LSAT Webinar Transcript
- May 20, 2012
In May 2012 we conducted a free webinar for students interested in learning about the LSAT and the law school admissions process. The transcript follows for you speed-readers; the video can be found here: https://blog.blueprintprep.com2012/05/16/lsat-webinar-part/ Enjoy!
Okay everybody, good evening! Thanks for coming. We got a good crowd tonight and probably more people will trickle in. I am John Rood. I am the President and Founder of Next Step Test Preparation. What we are going to do here today is talk about the LSAT for the next hour. Hopefully, everyone’s here for that. What we did when we put this talk together was think a little bit about if you were just starting out or maybe having studying for the LSAT for a couple of weeks or maybe a month, what could we do that would be really beneficial to you? So, what we thought about was in our tutoring business what are the five or six biggest questions that our students had and so that’s what we are going to try to address today.
If you look at the bottom of this slide, we are going to do a Q&A at the end and actually may intersperse a couple as we go. So, if you have a question, please e-mail that question to me at John@NextStepTestPrep.com with the subject line LSAT Webinar or something like that so we know that that’s going to the right place and then we will address those as we go but let’s kick it off.
So, this is me. I am the founder of Next Step Test Preparation. What we do is all one-on-one LSAT tutoring, meaning no prep courses, just the tutoring. My background is over the last six years I personally worked with well over 250 LSAT students – that should be updated, I am sure it’s over 300 now – in both the tutoring and the class environment <<inaudible>> doing the tutoring. I am a Graduate of Michigan State and The University of Chicago. So, that’s my background but you are not here for that tonight. Let’s move on to what we are going to talk about today.
So, the first thing that we are going to discuss is The LSAT in Law School Admissions process. So, everyone knows you got to the LSAT. Everyone knows it’s important to do well in that. We are going to get into some more specifics and actually talk about how you can figure out what you need to accomplish on the LSAT to be competitive at the schools where you are trying to go.
Secondly, we are going to do a pretty brief overview of what’s on the exam and hopefully take it to kind of one level past, here are the four different sections that you will see and in fact a little more detail about what you should start doing to start thinking through a logic on those sections. And then we are going to talk about how you should prepare for the LSAT, show you a couple of different alternatives. And then if you stay till the end, we got a special offer on our tutoring packages you may be interested in and it’s only going to be available for you.
What is the LSAT?
Well, you probably know that it’s required by students that are applying to all ABA-approved law schools which means that there are some law schools that aren’t approved by the American Bar Association and frankly you probably want to avoid those. So, the LSAT is going to do something that you need to take in order to go to law school.
While the importance of the LSAT varies quite a bit, your grade point average as an undergraduate and your LSAT are by far the biggest determinants of those decisions. Now, anytime you speak to law school admissions personnel, they tell you that they look at the whole person, they look at the entire application. All of that is definitely true but those two numerical factors are sometimes <<inaudible>> called the hard factors are definitely the largest ones. In another way, you think about this is that if you remember back when we took the ACT or the SAT or even your friends were taking the GRE, the LSAT is more important in the law school admissions process than those other tests are in their respective admissions process. So, that’s why it’s pretty important.
Why do we have this test to begin with?
Well, a couple of different reasons. The biggest one is that we need to standardize applications across different undergraduate institutions and included in this would be people that have been out in the workforce for a couple of years doing really interesting stuff. So, the idea is there is got to be some way to compare applications that a law school gets from let’s say Harvard undergrad compared with someone who went to regional public university compared with someone who has been out on the workforce for a couple of years.
Secondly, it really does test applicable law skills and one of the things you joke about with your friends is “Oh, when am I going to have to put eight clowns into a row out of a clown car in law school.” Of course you are not going to do that but if you study the LSAT, one thing that you find is that it’s very closely correlated to first year grades in law schools. So, this continues to be a really successful exam in predicting your first year success which of course is why they are so interested in it from admissions standpoint.
And then the last one is frankly it weeds out unserious applicants. So, you have probably heard in the news that there is all these troubles with too many going to law school and that’s a serious concern but think about the world in which there was no entrance exam and you can just go to law school any time you wanted. Well, that’s probably not the world that serious students want to live in.
Let’s talk a little bit about how this test is scored. Some of this you have seen and some of this may be new. So, the three sorts of scores that you see on the LSAT are first of all your Raw score. That’s the number of questions you got right. So, there is usually 99 to 101 questions. It’s different from form to form on the LSAT but this just your score added up. What you will notice there is that this is not curved in any way. So, if you get 50 questions right and you got them all in logical reasoning sections, that’s the same as if you got them all in the logic games and reading comp sections.
Secondly, your scaled score. This is the one that everyone talks about. So, when we talk about your LSAT score, this is what people mean. It’s on a scale from 120 to 180 and then also your percentile rank and this table breaks it down. By the way, these numbers will always change slightly from test to test. So, this is an example of one past LSAT. Other ones will be similar but they will be a little different.
So, let’s start in the middle. So, the national average LSAT is right around 151. To get 151 on this test, you have to get 55 questions right which, yes, means that you could miss about 45 questions right and then the percentile is the percent of people nationally that got worse score than you. So, this is always national. It’s not about where you take it; if you take it in a big city, you don’t get any sort of different score if you take it in a small town. And then you see how this goes up and down. So, for example, someone who gets 166 which is really excellent score will get about 80 questions about 93% of the national LSAT taking audience would be under that mark.
Over here is the score distribution and this is really important because a lot of people will call us about out tutoring services and we will get to talking about them and they will say “Well, you know, I am only happy with the 170” and we will say “Well, that makes sense. Have you taken a practice test yet?” and they say “No, we haven’t taken a practice test.” I am going to recommend that you guys all do that. Before you do, I want you to see this so you understand that there is this bell-shaped distribution of LSAT scores right around the 150 average mark and if you guys took statistics – and I agree with you that you probably know what standard deviation is – one standard deviation on the LSAT is 10 points either way from the mean of 150. So, the massive majority of people are going to get somewhere between 140 and 160 on the LSAT and then if you are shooting for a top score like, for example, looking back at 173, 173 is a 99 percentile score meaning that 99% of the people got worse than you and actually on most test forms 172 ends up being the minimum for the 99 percentile. So, <<inaudible>> ways to go here where only very few test takers are getting those really high scores.
So, one of the questions that we get a lot is “What do I need to do to pass?” and people who are used to taking standardized exams in class, the ACT or if you need a certain score, you get a scholarship. Well, it’s not like that for law school. To know what these scores mean in your life, you want to make sure that you understand the data of the different schools and we are going to show you where I got all these data in a second but let me show you how to read it as this stuff is really important.
Now, I am based out of Chicago. Chicago has six law schools, I have shown five here; we also have Loyola which is very similar to DePaul numbers wise if you are interested in Chicago law schools. So, let’s start at the top here which is the University of Chicago. Now, these numbers again are all publicly available. Here is the source where I got it and we are going to show you how to use that site in a moment. So, don’t click away yet because you got to know how to interpret this data.
So, let’s look at this first two columns – 75th and 25th LSAT. What these numbers mean – and these are numbers that you are going to get reported from the schools – is that 173, for example, only 25% of the University of Chicago’s admitted class got a higher LSAT score. So, that means that that about 75% of their admitted class got 173 or below. Similarly, 25 percentile means that 25% of their class was admitted with less than 169. So, what that means to you is that to be competitive at the University of Chicago, you really want to have an LSAT score above 169. Now, that said, yes it’s definitely the case that 25% of their class is admitted with lower scores but whenever you are thinking about getting admitted to schools, you would rather be kind of right in their wheelhouse than trying to scrape in at the very bottom of their class.
Now, GPA is exactly the same. So, 50% of their class will have between 3.84 and 3.63, meaning that 25% of their class had above 3.84, pretty much a perfect GPA and then have definitely 25% of their class below that mark. Now, one thing that I want you guys to realize is that as you are looking at these different scores, it’s probable that for a lot of you, you will have either higher LSAT and a lower GPA or vice versa. You can certainly get into these schools with those kind of splits – that’s what we tend to call them – but if you are applying to University of Chicago, if you have got less than 169 LSAT and less than 3.63 GPA, you are kind of be in some trouble. So, you would much rather be in a situation where you had a 168 and 4.0 average, that would be much more realistic.
Okay. So, the University of Chicago is one of the top 5 law schools in the nation. As you go down this list, you see how the numbers change as we look at a lot of other universities. So, Northwestern is usually one of the top14 schools, I think, that’s pretty much always in the top 14, still extremely competitive. Then you have got this layer of DePaul and Chicago-Kent, very good schools, lower in numbers and then John Marshall, it’s got the lowest numbers here in Chicago and this would be typical of third or fourth-tier low school that could be very successful regionally but will be a little bit easier to get into.
Okay. So, hopefully, you guys have a lock on what those numbers mean. I would like to talk now about how you can find that stuff. Again, if you are registered for this webinar, I am going to send out this recording. So, don’t worry you are going to get all the links. This is an incredibly valuable resource. So, the officialguide.lsac.org is a resource by the Law School Admissions Council; so this is official data. I don’t know why they have this map, no one ever uses it. What you are interested in is this blue box up here and what you are going to do here is put in your Grade Point Average and your LSAT score and then you can search for it. Now, a lot of you guys don’t have your LSAT scores yet and you probably don’t have your final GPA but as you are playing with this tool, just realize that you got to put in realistic numbers. So, probably what your GPA is now and then also what your practice LSATs are looking like now and then as you get better, that’s fantastic.
Let me show you the results that come back. Now, this is going to show you your chances of admission at essentially every ABA-accredited law school. Again, let me break down this ranking. So, first school here is UC Davis. I actually sent one of our students there on a big scholarship; she is super happy and this is a school that has really risen in the rankings. Let me show you what these numbers mean. So, for this student, this hypothetical student, we put in an LSAT score of 155. So, you can see that black line. So, 155 and it will be that way all the way down. Now, this little green box is the range of the 50th percentile that UC Davis admitted. So, if you hover over it on the webpage, you actually see the numbers but here you can see that their 25th percentile would be about 161 and their 75th percentile would be about 165 and you are going to get this data for every school in the nation. So, these schools are pretty similar. Hastings is similar. UCLA is a really top school; so they are looking for something in the high 160s or into the 170s. And California Western had got a little bit lower of an average.
Exact same thing with GPA. So, for this student it looks like he put in a 3.6. At UC Davis, their 50 percentile that they are admitting would be between about 3.2-3.3 and 3.6.
Okay. So, those two numbers together, they look at your chance of being admitted overall; so, the likelihood column. Now, at UC Davis, you may be in some trouble here, right? So, the likelihood is down in the 5% to 15% radius. At UCLA this applicant is really going to be in trouble but at California Western he would stand a really, really good chance of being admitted.
Now, again, it’s important for me to say that they are looking at more than these numbers, okay? If you got great internships, you got great work experience, you were a leader on campus or your job, all that stuff is great but it will be hard to beat the numbers by a large amount. Now, again, that’s not to say if you have got a GPA right in your school’s wheelhouse and your LSAT score is short by 1 or 2 points, still apply, still definitely possible but you just don’t want to rely… I mean, there are a ton of schools where you have to beat the numbers. And as a result of that, most students are going to apply to between 5 and 10 law schools. There are definitely exceptions; I have seen students apply to one and I have seen students applying to 20 but generally you should apply to a mix of safety schools and reach schools and usually I advise students to apply to one school where if you got in, absolutely you would go there. So, if have always wanted to go to Penn for law school, even if you don’t get the right numbers, it’s probably worth your time but mainly you want to be applying to schools where you have a good chance.
Okay, if you are just joining us, I have seen a couple of people who have jumped on, if you have got questions, I suggest you send them to me at John@NextStepTestPrep.com, subject line LSAT Webinar and then we will take a look at those at the end.
Okay. So, let’s look now at what actually is on this exam.
So, on the left column you are going to see four scored sections on your LSAT – two of logical reasoning – and we are going to break down what each of these section names mean at the moment. One of analytical reasoning which is what the LLCC calls it but everyone calls it logic games and one section of reading comprehension. So, your LSAT is going to have four 35-minute scored sections. In addition to that, you are going to have two sections on your exam which are un-scored.
Now, the first is an experimental section. Now, this is essentially a fifth multiple choice section. It’s going to look exactly like the four scored sections that the LLCC is using to demo new questions and get an understanding of how hard they actually are. Now, a lot of people are interested in like gaming the system and figuring out what’s the experimental section going to be. You can’t think that way. You got to perform well on all five sections. Historically, we have seen the experimental section being in the first three sections which is before the break. That’s not always the case, it can go back and forth.
The last piece of the puzzle here is the writing sample. This is un-scored and as such you really don’t have to prepare for it very much. You don’t want to blow it off. You are there anyway. At the end of a long day you want to do a good job but that’s not nearly as critical. Now, if you add that stuff up, you get that takes about four and half hours but one thing that surprises people who take the LSAT for the first time is that there is a ton of registration and administration stuff that goes on. So, you are taking the October LSAT, you report by 8:30 which means you are probably there at 8:10 – 8:15. It’s kind of a “hurry up and wait” environment. So, they look at everyone’s admissions ticket, you have to have a photo ID that they check, they give you sealed assignment, you go to the room, you wait for everyone else, blah, blah, blah. It takes a ton of time for you to actually get started. So, that’s why overall it’s going to be about 5-6-hour experience.
So, now I am going to break down those different section types and we want to talk a little bit about what each of them involves. So, reading comprehension is probably the one that looks the most like what you have seen before and, in fact, you can see that it looks like the reading comp sections on the ACT or the SAT except it’s really, really hard compared with those, for real. It’s going to have four passages which cover the sciences, the arts, the social sciences, 26 to 28 total questions on more recent tests; we are seeing more 28 questions, reading comp sections, 27 sometimes too but rarely now 26 and the challenge which a lot of people don’t understand until they really get started, it’s not that they give you hard material, it’s not that it’s a really long read. It’s that the people that make this test are Ph.D., statisticians who design these tests very cleverly in order for you to get questions wrong, okay? So, as opposed to if you think about a college course or even if you think back to the ACT, if you are pretty smart in math, you get every question right on the math test but the LSAT is designed in order to split the people who are already at the top of your class, right? So, the people that got a 2.0 grade point average at your college are not going on to law school. What the LSAT’s trying to do is of the people that were in the top order of your class, split those people up. So, that’s why they didn’t make sure that people are missing some questions and in fact, about five years ago, they made this section significantly harder than it had been in the past, again not by making the passages hard but making the question and answer choices a little bit closer together. So, if you practice on some older tests, just be ready, it’s going to get a little bit harder as you move into the mirror tests.
So, logical reasoning is half of LSAT score, right? So, this is why sometimes you will have students coming and say, “Oh, I only want to study logic games.” And I will say “Well, how are you going to do logical reasoning?” and they will say “We think it’s about the same” but I understand that. I am here to tell you that it’s half your scores; you really want to make sure to focus on this section. It’s got 24-26 questions and the difficulty here would generally go up; that’s not necessarily same in the other sections. You will find that the first 10 logical reasoning questions are pretty straight forward and it just gets harder from there.
Do you have any idea the sort of things that you will do in a logical reasoning section? Strengthen the argument, weaken the argument, resolve a paradox, find a logical flaw – those are some examples. So, there is a variety of different challenges and each of these will be associated with one stimulus or argument that you will have to read there.
And a lot of people call in and say “I am good at arguments, I always win debates” but the one thing that you will have to learn to do well on logical reasoning is not just everyday logic but also some formal or symbolic logic and that means understanding things like conditional reasoning which we teach to all of our students, things like the different types of flaws that you will see in a formal logic argument. That stuff’s really important and that’s one of the things that’s sort of no-obvious about studying for the LSAT.
Let me give you guys an example of a logical reasoning problem. We don’t have any answer choices here; we will just have the prompt itself. Now, I recommend starting down here because I really think that students should know what the question is before reading through the stimulus or the argument. Now, some people disagree with me and think that you should read the stimulus first. That’s okay. Again, this is the stimulus and this is the question. What I urge you to do is just test it, right? So, do two sections and try each of those strategies. Whichever works best for you is the one you can implement. So, again, your goal is to get high score, not to <<inaudible>> any particular technique for doing so.
So, this argument asks us “Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?” So, if we read through the prompt, “John never does the dishes. He always ignores them or waits for someone else to do them. This may represent self involvement or mere laziness, but in either case, I don’t think John will make a good husband for Susan.” So, that’s the argument.
Now, when you study for the LSAT, you learn the techniques that are in the strategies for solving every question type. Now, an assumption question, the easiest way to solve it – and you can’t do it on every question, you can do it on a lot – is to first find the conclusion, okay? So, in this argument the conclusion is this last clause “in either case, I don’t think John will make a good husband for Susan.” Of course you are going to get training on finding conclusions if you can see that one immediately. So, it’s an assumption question. The easiest strategy here is to think through “Okay, what in the conclusion didn’t I see in the rest of the argument? What is the new entity or new idea in the conclusion?” Now, sure enough here, there is. Now, if you think about it and look back, this idea of a good husband is never actually defined in the argument before the conclusion, right? So, we know that John doesn’t do the dishes, we know that he may be self-involved or lazy but then it’s actually a big jump in logic to get to the idea that just because those things are the case that he won’t be a good husband for Susan.
Now, let me explain why that is. I mean, it could be for a couple of reasons. First of all, it could be that self-involvement or laziness are not important in being a good husband. Now, we know from daily life that that’s probably not the case but again, this is more formal than our everyday argumentation might be. It also might be the case that even if self-involvement and laziness are important in being a good husband, John may have a lot of other great qualities that aren’t discussed here. May be he is a good provider, maybe he listens really well, and just because he doesn’t do the dishes might not be that on balance he is a bad husband just because of this. So, even though this is an argument that we just read in the paper or on our friend’s Facebook – “This guy doesn’t do the dishes” – this argument would make sense. On the outset, you will be trained to look a lot deeper into arguments to see what might be missing there that everyday discussion might just jump over mentally.
So, that’s a sort of logical reasoning argument and again, you will see 26 to 27 of these, 25 maybe on the section, many with different prompts. So, assumption is just one type of the sort of questions that you will see here.
Okay, logic games. So, logic games tend to be the section that people are most worried about. Now, what I want to do here is show you guys actually a finished example of a logic game diagram and today, unfortunately, we are not going to have the time to go through this in detail but I wanted to show you what as an LSAT studier and then an LSAT taker you are actually doing here. So, you don’t turn to a logical reasoning question as a beginner and say “You know, I have never seen anything like that. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t know where to get started.”
So, this was actually a game – we were at the toy store. Let’s see, there were seven different toys, five of them are going to go in a particular window and each one of those was going to be a color. So, I think this was red. I don’t remember what the particular dolls might have been but we do a diagram here to show here are the five toys that are going to be in the window and here are the colors. We also see some rules. So, for example, one of the rules that the game gave us is that if ‘I’ is included – who knows what ‘I’ was – that it must be green. Similarly, if toy ‘P’ was included, that must be a yellow toy. We are given that if toy ‘U’ is in, toy ‘V’ is not in which is why you see that ‘V’ crossed out, etc., etc. So, again, this is stuff that you don’t need to understand right now but as you study the LSAT, you are going to learn how to put these things together.
Let me show you another sort of more basic diagram. This is actually based on a game that you are going to see in the practices sets that I recommend to you but it’s adapted, it’s not exactly the same. So, the basic setup here is you have five digits for an ATM code 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Okay, so we write all those out and again as you study you will learn to do this. This is a really good habit to get in. We also have this basic line diagram. This is the most basic kind of game that you will see where we will just put in these five things in order. Now, we are given only three rules. First of all is that each digit goes only once, we are given that the second digit has to be 2x in value of the first digit and then we are told that the third digit has to be lower in value than the fifth digit. Okay, so this is the basic set up that you have got what we call an inventory, you have got a basic master diagram and we have got the rules that are given to us in the game.
Now, what do we do from here? Well, some people might go on to just look at the questions and that would actually not be the right approach. The right approach is that after you have done a diagram, it’s time to think through what we call inferences. Let me show you what that means.
One of the most powerful strategies for inferences is what we call ‘limited options’. What ‘limited options’ means is that in some games you will get a rule or maybe two rules together that significantly split the game in essentially two different paths. So, you think about the old <<inaudible>> – “There is two paths’ diversion in a wood.” That’s what we are talking about here. Now, what we have done here is based on the second rule that the second digit can only be 2x the first digit, exactly 2x, if you think about it, given these five digits 0 through 4, what are the sets of numbers that can be twice other ones. I mean, 0 is out, right? 0 can’t be half anything and 0 can’t be twice anything. 3 is out, right? – Because 6 isn’t an option and 1.5 isn’t an option. We actually get down to where there are only two choices. So, choice 1 is the digit 1 will be first and digit 2 will be second and the second option is that digit 2 will be first and digit 4 will be second. So, we have actually drawn out these two different possibilities and this is enormously valuable as you work through this game because if you think about it, 40% of our game is now solved. So, we just have to think about which of these options is applicable and then solve the other 60%.
We can actually go further here. So, we are not done yet. So, if you think about this rule that the third digit has to be less than the fifth digit, that’s really helpful too. So, among other things it means that the third digit can never be 4 because that always has to be less than the fifth digit. So, we retain this information that we got before and we can also add that the third digit is either 0 or 3 and the fifth digit is either 3 or 4. So, thinking this through, the third digit could be 0, it can’t be 1 or 2 because those are already taken, it could be 3 but again it can’t be 4 because 4 is the highest digit and we know that that would have to go in the last space. So, what we have done here is add more inferences and again, there is some stuff here that you may not understand but this is the sort of thing that you are going to learn as you study logic games. It’s not just about getting through the questions. It’s about setting up a great diagram that makes perfect sense to you, it’s crystal clear and then thinking through all the important inferences. So, that’s the sort of task you will be doing on logic games.
Okay. And the last note here is that logic games tends to be the place for people to jut freak out, right? They have no idea how to do it. They have heard from their friends it’s really hard. That stuff is true, right? So, when you start you are starting at pretty basic level but I am here to tell you that statistically, of our students, they improve the most on the logic games section because you start our frankly from such a low level in many cases. I have seen lots of students who start up by just getting 5 questions right on the very first practice test to getting 15 or 20 questions right and that happens because you actually learn how to do this stuff.
Okay. So, those are the three sections that are actually scored on the LSAT – logical reasoning, logic games and reading comprehension. Now, the writing sample is not scored and therefore it’s by far the least important thing you do on the exam. You get one writing prompt with two very clear choices. So, for example, a neighborhood association has to determine whether or not they are going to do a fun run or a garden walkthrough; that’s the one I remember from years past. Okay, that makes sense and you write a 35-minute essay about it.
Here are some quick ideas; we will not spend too much time here. You are really trying to write this like a high school essay. So, if you remember at high school, a lot of us learned – I certainly did – to write a four or five-paragraph essay with a clear conclusion, a clear opening paragraph, topic senses. That sort of stuff actually really flies here. You want to make a clear decision, so you don’t want an essay that waffles between the two. You want to actually fill some of the space, so you get two pages and I have seen some students who send in applications after having filled in a third of one page which just looks really bad and know the words that you know how to spell. This is the section where you do it once in preparation, you are done, right? So, you don’t have to spend a lot of time here. When you are doing practice exams you don’t have to do this more than one time ever. You are going to be fine on the writing sample. Just do a good job as best as you can.
Okay. So, guys, that was our whirlwind tour of what’s going to be on the LSAT. I would say, first of all, that if you are just joining us or maybe you are thinking about some questions, e-mail those to me at John@NextStepTestPrep.com; you should see it in the chat box here. Give your subject line and let me know that you are on the webinar and you have got a question.
Okay. So, now, that was what was on the test, why is it important. Let’s now talk about how you should plan on getting ready for the LSAT.
Step 1 is I encourage you and all our students are required to take a practice LSAT initially. Again, you guys are going to get this link. This is a link to our free test that’s available to everyone on the Law School Admission Council’s website. The way you need to use this test is don’t go through it page by page while you are watching TV or something like that. What you want to do is print it all out, sit down and take it like a real LSAT. So, take the first two sections, time 35 minutes each. You then take a 10-minute break. Take the last two sections, time 35 minutes each and use your bubble sheet too. You want to make this as much like the actual test as you can while you are just sitting on your kitchen table. The reason that we do this is for a couple of reasons. No. 1, it’s important to you and to us if we decide to work together to know where you are starting out. That’s a really critical data point for everyone involved in your studies. Secondly, you as a test taker need to understand why this test is hard, okay? This test is not hard because of the questions. If you had unlimited time, you probably get at least 95%, if not more, of the questions correct. This test is hard because the questions are pretty hard and they are in really strict time limit. So, you need to understand your own performance in those time limits and as you go, make sure that you are checking up on that pretty regularly.
Now, a lot of people ask “When should I take the LSAT?”
That’s a great question and you guys are ideally positioned to start thinking about this if you are planning on going to law school in 2013 or beyond.
So, almost all the law schools have a practice that’s called rolling admissions and what that means is that once they open up their application process, they start getting in applications usually in September or October and then pretty quickly they start evaluating them, okay? So, no law school with the exception, I think, of just Yale waits until spring to get like a massive unimaginable stack of 2000 applications and then it will be like a marathon week session looks through all of them. That’s not how it works. How it works is they get files in, they usually batch them together and then the admissions committee will look through them as they come in.
Now, why is that important to you? Why do you care?
Well, critically, that means that there are more seats available earlier in the admissions cycle. So, if your application is in by October at a law school that has 250 person entering class, 250 seats are available to you where as in February if you apply, most of those seats are gone and actually this really came into focus from a conference of law school admissions experts and two law advisers here in Chicago and I asked a question to the panel of law school admissions directors. I said “I know as an LSAT professional how important it is to apply early. How can I convince my students that’s the case?” and the admissions director of Berkley which is in top 14 law schools said “What you can tell your students is that in October I have all my seats available and just a few applications which means you have an incredible chance whereas at the end of the admission cycle I may have 250 or 300 applications for 10 seats and what that means is that law schools are really at the end of their cycle looking for students who are incredible in some way.” So, either your numbers are way higher than that school’s average or you are Chelsea Clinton or something like that. Earlier in the cycle you have mathematically a better chance of admission.”
So, what does that mean to you? Well, it means that you need to take the LSAT early, okay? We are going to get to this a little bit later but I will give you the short answer which is if you want to go to law school in fall of 2013, you absolutely should plan to take the LSAT the second week of October when it’s offered. You have plenty of time to start now. You don’t want to plan to take the December LSAT and you definitely don’t want to plan to take the February LSAT. February is really too late. December can be okay but again, your are disadvantaging yourself versus people that applied early and sometimes the day of the test doesn’t go exactly as you want. So, if you wake up on the December test date with a stomach flu or your car broke down or something terrible and you have to retake it in February, it could really cost yourself an entire year in the admissions process and you have to wait it out. You don’t want it to happen. It’s not even June yet, study for the October LSAT.
Let’s see. We will skip a slide here. A lot of students will ask “What material should you use?” I am not going to go through all the different companies’ books including our own, okay? What I want to do instead is talk to you about the bulk of your training which first of all should only use real LSAT questions. So, a lot of students that we talk to, I talk to them and they are “I am not doing as well as I wanted to” and I say “Okay, what books you have been studying?” and they will say “I have got LSAT for dummies” and they will name a couple of others which I shouldn’t name the companies because they are the cheapest ones at the book stores. One of the little tricks is that if you are a prep company like us, we have a relationship with the law school admissions council whereby we license questions from real past LSATs and we have to pay for each one. Now, what that means is that if you go to the book store, you see a book that’s less than about $20, don’t buy it unless you see on the cover that it definitely has real LSAT questions. A lot of prep companies, even the big ones, cheat out on this on their over-the-counter books.
Second point is that I think that some books are certainly better than others but there is a lot of sort of distinctions without differences in LSAT preps. So, look at some reviews, pick some books that’s worth to you, buy them, it’s a pretty small investment for a book, read through it and if you feel like you get what’s going on, use that book. There is no need for you to look at everyone’s methodology. I can assure you we have done so; it’s much more similar than it is different.
Now, third point here is if you work with any of the prep companies including ours or including any of the ones that do the group lecture courses, they are going to give you great material. Okay. So, when I said beware of material that doesn’t use real LSATs, all of the prep companies are going to give you great sets of materials, us and pretty much everyone else. So, just being honest there. Everyone’s material for their classes is going to be good because if you spend over $1000, you get some more value than if you are investing $15.
Now, here is the last point. The foundation of your prep needs to be working on real past LSAT. People make this mistake a lot. They say “Okay, I did some research online, I found a couple of great LSAT prep books” but they don’t also invest in lots of old tests and you have to do that. So, here is a book that I really recommend. So, this is put out by the Law School Admissions Council. You can get it on Amazon and you can save yourself I think 15 bucks rather than going to their website. This is just 10 past LSATs, okay? That’s all it is. There are no explanations. There is no interesting stuff in there. It’s just past tests but that’s something that you really should get your hands on a lot of those; that’s critically important.
In fact, kind of going off that point, people ask a lot “How many tests should I take?” That’s a good question. Well, in my opinion, taking a full test under timed conditions is the most effective means of studying. Now, second to that is taking one or two sections on a timed basis. And again, I see a lot of students making the mistake of spending too much of their prep time going through non-timed exercises. That’s okay to do for the first month or two or your study but really soon you need to transition yourself into approximating what the experience of taking the test is like and that’s time pressure, okay? So, you need to make sure you are doing that.
A quick metric – I think that you really have to take at least 15 full tests and at least 10 of those have to be complete timed tests, meaning you take the entire thing in one sitting with your 10-minute break. Why is that? Well, the reason is it’s really hard to deal with the fatigue of taking this test, right? And you guys remember what it’s like taking ACT or SAT, imagine it; this test is going to be critically important for your future. You have to get up really early unless you take it in June but most of you guys are not. You guys have to go really early, you get there, you have to kind of what’s around with there, admissions requirements, and then you sit down and then literally four or five our hours after getting started you are on the last section, you are going to be fatigued. You need to make sure that you understand what it’s like to go through that process. I guarantee you that section 4 or section 5 is worse than section 1 and it’s going to be harder. Make sure that you are ready for that.
Now, there is a lot of great material out there, right? So, there is about 61 old LSATs which are released publicly like you can actually buy them and about 40 of them, I think, are useful. So, if you go way, way back to the first LSATs that you can buy, they are starting to look pretty dated but there is a ton of real material out there that’s going to be super useful for you.
Okay, next question – “How many times should you take the LSAT?”
A lot of people make this mistake too. You got to take it once, right? That should be your goal. Absolutely you should never take the LSAT unprepared. That’s why you take a practice test. Now, most law schools will still take the highest of your LSAT scores but they see all of them; that’s really important because as you think about it, think about the admissions committee’s perspective on this. If they see a student got a 160 once, that seems like a more committed student than someone who put in a bunch of different scores. So, it’s expensive, it’s time consuming. Do the best effort and take the test once if at all possible.
Most students will take about three to four months to prep for the exam. I think five or six is fine. If you are like a freshman, you don’t have to think about this now. You will run out of real material, so don’t do that. On the other side, less than a month is really not the right amount of time. So, we will have students now who call in, it’s the 15th of May and they are interested in the June 11th LSAT and I say “Man, if you haven’t started yet, you really should push back.” Now, that said, there is still a lot of time for your guys to apply in October but now is the time to get started in that process.
Okay. So, here is a chart of what you guys maybe thinking about in terms of your prep options and I want to go through these. Now, I will say right away that what our company does is only one-on-one tutoring. We do it for a reason. We don’t do it because it makes the most money. We do it because we have seen it to be the most effective. So, there are our biases but I want to talk to you about all these options in an unbiased way as possible.
So, the first option is self study which means that you get books and you study by yourself and maybe with a friend from college, okay? Now, the big pros is it is cheapest but it’s not free, right? You are going to buy the books. It’s self paced which is pretty good. You can focus on your own need areas and, I mean, just so you know, don’t let me or any of the other prep companies tell you that no one self studies, right? About half the people self report and they self study on the LSAT and you know a lot of those people obviously would be fine.
Here is the cons. First of all, it’s pretty hard to know what you don’t know, okay? This is a really important one. So, if you are getting stuck, it’s hard to really understand what’s going on and why. You are frustrated that you can’t improve but if you are plateauing, you can’t figure out why, that’s tough, that’s a tough situation. There is not a lot of great resources to answer questions in an unbiased way. You could go on like chat forums online but no one’s going to take the time to sit down with you and look at your performance for an hour for free; that’s not going to happen. And really every point counts, okay? That’s important to keep in mind.
Prep courses – a lot of people take these courses. What this means is that you go and sit in a lecture hall or a classroom with between 10 and 25 other students, there is one instructor who is mostly reading to you out of a prepared manual which tells he or she exactly what to say and exactly what to put up on the board, what questions to ask and, in fact, his book or her book will even talk about here’s is what students are going to have like an ‘aha’ moment, right? And they will actually say that “I will make you students have this ‘aha’ moment.” I mentioned that you guys know exactly what you are getting to do that. I know because I have taught these courses myself.
One of the pros – well, generally, the material is very good and there is a schedule that keeps you on pace and for some students that’s really important. So, if you are the sort of person that you are not going to do something unless someone tells you to do it, maybe the prep course is good for you but the other side is to be really frank with you is that you are planning on going to law school next year, now is the time to start thinking about some discipline, right? So, if you aren’t disciplined enough to study for important exams without someone kind of cramming it down your throat, this is probably time to break that habit. That’s what law school is going to be about.
Now, what are the cons? Well, I think the big one, the reason that we don’t really don’t do this is the lack of personal attention. This is really critical. So, if you are in a course with 20 people, just imagine the last time you did that, you ask one question. Sure. If you are kind of that person in class, can you ask two questions? Sure. But you can’t ask every question you have and that’s a really important thing, right? So, if there is something you don’t get, they don’t stop, right? They got to keep going because this is a curriculum that has been prepared nationally for 10,000 students and delivered the same way.
Secondly, almost every student I have worked with is better and worse at different parts of the test. What that means is that believe it or not, I have had many students who sit down for their first practice test and get a nearly perfect score on logic games. If that student goes to a prep course, they are going to be bored out of their wit because 45% of it is going to be about logic games, okay? Now, this is really important, right? You don’t want to waste your time and it’s not just that you could be watching House on Fox instead. It’s that you could be working on other stuff that’s more important to you.
And then finally, I think it’s a really high cost of value ratio. So, if you think about it, if you buy a prep course and you are paying $1400 for it and 20 other people are doing the same, that’s a crazy amount of money to really just kind of be sitting in a lecture environment, in my opinion, right? And again, this is why we don’t do this stuff.
One-on-one LSAT tutoring is what we do do. So, I am pretty familiar with this. What are the benefits? Well, first of all, you get a completely customized and tailored experience. So, we start our students with a diagnostic test and then work with them to understand what they need to be focusing on. Secondly, we help identify areas of weakness for individual students and work on concepts until they understand them. This is actually really, really important and my little story about this is that when I was studying for the LSAT, I was getting about 10 or 12 or 13 logical reasoning questions right and that’s not so bad; that’s also not great. What I did then was invest in a one-on-one LSAT tutor and she was able to sit down with me and say “As I watch you do it, sitting looking at you, focused only on your performance, I see that you are not writing enough down” and what she meant was I was trying to do these problems in my head and I am a bright guy but I am not bright enough to just be able to kind of crunch it in my mind; I had to write it out. And that’s an insight that if I have been in a class of 20 other people, there was no way that someone could have seen my performance, know what I had to do, and then watch me over the next several weeks to improve. So, I got from place where I was getting 10 or 12 logical reasoning questions right to a place where today I usually get 22 or 23 right and that’s a major improvement. That can be a life changing improvement in someone’s performance. So, that’s kind of my story for why we do what we do.
Now, tutoring costs more than self study but importantly now it doesn’t cost more than the prep courses necessary. So, we will talk about our prices later but you can get tutoring for the same price as a prep course.
One of the serious cons though is that there are lots of contact hours where in a class environment if you are going to look at Chapter 3 in the prep book, the instructor will essentially read it to you during class, we would instead say “Read Chapter 3 and home and then just bring in your questions.” So, there is not as much lecture and that’s why the contact hours are different but again, that’s a real difference that you should know about.
Okay. So, let’s say that you are ready, right? You got some questions answered, you have a course planned out, you know what you are going to do, what do you do now? Well, first of all, register for the test early. Especially if you are in a big city, test centers fill up. So, in Chicago – this is a big place – I have had students that don’t register until the deadline and end up having to go out to western Illinois to take the test. That’s not good.
Now, what are the fees? Well, they just went up which is the bad news. Taking the test is $160, that’s why you don’t want to take it twice. You also have to register for something called the credentials assembly service which is a requirement for anyone who is going to go to law school, essentially the law school admissions council sort of organizes your application materials and then sends those directly to the law school. So, you are essentially nowadays applying to the law school admissions council and then they forward your applications on to Northwestern University of Texas at Austin, UCLA or whatever, okay? Plan ahead. There is fee for everything, that’s how they do on the LSAT. So, if you have to change where you are going, now there is going to be a little penalty.
Okay. Guys, we just have a couple of other things to cover. Again, if you have questions, send them by e-mail to me. Now would be the time because we are almost done with our kind of prepared remarks here.
I want to spend just five minutes talking about what we do at Next Step Test Preparations. So, you already know that what we do is one-on-one LSAT tutoring. You know some of that, why we do it. Here is the first reason and it’s the most important. It’s personal attention, right? So, here is the difference between you working with a personal LSAT coach who can look at your actual performance and help you improve compared with a class of between 10 and 25 – I have actually seen up to 30 people which is more of a lecture environment and to be honest with you, that sort of thing where you just watch a video or the instructor doing. It is not like there is a lot of back and forth.
Secondly, we provide a complete course of LSAT tutoring that starts at the price of some of those prep courses. So, that’s a key difference with what we do. Previously, you could go and get tutoring from one of the big prep course companies and it cost up to $5000 to $10,000. We don’t do it that way. We are trying to make it a little bit more affordable and just think about the results, right? So, have you ever been in an educational environment in which sitting in a lecture gave you better results than working individually with someone super smart. I have just never been in that sort of environment. So, that’s kind of what we do what we do.
Free consultation for anyone who is interested – that means that you e-mail me after this webinar or in the upcoming days or weeks and we will get back to you and discuss exactly where you are in the process, give you some more free help and then if you are right now <<inaudible>> tutoring program, of course we will get back to you.
One of the things that makes our program a little bit different from some others is that some of our tutoring is one-on-one in person, some of it is one-on-one online through video conference. So, right now I am talking to you guys who are not in Chicago, New York, or Ann Harbor, for example. I am talking to you guys who are in smaller towns, who go to maybe a liberal arts school where there is not a top 10 law school, churning out 170 LSAT scores that can help you. You should still talk to us about our one-on-one video conference system. The reason is that you are still working one-on-one with an instructor and then here is the sort of people that you are working with, right? So, you don’t see anyone marginally qualified on our list. You are going to work with an expert who has got a 99 percentile score. Many of our people have gone on to Ivy League law schools and/or have been tutoring the tests for over 10 years. So, Peter who I have been working with for three years taught the LSAT for 12 years before that and got almost perfect score. So, these are the people you will be working with. If you are considering “I don’t know what I should do. I am in a smaller town. Should I get like videos?” No, you should talk to us because we can help you wherever you are.
Okay. Guys, one last thing before I do a little Q&A – this is an offer that I don’t make very often. So, we don’t do a lot of discounting. So, that’s why this is going to be a short-term discount for your guys for being on our webinar.
If you want to sign up for a 16-hour tutoring package, we will give you $50 off or $100 off or a 24-hour package. This is going to expire in pretty much exactly one week and that’s just because you guys are getting a little advantage for being on our webinar but we can’t do it for everyone for sure.
You can also see some of our prices and also how they compare. So, you guys have probably heard of Kaplan for sure, you have seen their ads on campus. Great company, nothing against them – $1400 for a classroom course, it can actually go higher, maybe goes a little lower, maybe get a little discount but for about that same price, you guys could be working one-on-one with an LSAT expert. So, that’s a little bit of how we are different.
Okay. Thanks guys. I really appreciate you listening. We will probably have time for just one question, if you have one, it’s not too late, just send it to me. If you have any questions about anything that we talked about tonight, law school admissions, you are interested in working with our program, send me an e-mail at John@NextStepTestPrep.com. I am going to give you my direct line which is (773)257-3391. So, don’t even bother about calling our 800 line. If you want to talk to me personally, that’s where you can call. And then look at our website. So, if you are interested in our tutoring services, you need to look at our testimonials and understand how our students have done in the past.
Next Step Test Preparation provides complete courses of one-on-one LSAT tutoring for about the price of a crowded lecture-style prep course. Email us or call 888-530-NEXT (6398) for a complimentary consultation.
Search the Blog
Free LSAT Practice Account
Sign up for a free Blueprint LSAT account and get access to a free trial of the Self-Paced Course and a free practice LSAT with a detailed score report, mind-blowing analytics, and explanatory videos.Learn More
Entertainment Revisiting Elle's LSAT Journey from Legally Blonde