How Hard Is The LSAT, Really?
The LSAT is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is not the sort of person from whom you should be taking LSAT advice. The vast majority of people have to put in many hours of study to reach their potential on the LSAT. I attended a top law school, U Chicago, and met only a couple of people who claimed to have crushed it with minimal study.
Why is the LSAT so hard?
When you climb Mount Everest, which I think everyone agrees is hard, the difficulty factors fall into two main categories: “objective hazards” and “subjective hazards.” Objective hazards are the things you can’t control like avalanches and seracs (giant blocks of ice) which can land on your head. Subjective hazards are things like equipment failure, fatigue, and falling due to inattention. These are factors that are more within the climber’s control.
The LSAT is a lot like high altitude mountaineering on Everest: the LSAT is hard both for reasons you can control and for reasons you can’t. Also, both are a slog, and most people wonder why on earth you would put yourself through that. Here are the main obstacles to your success:
Objective Hazards of The LSAT:
The LSAT is objectively hard for two main reasons:
1. The LSAT requires you to use logic in a way that is not intuitive to most people. The language used in LSAT questions is often deliberately subtle, confusing, and difficult to fully grasp. Also, you are simply given more information to keep track of than you can comfortably hold in level mind all at once. Add to that the fact that there are three different kinds of sections on the LSAT each containing a different type of unintuitive problem.
2. The LSAT puts you under severe time pressure – you are forced to tackle this tough material very quickly. You have about a minute and a half on average to perform each question on the LSAT. Invariably, you will find that you could be more confident that you’ve chosen the correct answer if you had more time, but you don’t. Of course, there is the occasional easy question, but you have to do those even faster, fast as a leopard so that you have more time to spend those precious seconds on the most laborious LSAT questions.
Subjective Hazards of The LSAT:
This list could go on forever, but some main problems are that:
1. The LSAT is really stressful for most people. The LSAT is incredibly important in the law school admissions process, and the fact that you only have at most a few shots to get it right raises the intensity level to what feels like a few thousand degrees. While this is a subjective pressure that you put on yourself, most people I know didn’t get through the LSAT without hurdling over some serious stress. I have had tutoring students who scored nearly 180 on most practice tests yet have had a lot of trouble getting it right on test day until they learned to conquer stress. For those of you currently studying, read my post on managing stress during your LSAT prep.
2. Studying for the LSAT is hard work and you have to combat burnout and fatigue. The LSAT is more like an IQ test than anything else because there is no material you have to memorize to perform on it. The best way to study is to do a ton of the problems until it feels natural. You have to become more LSAT machine than human. Often, this has to be done while you are working or finishing up undergrad. It is no surprise that study burnout is one of the most frequent complaints from those challenging the LSAT.
3. The LSAT is going to take every ounce of mental horsepower you’ve got. There is no getting around the harsh reality that the LSAT does reward natural ability. Even if everyone studied their utmost, many would not be able to reach the highest scoring levels. If the test were not this way, it would solely be a test of how well you can apply yourself. While the test rewards hard work, it is also designed to test natural ability at certain kinds of mental processes that the test makers argue help predict an applicant’s ability to perform well in law school. You have to do what you can to maximize the use of your natural abilities.
4. You have to study smart.While I suppose it’s possible to do well after haphazardly doing a lot of problems for a few months, most people see the best results when they carefully choose a plan of study and use well-chosen prep materials. This last part is critical. You have to pick a good system for approaching the problems and stick with it consistently. That means sticking with one method for diagramming because switching around makes things harder on yourself. I discuss the best LSAT material (which will teach you the best methods) on this post: LSAT Prep Books & Self-Study – How I got a 177 on the LSAT.
How to Make The LSAT Easier
The only thing to do the make your LSAT experience easier is to prepare adequately. If you’ve done the job well, your LSAT test day is going to feel more or less routine because you’ve practiced it many times before. The one and the only way to make sure you get to feeling automatic is to prepare with a good study schedule. We provide premium plans based on what I did to score a 177 on the LSAT.
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