Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

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LSACownsme
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Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby LSACownsme » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:16 am

HI guys, :D

I just registered after reading the June 2013 LSAT takers thread.
I saw that most of you did soo freakishly well on your test that it motivated me to aim higher.
Originally, with my diagnostic 149 and some PTs in low 150s, I thought there was no way I could end up scoring above 160, but you guys showed me there was hope. and proof.

In Oct '12, I was supposed to take my LSAT, but due to work and other responsibilities that affected the amount of time I had for preparation, i withdrew the day before. I had taken a Blueprint live course right before the test administration, but it didn't help me much because it focused greatly on marking things and making unnecessary inferences (mostly in LG). This strategy left me with too little time to tackle the questions, so I ended up losing too many points because of unlucky guesses.
Using the wrong methods (maybe, just for me personally) with Blueprint, I couldn't finish LG and RC on time, always leaving 1 or 2 games/passages per section unfinished (I bubbled in answers anyway, but most of them were of course wrong). The thing is - English isn't my first language, I spoke Russian my whole life studying English in school only. I moved to the States 6 years ago, and although my spoken and written English may seem good enough, I get lost when I read dense material and have to answer questions about it.
I try to read articles in English from NYT and the Economist, but I "can't read like a lawyer" yet. I often find myself dozing off and not remembering what I've just read in the previous paragraph if the article is dull and filled with vocabulary I'm not familiar with.

So I am hoping that you, my fellow go-getters, can help me get the motivation I need along with some new methods that I can use to study and improve my terrible score.

It would be a great help to get to know some Oct'13 LSAT takers who also have the same problem so we can share methods.
Also, it would be great to hear from some people who already scored 170+ and had English as a second language (but didn't learn it from early child years).

Thanks in advance!
P.S. I saw a couple of threads touching on the same issue, but they were from 2010 and 2011, went off topic, and are now completely dead.

bp shinners
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby bp shinners » Tue Jul 02, 2013 3:59 pm

LSACownsme wrote: I moved to the States 6 years ago, and although my spoken and written English may seem good enough, I get lost when I read dense material and have to answer questions about it.
I try to read articles in English from NYT and the Economist, but I "can't read like a lawyer" yet. I often find myself dozing off and not remembering what I've just read in the previous paragraph if the article is dull and filled with vocabulary I'm not familiar with.


This is something you'll have to overcome before any method for tackling the questions will be able to help you. If you aren't following along with what you've read, there's no chance you can get most questions correct.

How much of a problem is the vocab? Generally, people who cite that as an issue have one of two issues:
1) They legitimately have issues with the general vocab of the passage, many times because they didn't grow up speaking English. If this is the case, it's important to keep a "word log" of all the words you read on the LSAT that you don't understand. Look them up, write down the definitions, and study them. Yes, it's a bit tedious. But you need to learn these words, as they show up again and again on the LSAT. It'll also be good to enhance your vocab, as there shouldn't be a critical mass of words you don't know on the LSAT - going to law school, you should have a decent vocabulary.
2) You're putting too much of a focus on those obscure terms of art/scientific terms/etc... that don't actually matter to the LSAT. They throw words at you all the time that you aren't expected to know; if you try to focus on them, you're falling for their tricks.

If you have trouble making it through a NYT or Economist article, you're going to have trouble making it through the LSAT. I would try to greatly enhance the amount of English-language texts that you read in general until it's not nearly as much of a slog. Then, when you can get through a passage/LR question/etc... without feeling bogged down, forgetting what you just read, you can start working on methods to tackle the exam itself.

And if you have any questions that stem from the Blueprint methods, shoot me a PM!

Bonafide84
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby Bonafide84 » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:44 pm

Hello!

English is also my second language, so studying for the LSAT is a constant struggle. Specially translating the "EXCEPT" questions and still find the answer after I forgot what I just read. lol What I have been doing is studying non stop since April. I take flashcards to the bathroom, I have LR sheets in my cubicle below the keyboard so I can pretend to be working while I study, I have post-it with new words all over the place. Needless to say I also dream about it!! I am starting blueprint course this month,and I will still keep studying non-stop, by the end I might get a tutor just to go over details.
I am getting around 20 right on logic games and 17-19 on LR. I am leaving the RC to the end, as I can see if you master LR will allow you to understand better the questions RC asks.

Just know that you are not alone, and keep telling yourself that for us to get a good score was even harder than for someone with English as their first language.
Which means we KICK ASS!! :D
I was getting 135 in my first PT, then after studying for 2 weeks I got a 146, by now I have been getting around 158... and that is all studying by myself. I have hope in blueprint course, and of course in me. Taking October LSAT...

Annabel

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LSACownsme
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby LSACownsme » Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:40 pm

thank you guys!
Just to address a few things:

bpshinners: I don't really have an issue with the words themselves, I guess I didn't make myself very clear in my OP. I only have to look up a couple of words when I read articles in respected newspapers, usually no more than 3 for a 2-3 page article. I think what's harder is putting words in the context and identifying the importance and role of them in the text. Or, often times, I get lost in a sentence if it's too long or filled with too many technical terms. I am familiar with legal terminology because I am a Legal Studies major at UC Berkeley :) it's most likely the density of LSAT texts taken together with the structure AND the unfamiliar words that kills my comprehension... I know this is something that may people have improved, and there should be no reason why I can't, but when I sit down to study for the LSAT and look at an RC passage, my mood seems to change and then I get distracted and sleepy. I thus daydream while reading, and after I'm done reading, I retain very little and have to come back to the text.
Maybe, it's the ADD that people blame things on quite often recently haha, but maybe I just need to try new things (like study in other places, get a different clock for timing myself or whatever...)
Thanks for your input though. Are you affiliated with Blueprint?
I liked my instructor during my Blueprint course, he was helpful and easy to understand. but the methods themselves were too cumbersome for me - if I took the time to actually mark up the passages the exact way blueprint guidelines dictated, i wasted about 7 minutes of time per passage, which left me about a minute and a half for answering questions. Same went for LG section. I never seem to get to the last game, and half of the questions in Game 3 are usually guesses because I run out of time :( I do well without timing myself, but obviously, that's irrelevant on the test day.

Bonafide84 (Annabel):

I was so glad to see your post! Your progress is so inspirational! Going from 135 to 158 (+-3) in only 2 weeks is tremendous success! Especially when you were doing it on your own! I'm gonna try some of your methods (flashcards! I need to make flashcards!)

I also struggle with LG because the way the rules are spelled out throws me off (i tend to think of English grammar when I read them, so it slows me down a lot). I guess, I understand the logic, but PHRASING in both RC and LG questions sometimes tricks me and I get stuck. I also seem having trouble leaving the question until I solve it (usually incorrectly, haha) and move on to the next. I keep thinking about the previous question if I left it blank, so it's hard for me to completely shift to the next one. Thus, loss of precious time. again.

AHhh! Where are you guys located? Does anyone want to study together if you're somewhere in the Bay Area of San Francisco? I'm in China right now studying abroad till Jul 7, but once I'm back, I'd love to form study groups with people who want to conspire with me in killing this test on Oct '13 administration :D :D :D

bilbaosan
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby bilbaosan » Wed Jul 03, 2013 3:00 am

LSACownsme wrote:HI guys, :D
The thing is - English isn't my first language, I spoke Russian my whole life studying English in school only. I moved to the States 6 years ago, and although my spoken and written English may seem good enough, I get lost when I read dense material and have to answer questions about it.


My situation is exactly the same, English is my third language.
I'm only started studying a few weeks ago, and so far went through nine practice tests (29-38), so take my advice with a grain of salt. But here is the breakdown of my notes so far:

1. The largest hit I'm getting is of course the RC section. The problem here is that if you can't really understand the text in the section, you'd miss 5-7 questions right away. The way I'm doing it now is going through all 4 texts, throw away the one which is art/philosophy, and work on three texts only. 11 minutes is enough to go through three of them, and by answering the same for those you ignored you'll score at least 1 answer - which is often more than you'd score if you spent time reading it.

Those include questions using words with weird meanings (such as Prep 37 sec.2 #15 - unless you somehow figure out that "social conditioning" and "political action" speak about the same thing, there is no way you can answer correctly)

2. The second largest hit is the LR section. Usually there are 3-4 LR questions in each section which are not doable for ESLs. Those are:

a). Questions based on long, complex sentences without prepositions, when you lose the track what the whole sentence was about. Probably nothing could be done here.

b). Questions which use abstract answers, such as "takes the fact that most members of the group have a certain property to constitute evidence that all members of group have this property". They would be doable if no time limit, but you'll spend way more than a minute translating five of those answers to Russian and figure out which one applies.

c). Questions where you need to complete the sentence. They sometime have a few words there such as "recalcitrant" or "obstinate" which you probably never heard before, and likely never will.

3. LG is the easiest once you get used to it. It comes with different issues though, sometime requiring you to know the US-specific things such as a dorm room could be referred as "wing".

So yes, it is doable unless your goal is 180. This is, I firmly believe, is not doable for an ESL unless a lot of luck is involved.

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LSACownsme
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby LSACownsme » Wed Jul 03, 2013 3:21 am

bilbaosan wrote:
LSACownsme wrote:HI guys, :D
The thing is - English isn't my first language, I spoke Russian my whole life studying English in school only. I moved to the States 6 years ago, and although my spoken and written English may seem good enough, I get lost when I read dense material and have to answer questions about it.


My situation is exactly the same, English is my third language.
I'm only started studying a few weeks ago, and so far went through nine practice tests (29-38), so take my advice with a grain of salt. But here is the breakdown of my notes so far:

1. The largest hit I'm getting is of course the RC section. The problem here is that if you can't really understand the text in the section, you'd miss 5-7 questions right away. The way I'm doing it now is going through all 4 texts, throw away the one which is art/philosophy, and work on three texts only. 11 minutes is enough to go through three of them, and by answering the same for those you ignored you'll score at least 1 answer - which is often more than you'd score if you spent time reading it.

Those include questions using words with weird meanings (such as Prep 37 sec.2 #15 - unless you somehow figure out that "social conditioning" and "political action" speak about the same thing, there is no way you can answer correctly)

2. The second largest hit is the LR section. Usually there are 3-4 LR questions in each section which are not doable for ESLs. Those are:

a). Questions based on long, complex sentences without prepositions, when you lose the track what the whole sentence was about. Probably nothing could be done here.

b). Questions which use abstract answers, such as "takes the fact that most members of the group have a certain property to constitute evidence that all members of group have this property". They would be doable if no time limit, but you'll spend way more than a minute translating five of those answers to Russian and figure out which one applies.

c). Questions where you need to complete the sentence. They sometime have a few words there such as "recalcitrant" or "obstinate" which you probably never heard before, and likely never will.

3. LG is the easiest once you get used to it. It comes with different issues though, sometime requiring you to know the US-specific things such as a dorm room could be referred as "wing".

So yes, it is doable unless your goal is 180. This is, I firmly believe, is not doable for an ESL unless a lot of luck is involved.


Jeez, it's almost like we share the same brain!
it's exactly my problems right here! i often too spend way too much time deciphering the meaning of a phrase than trying to find the answer. I feel like without complete understanding of the phrase I may not be able to get to the answer, so I go through all of the unfamiliar phrases in an OCD manner :( ehhhh, i wish LSAC was administered in my native language :) I'd sure score in 170s. But i know that part of the LSAT indeed IS to test your command of English since if you intend to practice law in the US, English is a necessity.

Good luck to us all, since it IS about luck sometimes :) like, it was lucky for me that I decided against taking LSAT in June 13 while studying in China because it turned out to have 2 RC sections (my friends took it and said the experimental one was first and it ruined the whole exam for them).

:D :D :D October, here we come!

Trajectory
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby Trajectory » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:25 am

Hey I popped in here because I was curious how this would go over for ESL students. I came to the states in '95, English is my second language, technically, although I have become much more proficient in English vs my native language, Bulgarian.

Anyway at the beginning of my prep I always wondered how that affected me. Maybe I was getting tripped up on things (on the LSAT) because I processed in Bulgarian first? I dont know. My diagnostic was a 147. I had trouble with RC the most, exactly the same as everyone else who described their troubles with RC on here. Then LR for the same reasons. LG was my best section.

I agree that having English as a second language can be a little detrimental, understandably, but reading through this post and the exact problems made me realize that most if not all are not ESL problems. LOTS of people feel tired, sleepy and lack proper concentration when reading RC passages, including me. Plenty sure as hell feel like theres 1-2 questions on LR that are very tough (including me). And maybe most of all people have trouble with LG (finishing 3 of 4 games guessing on the last one). Its how this test is designed. Its not easy. You have to employ strategies for ALL of these things. Drilling. Drilling. For RC you know reading the right way in terms of the LSAT might be very different than how you normally read but once you do it the way LSAC wants you get better. You dont need to know funky terminology nor keep ALL of the info in your head the whole time. For LR I think is the same way, those long LR questions are always covered in bull-crap info and have 2-3 sentences that end up mattering. Those abstract answers that bilbaosan mentioned under point B used to trip me up all the time! Theres not that many on each test but enough for 1-3 points! So I drilled relentlessly. Only them. I found the patterns, and eventually all of that abstract lango became much easier to decipher. You see LSAC isn't targeting ESL students its designed this to affect as many people as they can that way (feel like they cant understand anything).

I guess what I am saying is dont let the thought of having ESL hold you down and think its an excuse not to kill this test. Because it seems that most of the problems are far more common than just for ESL. Now, will it be tougher? Absolutely. But doable for sure. I am PTing in the 169-170s now. It might have taken longer for me to get there than others but I am here.

Best of luck to you guys!

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LSACownsme
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby LSACownsme » Wed Jul 03, 2013 12:38 pm

Thanks for your input, Trajectory!

I can totally see why you say that some of our problems may stem from boredom and not necessarily from ESL. Sometimes I wanna blame everything on the ESL haha. But even then, jokes aside, I do feel like phrasing matters. It can completely throw off someone who hasn't spoken English everyday since they learned their first word.
Like, today, I was practicing and saw this question:

From test 44, RC1, 4th passage, q 23:

With respect to the proponents of the Modern Movement, the author of the passage can best be described as

(A) forbearing
(B) defensive
(C) unimpressed
(D) exasperated
(E) indifferent

the correct answer was (C).

I only knew the meanings of "defensive", "unimpressed" and "indifferent". For some reason during the PT I thought that unimpressed and indifferent are close by meaning, thus can't be the correct answer. So I chose (D) even though I didn't know it's definition. Stupid. but it exactly proves my point - when I encounter these things, they throw me off my game. After this q, i missed more questions than before :(

BTW, if you guys have taken this test 44 and know which passage I'm talking about, can someone explain WHY the heck the author was "unimpressed"? I still don't see it.

Thanks!

magickware
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby magickware » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:01 pm

Read a lot of English newspapers. NYT, Washington Post, etc.

Read a lot of the free articles from The New Yorker, Times, whatever.

Just read a lot.

bp shinners
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby bp shinners » Wed Jul 03, 2013 5:07 pm

LSACownsme wrote:Thanks for your input though. Are you affiliated with Blueprint?
I liked my instructor during my Blueprint course, he was helpful and easy to understand. but the methods themselves were too cumbersome for me - if I took the time to actually mark up the passages the exact way blueprint guidelines dictated, i wasted about 7 minutes of time per passage, which left me about a minute and a half for answering questions. Same went for LG section. I never seem to get to the last game, and half of the questions in Game 3 are usually guesses because I run out of time :( I do well without timing myself, but obviously, that's irrelevant on the test day.


Yep! Been working for Blueprint for a little over three years now. Glad to hear you enjoyed the instructor!

However, if it's taking you 7 minutes to mark up the passage, you're writing out way more than our method recommends. You should be highlighting 3 sentences, tops; and you should be writing a total of less than 30 words. That shouldn't be adding a lot of time on top of the passage unless you're struggling with reading speed or writing out way too much.

When you were in the class, did you check out the RC markups for each of the homework passages? They show you how much annotating you should be doing. If you didn't see them then, you can check out a sample here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/147673587/PT3 ... xplanation

jya300
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby jya300 » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:48 pm

Read...read a lot.
English is also my second language, and I came to the U.S. 7 years ago. Fortunately, I went to a high school that didn't have ESL, and was rigorous enough to push me to improve my reading/ writing skills early on. Sometimes it is convenient to give yourself the excuse of being a foreigner, settle with speaking "pretty good" English and be happy, but it's better to aim higher.
At this point, I'm sure you won't forget your native language, so think in English, speak English and read books in English constantly.
Especially, extensive reading is the key to your vocabulary issues. Aside from LSAT prepping, get used to reading news articles, magazines (but not those trashy ones), academic essays, etc. everyday.
Some of my friends came to the U.S only 4-5 years ago and I've seen them score 176, 179 on the LSAT.
Yes, it requires much more efforts and stress but I really don't think there is limit to those whose first language isn't English.
Don't set limits for yourself just because you're from another country, don't give up when there seems to be obvious barriers, and stay diligent! good luck!

Bonafide84
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby Bonafide84 » Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:01 pm

If you want send me an email, and I can FW a PDF of LSAT an LSAT tuthor shared with me. I found it really easy to understand for LR part, not so great for LG and fairly good for RC.

I found that different books helped me with different sections. McGraw hill is pretty good for LG. I was scoring 11 correct at most, now I am getting from 19-21 right in that section.

The PDF book, helped with LR. I was horible in that section!! getting even less than 10 right in that one. Now I am around 15-19 (and hoping blueprint help me even more)

For RC, This is something I find useful.
Main idea of the passage? Put yourself in the author's shoes. If you were the author, and if you had to replace the entire passagewith one sentence that would prove the point you're trying to pove, what would you say?

Primary purpose? put yourself in the position of a critic. Pretend someone has just asked you to describe why the author has written the passage.

I have more, but this forum is cutting my answer ahahah....

Bonafide84
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby Bonafide84 » Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:02 pm

If you want send me an email, and I can FW a PDF of LSAT an LSAT tuthor shared with me. I found it really easy to understand for LR part, not so great for LG and fairly good for RC.

I found that different books helped me with different sections. McGraw hill is pretty good for LG. I was scoring 11 correct at most, now I am getting from 19-21 right in that section.

The PDF book, helped with LR. I was horible in that section!! getting even less than 10 right in that one. Now I am around 15-19 (and hoping blueprint help me even more)

For RC, This is something I find useful.
Main idea of the passage? Put yourself in the author's shoes. If you were the author, and if you had to replace the entire passagewith one sentence that would prove the point you're trying to pove, what would you say?

Primary purpose? put yourself in the position of a critic. Pretend someone has just asked you to describe why the author has written the passage.

I have more, but this forum is cutting my answer ahahah....

bilbaosan
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby bilbaosan » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:59 pm

LSACownsme wrote:
bilbaosan wrote:Jeez, it's almost like we share the same brain!
it's exactly my problems right here! i often too spend way too much time deciphering the meaning of a phrase than trying to find the answer. I feel like without complete understanding of the phrase I may not be able to get to the answer, so I go through all of the unfamiliar phrases in an OCD manner :(


Try to read the questions first, and write them down (w/shortcuts) on the left side of the passage. Then read the passage. It will take more time, but you'll focus on more important parts as the parts you consider relevant may not be those the test makers consider relevant.

Once you do it many times, you'll figure out which questions the test would ask simply by reading the passage. Studying for the LSAT is more like studying the mind of a LSAT testmaker.

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15chocolate
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby 15chocolate » Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:05 pm

jya300 wrote: Some of my friends came to the U.S only 4-5 years ago and I've seen them score 176, 179 on the LSAT.


Wow...seriously? :shock:
Do you know or did you ask them how they prepared for LSAT?

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LSACownsme
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Re: Taking the LSAT-English is a second language - advice?

Postby LSACownsme » Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:17 pm

15chocolate wrote:
jya300 wrote: Some of my friends came to the U.S only 4-5 years ago and I've seen them score 176, 179 on the LSAT.


Wow...seriously? :shock:
Do you know or did you ask them how they prepared for LSAT?


Yeah, i wanna know too! Plz!




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