Getting Started On The LSAT: A Complete Guide

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If you are new to the LSAT, welcome! This is a great place to start.

This is a complete guide with everything you need to know to get started prepping for the LSAT. If you are starting out, bookmark this page so you can come back to it as needed. In this post, we try to include a bunch of resources from our blog that will help orient you and get you on the path to LSAT success.

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Before we talk about how to get you started prepping right for the LSAT, here’s an introduction to us:

Lawschooli.com- Who We Are

Evan and I met 1L year of law school at University of Chicago. After graduating, we both decided we weren’t all that into the practice of law, so we fled to start our own business handling marketing for big city plastic surgeons.

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Myself (left) and Evan in front of our school at University of Chicago. This is right before I got married to my fantastic and beautiful wife, Gretchen, in the chapel across from the law school.

However, we haven’t fully forgot about the law school world. We both really liked the LSAT. I know that sounds strange, but it’s a really impressive test. It makes the other standardized tests seem laughably easy.

We both managed to hit a high score on the LSAT. I got a 177, a 99.8th percentile score. Evan got a 173, a 99th percentile score. However, we both put in a lot of hard work on it to get there.

I attacked the LSAT in a more organized and methodical way then I had done with anything up until then (or frankly, anything since).

Still, it was a pain doing it because I had to wade through a sea of junk information before I could find a consensus on legitimate strategies for prepping. I didn’t know how long I might need to study or which techniques were considered the best, or the million other little tips that can come in handy. To figure it out, I had to listen to 10,000 trolls on the forums. I also ended up just buying every resource that was out there because I didn’t know what was what. It was expensive and most of it turned out to be garbage that just ended up in the trash.

We are hoping you don’t have to go through all that. To that end, we offer free, unbiased, expert advice about prepping for the LSAT (and also getting into the best law school at the best price).

We stay up on developments on the LSAT and all our advice is either what worked for us or something we have carefully examined. Evan is also a former LSAT tutor and classroom instructor, so he brings all that experience to the table.

We are also here to help you personally. If you have any question about the LSAT, any question at all, just ask in the comments to this or any other post. We’ll get back to you quickly.

The LSAT

The LSAT, like I said, is a daunting. People often say that law school is like a series of hoops you have to jump through, and the LSAT is the first hoop.

That, to my mind, belies the importance of this test. Law school is probably better thought of as a big tournament style competition, and the LSAT is your first battle. While it’s the first, it might also be the most important: the LSAT is the primary tool schools use to sort through potential students. Whether you like it or not, you are being compared with the other candidates. Those who do the best on the LSAT are going to have the best options.

The name, the Law School Admission Test, is truly appropriate. This is the test that essentially determines where you will be admitted to law school. If you lump all the other factors that determine admission together, they aren’t even close to half so important as the LSAT taken alone.

Picture a scale, and on one side of the scale you’ve got the LSAT, and on the other side you have all the other factors: GPA, where you went for undergrad, your work experience, etc. The scale isn’t just tipped towards the LSAT, the LSAT side is so heavy it’s nearly touching. On average, LSAT alone probably makes up 75% of whether you get into a law school.

The Law School Admissions GameThe Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert has more great tips on getting into law school! Check out our interview with author Ann Levine, and CLICK HERE to pick up a copy of her best-selling book.

View The Law School Admission Game on Amazon

Basically, the LSATs importance can’t be overstated. If you decide to take the test, you should be ready to devote yourself wholly to it. Practice intensely and you won’t have to worry whether you are doing enough.

The hard work will pay off. The LSAT is not, strictly speaking, an intelligence test. We have a post devoted to dispelling that and other common LSAT myths. The amount of time invested into study strongly correlates with higher scores. Put in work, and you can improve a lot from where ever you start out. You can crush the LSAT!

Now, let’s answer some beginner LSAT FAQs and get you pointed in the right direction. You might want to skim over this next section if you are familiar with the test structure already.

What is the LSAT?

The LSAT is a standardized exam that tests skills considered fundamental to success in law school. The test contains five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions.

The scored sections will consist of two logical reasoning passages, one analytical reasoning section (more commonly called “logic games”) and one reading comprehension section. The is also one additional section which is not scored, called the “experimental section.” It might be anyone of the three section types. While you can sometimes deduce after the test which section is the experimental, it’s not possible to tell which is the experimental during the test (at least not without violating the test rules and risking serious consequences).

Logical reasoning sections consist of approximately 25 short passages with a single question about each passage. You are asked to analyze the logic contained in the passage. For example you may have to find a flaw in the author’s reasoning or determine an assumption on which the author relies.

Logic games sections consist of four games, with five to eight questions about each game. You have a group of variables, like maybe seven scientists for example, and you are asked to put them in order or place them in to different groups according to special rules that the game provides. This section is often the hardest when you start out, but don’t worry, it’s also the easiest to master. It’s likely you will find that you even like games. They are far less boring than the next section type…

Reading comprehension. Reading comprehension sections have four longer reading passages with five to eight questions per passage. You are asked to perform certain tasks to analyze the passage, such as determine what the main point of the passage is, or find some support for a conclusion within the passage.

To see what each kind of question looks like, look here to find real LSAT sample questions. That includes a link to two full free sample LSAT practice tests.

How Long Do You Have To Study For The LSAT?

While there isn’t exactly a consensus on how long you should prep, there is a consensus on what you should do to prepare. You should do just about every single real LSAT practice question available. There are currently 60 published LSAT practice tests, totaling about 6,000 LSAT questions (there are also 10 out of print LSATs available in case you need a little extra practice. Find them here). In addition, you need to learn the correct strategies for attacking the LSAT.

Altogether, it usually takes about a minimum three months to do this without studying so much that’s it’s uncomfortable. You may need to study longer if you have a lot of other life commitments to juggle. For a more thorough discussion of the nuances here, see our post on how long you should study for the LSAT.

Where Can I Find A Good Prep Schedule?

You are going to see the most success on the LSAT if you set yourself a schedule and follow it faithfully.

Like we said, three months is about the minimum required to do it right. To help take the thinking out of what you need to do and when, we’ve carefully prepared a 3 MONTH LSAT STUDY SCHEDULE. This tracks what Evan and I both did (minus the unhelpful stuff) to prepare correctly and get great scores on the first try.

Our whole spiel is that most people don’t prepare enough for this test. They end up regretting it and have to take the test again. There is no reason to be a part of that group. Only start studying when you are sure you have the time to study. If you aren’t able to study enough, you should delay and take it when you have properly prepared. There’s simply no legitimate reason to take this test when you’re not ready.

Studying for a retake is often tough because you will have seen a lot of the practice questions before. Don’t mess around with that. Study right the first time. To get you in the right frame of mind, let me give you this: This is Evan’s post on 5 HARSH TRUTH’S THAT WILL MAKE YOU BETTER AT THE LSAT. There, along with some Zoolander photos, you’ll get a major LSAT wake up call. If you are ever slacking, just go back to that post.

Should I Take A Prep Course Or Self-Study?

This is the hundred dollar question that everyone asks at the beginning of their prep. It might comfort you to know that both strategies work fine, and plenty of high scorers come from either group.

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Self Study

We both self-studied. If you can self-motivate, it’s a perfectly effective strategy. It may even be slightly favored among the high scorers. Anecdotally, it seems the majority of students at top 6 schools were self-studiers.

I don’t think this is because self-study is necessarily more effective, but rather that those who end up with high scores tend to be real self-starters, properly set a rigorous program for themselves, and follow it through.

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FULL LIST OF RECOMMENDED BOOKS FOR LSAT SELF STUDY

Even if you take a prep class, you should emulate that attitude. A ton of prep classes don’t assign you enough work to really max out your score on the LSAT. Read that 5 Harsh Truths post and you’ll know more about how to get it done on your own even if you take a prep course.

Prep Course

When you go with a prep course, you now have the further option of online vs. in-class. I personally like online courses. They are cheaper and you don’t have to make the commitment to travel to your class. Most of us are busy and that travel time might be better applied to just studying, especially if you are working a job during your prep.

The other big benefit to online is that that you can rewatch lessons. I think hearing these concepts once is often just not enough to get them to sink in. Being able to locate the lecture where you learned something and rewatch it as needed is invaluable.

The only downside is that you might have trouble staying on task without someone checking in on you a little. However, I’m wary of relying on that to begin with. Your whole LSAT experience can tell you a lot about whether you really want this. If you are having trouble motivating to study, that might be a good indication that this isn’t for you.

The Best LSAT Prep Courses

LSAT prep classes are also not all created equal. The common advice, which we support, is to stay away from the huge companies that aren’t LSAT specialists. That includes Kaplan and Princeton review.

These companies gave up on making innovative LSAT material years ago. Now, they just spend all their money (and your money if you support them) on blanketing the internet with ads. While a fraction of their advice is passably okay, much of it is garbage, and you won’t be in position to know what is what. Stick with companies that care about the LSAT and devote themselves to making great techniques.

The following are well-regarded companies that I know have rock-solid methods for attacking the LSAT: Powerscore, Blueprint, and 7 sage. Manhattan LSAT also has a good reputation, so although I can’t vouch for them personally, they may be worth checking out.

We discuss picking between the companies a bit more in the section lower down, “Picking A Good Logic Games Strategy.”

Starting Out Your Prep

Should I Take A Cold Diagnostic?

We are of the opinion that it’s useful to start your prep with a “cold diagnostic” exam. That’s a real LSAT practice test that you take with no prior study. You do this to give yourself a starting point to measure your progress. Here’s how to take a cold diagnostic.

What Section Should I Starting Learning First?

Logic games is a natural starting point. It’s got the steepest learning curve, so you generally want to be spending time with it over the full 3+ months that you are studying for the LSAT.

Picking A Good Logic Games Strategy

Developing an effective strategy to diagram LSAT logic games is one of the cornerstones of attacking the LSAT properly. Trust me, you don’t want to try doing all the work off the page in your head. Nobody does that, not even 180 scorers.

Each prep company has different approaches to LSAT games (although the better companies all have methods that are fundamentally similar).

When starting out I think most people just sort of pick a company and their approach sort of randomly. They’ll google a few things and see what people are saying and decide on that. I think the better strategy is to look at the good approaches to logic games and choose whichever one looks most intuitive to you.

To help facilitate this, Evan prepared a post where you can look at the various basic techniques. Check out this INTRODUCTION TO BASIC LINEAR GAMES. It covers the various approaches to these games so you can pick amongst them.

For the self-studiers, there are really only two books out there that set the gold standard for learning logic games.

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The first is the well-known Powerscore™ Logic Games Bible:

We have a full review of the recently revised edition here.

 

 

 

blueprint

The second is a relatively new book from Blueprint, Blueprint For LSAT Logic Games

We have also fully reviewed this book here.

Read our introduction to linear games and you’ll have a better idea which book might be right for you. That intro is also a great place to start your logic games prep. It will give you an overview of the techniques needed to master linear games, the first major subtype of logic games.

We’ll be adding a post introducing grouping games, the other major subtype, soon.

A common question I get is people wondering if they should buy these books even if they are learning from another prep company’s prep course. Well, if you are studying with Kaplan or Princeton Review, then yes, definitely, you should switch over to these techniques.

However, say you are studying with the Blueprint book… Is it helpful to buy the Logic Games Bible too? Generally, no. They cover the same material and both are comprehensive.

However, if one companies strategy isn’t working so well for you after a lot of time with it, it might be worth investigating whether the other works better for you. You can mix and match strategies as long as you are consistent in applying one strategy to each type of rule you encounter (if that doesn’t make sense now, trust me, it will after you have started studying).

Learning Good Logical Reasoning Strategies

My biggest problem with LSAT prep companies is that they tend to under emphasize the most important part of learning logical reasoning, the “logic” part. You have to know basic logic for the LSAT cold in order to progress on the logical reasoning section. Evan tells me that as a tutor his biggest pet peeve was running into people a month or more into their study who didn’t have conditional logic down. YOU HAVE TO KNOW CONDITIONAL LOGIC BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOUR OWN MOTHER IF YOU WANT TO DO WELL ON THE LSAT LOGICAL REASONING SECTION.

I’m sorry if I scared you with that all-caps rant, but people could avoid a lot of problems if they get this down.

With that in mind we have a FULL, FREE, AND COMPLETE CONDITIONAL REASONING LESSON

Start with that, and you’ll be laying the proper foundation necessary to master the LSAT logical reasoning section quickly.

LrbibleFrom there, you are ready to ride. For self-studiers, there is only one book we recommend to cover just the logical reasoning section. That is the the Powerscore™ Logical Reasoning Bible.

There is over 500 pages there of very helpful logical reasoning instruction and real LSAT questions to practice on. I really think that’s the minimum amount of space necessary to thoroughly cover the subject. There are A LOT of techniques to learn.

 

Learning Reading Comprehension:

There is a little less mystery to the good ways to approach the reading comprehension section of the LSAT. For a whole lot of people, it’s going to just come naturally. For the rest of takers, the best way to approach it is often to learn some strategies, then apply brute force: just doing a ton of these sections will help you familiarize yourself with the kinds of questions they ask, and will build you working memory and speed.

The book we recommend for learning strategies is the The Powerscore™ Reading Comprehension Bible.

The Multiple Book Approach

These days, successful self-studiers are often using books from a couple different LSAT companies to study. It’s a great strategy as long as you choose a consistent approach to the problems from among the different strategies at your disposal. If you with to do this, you should add extra time to your study schedule.

LSAT Question Explanations

A lot of people like to use explanations to questions to bolster their study. It’s great when you are stuck and just can’t see a solution.

I’m okay with it if you satisfy two conditions: First, you have to do the questions on you own first. Second, you have to thoroughly review them yourself to see if you can reach the correct answer on your own. From there, the explanations will help you make corrections in your thinking process and will help you apply the strategies you have learned correctly.

Here is a full post where we discuss some of the best LSAT explanations currently available. Remember that the actual preptests often come with these explanations, so try to avoid buying the same preptest twice. If you have already purchased a preptest, there are explanations that come separate so you don’t double pay. I recommend Graeme Blake’s LSAT Hacks Series for this.

Putting It Together: Posts For Tips And Strategy

Once you are started on the path to LSAT mastery, there are tons of tips that can help you fine tune your approach. Check back on this blog and sign up for e-mailed LSAT tips to be sure you don’t miss future tips. Here are some tip posts to get you started.

LSAT Logic Games Tips

How to Improve on LSAT Logic Games

LSAT Logical Reasoning Tips

Improve LSAT Logical Reasoning

How Can I Increase My LSAT Score in Under 30 days?

 

FULL LIST OF RECOMMENDED PREP BOOKS:

Here are the core books we think you need to maximize the effectiveness of your LSAT prep:

Logic Games:

The Powerscore™ Logic Games Bible or The Blueprint For LSAT Logic Games (see discussion above for help choosing between these two.

Logical Reasoning:

The Powerscore™ Logical Reasoning Bible

Reading Comprehension:

The Powerscore™ Reading Comprehension Bible

LSAT Practice Questions:

Here is a link to EVERY ACTUAL, OFFICIAL LSAT PREPTEST AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE.

We recommend you get the most recent 60 preptests on there. The oldest 10 may be considered optional, extra practice.

5 Comments

  1. GREAT ARTICLE, Josh! Kudos to you and Evan for creating such a helpful and free LSAT tips site. I tip my hat to you both. Tweeting this article to all my followers now.

    • There is definitely enough extra material to justify the price difference IMO. However, it looks like it’s really expensive on Amazon this week, probably because Amazon is out of stock and other sellers are selling it. Though Amazon is usually cheapest, I would wait a week for that to come down or check elsewhere.

  2. Thank you so much for this great blog! I will start to study for the LSAT soon and all of your work here has really helped to focus my approach.

    Thanks again!
    Caroline

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