Indeed, you are correct - the LSAT is very different then the material you will be studying in law school. However, given the importance of the LSAT, generally considered to be of equal import to your GPA, it is an important hurdle to surmount and ideally conquer. (Note that I generally feel law schools weigh your GPA and LSAT each as about 40% of the admissions decsions, and the remaining 20% of the decision is determined by your recommendations, personal statement, and resume).
For someone like me, who had good a good, but not great GPA (3.5), I knew that I had to succeed on my LSAT to get into the top law schools. I would plan as far in advance for studying for the LSAT and here are some tips that worked well for me.
1) While in college take a Critical Thinking class, generally offered by the Philosophy Department. Critical Thinking is the introductory course in many universities to analytical philosophy. This class is excellent for overall learning, for it shows you how to identify and overcome fallacies that exist in debates and arguments. Additionally, it shows you many analytical insights, such as the contrapositive. (The contrapositive is a logical statement that states that IF A implies B, then Not B implies Not A. An example of a contrapositive would be: "If there is fire here, then there is oxygen here." The contrapositive would be, "If there is no oxygen here, then there is no fire here."
You do not need to worry about the contrapositive now, but learning that analytical tool and others will be amazingly helpful when you take the LSAT. The hardest section for almost all people on the LSAT is the games section. Basically, the games section is all analytical philosophy which requires successful deductions (such as utilizing the contrapositive) to quickly determine the correct answers. Critical Thinking will help you enermously on the games section and to a lesser degree on the two arguments sections as well.
2) Learn to read quickly. The reading comprehension section of the LSAT also is a very hard section for many test takers. Not that the questions are too hard, but that the 4 long passages and 6 questions per passage are too much for most to complete in 35 minutes, the time allowed for each LSAT section. I did very well in this section because I had been a fast reader in the past, but practiced reading magazines and textbooks at a rapid rate and focused upon getting the highlights of the material.
3) Spend a huge amount of time and practice, practice, practice. I know that the first time you see and take the LSAT it is unnerving for it is unlike what most students have studied in college (philosophy students have a leg up in this case for there is a lot of analytical philosophy on the LSAT). However, as you become more familiar with the test you will learn how to pace yourself and properly answer the questions. I highly recommend you take the time and spend the money to take the best prep class you can (Testmasters is usually quite good, Princeton Review and Kaplan are decent) to master the tricks of the LSAT. For example, mastering the process of elimination (not finding the right answer but eliminating the wrong ones) will really boost your score in the twp argument sections.
4) Practice on the real LSATs. There is nothing like the real thing. Real LSATs have had experimental sections that weeded out the poor questions, so questions on the actual LSATs are all very sound. Additionally, there is no better practice then taking real tests. So buy as many Actual LSATs as you can get, now there are well over 50, and use these to practice on. Review your mistakes and learn where you went wrong and how to avoid repeating that pattern.
I spent 5 months studying very seriously for the LSAT and was able to raise my score from a 165 (94%) to a 173 (99%). The numbers will vary for all students, but know that by doing the above you will definitely improve.
One of the most important aspects is to find the best LSAT instructor you can and let him or her be your guide. A great instructor will actually make the test fun, for it is similar to a very complicated crossword puzzle, demanding all of your skills. I truly feel I became a smarter person by studying for the LSAT and learning to understand and master all of the analytical tools required to answer the games questions. Viewing it as a fun game to be mastered instead of as a chore will be the world of difference in the months you should spend studying for the LSAT.
Note that it is best to not take the LSAT in December, for by the time you get those results back your applications will be getting in a bit late. Most students take it in June or October.
Your initial impression of the LSAT is normal, you will warm up to it as you become more familiar with it.
Best of luck Candy, you sound like a great person that I will be rooting for you
. Please keep me updated.