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 in order to maximize 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 in to 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 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 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 easily 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 serious time pressure – you are forced to tackle this really hard stuff very quickly. You have about a minute and a half on average to perform each individual question on the LSAT. Invariably you will find that you could be more certain 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 hardest LSAT questions.
Subjective Hazards of The LSAT:
This list could go on forever, but some main problems are that:
1. The LSAT is really really stressful for most people. The LSAT is incredibly important in the law school admissions, 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 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 studying currently 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 their 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 key. You have to pick a good system for approaching the problems and stick with it consistently. Generally that means stick with one prep company’s method for diagramming problems, as switching around makes things harder on yourself. I discuss the best LSAT material on this post: LSAT Prep Books & Self-Study – How I got a 177 on the LSAT.
How to Make The LSAT Easier
Tackling the LSAT doesn’t have to be miserable. Follow advice that you find on sites such as this and follow proven strategies. This will put your mind at ease because you know you are doing the best you can to prep right. If you have any questions about a good LSAT study schedule or anything else, ask us in the comments. The LSAT is hard, but beatable. Best of luck!