Test Prep: 7 Tips for LSAT Success

Are you dreaming of getting into a top-tier law school? Having a solid GPA is only part of the equation; getting a high school on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is an absolute must. But unlike most standardized tests that test subjects like mathematics and science, the LSAT is significantly different in that the questions in all sections focus purely on logic. Let us take a closer look at the format.

For starters, you should note that the LSAT contains four multiple choice sections: two separate logical reasoning sections, reading comprehension, and logic games. There is also a writing section following the completion of the first five sections. While the writing section is not given a formal score, a scanned copy given to the law schools where the student applies, whose admissions committees decide how (or even whether) to use it. For each of the other sections, which consist of between 24 and 28 questions, the test-taker is given 35 minutes to answer them. The two logical reasoning sections are the most crucial – combined, they count for 50% of the total exam score. In these sections, you are presented with arguments that you must assess and critique. It could be said that the reading section is most like what you would find on other standardized exams, requiring you to read passages and then answering questions about it. The logic games section consists of four exercises that measures your ability to comprehend the structure of complex relationships. A perfect score on the LSAT is 180, although scoring 165 to 170 is enough to merit serious consideration from the top universities.

Although the very best law schools would obviously expect a high GPA score and evidence that you took high quality classes, the LSAT is truly makes or breaks the deal. Admissions committees regard this test as a really good way to determine whether you are truly law school material. This is why you really need to take the LSAT seriously.

Seven Very Important Things to Remember as You Prepare to Take It

  1. Take the expression “slow and steady wins the race” to heart. If you truly want to get a high score on the LSAT, you definitely should not rush through it. You will want to be deliberate and prepare at least three months in advance if not more. It is also important to devote some time everyday on it; don't just set aside a few hours during the weekends. Think of it the same way that you would train for a 15k race. A person wouldn't sit on the sofa for 5 days and then run sprints on weekends to get themselves into proper condition, right? Likewise, spreading out the study time as opposed to cramming just makes sense. Focus on one section everyday and include a practice exam about once a week based on the actual timed testing conditions.
  2. Choose college classes that focus on logic and critical thought. Although the LSAT does not focus on any of the material that you learned as an undergrad, if you pick your courses wisely, you will already have an advantage. For instance, choosing philosophy, debate class, or critical writing classes would benefit you as you prepare for the LSAT since the amount of analysis of complex theories and texts or presenting arguments in a logical, succinct way is the very essence of the exam. While these classes are not a requirement for taking the LSAT or getting into law school for that matter, if taking them increases your scores by even a couple of points, it could be enough to get you into a top law school. Indeed, a lot of test-takers struggle with the LSAT because they are haven't developed a high level of comfort with reading dense passages on unfamiliar topics. But imagine taking a philosophy class that hones your skills and makes the LSAT seem like second nature. Aside from taking classes, you might also consider joining student organizations or interest groups that allow you to sharpen your critical thinking and logic skills.
  3. Don't study with others. When you are preparing for most tests, it might make sense to do it with a partner or even a group, especially if you are all being tested on the same content. But this strategy will do you no good on the LSAT since the exam is designed to assess your personal strengths and weaknesses in a somewhat abstract way. Since the LSAT focuses heavily on logic and analysis, what might be easy for you could be difficult for a study partner. You would end up with completely difficult results and have unique weaknesses that you should spend more time on. Thus, it would only waste your time if you and a friend are following the exact same routine and focusing on the same exercise problems. Ultimately, the individual approach is the only real way to prepare since your goal will be to figure out what you need to improve and how to improve it.
  4. Do not just answer questions, analyze the results. Because of the unconventional format of the LSAT, you will want to taking as many practice tests as possible in order to get yourself comfortable with it. However, a lot of people make the mistake of only looking at the total results and keeping score as a way of assessing progress…and then they can't understand why after multiple practice tests they have seen no improvement in their scores. What you need to do is exam each question and learn how to detect patterns. You need to ask yourself, “Why am I getting these particular questions wrong?” Study guides will often break down every multiple choice option and explain precisely why they are correct or incorrect. Note that while the material on the actual LSAT will obviously be different from what you see on the practice test, there will be an overall consistency in terms of how the questions are to be interpreted and answered. Aside from identifying wrong answers, it would also be useful to determine why you got certain answers right. This way you will recognize and be able to maintain your strengths why trying to improve upon your weaknesses.
  5. Practice with logic games repeatedly. Students who are unprepared for the LSAT often stumble when trying to answer the logic game exercises since they have never encountered anything like it on a standardize test before. This section consists of four games with between 5 to 7 questions each. The purpose is to comprehend the hypothetical relationships between several individuals or things. It requires a great deal of inference and engaging in the process of elimination. Drawing a diagram is the best way to crack these games. As a matter of fact, the various logic games that you will see on the practice tests follow the exact same patterns that you will notice on the real exam, the only real difference being that the names of the people or objects have changed along with the description of their relationships. Other than that, if you understand the standard rules and patterns that the questions always follow, answering this section will be a piece of cake.
  6. Never skip a question. If you disliked the fact that you were penalized for answering questions incorrectly on the SAT, we have some good news: there is no such penalty for doing this on the LSAT. This means you would want to fill in all of the answers even if you are just taking a guess. After all, the odds that you might get a question right by accident is greater than zero, which is what the chances would be if you leave the question blank. All of the questions are worth the exact same points, so you would not want to waste five minutes on one question that stumps you when you could be answering three questions whose answers you know for certain in that same amount of time. Along the same lines, unlike the GRE, there is no progressive system in which the questions become more difficult when you answer them correctly. The Princeton Review study guide suggestions randomly putting answers into the last 10 questions of each section and then going back and changing them once you reach that part of the exam.
  7. Identify the easiest questions first. According to Kaplan studies that examine the patterns of previous LSATs, the questions in logic games and reading sections get successively more challenging. In other words, the first logic game tends to be easier than the next while the initial reading passage is more simple to understand than what follows. On the other hand, in the logical reasoning section, the easiest sections are generally at the beginning and end while the most difficult ones are right in the middle. As a result, a good strategy for this section is to start at the beginning, and when you sense that questions are getting harder go to the end, answer the questions in reverse order.