical Reasoning are similar, though LSAT questions appear tougher, so if you want practice on higher-level GMAT questions, your best bet is to use LSAT materials. Unfortunately, this is a harmful misconception that can ultimately be counterproductive to your preparation.
Yes, the structure of LSAT questions is similar to that of GMAT questions. But that’s where the similarities end. If you really dissect LSAT Logical Reasoning questions, you’ll see that the core reasoning skills they’re testing address deductive reasoning — simply put, deductive reasoning requires the use of must be true logic to arrive at the correct answer. For this reason, the choices in most LSAT questions are abstract principles instead of concrete facts. In contrast, GMAT Critical Reasoning questions almost always have concrete facts in the answer choices. Why? Because the GMAT test-makers are concerned with your ability to use real-world evidence to assess the validity of an argument. And this makes sense. As an executive at a company, you’re not breaking down rules and laws to determine what is or is not permissible. You’re taking real-world evidence and determining how this evidence affects the viability of a plan of attack. Different skills are required, so different skills are tested. If you want to learn to think like a lawyer, use LSAT questions, but if you want to learn to think like an executive, use GMAT questions, which are explicitly designed to address those skills.
Now, some of you might be thinking: What about when I run out of GMAT Critical Reasoning questions? Wouldn’t LSAT questions then make sense? Well, the first issue is that you probably haven’t exhausted the use of all available official GMAT questions. Between the Official Guides, the Verbal Review, the GMATPrep practice tests, and the GMATPrep question pack, my students gain access to over 1,000 official GMAT Critical Reasoning questions, of varying difficulty. This number is more than adequate for even the most devoted test-takers. And even if, in your diligent preparations, you work through all these questions, it’s still probably a bad idea to use LSAT questions. These GMAT questions serve a function beyond simply completing them and checking your answer. You want to spend time (a lot of time) studying the questions inside-out, understanding how the test-makers construct correct and incorrect answer choices, and identifying reasons you may have originally chosen the wrong answer choice. Re-doing questions can often be the most significant part of your preparation, and if you want to develop the right skills for GMAT Critical Reasoning, your best bet is to focus on the real deal: GMAT, not LSAT, Critical Reasoning questions.