Preparing for the LSAT: The first step of many
Considering that I’m preparing to do the LSAT for the third time in a time period of just over a year, I consider myself a relatively seasoned LSAT taker. I would certainly prefer not to have had so much experience in this field, of course, and I feel that if I had known what I know now, perhaps I would have saved myself some time and money. So hopefully all those who are preparing for their first LSAT have a chance to review the process I went through, and determine for themselves the best steps to take in order to secure a good LSAT performance.
1. Budget for at least 3 months to study – preferably more if it is your first time. Through my experiences I’ve come to realize that the LSAT isn’t only about getting the answers. If an unlimited amount of time was given, anyone and everyone could score a 180 on the LSAT. We need to solve the problems both accurately and quickly. Remember that you’re looking at around 35 minutes a section for approximately 28 questions. On timed exams you’ll have roughly 1 minute and 15 seconds to solve each question thrown at you. Budget enough time before Test Day to train your brain on LSAT questions like Rocky (minus the raw egg eating, because ew), or else you’ll run out of time, stamina, or both.
2. Before starting your studies , do a mock LSAT cold. I’m not sure if this service is available elsewhere, but where I live The Princeton Review offers free mock LSAT sessions at their office locations for people gearing up to take the LSAT. If there’s no opportunity to do so in your area, use the June 2007 sample LSAT available by download on the LSAC website, and get a good friend with a book to time you and call out a 5 minute reminder before the end of each section. The mock LSAT will also give you a feel for how the exam is, in terms of timing and environment.
3. Decide whether to take a class or self-study. Depending on your learning style, you may benefit from taking a class. Personally I studied on my own, but I chose to do so because I preferred to move at my own rate and I tend to learn better with a hands-on approach vs. an instructor. Furthermore, I had a busy schedule (previously it was school, now it’s work) that didn’t allow for classes. You may prefer to take a class if you score “low” on your LSAT (although what constitutes “low” differs from person to person, it’s generally accepted that scoring under 150 is not considered competitive) and have difficulty understanding the LSAT problem solutions.
4. Find/Make a good study guide – and stick to it. I really have to emphasize the importance of having a game plan when it comes to tackling the LSAT. Schedule your studying by section type (many, myself included, suggest the format Logic Games, Logical Reasoning, and finally Reading Comprehension) as detailed as you can get – down to the day if possible. There are a number of really great study guides/schedules available on the LSAT Blog (the link can also be found in my blog-roll), and I highly recommend either using those, or at least following the format to tailor a study schedule for yourself.
The first two times around, I failed to do this. I felt that if I read a few prep books and did as many LSAT questions as I could get my hands on in no particular order, I’d be golden. Although I still did improve my score over time, it’s not something I would recommend others do.
5. Use good study materials. The Powerscore bibles are highly recommended. They do a great job of detailing the different types of questions within the LSAT, which enables test takers to pinpoint their weaknesses and tackle them directly. You’ll be must better prepared if you ensure greater focus on not just the sections that you find difficult, but also the specific question types that give you trouble.
The LSAT preptests are a great resource as well. Instead of doing questions or exams that never actually appeared on the LSAT, take the time and the resources to get your hands on actual LSAT material. This will allow you to acquaint yourself with the writing style and thinking patterns of the original LSAT writers; in other words, it’ll allow you to get inside their heads and be one step ahead of them on Test Day. To some extent, practicing with past LSAT materials extensively will help you mentally prepare for the questions during the real exam, and eliminate trick answers more easily.
6. Believe in yourself. Yes, the ultimate cheese ending to every online guide to every endeavour under the sun. How could I resist? This is, however, actually a serious, honest piece of advice. A lot of people, especially those entering or in legal studies, equate pessimism to realism. They feel that they are best prepared if they prepare for the worst. Unfortunately I have a habit of doing this, but I don’t want to, because I know that’s not necessary. Personally, all it nets me is depression and a subsequent lack of motivation, and as a result I start questioning my abilities. It’s a destructive cycle that I’m sure many test-takers can identify with.
Acknowledge but don’t dwell on your practice LSAT scores. Most importantly, prior to the exam, do not think about how you will score based on past experiences. Do not let what you can “realistically expect” limit your actual performance, because it will if you allow it to.
7. An optional step: (Try to) Love the LSAT…at least until Test Day. Then, break up with it in the meanest, cruelest way possible. It’s completely possible for you to accidentally start having fun doing the LSAT after you’ve been studying for a while. Of course, this banks on your growing comprehension of the questions as well as how you’ve scheduled your studying – make it a part of your routine, and it can be just as satisfying as completing a crossword puzzle or Sudoku square.
In short, become one with the LSAT. Let it reveal its deepest emotional vulnerabilities to you. Then, epically own it on Test Day.
That pretty much sums it up for me. Of course, I’m still in the midst of my own studies, so if anything changes I’ll be sure to re-visit the topic. Also, if anybody reading this feels that I’ve missed out on something, or has their own success tips to contribute, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I’ll update the post accordingly 🙂
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Tags: Epic post of huge proportions, How to guide, LSAT preparation, LSAT study tips