If you’re reading this, you’ve likely taken the first few steps in your LSAT study journey. Maybe you’ve taken your initial diagnostic test and collected a few second-hand prep books that you found on Craigslist. Maybe you haven’t even gotten that far, or maybe you’re already a few months in. T
he following tips should help you visualize the long road that lies ahead, avoid common pitfalls, and reduce the stress associated with the process.
Don’t freak out.
The LSAT can be an intimidating beast. In many ways, it is designed to be. Its difficulty (especially at the beginning of the studying process) may overwhelm you, especially when you are trying to finish within the assigned time constraints.
Past students have become discouraged by the large gap that might exist between their initial diagnostic score and their goal score that they need to be admitted to their top-choice law schools. While understandable, fixating on this is not productive, and indeed, is detrimental to the learning process. Yes, it is a difficult test. Yes, there is a lot of content to master. And yes, you may have to take an official test more than once to achieve your goal score. But the LSAT can be mastered. With consistent work sustained over a significant period of time (especially with an experienced tutor coaching you along), you will be able to achieve your goals.
Focus on content.
A common pitfall for students on their LSAT journey is a misplaced focus on the speed at which they complete their practice tests. The LSAT is a race against the clock. With only 35 minutes to complete each section, time is your first enemy, so the instinct to immediately want to get up to the necessary pace is understandable. This strategy will not help you in the long run, though.
By rushing questions in order to be able to “get through” the full section, you are hurting your accuracy and, most importantly, robbing yourself of the opportunity to fully go through the process of understanding what each question is asking and what each answer choice is offering. Only through mastering this process (through thousands of repetitions) can you better learn to recognize patterns within the LSAT and achieve your best score.
I always tell students that I would rather them give their best answer to 50% of the questions in a section and run out of time than give their 50% answer to every question in a section. LSAT speed does not come from a focus on going faster. It comes from learning how to understand what is being asked of you.
So, in your preparation, you should focus entirely on the content of the test, even if that means you must ignore the normal time constraints initially.
Study on your own timeline.
Eventually, you will begin to see improvement. And you may be tempted to take an official test on your first score upswing. This may be even more tempting if you’re hitting a pre-determined milestone (i.e., a student plans to study for X months and we’re now at X-1 months). But this should not dictate your decisions.
Rather, the timing of taking an official test and being “done” with the LSAT should be determined by the consistency in your practice test scores and your goal score. If you’re consistently testing near your goal score, great! It’s time to get an official attempt on record. If you’re not there yet, you’re not ready for an official test. Friends and family may be pressuring you to give it your best shot and be done with it once and for all. I promise that the additional effort you put into earning those extra points will pay off handsomely in your admissions outcomes, particularly with respect to scholarship offers.
An additional month of consistent studying may carry with it a six-figure payoff. So don’t rush; set your own timeline.