A common question I get asked by my students is, “What should I be doing to prepare for the LSAT?”
Now don’t get me wrong, there are many approaches one can take but in this short blog post I’ll share some tricks of the trade.
For sake of transparency, my first ever practice test (my so-called “cold turkey” exam) resulted in a 150. But by the time I had gone through the rigors of studying for the LSAT over the next 4 months, I was scoring well into the 170s.
In my experience, the road to getting a 99.9% LSAT can be distilled to the following guiding principles:
Prioritize the exam
It’s not fair, nor is it an accurate barometer of intelligence, and yet the LSAT is generally the most important factor considered in an admissions decision. While your GPA is typically the result of four years of hard work – sometimes more, the LSAT will more likely than not take up a mere three to four months of your time. So, one can’t stress enough: practice intensely, the hard work will pay off.
Understand the nature of the LSAT
Don’t rely on your run-of-the-mill prep course! The truth is that LSAT prep. courses are seldom designed to push students testing in the 140s and 150s well into the 170s. Test prep companies make their money by taking those in the middle to an additional 3-7 points. To test at the 99% level, you will need to develop an understanding of the nature of the LSAT for yourself.
This consists of: developing strategies for particular question types and entire sections; universalizing your approach to logical reasoning; memorizing flawed methods of reasoning; experiencing problem-solving under real-life testing conditions, and more.
Create a game plan
While there isn’t a consensus on how long one should prep, there is a consensus on what you should do to prepare. You should complete every single real LSAT practice question available to you (there are currently over 90 published LSAT practice tests).
With your perfect score in mind, you can begin planning how much time you will realistically need to cover all 90 published LSAT practice tests. I also advise my students to create a study schedule that they can stick to over a 3–4-month period.
Logical reasoning is the king maker
Two of the four sections scored on the LSAT are logical reasoning. Further, the reading comprehension section employs similar deductive and inferential reasoning taught on the LR sections. This means that more than half your LSAT score depends on your mastery of logical reasoning questions alone.
Logical reasoning sections test two core skills: reasoning ability and structural awareness. Hence, you will need to understand how the different segments of an argument relate to one another (structural awareness) and whether a particular conclusion follows based on the posited information (reasoning).
Deciphering reasoning relationships is a critical skill that can be mastered by creating an exhaustive list of “flawed methods of reasoning.” Indeed, over and over again on the LSAT you will need to be aware of the reasons why a given argument fails to follow, logically. Over and over again you will be required to determine how logical rules come together to yield inferences, and how they don’t.
DRILL, DRILL, DRILL
An agreed-upon rule of thumb among most LSAT tutors is to drill, drill, drill according to question type. Each question type (and section, for that matter) tests a different skill that merits dedicated attention. Mastering subtleties, to put it simply, will be key in breaking through plateaus and inching closer to your goal.
TEST, TEST, TEST (Under real life conditions)
As you take practice tests, try to simulate real-life testing conditions. For instance, one month before taking the LSAT, I would take daily practice exams at my local coffee shop. Testing in a quiet place with no distractions simply fails to emulate the conditions of most large testing environments.
More importantly, review
Taking a practice exam is the easy part of your LSAT preparation. The extra step of thoroughly reviewing your exam will be where your hard work pays dividends.
Your review should be methodical.
You’ll want to review your test prior to grading your exam so that you can review it without knowing the correct answer. This method allows you to revisit questions and put your skills to work. I highly recommend that students mark questions they struggled with the first time to revisit them during the review session.
Upon your review, make note of if you changed an answer choice, or if your reasoning leading to the same answer choice remains the same, or whether alternate reasoning leads you to the same answer choice. Ironing out your reasoning will allow you to familiarize yourself with the deep patterns of the LSAT.
After you review, score the exam. Pay special attention to the questions you got wrong, or the questions you got right but whose reasoning you got wrong. For these questions, I strongly recommend my students write down why they got the question incorrect and the explanation for the correct answer. After three months, most students compile a book’s worth of missed reasoning that will propel them to new heights in mastering the LSAT. Flawed methods of reasoning will appear everywhere!
Repeat and Rest: Wax on Wax Off
Your brain can’t be in manic LSAT-mode all the time. Almost everyone struggles with LSAT-related burnout. Most of my students struggle to get the space and distance required to push through burnout. So, let’s be clear, taking time to rest is not only a mental health priority but a testing priority. Top-performing athletes need to rest and heck, so will you.
As you prepare for the exam, it will helpful to keep this final tip in mind: remind yourself of why you’re doing this in the first place. I often find my most clear-eyed students have a much easier time persevering. Before embarking on this arduous journey, be sure you know what brought you here in the first place.