We generally recommend prepping for at least 3 months, even under ideal conditions. But if you’ve got a full-time job or a heavy college course load, you’re probably going to want to start prepping sooner.
I was working full time while I prepped for the LSAT, and I was able to do it in 3 months, but I had everything else going for me: no overtime, a peaceful home environment out in the country, good natural ability at the LSAT, and an active job that kept me moving during the day so my brain wasn’t already exhausted at night.
Current research suggests that people can only do about 6 hours a day of good quality intellectual labor a day. If you are using all that up on the job, studying is going to be very difficult.
If you aren’t prepping under ideal conditions, consider a longer course of study, at least 4 months or longer, depending on your situation. Our 4 month LSAT study schedule is a great place to start, and if you can’t keep up, just work through it at your own pace. This doesn’t mean you can slack or study once a week, but it will mean you are under less mental pressure and can study for 1-2 good hours most days, rather than the 3-5 hours per day that I think it takes to study properly in 3 months or less.
Josh was able to improve his score from a 152 to a 177 within 3 months, but he was self-employed when he studied for the LSAT, so his schedule was very flexible. Would Josh have gotten a 177 LSAT score if he had a 9-to-5 job? Probably… but he thinks it may have taken him 4 or 5 months to get there, maybe longer.
When I asked Josh what he would have done differently if he had a full-time job, he said “well, the first thing that I would do is call my boss and schedule vacation days during the 2-3 weeks leading up to LSAT test day.”
Which brings us to tip #2…
“Those last 2-3 weeks are ultimately the most important,” Josh told me. “A month before test day I was still prepping in the 165-168 range. That final stretch was my most intense, focused period of preparation. I lived and breathed the test during those final weeks, which allowed me to break through my plateau into the 170s. On test day I got a 177. Mentally, I was at peak performance, and I have those final few weeks of prep to thank for that.”
I asked Josh what he thought he would have scored if he hadn’t cleared his schedule during those last few weeks: “Let me put it this way… we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now if I didn’t study as hard as I did during that last stretch. I met you because I got into UChicago Law. I got into Uchicago Law because I got a 177 on the LSAT. I got a 177 on the LSAT because I was able to focus solely on the LSAT during the few weeks leading up to the exam. I was able to focus solely on the LSAT during the last few weeks because I cleared my schedule, dedicated myself fully, and gave it everything I had. Those final few weeks made all the difference.”
Study in the morning during the week if you can. Most people tend to do better studying when it’s the first thing they do rather than the last each day. This is especially true if your job/classes require exhausting intellectual labor. The LSAT requires intense focus and attention to detail, and mental fatigue negatively impacts cognition, including motivation, planning and attention. It’s better to feel shot in the afternoon, having already got some good study time under your belt while you were fresh.
Simple lifestyle changes can also improve cognitive function, allowing you to make the most out of your precious prep hours. It’s a great idea to exercise, sleep well and do not drink heavily, if at all. No one has time to go to work or school full-time, prepare for the LSAT, AND maintain an active social life, partying ’til the wee hours on the weekend. I was a big partier through my 20s, and even I was able to cut it out while studying for the LSAT. In all honesty, I think that may have been the single-most important thing I did.
Partying not your thing? Maybe your thing is watching TV. Maybe your thing is Facebook, instagram, twitter or pinterest. Maybe your thing texting or talking on the phone. Partying was my thing that I had to cut out. Yours may be different. But everyone has a thing. If you’re honest with yourself, then you’ve probably already thought of at least a couple of things that waste your time & could easily be cut out of your life (at least temporarily). If you don’t have something in mind already, if you truly can’t think of anything that you waste time on, then you’re either the most INCREDIBLY productive person ever… or you’re not being totally honest with yourself.
Study hours can’t come out of sleep time, either. I saw a lot of New Yorkers try to do this when I tutored there, and it really didn’t work. Prepping for the LSAT isn’t like cramming for finals in undergrad. All-nighters may have been helpful when you had to get that paper in before the deadline, but that strategy isn’t going to work when it comes to prepping for the LSAT.
Even moderate sleep deprivation has a significant impact on cognitive abilities. You’ve gotta be well-rested when you prep or you’re just going to be wasting your time.
Be patient and flexible, but committed. You may have to postpone to a later test date if you aren’t making the progress you desired. Don’t be too hard on yourself if this happens— the majority of students I’m seeing hit the 170+ range on test day have either postponed to a later test date than they first signed up for OR they earned that score on a retake.
When you do decide to take the LSAT, you need to commit 100%. If you shirk your LSAT duties, you are just wasting your own time and won’t be prepared no matter how many times you push the LSAT back. If you find you don’t have the mental energy to commit to both the LSAT and work and/or school now, stop studying and figure out a way that you can make the commitment for real in the future. I have literally never seen anyone get a good score by just poking at the LSAT once a week in a haphazard fashion. It just doesn’t happen.
Our study schedules give you a good idea of the total work that goes into this. It’s a lot. If you want to maximize your score, you need to have done that amount of in a focused manner before you walk into a test center.
Hope this helps!
If you’re really serious about crushing the LSAT, I’d love to see you join the LSAT Mastermind Group. Once you join, you’ll have access to the private forums 24 hours a day + live office hours/webinars every Sunday & Tuesday.
We are always more than happy to help our members with the specifics of their schedule & you’ll also have the full support of hundreds of other members, many of whom are also trying to balance full-time work/school while they prep. If you’re really serious about getting into a great law school, then I think you’d fit in really well!
Leave a comment below if you have any questions or click here to sign up for the LSAT Mastermind Group.