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Does Studying for the LSAT Make You Smarter? Science Says So …


I love the Rocky movies. I am a particularly big fan of the training montages. Every time Rocky punches some sides of beef, chases a chicken, or runs up a snow-covered mountain, I feel ready to take on the world. Rocky then uses his peak physical conditioning to defeat all challengers.

It turns out, training for the LSAT has a similar effect on your brain as Rocky’s training had on his body.

There was a study out of UC Berkeley recently that used the LSAT as a means to study cognitive function. They found that doing the LSAT, specifically the logic games section, can heighten your reasoning skills. (Note: As of August 2024, the LSAT will no longer have a Logic Games Section. The June 2024 exam will be the final LSAT with Logic Games. Learn more about the change here.)

They also found that people who do the best move their eyes a lot. Go figure.

So, as it turns out, you could make a mental training montage with various clips of students studying for the LSAT. (Spoiler alert: it wouldn’t be nearly as inspiring as Rocky’s montages).

So, what does this study show? It lends scientific credence to the idea that LSAT prep courses and studying for the LSAT make you better at distilling information and identifying key takeaways. This was an anthem I repeated to students when I was a Blueprint instructor, and I’m glad to see further proof that I wasn’t blowing smoke.

Second, it is an important lesson for law school itself — namely, that doing the work is worth it. Once you get to law school, you’ll realize that only thing that truly counts for your grade is the end of semester exam. Some students use this as an excuse to postpone their reading or to rely on outlines to take the exam, never preparing for class. I’m taking this study as evidence that doing the reading and actively analyzing the cases better prepares you for success than merely cramming for the last few weeks.

Finally, I think it’s worth noting that you can’t just assume your months of LSAT prep have turned you into a mental superhero. The effects probably don’t last forever, as the study indicates. To analogize to another favorite sports movie of mine, this is a real Dodgeball situation. There, Ben Stiller’s character was in great shape throughout the movie, but after the events of the movie, he let himself go. The end credits show him in a very different state than his svelte appearance throughout the movie. Similarly, I’m pretty sure the mental bonuses of LSAT prep probably last only so long as you’re actively using your mind. Take your foot of the gas, and you might atrophy.

In sum, you can feel better about the time you spend studying for the LSAT because it is now scientifically shown that you’re improving your mental dexterity. However, don’t use this as an excuse to slack off and remember the positive effect the study process has when you get to law school itself.