Just like the unexamined life is not worth living, the unreviewed LSAT prep test is not worth taking. Imagine if you never reviewed or scored any of your LSAT practice tests and thus never knew for sure what you got right or wrong. Would you still improve? Possibly, but your progress would be a lot slower if indeed you got better at all. Reviewing LSAT preptests correctly is the key to getting better quickly.
The LSAT is like any other skill: you have to see what you are doing wrong in order to improve. Sports like tennis are great because you get instant feedback: if you mess up the shot, it doesn’t go in, so you have better do differently next time you swing, right? In tennis, practice and reinforcement kind of happens at the same time. It’s a little harder to get the mix of practice and feedback right on the LSAT.
In this post we show you how to review LSAT practice tests to get proper feedback and squeeze the most out of your prep. This is the method we used to on the way to hitting very high scores on the actual test (Josh got a 177, Evan got a 173).
Reviewing LSAT preptests is the point at which you switch over from merely practice to actually teaching yourself. This is an important distinction to grasp. Review is actually more important than working through tons of LSAT problems, so never skip it. We’d rather you do 35 preptests with good solid review than 70 without it.
Without further ado, here’s the correct method for reviewing LSAT preptests:
Reviewing Untimed LSAT Practice Tests/Questions
In the early part of your prep schedule, especially the first month, you are mostly only doing untimed questions (see our prep study schedule for a full breakdown of what to do when) With untimed questions, it’s very tempting to jump ahead to the answer choices right away (often before you are done reasoning through the problem) to see if you got the right answer.
Here’s the thing about the real LSAT test you are studying for: There’s no answers in the back. You have to learn how to do the best thinking you can do on your own. Untimed prep is all about learning how to reason through these questions under the best conditions possible before you add time pressure later in your prep.
If you shortchange yourself by jumping to the answer too quickly, often you’ll find you guessed the wrong answer. Now you’ll never know if you could have reasoned through the problem successfully and learned something from it in the process. Here’s what you do instead of that:
Step 1 – Pick some problems and start doing them!
Decide on a block of five to ten problems that you are going do in a row without looking at the answers. Sit down and start doing them.
Some questions are going to be pretty easy. You’ll be close to 100% sure not only that the answer you chose is right, but also that the other answer choices are wrong for a some reason that you can readily identify. Don’t do anything special to mark these questions. Just do them, eliminating the wrong answer choices and circling the one you think is correct, then move on.
Step 2 – Mark hard problems
When you get to harder questions, reason them out as best as you can. Eliminate any and all answer choices that you are sure are incorrect. Then really think hard and pick the one you think is best. Now, mark the question so you can come back to it later. What we would do is circle the question number at the top left of the question so it’s easy to find again.
Step 3 – Specially mark problems that have you totally stumped
Often there will be one problem that you just can’t decide at all which of two or three remaining answer choices are best. Do your best, but move on when it becomes absolutely clear you aren’t making progress on your own (still pick an answer just like you would on the real test). Mark these problems with a star around the question number.
Step 4 – Before checking the answers, take one more pass at any questions that had you totally stumped
Sometimes a second look after can help you see something you didn’t see the first time, and suddenly the problem becomes easier. For this reason, take a quick second try at starred problems (and maybe some of the harder circled ones) before you check the answers.
Step 5 – Check the answers and review incorrect answers
If any are wrong, review those questions until you understand absolutely why the correct answer is better than the one you picked. You may want to review the relevant section in your Powerscore™ Bibles to see again how they recommend doing that specific question type if you think you really missed something fundamental.
It might take a lot of thinking, but usually if you look at the words of a question long enough, you will see why your answer choice was wrong and the correct answer choice was right.
Step 6 – Review circled and starred questions you got right
Now, quickly review the circled (hard) and starred (very hard) questions you got right. You want to make sure you understand exactly why you got any questions right, meaning you should be able to identify exactly why the answer you picked is right and exactly why the other answer choices are wrong.
Having the right answer doesn’t guarantee that you understood it. You always want to understand each and every LSAT problem that you encounter.
Explanations- while I don’t always recommend them because they don’t force you to think through things on your own, LSAT preptest explanations are often a good way to learn why you got questions right or wrong when you are starting out and having significant trouble seeing it for yourself.
If you buy explanations, don’t use them until you have absolutely done everything you can to understand the problems with just your own brain. Lots of people have published explanations, but some are a lot better than others.
We recommend the books in Fox Test Prep’s explanation series: Cheating The LSAT, Breaking The LSAT, and Exposing The LSAT. If you think you’ll like explanations early in your prep, consider starting off your untimed LSAT question prep with these three books.
They come with official preptests: PT61, PT62, and PT63 so there is no need to buy those separately. Another excellent option for LSAT Preptest explanations is Graeme Blake’s Hacking the LSAT series. Check out Graeme’s post “Five Things I Learned While Writing Thousands of LSAT Explanations.”
Step 7 – Keep notes in your log
You always want to keep a log of problems that you had difficultly with. Keep 3 separate lists of the specific question type for each problem you got wrong, circled, or starred. You do this so that later in your LSAT prep you can see patterns as to which questions types are giving you the most difficulty. Early in your prep you will learn how to identify questions by type from whatever prep books you are using to learn the LSAT. We recommend using the Powerscore™ ‘Bible’ Series.
Reviewing Timed LSAT Practice Tests
Reviewing timed tests is a slightly different game. Here, you do a whole section within the time limit before doing any kind of review. Almost everyone likes to look straight at the answers after finishing a section. This is a huge mistake! Do this and you will be missing out on valuable opportunity to reason through the hard problems untimed before learning the answer. Here is the proper way to review a timed LSAT practice test.
Step 1 – Pick a section and do it within the 35 minute time limit
Eliminate wrong answer choices, circle whatever answer you think is best, and mark your answers on the bubble sheet just like you will on test day.
Step 2 – Mark hard problems with a circle
Same as you did with untimed questions, mark any question you aren’t pretty close sure about with a circle around the question number.
Step 3 – Specially mark problems that have you totally stumped with a star
Again, same as before, mark the ones that have you at a total loss with a star. Still pick an answer and bubble it on the answer sheet.
Step 4 – Before checking the answers, redo all circled and starred questions UNTIMED
Here’s the key move: You will have all the answers for the timed test on the bubble sheet.
However, BEFORE you see if you got them right, go back and redo all the circled (hard) and starred (very hard) questions untimed.
This way your brain gets another chance to learn how to do them right without the time pressure. This actually helps develop speed on future questions.
Think about it: when you do a question under time pressure you often have to give up on that one and move on before you’ve really had a chance to reason it out fully (For example, on LR, you are generally well advised to move on if an individual question is taking more than 2.5 minutes).
Because you didn’t see your way through to the correct answer, you really won’t get much of a benefit from that question unless you go back and do it right untimed.
Do it right untimed and there is a better chance that next time your brain will know how to do a similar question within the proper amount of time.
Step 5 – Check the answers and review incorrect answers and correct answers for difficult problems
This part is the same as for untimed problems. Again, the key is to make sure understand each and every difficult problem (and any easy ones you got wrong for some reason. Extra tip: look carefully at what tripped you up every time you make a “dumb” mistake. Often you can see a pattern and just knowing that will make you more alert when you encounter that again).
Step 6 – Keep detailed notes in your log so you can attack weaknesses
This part is a little different for timed tests. Here you want to keep a separate log of problems that you got wrong under time pressure (any wrong on your bubbled answer sheet) and any you got wrong even when you did them untimed after. Pay special attention to the problems that you got wrong untimed. These are problems that you might be having substantive issues with. If any patterns emerge, make sure you go back to your bibles and review the question types that are giving you trouble.
You should also do this for problems that you had difficultly with under time pressure, but with these, place and extra emphasis on learning how to build speed. Consider going through old practice tests and pulling out lots of questions of just that type to drill with and build speed.