LSAT test prep often begins at home, before your course, and continues at home even after your course has begun. If you know law school is where you want to be, and your LSAT score is important to you, then do yourself a favor, and take the time to start preparing properly.
The LSAT is often dramatized well beyond its actual difficulty. In particular, LSAT logic games have attained mythical status as problems of intimidating and sometimes insurmountable difficulty, although in reality the skills that they require are eminently coachable.
Thus, each administration of the LSAT finds many future law students extremely nervous. Some students even give up on their dreams of law school because they find the LSAT to be unconquerable. But, there’s a silver lining — these problems can be solved. With the correct prep, unpreparedness can be remedied, and nervousness can be replaced with confidence.
Preparation comes first
Many people oversimplify preparation for the LSAT by boiling it down to a test prep course. You might say, “I will sign up for a course, I will show up to each class, and all will be well.” Having prepared countless students for the LSAT, we can say with certainty that this is the wrong approach.
Let’s put it in LSAT logic terms. Courses are helpful, and sometimes necessary to comprehend, internalize, and apply often foreign, LSAT concepts. However, they are often insufficient to achieve the LSAT score students seek. It’s the work done outside the classroom, both before and during the course, that is by far the most important work one can do to prepare.
While the LSAT is not a knowledge-based exam, the writers of the exam do expect that test-takers possess a minimum degree of proficiency in terms of vocabulary, logic, and reading comprehension. A test prep course will teach you general test-taking abilities and strategies, and will increase your understanding of the structure and scoring of exam. However, you should not expect a test prep course to teach things like vocabulary, familiarity with English idioms, and of course, logical reasoning. In those areas, you will need to rely on time spent outside the course to seek improvement.
This begs the question: how can you build these skills if not through an LSAT prep course? There’s no single right or wrong answer, but here are three things you can do outside of class to improve your results:
1. High-level reading with a dictionary (or the smartphone app equivalent) close by is extremely helpful.
If you’re having difficulty with the reading sections, the best thing you can do is to make a habit of reading the New York Times op-ed section.
2.Learn to read differently.
This is not just about what you are reading during your free time, but how you are reading it. Students trained to satisfy the demands of undergraduate essay writing tend to speed read volumes of source materials, and skip over words that look like fluff or filler in pursuit of the main ideas that they can use in their essays. Ironically, the parts of a sentence that are properly deemed unimportant in an undergraduate reading or research exercise are the most important for LSAT purposes. This means is that when you prep for the LSAT, you need to rewire your brain to read a different way. You have to read every single word, and this means reading slower. Only when you train yourself to read meticulously out of pure habit can you then focus on speeding up to exam time constraints.
3. Do logic games at home.
They are easy to find in bookstores or online, and they hone the skills you will need on the analytical reasoning section. Also, by learning to do these games for fun, rather than as a chore, you’ll internalize what you’ve learned.
3 Basic Steps to Make the Most of Your LSAT Prep Course
Assuming you have begun a course with the right foundation in reading comprehension, logic and vocabulary, you still have a lot of work to do at home in order to adequately prepare, which can be boiled down to three basic steps:
1. Do tons of practice exams under testing conditions.
Yes, that means waking up as early as you would for the exam, allotting the same amount of time you are given on the exam, taking the same breaks you will take on the exam, etc.
2. Analyze your results on practice exams.
Doing this will allow you to understand what you’re struggling with and how you can improve. Tutors help tremendously in this regard, and if you have done enough real past problems under testing conditions, an experienced tutor will be able to tell the difference between an ad-hoc error in judgment, which can be ignored, and a bad habit, which must be addressed. If you are not working with a tutor, go through an exam you’ve taken that same day, while it’s fresh in your mind, pay attention to incorrect answers, and try to remember how you got your answer. Try to notice patterns in your process, in how you eliminate wrong answer choices, and in how you pace yourself in each section.
3. Answer practice questions in areas of weakness.
You can’t take exams every day, and you shouldn’t anyway! On the days you are not taking exams, drill the problem areas you have identified. If you are too slow in your games section, think about how you could have reached the same answer quicker. Maybe noticing a clue in the question would have saved you time, or maybe you could have skipped doing a complete process of elimination on one particular question. You might discover new weaknesses along the way, or weaknesses you had previously identified as strengths. Don’t worry about it! That is perfectly normal. Just add it to the list of things that need more work.
The takeaway from all of this is simple; LSAT test prep often begins at home, before your course, and continues at home even after your course has begun. If you know law school is where you want to be, and your LSAT score is important to you, then do yourself a favor, and take the time to start preparing properly.