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Many 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.

We take our gloves off in this post 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 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 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 prep for the LSAT, you are literally trying to foster new connections in the brain. Approach 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. If you need a more detailed schedule, our LSAT Prep Schedules are perfect for highly motivated students. 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. These premium LSAT study schedules are These intense schedules for motivated self-studiers use the Powerscore Bibles and all the best study materials currently available.

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 isn’t their niche.

don't do it

If you are thinking of going with these companies, don’t do it. No one is paying me to say 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 decided 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.

Here is our list of LSAT books that we strongly recommend:

To learn how to get the most out of these materials, make sure to check our recommended study schedules.

Harsh Truth #3

That LSAT Prep Course Won’t Save You

Don’t Expect an LSAT Prep Course To Save You From Under-Preparing. I think many people sign up for an LSAT prep course and go on autopilot from there, lazily doing only some of the assignments and thinking that they are getting everything they need. This is even though 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 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.

Obviously, this is closely related to harsh truth #1 (you aren’t prepping hard enough), but I want to focus on the length of prep.

Incredibly, I saw lots of prep students who would complete the course then basically do nothing up until the test. What are you doing??? Your brain is going to totally atrophy in that last month!!!

I Feel Like I'm Taking Crazy Pills!

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 burnout.

Say it with me: “I will study for the LSAT for 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 a demanding college course load, you might want to spend 5 months or even 6 months studying for the LSAT

As LSAC notes, 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

Your Practice Test Scores Might Be Inflated

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 sometimes 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 you do full, simulated LSAT preptests, make sure you do it just how 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 regularly, 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 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.

Nicholson

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 its fullest, you may want to seriously consider studying for the test later, when you won’t be missing out as much.

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 Group

We invite you to work with us for those shooting to do the very best possible on the LSAT. We run the LSAT Mastermind Group, a small group of motivated students who can help each other and rely on Josh and me 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 some amazing students.

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!

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68 Comments

  1. Thank you for this! I just purchased the 6 month study schedule and these points are so accurate. I’ve always felt I’m not the strongest test taker and I plan on completely dedicating myself to prep. I took a course (which was great) but didn’t apply myself as much after class or with the homework. I was getting high 160’s on practice tests but when it counted I scored lower on the December LSAT. I am going to bite the bullet and follow the prep schedule and go for the June test. Thanks again, guys!

  2. I just wrapped up Testmasters, have been studying about 8 hours a day and have taken roughly 10 practice exams with the virtual proctor and still no where near what I need with a 3.5 GPA as a double major in science. I used to believe that it was possible to improve after continuous practice and review (especially having taken some of the upper division science courses) but that seems only to be related to science and math – NOT THE LSAT.

    I guess going to law school is meant for people who study 4 years in Poli Science, History or Philosophy. SUCKS!

  3. Hi,
    I appreciate the information you have shared on the LSAT and what a person needs to have their mind on if they want to do well in the profession. I’m retired and looking at going back to school because I enjoy the challenge. Being around people who will challenge me to research answers is something I have done all my life. What attracts me to law is the chance of getting to practice in the courtroom. I don’t know the first thing about how to get there but I like being prepared. I have hired attorneys in my lifetime that I have had to keep on track when we were trying to accomplish winning a lawsuit. Hopefully I can be better than that. So if you can afford school, where do you want to go? If you have all the time in the world to study, would you consider spending 6 months prep or a year? What would you use to measure your state or readiness ?

  4. Gabriela Denis on

    Hi,
    Found this to be super helpful as I was going to go on autopilot mode with a Kaplan course starting next week. Would you recommend the self-paced lsat prep course? Worth it or not? Preparing for the September exam

    Thanks!

  5. Hello! This is an awesome site, thanks so much for the information.
    I just finished a Kaplan course and after hearing they aren’t the best I’m a little concerned. My diagnosis was 161 and I’m still scoring around there after 5-6 weeks of mediocre practice. I’m aiming for 175+ (as high as possible!) and originally planned to take the the September test but may wait until December if I’m not doing well enough. Should I keep going with Kaplan and work harder or just throw it out and order the power score materials? I’m also wondering how long it’ll take to improve my score about 15+ points already having basic familiar with the test. On average I miss 5-7questions in lr, 5-7 in lg, 5-7 in rc. Is it possible to do that by the September test or should I push it back until December?
    Thank you so much!

    • Hey Sarah, did you ever get a reply? I also have the same question. I am taking the Kaplan course and am on my third week. They do provide a lot of resources such as having all the lsat practice tests but I’m also wondering if I should just go with the other books that were recommended for the purpose of learning the strategies? Josh and Evan~ plz respond!!!

  6. Madalyn Brooks on

    Does it matter tremendously if I use 2016 guides to study for a 2017 LSAT?? I am considering purchasing all of the books and doing a 6 month prep for the February 2017 LSAT – so does it matter a lot that the study materials are 2016 edition?

  7. Daniel Ramirez on

    What is your thoughts about Blue Print LSAT course? If I retake the LSAT Blue Print offers an online program or should I go with lawschooli? My concern is that I already am familiar with the Blue Print methods and my scores right now are around the low 160s.

  8. Hi,
    I’m a freshman in college and I honestly have no idea what direction I’m headed in as far as law school. I got a perfect score on the reading comprehension portion of the SAT in high school so I assumed I’d do well on the LSAT. I took a proctored practice test the other day (I think it was the 2008 October exam) and scored a 162. I was a bit disappointed but I really was fatigued by the end and did most poorly on the reading section which I thought I’d do best on. I have yet to study for the LSAT but I really would like to attend a T6 school. I’m at a 3.81 and a conservative estimate would be a 3.75 by the time I graduate. Also, my university offers a plan where I can get my masters degree in one year after obtaining my bachelors, should I take advantage of this opportunity and delay my application or should I apply during my senior year or should I do both? Your advice is greatly appreciated.

  9. I know this is very late to the article, but to answer questions about The LSAT Trainer – it’s the only book I used, and I am a HUGE fan of it. I did a quick rush 4 week cram study for the test, and I got a 170. Mike Kim does a great job of explaining concepts while keeping it entertaining. His Logic Games sections in particular were especially outstanding – again, I crammed it all into 4 weeks, and for the last two weeks I literally did not miss a single Games question out of the dozen or so tests I did (including the actual LSAT itself). You will not regret buying that book.

  10. Samantha Kaplan on

    Hi there,

    I’m very interested in your method and I’m looking to take the LSAT this upcoming June. I have noticed that all of the comments are from 2013 and I’m just wondering how current your information is on the prep methods you have discussed in all of your articles? Thanks so much in advance.