The LSAT & Study Tips
Ah the LSAT. My worst enemy. If you’re thinking about law school, you’ll need to study for and take the LSAT (or in some cases the GRE, but I only took the LSAT so I cannot speak to the difference). In today’s blog post, I’m going to share with you everything you need to know about the LSAT, plus some study tips!
Scored out of 180 and broken up into three categories of questions, the LSAT is typically* a multi-hour ordeal administered in two parts. In the first part, you’ll complete three 35-minute multiple choice sections. After a short break, you’ll complete two 35-minute multiple choice sections. One of these sections is a variable, un-scored section. The LSAT also has a 35-minute un-scored writing section. This is now offered online.
In September 2019, the LSAT moved away from a pencil and paper test to electronic tablets. I took the LSAT in July 2019 when LSAC was testing these tablets. For my exam, you did not know if you would have pencil and paper or a tablet until you arrived at the testing center. To compensate for this, LSAC allowed my test to see their scores and THEN cancel them- which is pretty much unheard of.
There is only one scored section of reading comp on the LSAT. Reading comprehension tests your ability to quickly read, comprehend, and answer questions related to the prompt in a short time. The readings often cover a wide variety of subjects and will use tricky language. It is not your job to be an expert in the topic, but to be an expert in identifying the main points of the passage in order to quickly and accurately respond to the questions. Timing yourself while doing reading comp is super important. The goal is to answer as many questions correctly as possible, so recognize what this means for your strategy.
There is only one scored section of analytical reasoning on the LSAT. Also known as logic games, this was my favorite part of the LSAT. In these questions, you are given a set of conditions followed by roughly 5-7 questions about the conditions. You’ll often find yourself drawing diagrams to represent the relationships amongst the conditions following various rules. Given the time constraints, I highly recommend you work on these under timed conditions and take the time to learn about the different types of games you might encounter. This will help you determine how and when to diagram and the best ways to identify what relationships can and cannot be true under various circumstances!
There are two scored sections of logical reasoning on the LSAT. This was my least favorite part of the LSAT, so of course it has the most sections that actually count. As LSAC says, “[t]he LSAT’s Logical Reasoning questions are designed to evaluate your ability to examine, analyze, and critically evaluate arguments as they occur in ordinary language.” In these types of questions, you’ll often be completing an argument. It is VERY easy to make assumptions with these types of questions, and that is the first thing you must learn not to do.
The writing section, administered online any time after the date of your LSAT, is an un-scored, 35-minute section. In this section, you are given a prompt and must argue for one position. There’s no right or wrong, so you just need to create and formulate a coherent response. I recommend doing a few practice prompts under timed conditions so you know what to expect. Also, make sure you are in a quiet room where no one will come in and interrupt or walk in behind you since you are recorded. I booked a conference room at my office and put a sign on the door so I could complete this section uninterrupted.
* You’ll notice I said the LSAT is typically a multi-hour ordeal administered in two parts. Due to COVID-19, tests since May 2020 were administered as the LSAT-Flex. The Flex only consisted of three 35-minute scored sections, one section for each category. Because the test can not be administered in person, you must use a webcam and audio to test remotely. To be honest, I’m not sure how I would have felt about this version of the test!
To be honest, I found it very difficult to balance studying and working full time. I worked a lot of overtime hours and often did not take a lunch break. Looking back, I wish I had pushed harder to separate myself from work. I do think that greatly impacted my score. However, I cannot begin to explain how important it was for me to get that real life work experience. So whether you’re a current student or already out in the working world, here are some tips that might help you with studying.
Create A Schedule & Stick To It
I started self-studying in January 2019 using the PowerScore Bible Trilogy and signed up for an online-anytime course through Blueprint. I figured this would allow me to work my late hours and study in the mornings, during lunch, or late at night. Personally, I would NEVER do this again.
What I thought gave me flexibility actually gave me room to procrastinate, make excuses, and work more hours than I should have been asked/said yes to. I made myself a study schedule and really only stuck to it when work was quiet. Luckily, my boyfriend was also studying for the LSAT so we would both take some practice sections before hanging out and that kept me accountable. I also set aside dedicated weekends to go home and study at my parents’ house so I could really focus.
If I had to do this again, I would sign up for an in-person class in the evenings and tell my employers that I must leave by x-time on those days and another paralegal would be covering for me. Whatever you do, make sure it works best for you and no one else. Make a schedule and stick to it. And while you’re making that schedule, include some off days so you can relax, see friends, or work the OT you promised.
The most important study tip, which I’ve already mentioned several times, is to practice under timed conditions. At the beginning of your studying, it’s important to take time to understand the questions and correct answers. But once you are familiar with each category and the types of questions you will encounter, start taking timed sections and don’t stop. I hated setting aside time to take timed tests, but this the best way to practice, tried and true!
Overestimate Your Study Time
Something I know I should have done more was over-estimate how much time I needed to study. Most prep courses recommend giving yourself several months of study time. They say that for a reason, so listen to them! I underestimated severely how much prep time I would need and found myself pretty much cramming the week before the test when I should have been relaxing and reviewing. If you think you need 4 months, make it 5. If you think you need 6 months, make it 7. This is for your future, after all!
Simulate The Test Environment
Another thing I should have done more was simulate the actual test-taking environment. I often studied on my bed or at my desk in my apartment. Looking back, I wish I would have booked a conference room at my office. I think this would have helped me get even more into the test taking mindset before the test. While my lovely bff/roommate was great about keeping the noise down when she knew I was studying, a bedroom in a small 2 bedroom in NYC could not be further from the actual testing environment.