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.
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!!!
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.
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.