5 Harsh Truths That Will Make You Better At The LSAT

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A lot of people giving prep advice, particularly people selling it, are a little over-concerned with making LSAT prep students feel good about what they are doing to prepare to take the test. We here at LSI are more concerned that you get the best score you can.

This means doing what you should do, even if you might break down in tears and throw your LSAT prep books across the room a few times during your LSAT prep.

In this post, we take our gloves off and hit you with five harsh truths about what you are doing wrong to study for the LSAT.

  HARSH TRUTH # 1:    You Aren’t Prepping Hard Enough 

I’d estimate that over 80% of the people I’ve spoken to over the years weren’t doing enough prep to max out their score on the LSAT.

Taking the LSAT is a skill. THE ONLY WAY TO GET BETTER AT A SKILL IS THROUGH INTENSE PRACTICE. Unless you are already getting a 180 on every single practice test, you can benefit immensely from intense practice.

I have heard people say things like, “The LSAT is only 3 hours long, so I didn’t see the point in ever studying any longer than that any given day” or, “Your brain works best when you only prep for an hour, so I only study an hour each day. Quality is what counts.” This is all 100% pure, unadulterated nonsense.

Proper intense prep is something closer to three hours plus on three days of the week and five hours plus at least two days of the week. See our study schedules for full recommendations.

Bear in mind this doesn’t mean you should study intensely each minute of the hours you devote to prep in a given day. Take plenty of little breaks throughout or space out the prep considerably over the course of a day. If prep feels like you are torturing yourself all the time, you are doing it wrong.

That said, it will take mental focus and commitment to make the required effort — LSAT prep isn’t easy. In my time observing LSAT prep students, the ones who were really serious and intense about it grossly outperformed the slackers on the real test and made way bigger improvements along the way.

When you do LSAT prep you are literally trying to foster new connections in the brain. Do it like everyone else who is serious about getting better at a skill. Chess masters train intensely. Great tennis players train intensely. Great LSAT takers should train intensely as well.

To this end, make sure you look at the daily LSAT schedules we’ve set up. They won’t be easy, but that’s a good thing. If you aren’t up to the kind of self-motivated work involved in LSAT prep (and more so in law school), it’s best to know now.

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If you are looking for a more detailed schedule, we’ve just released a brand new day-by-day LSAT Prep Schedules for highly-motivated students. These premium LSAT study schedules are available in the following lengths: 10-week, 12-week (3-month), 14-week, & 16 week (4-month). Select the study schedule best-suited to your needs:

These intense schedules for motivated self-studiers uses the Powerscore Bibles to make use of all the best study materials currently available.

Click Here To Get The Daily LSAT Schedules

Following a rigorous schedule is a relatively small investment for potentially massive returns. 3 or 4 points either way on the LSAT can mean the difference between a large scholarship at your dream school or just getting in. It might be a long time before you earn this much money with that little work, so take the opportunity and get down to business.

  HARSH TRUTH # 2:    You May Have Wasted Time & Money   On Terrible LSAT Prep Materials

If you are new to the LSAT prep world, you can be excused for not knowing this, but some LSAT prep companies have a much better reputation than others.

Kaplan, Princeton Review, Barron’s, and McGraw-Hill are all companies that really have no business teaching the LSAT. They are just throwing a lot of advertising dollars around and trading on their reputation for helping high school students prep for the ACT/SAT to make a quick buck. Kaplan isn’t as bad as the rest of them, but they are still second-rate. It’s a bit like Nike making skateboards. This just isn’t their niche.

If you are thinking of going with these companies, don’t do it.don't do it No one is paying me to saying this. Look around the internet and you’ll see that other disinterested experts agree with me.

When I started my LSAT prep I went out and bought everything that was at my local bookstore. Only later, when I wasn’t seeing the improvements that I was hoping to make, did I begin to do some serious research. I found that Powerscore’s Logic Games Bible was the top choice of most top-scorers. When my copy came in the mail and I cracked it open, I quickly realized that it was hand’s down better than the other books that I had been using.

Even though I had already learned the Kaplan system, I made the decision to begin using PowerScore’s techniques instead. Only then did I begin to see real improvements in my LSAT score. Make the switch to better instructional materials and you will see real benefits. Even if you are halfway or more through your LSAT studies, it isn’t too late to go over to a decent prep company. With logic games especially, it is of paramount importance that you have a good system. Diagramming logic games correctly helps you go faster, plain and simple.

Go with books from a company that started in the LSAT world. Powerscore, Manhattan LSAT, Blueprint, Fox Test Prep – all of these companies carry good reputations for helping people get top scores on the LSAT. Of course you also need a ton of actual, official LSAT Practice Tests.

  HARSH TRUTH # 3:    Don’t Expect an LSAT Prep Course   To Save You From Under-Preparing 

I think a lot of people sign up for an LSAT prep course and just go on autopilot from there, lazily doing only some of the assignments and thinking that they are getting everything they need. This despite the fact that every good LSAT prep course tells you outright THAT YOU HAVE TO DO PLENTY OF PRACTICE ON YOUR OWN.

Even the best LSAT courses are designed to complement to self-study. They tend to run two months and stop well before the LSAT to allow you time to do plenty of full simulated practice tests before the actual date of the test.

Incredibly, I saw lot’s of prep students who would complete the course then basically do nothing up until the test. What are you doing???I Feel Like I'm Taking Crazt Pills! Your brain is going to totally atrophy in that last month!!!

Obviously this is closely related to harsh truth #1 (you aren’t prepping hard enough), but I want to focus here on length of prep. One month of prep is certainly not enough time to study for the LSAT. Two months of prep is cutting it damn close, and doing two months right probably requires too much work such that you run the risk of burn out.

Say it with me: “I will study for the LSAT at LEAST two and a half months or more. I. Will. Prep. For. Two. And. A. Half. Months. Or. More.

In my experience, I’ve found that a 3 month  or 4 month LSAT Study Schedule seems to be ideal for most students. I don’t know why this seems to be the magic number exactly, but it works for most people. On the other hand, if you have significant outside commitments like a full-time job or demanding college course load, you might want to spend 5 months or even 6 months studying for the LSAT

As LSAC themselves note, performance on the exam correlates strongly with length of prep, so don’t put off LSAT prep until there’s not enough time.

  HARSH TRUTH # 4:    You Can’t Expect To Hit Your PT average   On The Day of the Real LSAT   If You Don’t Simulate Exam Conditions 

I was guilty of this some of the time during my LSAT prep, but really, don’t make it a habit. If you’re doing simulated tests with only 4 sections and taking little breaks between sections to get up and stretch and get water, you aren’t really doing the test the way it will be on test day. Obey the LSAT Dog

At least half the time that you do full simulated LSAT preptests, make sure you do it just the way it will be on test day: add a fifth section from an older test to simulate an experimental section. Do 3 timed sections without stopping, bam, bam, bam. Then take a break. After that do two more timed sections without a break. Stop. You just did a simulated correctly.

If you don’t do this on a regular basis, don’t expect to hit your practice test average on test day. You won’t have built up the proper stamina to think at full speed for the entire five sections. That said, it’s perfectly okay to often do just 4 sections with breaks in between.

My theory of test prep is that you have to get good at things under ideal conditions before you make it harder on yourself.

  HARSH TRUTH # 5:    You Can’t Do Your Best On The LSAT   If You Don’t Stop Partying All The Time 

I saved perhaps the harshest truth for last…

I’m sorry if this makes you cry, but you just aren’t going to hit your top score on the LSAT if you are knocking your brain around by blacking out every Friday night. I don’t understand all of the science, but all signals indicate that drinking is just terrible for the learning mind. If you are going to run at full speed, you have to cut out binge drinking for at least two months before the LSAT.

I know this is especially painful because many of you are in your senior year of college and are trying to have fun with friends. Frankly this is one of the reasons why I advocate taking a year off instead of going straight through to law school. If you’re a social butterfly & you want to enjoy your senior year of college to it’s fullest, you may want to seriously consider studying for the test later, when you won’t be missing out as much. nicholson

That said, it’s okay to go out and have a couple of drinks from time to time. What I’m really advocating is that you cut out the heavy drinking. Both of us totally abstained from drinking during LSAT prep and we are convinced that we have never been smarter in our lives than when we walked into the LSAT on test day.

Don’t worry. The world will still be waiting for you when you get back from the LSAT. I had a huge martini as soon as I left the testing center, and it was the most satisfying drink I’ve ever had.

We’re Here to Help

LSAT Mastermind GroupFor those shooting to do the very best possible on the LSAT, we invite you to work with us. We run the LSAT Mastermind Group, a small group of motivated students who can help each other and rely on Josh and I for support. We are in the process of inviting a small number of highly-motivated students aiming for the top, so join now if you are interested. Once you are in, you are in for life, with access to hundreds of lessons and weekly small group tutoring/coaching with Josh and myself.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE LSAT MASTERMIND STUDY GROUP

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Now that I’ve played LSAT bad cop for a while, let me point you toward some more soothing advice: how to relax and manage stress before the LSAT. While we aren’t your therapist, you may find it comforting that we are here to answer your LSAT and law school related questions. If you need some real expert advice from someone who will give it to you straight up, ask us anything in the comments or on twitter @onlawschool. Good luck!

66 Comments

  1. Hello guys,

    I have taken the LSAT 2 official times about 2 years. On my PTs, I kept scoring mid 150s with some mid 160s but a lack of consistency. Well anyway, it’s 2 weeks before October and I’m scoring a little under 160. I’m torn between hoping for the best or preparing for december instead while applying late. I have a low GPA so I need a high LSAT. Do you have any advice or even a 2 month schedule for pushing my studies for December? I got a tutor this time too but we focused less on time and in the past i’ve psyched myself out with overtesting.

    • Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

      Be careful, LSAC says:

      Normally, you may not take the LSAT more than three times in any two-year period. This policy applies even if you cancel your score or it is not otherwise reported. LSAC reserves the right to withdraw your registration, rescind your admission ticket, or take any other steps necessary to enforce this policy. (http://www.lsac.org/jd/help/faqs-lsat)

      You might not be able to take in December if you cancel now. Figure this out and then make your decision. I would ask your tutor, who will know your situation better, what they think. If you have underprepared up til now then taking in Oct. is probably not the greatest idea. You should only take the LSAT after you have prepared correctly.

  2. Joshua,

    Have you heard great things about Testmasters prep company, which was created by Robin Singh? I’m taking the class right now, but I find the amount of homework to be quite overwhelming. Should I continue to take the class and use their strategies or should I continue to take the class and use the Bibles from Powerscore and use the questions from Testmasters to practice? Please help. I’m very confused and stressed.

    • Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

      You are fine sticking with testmasters. They have a great rep and teach similar methods, so know need to worry. We just don’t recommend them for self-study because they don’t have comprehensive books apart from the course. Continue to take the class and use their strategies. Ask your teacher about any extra prep you might do if you feel you need it.

  3. First of all, thanks for this great site, in just a few minutes it has taught me a lot. But my question is, I am a 40 year old who put Law School dreams away years ago, and I want to go back now and do it. In your experience, is it a crazy idea for someone my age to do this? Do you have any special advice for an older LSAT or Law School hopeful like me? Thanks in advance!

    • Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

      Pat, there were only a few 35+ students at our school (UChicago) but they all did great when it came time to get jobs. My friend Jeremy was on law review and was wined and dined by firms, so don’t think you would have any disadvantage over younger students.

      My advice though is to really make sure you go to school under circumstances likely to lead to a lucrative job and if you are absolutely sure you want to be a lawyer (my guess is you are better able to answer the question “do you want to be a lawyer?” better than most fresh graduates).

  4. Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

    No problem Amy, we’re glad you find it helpful! Definitely think through all this stuff heavily. It sounds like you’ve got quite a bit on your plate at the moment.

    Just a heads up if and when you do go to law school: UChicago absolutely loves to admit student-athletes (other schools do as well obviously, but I know the admissions dean has directly expressed a wish to get more of them to the school).

  5. Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

    Evan here. As you may have gleaned from my recent post on fixing law school costs (http://lawschooli.com/fixing-the-cost-of-law-school-by-slashing-generous-student-loans/) I am an avid Campos reader, and I agree with him on a lot of points.

    What Campos likes to ignore, because he is something of a sensationalist, is the fact that many many people do still have terrific outcomes from going to law school. The problem is that most people are a poor judge ex ante of whether they are likely to be in the category that does well or the one that fares poorly.

    Our position is that in the current market, you should pursue law school only under the following conditions, which generally ensure that law school is a ‘safe’ bet:

    1. You get in to a T6. T6 schools are still worth the price even at full tuition (though obviously you should go to the one that gives you the most money). Everyone I know at UChicago was able to secure legal employment without overwhelming difficultly and they now are doing well by most measures, except for the ones who are unhappy because of the long hours.

    2. You go to a lower T14 with pretty substantial scholarship money. These schools are a little risky now if you incur full debt to attend. I still think almost everyone is going to have good outcomes coming from these schools, but life will be a lot easier if you don’t have over 150K in debt.

    3. You go to a lower school in the T50 with very substantial money. My belief is that most of these schools are not going to be giving you enough value unless you are getting over half tuition to attend (or your parents are paying the remainder, see next point). Even half tuition leaves you with what looks like a lot to pay back given that you might struggle to obtain a high paying job. You also must be absolutely satisfied with the possibility of working in the region where the school is located.

    4. Your parents are paying for your degree. If you emerge with no debt, law school is still a pretty great idea from any school in the T100. As you can see in the article, Campos is critical of the idea that a JD has real value if you choose to work outside the law, even suggesting it can be a hindrance. He has never that I’ve seen presented any good evidence that it harms you to get a JD. A JD still confers respectability, opens a lot of networking doors, and provides a great education.

    5. You can’t even fathom being anything other than a lawyer, and that is all you want to do in life. For a tiny subset of the population, this is how they are going to feel no matter what anyone says. This subset is still well advised to make intelligent decisions about cost when attending.

    Naturally, in all these scenarios you still have to weigh law school against other opportunities that you will have to forgo if you go to law school. Don’t go just because. If you would be happier doing something else, do that. I agree with Campos point that you should have a clear idea what you want to do if you enter the law. If you don’t have a clear idea, I would be concerned whether you are really weighing law school against other options correctly. Also, I fully agree with his point that “should not consider even applying without getting the granular information they need to analyze what is happening to graduates.” This information should be required before one can even access an application, but as it stands students have to do this research on their own.

    I know the picture I’m providing here is a bit dim, but that is part of why we advocate fiercely that people take the LSAT as seriously as possible. We want anyone receiving advice from this site to end up falling in to categories 1-3 (4 is always a bonus too 🙂 ) if they decide to attend law school.

    Keep in touch and let us know if there is anything we can help you with!

    Evan

    • Evan,
      Thank you so much, this has been extremely helpful. I have been studying to take the October LSAT, I’m working full time and I have been training as I am a student-athlete. This gave me a lot of insight and I am seriously going to contemplate taking a year off and really dedicating myself to LSAT study for next year. Thanks again, this site is awesome and beyond helpful!

  6. Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

    No problem Connie. That is quite the task you have undertaken. I’m impressed. Keep at it!

  7. as a student whose mother tongue is not english, LSAT is indeed hard. i have been preparing for a while but still got low scores when i try to do one PT. thanks for reminding me that everyone needs hard work.

  8. Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

    Hi Amy, Evan here. I’ve never heard of Campus Prep, which is a little bit of a bad sign. Typically you want to be wary of programs done through your undergrad school’s pre-law program. That program is extremely cheap and like elsewhere in life, it’s likely that you are getting what you pay for. From a quick scan of their about us page I’m thinking it looks unlikely that someone who even took the LSAT is teaching the class.

    You need to be taught by an LSAT specialist, someone who has mastered the LSAT themselves. This generally means someone who scored in the 99th percentile (around a 172 or better).

    Nowadays, online video instruction allows you to get a competent teacher cheaper than you used to be able to. Self study is the cheapest, and is arguably as effective or more effective than a class provided you can self-motivate.

    The other thing is that, like I said in my post, 6 weeks is just not enough time to prep properly for the LSAT. That the course is set up this way is another big tip off that its not a high quality course.

    Feel free to disregard my advice, but at your peril. I recommend that you explore other options.

  9. I am looking to take a prep class to supplement my self-study. However, the class goes right up until the week before the LSAT and I wanted to ask if you know anything good or about the program? It’s called Campus Prep and runs at $278 for 6 weeks.

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