How Hard Is The LSAT? The LSAT is pretty freaking hard, frankly. This article explains why the LSAT is so tough, plus LSAT advice for the most difficult.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The LSAT is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is not the sort of person who should be giving LSAT advice. Most people have to put in many hours of study to reach their potential on the LSAT. I went to one of the best law schools in the country–The University of Chicago–where I met some of the smartest people I’ve ever known, and I can count on one hand the number of people who claimed to have crushed the LSAT 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 into 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, on the other hand, are human-caused incidents. Things like equipment failure, fatigue, and falling due to inattention. These are factors that are more within your control and can be minimized with proper preparation, planning, and skill.
The LSAT is a lot like high altitude mountaineering on Everest. Both ventures are difficult, both for reasons you can control and for reasons you can’t. Not only that, preparing for the LSAT can be a heck of a slog, and most sane people wonder why on earth you would put yourself through it. But anyone who has made it to the summit will surely tell you that it is worth it–the view from the top is spectacular.
The LSAT is the Mt. Everest of Standardized Tests.
Here are the main obstacles to your success on the LSAT…
Objective Hazards of The LSAT
Objective hazards cannot be eliminated. They are a natural part of the environment–inherent fixtures of the landscape. Just as you can’t control an avalanche, you also can’t control these elements of the LSAT. However, you can be prepared & learn how to safely maneuver through these obstacles, no matter how hard, when you inevitably encounter them.
1. The LSAT requires you to use logic in a way that is not intuitive to most people.
At least 3 factors make it difficult to parse the language on an LSAT question. First, LSAT questions are often worded in a deliberately subtle and confusing manner. Second, you are frequently given more information to keep track of than you can comfortably hold in level mind all at once. Finally, there are three different kinds of sections on the LSAT, each containing a different type of unintuitive problem.
2. The LSAT puts you under severe time pressure
Not only are the problems dense & difficult, but you are also forced to tackle this tough material very quickly.
On average, you only have about a minute and a half to answer each question on the LSAT. It is tough to overstate how hard this is. Invariably, you will find that you could be more confident that you’ve chosen the correct answer if you had more time, but you don’t. There is the occasional easy question, but you have to answer those even faster to save precious seconds that you will need later on the most challenging LSAT questions.
Subjective Hazards of The LSAT
This list could go on forever, but some main problems are that:
1. The LSAT is really stressful for most people.
The LSAT is incredibly important in the law school admissions process, 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 a 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 worked with students who scored nearly 180 on 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 currently studying, read my post on managing stress during your LSAT prep.
2. Studying for the LSAT is hard work
You have to combat burnout and fatigue. The LSAT is more like an IQ test than anything else because there is no material you have to memorize to perform on it. The best way to study is to work through many 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 your 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 working through LSAT 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 critical. You have to pick a good system for approaching the problems and stick with it consistently.
That means sticking with one method for diagramming because switching around makes things harder on yourself. I discuss the best LSAT material (which will teach you the best methods) on this post: LSAT Prep Books & Self-Study – How I got a 177 on the LSAT.
How to Make The LSAT Easier
The only thing to do the make your LSAT experience easier is to prepare adequately. If you’ve done the job well, your LSAT test day is going to feel more or less routine because you’ve practiced it many times before. The one and the only way to make sure you get to feeling automatic is to prepare with a good study schedule. We provide premium plans based on what I did to score a 177 on the LSAT.
Lawschooli.com LSAT Schedules
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