How the Top Scorers Prepare for the LSAT
Thanks to LSATMax LSAT Prep for this guest blog!
So, you know that your LSAT score is incredibly important for your law school admissions prospects and future success as a lawyer. But how, you may wonder, can you optimally prepare for this über-important exam?
To get the most out of your LSAT prep, strive to achieve (1) consistent, (2) engaged, and (3) strategic prep time.
Consistent. The LSAT tests your ability to think a certain way under extreme time pressure. Unlike other graduate school admissions tests (like the MCAT or GRE), the LSAT is not a content-based exam. You can't memorize your way to a top LSAT score—you have to practice thinking logically.
To ensure that they are fully prepared to think logically under a time crunch on test day, top scorers structure their LSAT prep time to maximize consistency. Consistency in this context means both a consistent approach to each question you encounter, and a consistent method in your daily LSAT prep.
Cultivate a completely consistent approach to each LSAT question. For Logical Reasoning questions, for example, you always want to undertake the same steps in the same order for every single question:
- Read the stimulus carefully and critically.
- Ask yourself: is this an argument, or a set of facts?
- If you identify an argument, be sure you are clear on the premise(s) and the conclusion.
- Evaluate the argument: does the conclusion follow logically from the premises?
- Read the question stem and identify the question type.
- Then read all five answer choices carefully. If you find yourself stuck between two or more answer choices, go back to the stimulus: you've missed something important.
Developing a clear and consistent "order of operations" for each section of the LSAT, and practicing that approach each and every time you sit down to prep for the exam, will help you develop solid habits and a calm state of mind—crucial tools for a successful test-day experience.
You also want to try to be as consistent as possible in your daily LSAT prep methodology. Endeavor to study at the same time and for the same length of time each day. Ideally, you want to be practicing LSAT questions at the same time of day as the exam you will ultimately take—especially if you are not a "morning person" and you are not taking the June LSAT. Sitting still for four hours without distractions or breaks is grueling—if you practice this consistently, you'll find the actual test-day experience much more bearable. Turn off your cell phone, log out of Facebook, and really focus on the task at hand.
Engaged. Many students mistakenly believe that the more they practice—the more practice LSAT questions they answer, the more LSAT Prep Tests they take—the better they'll do on the actual exam. This is not necessarily true. Completing practice Logical Reasoning questions, Logic Games, or Reading Comp passages is only half the battle. It is absolutely critical that you then spend an equal or greater amount of time really reviewing that question, game, or passage and ensuring that you fully understand any mistakes you may have made. If you just plow through as many questions as possible, never stopping to really carefully review each one, you may be cultivating bad habits—failing to evaluate the argument, ignoring the question type, not reading all five answer choices, etc. Top scorers are fully engaged in their LSAT prep—not just when they're answering practice LSAT questions, but also afterwards, when they review their results.
Strategic. Finally, be strategic. For the first few weeks of your LSAT prep, your only objective should be to fully internalize key concepts and logical constructs. This period of LSAT prep should emphasize *untimed* practice: you should spend up to four hours each day on practice LSAT questions and conceptual review. Rather than worry about how long it's taking you to get an answer, focus on ensuring that every answer you arrive at is correct (and, if it's not, make sure you fully understand the mistake(s) you made). Taking the time to really understand each and every mistake you make will help ensure that you won't repeat that mistake.
After all, you will never see that LSAT question again, so it is imperative to take something away from it that you can apply to future LSAT questions. Only after you have really grasped the fundamentals should you start to incorporate strategic timed LSAT practice into your daily LSAT prep routine.
Note that, most often, sitting through more than one full prep test per week is ill-advised. Taking too many full-length LSATs is a great way to burn out, and, if you aren't taking the time to meaningfully review each prep test, it's also a great way to inculcate bad habits.
Introduce timed practice by doing one, two, or three timed sections at a time. Force yourself to answer each question without checking your answers along the way. When you're done, take a short (5 minute) break, and then sit down and spend time carefully reviewing each and every question.
Consistent, engaged, and strategic LSAT prep is critical for optimal scoring!