precursor: I frequently get asked questions about people who are interested in writing the LSAT or hear people speak whom have already written the LSAT without truly understanding it and feel the need to address some important misconceptions. I wrote up this post with the intention of educating as many people as possible about what the LSAT really is. Please share this with anyone you know who is even thinking about potentially writing the LSAT or going to law school. I hope you guys enjoy and this benefits some people.
(If there are any errors or things you think I should add, please let me know and I will make changes accordingly).
If you are reading this page, it probably means you have an interest in the LSAT. It is important to realize just how important the LSAT and hopefully this document will help provide you with the requisite knowledge to make informed decisions about how you should progress with it.
The LSAT is an equated standardized test used for assessing one’s application for North American law schools. It comprises of six-35 minute sections (only 4 of which are counted towards one’s score) testing one’s ability to logical analyze arguments and passages of prose. The LSAT is offered 4 times a year and can be taken up to 3 times in a two year time period. It is important to note that one should always consider the option of writing the test more than once.
The LSAT is the most important tool to help a candidate matriculate into law school. It makes up roughly 50% of an application. It takes dozens of exams, hundreds of hours of class and thousands of hours of work and equalizes all of that in one afternoon. It not only has the ability to offset a low GPA, a nominal increase in score can lead one to getting accepted into a significantly better school or receive thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of scholarship.
The test consists of 99-102 questions and is evaluated on a scale between 120 and 180 with each point corresponding to a different percentile. A 150 is a 50th percentile, a 160 is an 80th percentile and a 170 is a 98th percentile. There is no such thing as an objective good score, despite many people’s preconceived notion that anything above a 160 constitutes as such. What this means is that a score should only be considered satisfactory if it enables one to be accepted to the law school of their choice, and it is as high as they could have scored within a reasonable range. This means that one should not be happy with a score that gets them into their dream school of Cooley College or a 160 which their parents think is great, but if it can get them into the best law school they could possibly potentially receive acceptance into. Even if one has gotten an LSAT score that earns them admission into a respectable law school, one should always try to achieve their maximum possible score to receive admissions from the best possible schools.
The reason this is important stems from the fact that the vast majority of law schools are not worth going to (unless one is on close to a full scholarship or is guaranteed a job). In fact, many argue that if one cannot get into one of the top 20 law schools in America, it is not worth attending one at all. The genesis of this thought is that attending a law school on average leads to near $200,000 worth of student loans. In order to pay off such a massive amount of debt, one needs to get a high paying salary; something unlikely to occur if one does not attend a top law school. As one likely is going to perform relatively the same regardless of where they go to law school (within a range), by getting as little as a two point increase in the LSAT can get someone into a better school that could be the difference between them making $160,000 dollars once they graduate or be unemployed. Any possible potential increase in LSAT score will pay significant dividends for the rest of your life; despite how annoying or frustrating it may seem to spend a few more weeks preparing for the LSAT, it is a huge opportunity that will provide one with inordinate advantages and benefits for their future.
Every point increase on the LSAT can allow a candidate to potentially gain admission into a better school, thus increasing their chance at landing a higher paying job. It is almost always worth it to take advantage of this and peak on the LSAT and gain admission to the best possible school. If one is already capable of gaining admissions from their ideal school, it is still worth it to peak on the LSAT as an increased score can easily lead to a significantly bigger scholarship. This can be better seen by thinking of the LSAT in this situation: someone paying you $30,000 to spend another month studying for the test and write it one more time to get a 4 point higher score. Similarly, one additional month studying for the LSAT could very well be the difference for one to attend an elite school like Harvard or Boston University (in my opinion, the lifetime ramifications of the employment prospects one gets from receiving a degree from Harvard versus Boston University more than make up for this lost month).
Now that the value of the LSAT has been established, one is in a better position to start researching study methods. However long you thought about studying for the LSAT before reading this, right off the bat this amount should probably be at least doubled. Shy of scoring near perfect off of one’s diagnostic, there are practically no circumstances where one should study any less than one month’s worth of time. Moreover, just because one has a set amount of time off already does not mean that’s the maximum time one should allot to studying for the test. Many people decide to write the test in June and assume that it is sufficient to only study during the month of May because that is all the time they have off free from obligations. The amount of time needed to prepare varies from person to person but should be estimated to be at least 6 weeks and potentially last up to 6 months. Remember how important even the littlest bit of improvement is? It is imperative to put yourself in a position to succeed.
As stated earlier, the test is offered four times per year (June, October, December, February) with fundamentally no differences between them. The most notable factor is that the June test is written at 1 pm where as the others are written at 9 am. If getting up early is an issue for somebody, they should consider writing the test in June versus the other months). Make an account at http://www.lsac.org
to see what test centres are available to you. One should look into booking a test up to six months in advance to ensure a spot at their desired location. If everything is already booked up, instead of registering to take the exam in another city, contact LSAC and wait. In the weeks leading up to the exam, it is almost certain that more spots will open up for test centres in big cities.
One of the great aspects of the LSAT is that it is a highly learnable test. Although certain people naturally are better at excelling on the LSAT than others, everyone has the ability to improve by substantial amounts. One who initially scores a very low score still is capable of getting a great score, however it will likely take a severe time commitment to do so. The lower one scores on their initial diagnostic, the easier it will be for them to make a greater improvement on their score. On average, the majority of people who take a course with a prep company receive a boost of around 10 points. However, many people still manage to improve by 15+ points and in some more rare cases, over 20.
The first step anyone should do who is thinking about the LSAT is going to http://www.lsac.org/jd/pdfs/SamplePTJune.pdf/
and write the free diagnostic exam under test like conditions. The score on the test will serve as a huge indicator as to where one stands on the LSAT. The lower one scores on this, the more work they will likely need to put in to reach their optimal score.
There is no “best method” to study for the LSAT and everyone will find different things that work for them. The most important factor to look at when deciding how one should progress is to find out what works best for them. It is essential that one thoroughly research their options to find this out. Here are some popular choices.
1 - Take an in class course. If one feels that they would be better off in a classroom setting with a real teacher to deal with their needs, it might be wise for them to sign up with a prep company. This is a great way to meet people in a similar situation to you and assist you in staying motivated. The negatives of this are that the courses cost a substantial amount of money and may not necessarily move at the pace one desires. The general opinion is to stay away from companies such as Kaplan while the better-recommended companies usually consist of Testmasters, Powerscore, Manhattan LSAT and Blue Print. The most important factor for determining the best course to take is the instructor. As the instructor’s change for every city/class, research into this question and find the one who is most suitable for you.
2 - Take an online course: There are many different online courses that vary in their services. Some have video explanations, online feedback, phone numbers you can call for advice etc. The advantage of these classes is that they are significantly cheaper than in class courses and allow one to go at their own pace. With that said, the options for online courses vary tremendously. Some offer video on demand services, where as others offer a video of a live teacher who comes on at scheduled times. Another benefit of this is that many of these companies have a free sample of their online videos in order to allow one to find the best fit. A common recommendation for an online prep company is Velocity LSAT, but once again, it is imperative to do your own research and find out who has the best fit for you.
3 - Self Study. Self-studying is the cheapest option available and allows one to devote time to wherever they see fit. It is great for those who are independent and motivated. It is arguably the preferred method for those who are trying to get scores above 170 as everything is tailored to their weaknesses and how to improve on them. Even when one enrolls in a class with a prep company, the majority of work and learning takes place as self-studying anyways. This method allows one to determine what works best for them and to stick with it. Out of those who self study, the most common recommendation consist of the following: buy all available prep tests online, buy the Powerscore Logic Games bible, follow the Voyager RC method http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7240
and buy the Manhattan LSAT book for arguments (there is much less consensus on which one is the best for this). Another tool for self-studying is to find or purchase a study guide online. These guides give instructions on how best to use the materials to further their knowledge. They include scheduling and strategy for allowing one to achieve optimal improvements. Here are two examples of such: http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=41657
plans.html. Another tool that can be utilized when self-studying is to meet with other people writing the LSAT or discuss problems online. These groups can easily be found at law school discussion websites.
4 - Get a tutor. Tutors can be a great option that can be used in supplement to the 3 aforementioned methods. A tutor can be found through prep companies, word of mouth, craigslist, browsing the internet etc. They vary in cost and skill but allow one to spend one on one time with an expert dealing with all of their questions.
Whatever you decide to do, the one thing I cannot stress enough is to research this as much as possible, dedicate the necessary amount of time to prepping and heed advice from others who are knowledgeable on the subject.
SUMMATION: the LSAT is a hugely important tool that can easily be exploited to significantly improve one's future in relation to the field of law. It is beneficial for everyone to put themselves in a better position to succeed by researching the lsat, studying smart and putting in the necessary hours to excel.