Written by: Leigh Perkins // May 5, 2020
Last updated: May 5, 2020
You’ve always dreamed of going to law school, so preparing for the LSAT is incredibly important to your future. Unlike college finals or other standardized tests, the LSAT is not a knowledge examination; it is a skills-based test. The only way to prepare for it is with dedicated practice over a long period of time. It sounds daunting, but you can make test prep a whole lot easier on yourself with 10 tips to help you study for the LSAT.
Tip No. 10: Start with Untimed Tests
To gain familiarity with the various sections and types of questions, begin your LSAT prep with untimed tests. This will give you a baseline score. You’ll also learn quickly which sections you dominate and which sections tend to defeat you. The Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT, offers free sample tests.
Once you get comfortable with the test, begin completing timed multiple-choice sections. The LSAT is a rushed test so don’t expect to meet the time demands initially. As you gain accuracy in answering questions, your speed will improve.
Many LSAT tutors recommend taking as many as 30 practice exams over the course of your test prep, at least two each weekend and one during the week. Keeping track of improvements in your score and your time can boost your confidence and help you visualize your progress, but hold off on timing yourself until you gain measurable competence in each section.
Tip No. 9: Practice Must Be Followed by Analysis
It’s a pointless exercise to take a practice test and be done with it. Use your results for analysis. Tabulate and record your score, but then look closely at each question you missed to pinpoint where you went wrong. This is a time-consuming element of your test prep, but it is essential. This is how you master your weaknesses. For instance, if your post-test analysis indicates that you almost always miss “strengthen the conclusion” questions, you know you’ve got to brush up on that particular skill. Shoring up your weak spots will improve your score.
Tip No. 8: Get Used to the Digital Format
The LSAT is no longer a pen-and-paper exam. It is now a digital test. Although you will be provided with a tablet for test day, it makes sense for you to buy or borrow a tablet for your test preparation so you can get accustomed to reading long sections of text on a screen and tapping the screen to select your answer. The test tablet has features like a timer, highlighting, and question-flagging. To simulate test day, use the same features on your test-prep tablet. Scratch paper and pens will still be provided at the testing site for making notes.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the LSAC to offer an online, remotely proctored version of the LSAT—called the LSAT-Flex—for May test-takers. LSAC plans to return to normal on-site administration of the test “when conditions allow, with rigorous adherence to the guidance and direction of public health authorities.”
Tip No. 7: Focus Most of Your Time on Logical Reasoning
Logical reasoning is worth half of your score. It requires more than half of your attention in test prep. Rule of thumb: for every other kind of question you practice, make sure you do at least two logical reasoning questions. Identify the question types and common wrong answer types. Learn formal logic in particular.
Why the emphasis on logic? Analyzing arguments is key to legal analysis. As a law student and eventually as a lawyer, you must identify information relevant to an argument and reconcile opposing positions. To hit a high score on the LSAT, you have to be able to identify an argument’s premise and its conclusion. Here are some key concepts and logical reasoning words to look for, provided by Crush the LSAT Exam:
- “Premise” words: because, since, for
- “Conclusion” words: therefore, thus, as a result
- “Conflict” words: although, while, however
Beware that the question could come to a conclusion you know is false. Your interest is in the reasoning, not in the facts. Understanding the structure of every argument allows you to quickly identify the correct answer on the LSAT. Peterson’s suggests that rather than concentrating on the question stimulus, you always begin by reading the question stem. Then you know what you’re looking for.
Tip No. 6: Practice the Writing Sample
Prospective law students know that the writing sample is not scored, so most test-takers spend very little time fine-tuning their skills for this assignment. But since it is a requirement and could be reviewed by your target law schools, you should practice the writing sample two or three times as part of your test preparation. The Princeton Review suggests the show-off route is the way to impress law schools, with every line filled with erudite vocabulary. Khan Academy offers a thoughtful guide to producing an excellent sample in the 35 minutes allotted on the LSAT. Even if it isn’t scored, the writing sample allows you to use some of the concepts you’re learning for the exam in a different format, which may help you understand them more fully.
Tip No. 5: Don’t Even Think About Cramming
The LSAT is a critical thinking test. Analyzing facts takes practice. What’s more, the test structure is nothing like any of the standardized tests you’ve taken before so it can’t be taken lightly. How much time should you devote to studying? Ideally, six months, but three months is a pretty good run-up to the test.
You will hear legends of legal savants who spent only two weekends cramming at the local brew house and landed a 170. These are legends for a reason. This is your shot at law school. Don’t blow it. Make a study plan with adequate lead time and stick to it.
Tip No. 4: Change the Rules if You’re Working Full Time
You’ll have to be realistic about your test preparation if you have a full-time job. You won’t be able to devote huge chunks of time to paradox questions and errors of equivocation, but careful planning can help you achieve your target score even if you don’t have the luxury of all-day, weekslong review.
- Don’t go it alone. Enroll in a test-prep course or hire a tutor.
- Give yourself a longer lead time. Three months (or even six) may not be enough.
- Study timed sections during the week and do full practice tests on the weekend.
- Study logical reasoning on your lunch break or in the few minutes before a conference call.
- Take time off from work in the last month. It hurts to use your vacation for test prep, but if law school matters to you, you’re willing to make the sacrifice.
Tip No. 3: Don’t Take the LSAT Until You’re (Really) Ready
It is not a good idea to consider your first LSAT a diagnostic test to see how you do. Ideally, your first LSAT should be your only LSAT. It’s a fairly reliable test, meaning your score won’t fluctuate by more than a few points up or down from what you scored on your most recent practice exams. Give yourself time to prepare, enroll in quality test-prep courses, and you’ll be ready to nail your ideal score in your first attempt.
Tip No. 2: Study on Your Phone
When life gets busy, let go of the notion that there is a perfect setting or perfect time to study. You need to study pretty much every chance you get. In short, you need an app, There are engaging, easy-to-use game-style apps that will keep LSAT concepts fresh in your mind and, better still, most of them are free.
Tip No. 1: Get Help from the Experts
Nothing beats enrolling in a top-notch test preparation program for strategies, tips on managing your time, and essential skills. USF’s Corporate Training and Professional Education LSAT Test Prep Course not only provides the tricks that will help you on test day, they help you maintain focus, discipline, and accountability so you make it to test day with confidence. Our LSAT Test Prep Course provides 30 hours of interactive instruction, now live-online.