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LSAT Studying: The Need for Speed

BPPcolin-lsat-blog-speedIt’s around now (about two months from the LSAT) that people in class start worrying about speed (if they haven’t been already). Almost everyone does this in some way or other, but allow me to just say that this concern is nearly always premature at this point.

Yes, the LSAT is all about time. Most people would answer the vast majority of problems correctly if they had an unlimited amount of time in which to do so. Unfortunately, this isn’t the way the test works. You’re given what seems like (and at first is) an extremely limited amount of time to do some pretty sophisticated stuff. If you were slow and careful with every problem, you wouldn’t finish any of the sections. This, clearly, will cause you to miss some points. So naturally you want to go faster. But, for now, not finishing sections is totally fine.

Right now, you trying to “go faster” means frantically working while freaking out about the passing seconds. You read the stimulus more sloppily, rush through the answer choices, and basically just get faster at getting questions wrong. You can do this as much as you want, but you really won’t get any better. The reason for this is that you’re not practicing much of anything. You have to learn how to do the problems first. You have to tear them apart, figuring out what makes them tick, and exactly why each answer choice is right or wrong. This isn’t easy, and takes a whole lot of time. It’s slow. It sucks. But it’s the only way to learn.

As you study in the correct manner, again and again breaking apart the stimulus to uncover its bare logical form, anticipating answer choices, recognizing incorrect answer choices, and all around learning how to kick ass on the LSAT, you’ll start to get faster and faster. This isn’t actually all that deliberate; as you get better and more familiar with the LSAT, you’ll naturally start speeding up. If you really make sure to do enough work, this will start to happen on its own. But the ultimate key is to not force it.

You’re really going to have to stay in this mindset until you’ve learned how to do all the problems, and have had massive amounts of practice reinforcing all the concepts you’ve learned. Then, and only then, should you start worrying about bumping up the speed, and taking lots of practice tests. But by that point, you’ll have already gotten faster just by going through all the practice. But you can worry about that then. For now, take the problems one at a time, and go for thoroughness and accuracy over speed. It is the only way you’ll make substantial improvements.