FAQ @

The LSAT

Studying

Tutoring FAQ

If you have a question which isn’t covered here, feel free to send it in.  I’ll try to answer it, and may add it to the FAQ.  I’m going to keep adding to this section.

The LSAT

What is the LSAT?

It’s a standardized Test required for admission to almost all law schools in North America.

What do schools do with the LSAT?

It depends on the school.  But, it’s thought that most schools use it to sort applications, along with your GPA.  Among other factors, the average LSAT score and GPA of an entering class affects a law schools rank with US News and World Report.  That ranking is very important to schools, so they consider a good LSAT score important.  They will be more likely to admit or award scholarships to students with high LSAT scores.

The LSAT has also been correlated with success in first year law school.  That is the official reason it is required.

Should I be worried?

No.  For one thing, worry actually will lower your LSAT score.  Seriously.  I’ve seen massive change in a student’s ability to answer LSAT questions if they were feeling calm vs. stressed.

But also, it’s normally not too hard to meet your goals.  Plan ahead, learn the different types of questions, and practice.  Take note of what’s giving you trouble, and see if you can figure out how to improve on that.  If you can’t, ask a friend, the internet, or find a tutor.

Every student can improve, and most students can usually get a score which matches their GPA percentile.

What kinds of questions are there on the LSAT?

It’s a test of logic.  There are two sections of logical reasoning questions, one section of reading comprehension, and one section of logic games.  There is also a practice section, which will be one of those three types….but you won’t know which one was the practice section.  There is also an essay to write, but it’s not nearly as important as the rest.  See the rest of my site for more on these different sections.

Studying

Should I take a class?

That depends.  Are you a self-learner, or do you usually need external pressure to learn things?  It’s very possible to learn the LSAT on your own (I did), and for a lot less money than a class.  On the other hand, you have to actually DO it.  If you aren’t able to sit down and practice on your own, then a class might provide motivation.

It may be useful to compare costs.  LSAT classes are expensive.  Kaplan is currently about 1200$ (regular price 1400$), Testmasters is 1450$, Powerscore is 1300$.  For that, you get 40 (Kaplan)-80 (Testmasters) hours of instruction, plus your materials.  For comparison purposes, let’s use an average cost of 1350$.

You could study on your own by buying the three full LSAC prep books (containing 30 tests), plus the LSAT superprep book (3 more tests, plus full explanations from the LSAC) for about 85$.

In most American cities you can find an LSAT tutor for 30-100$ per hour.  Probably you’d need to pay 50$ for a good one.  You could get 24 hours of lessons for 1200$ at that price.

Which means that, for about the same price, you have two options:

  1. One LSAT class, or
  2. All of the LSAC prep books plus 2 hours a week of one on one instruction for three months.

You probably wouldn’t need that much one on one help, either.  Any fewer lessons means you save money.  You could also take a bit less lesson time and buy a couple of the Powerscore Bibles, which are pretty good books for self study.

You get less total instruction time with the second option, but it’s all specifically tailored to you.  If you have enough motivation to study on your own, then I would definitely recommend you buy the LSAC materials, try them out, and hire a tutor as needed.  Not necessarily me.

How did YOU study for the LSAT?

I studied on my own out of a Kaplan book.  I didn’t take a class, or hire a tutor.  The LSAT really isn’t that big of a deal in Canada.  I was living at home that summer, in a smallish city on Canada’s east coast.  Kaplan was what they had in the local bookstore, so Kaplan was what I bought.

I went through the instruction sections, then timed myself doing practice tests.  A couple of weeks before the test, I realized that logic games were my weakest section (they still are, actually), so I bought a second Kaplan book focusing on logic games.  I mostly used it to practice on additional logic games sections.  It worked, and my practice scores on logic games sections improved rapidly.

Overall, I went from a 165 on my first practice test, to a 177 on test day.  Total cost was about 60$ for the prep materials.  I’d say I practiced a couple of hours a week for a couple of months, and then increased that quite a bit during the last month.

Very cheap, but I would not recommend cutting prep costs that low.  At a bare minimum I’d say you should buy all of the LSAC books (see here for more info on those), and a couple sessions with a tutor to improve your weak points.

What skills do I need to learn to get a better score?

To succeed on the LSAT you need to be able to do three things well.  Understand the questions (comprehension), do them quickly (speed), and get through the whole test without getting tired (stamina).

1.  Comprehension: This is the most important.  If you understand the questions, you’ll do them faster.  And the easier they are, the less likely you are to get tired.  Focus on doing questions right before you focus on doing themfast.  You’ll have to do the second part eventually, but it will come later.  Slow down, and focus on understanding what you’re reading.

2.  Speed: Once you start answering questions correctly with pretty high accuracy, it’s time to move on to speed.  You can ease into it by giving yourself 45 minutes per section, then 40, then 35.  Some sort of downward progression which gets you used to doing the questions both correctly and quickly.

A counterintuitive tip to increase your speed is to slow down, and focus on the question, not the answer choices.  Many students rush through the stimulus, read the answer choices, look back to the stimulus, back to the answer choices, etc.  It’s much quicker to understand the stimulus on the first read, and quickly eliminate 2-4 answer choices because you understood the question.  You’ll always go faster if you understand.

Once you get pretty good at speed, you should practice by doing entire sections at a time, in 35 minutes.

3.  Stamina: Less important than the others, but still crucial.  Are you missing more questions at the end of the section than at the start?  They aren’t actually any harder, you’re just getting tired.  You can help fix this by practicing with full practice tests.  You can even try two at a time if you’re feeling energetic and have an afternoon to spare.  The actual LSAT lasts about five hours when you count the practice section, breaks, instructions, writing sample, etc.  So make sure you’re used to doing well after three hours of LSAT.

This is obvious, but if you’re not getting enough sleep, or eating poorly, then fixing those things can help your LSAT score.

What kind of study schedule should I do?

Much like whether you should take a class, the answer to this question depends on you.  Some students can keep doing the LSAT for hours and hours, other get bleary eyed after 1-2 hours.  Some people profit from slow, steady work, and others work best when they do most of their practice near test date (I fall into the second category).  So, think about how you usually study best, and try and adapt your study schedule to that.

If you’re practicing Comprehension, then don’t study when you’re tired.  You’ll learn much better when you’re awake.  If you’re practicing forStamina, you’ll have to work on pushing through fatigue.

It’s really hard to answer this question without knowing the particulars of the situation.  Some people work long hours, some are students.  Some people are writing in a month, others 5.  Budget as much time as you’re able, and when you’re feeling alert.  Focus on understanding the questions first, then move on to speed and stamina.

I heard it’s a good idea to read newspapers and magazines to prepare for reading comp?

Not as much as you’d think.  If you feel like reading them, go for it, but it won’t help that much for the LSAT.  The LSAT reading comp questions are all written in the same style.  Learning this style is the key to improving on the reading comp section.  So the best thing to read to practice for the reading comp section is….LSAT reading comp questions.

What do you mean “in the same style”?

The reading comp questions all tend to have a similar structure.  Each paragraph will generally cover one topic.  The most important thing will be to get the general idea, and to know where to look if any of the questions ask about particular details.

When you finish a section, try looking back at a passage where you didn’t do well.  Take all the time you need to map out the structure of the passage.  Figure out the main theme of each paragraph, and of the passage as a whole.  Then try the questions.

How many notes, underlines, highlights, etc. should I add to the passage?

I actually add nothing like that.  Works well for me.  But I don’t make many notes like that in books generally.  If you do, then you still might find notes helpful on the LSAT.

The only way to be sure is to try.  Try a few passages with no notes, and see how you do.  Just focus on what the passage is telling you.  See if you improve.

You can also try simply taking less notes.  I’m pretty sure that most people who take notes on the passage take too many.  Try taking less and see if you improve.  Once you’re done, review the notes you did make.  Did they help you?  Adjust the quantity of notes you make accordingly.

But don’t feel you need to make notes on the passage at all.  I don’t.

I hate ­­­___________ questions, I don’t understand the jargon.  I am only good at _______ questions

I hear this a lot.  If you studied geography, you’ll probably find geography questions a bit easier.  Science questions tend to give people the most trouble.

What people don’t realize is that you never need to know the vocabulary.  It’s only there to confuse you, and the LSAC always provides a workaround.  Try this sentence.

Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate carbon substrates such as lactate, glycerol, and glucogenic amino acids.  This allows the body to maintain blood sugar levels.

Buh?  What the devil is glycerol?  ….It doesn’t matter.  Here’s how you should read that sentence:

“Gluconeogenesis…. allows the body to maintain blood sugar levels.”

If any question asked you about that in more detail, you could look back to it.

So, If you see text you don’t understand….don’t skip it!  Slow down, and focus on the words you do understand.  Try and get the meaning of the sentence from them.  90% of the time, it will work.  The goal is to understand the passage, not to finish it.

Tutoring FAQ

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