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Reaching LSAT Nirvana: Five Easy Steps to a 180


Last week, I explained to you how my LSAT score of 180 was a terrible burden to bear, but in so doing, I failed to explain how I attained that score. So now, dear reader, I present to you my patented, fool-proof, 100% guaranteed method for LSAT dominance (only 3 easy payments of $99.99 $39.99). How can I guarantee it will work? Well, I’ve never been one to brag (at least not to strangers), but my method has a perfect record – it has consistently delivered 180s 100% of the time, every time (and you’d be a fool to argue with results like that).

But rather than just share my method (much too practical and plain), I’d like to enliven the discussion (and simultaneously stroke my ego) by talking about the most interesting man in the world, myself (damn you, Dos Equis). I am going to share my story for the first time – a tale of luck, laziness, and determination – a trifecta of conditions that together wove their way into a perfect storm of LSAT mastery. That’s right, my score was more a product of circumstance, rather than a singular manifestation of my awesomeness.

What circumstances? Well, a month before the LSAT, I decided I didn’t want to go to law school (much to my parents’ dread). At Berkeley, I was a rhetoric major so I never learned how to successfully pull an all-nighter or engage in any sort of long study session (although I did watch the entire first season of Lost in one 30-hour period) like the other students who actually had to learn information and not just pretentiously pontificate. And I was just smart enough to realize how stupid I was in world of LSAT, so I got help.

Those are the cliff notes of the Nick Rey story. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, my life is awesome. Sadly, awesomeness is only contagious in person (all the more reason to take a class), so how will my story help you do better on the LSAT? Allow me to break it down for you, young grasshopper.

Lesson 1: RELAX. Stop biting your nails, grinding your teeth, losing sleep, and generally freaking out. All those people you hear about who go absolutely crazy on test day (eating their pencils, bashing their heads into their desks, and sobbing uncontrollably), they didn’t get 180s. No matter what you may believe (or your parents may have told you) this test is not the single defining moment of your life. And until you realize otherwise, you are going to stress about it uncontrollably.

A month before I took the LSAT, I decided I didn’t want to go to law school (my quarter-life crisis if you will). The LSAT was no longer a huge deal (sure, I still wanted to do well, but it was just another test) so for the last month of my prep and on test day I was cool as a cucumber. And while I don’t think you need to swear off law school to do well, you do need to stop the stress. So, listen to music, exercise, meditate, do various questionable things in the eyes of the law. Just do whatever you need to calm down (you have to figure that out), and do your best to carry that calm into test day (hell, if nothing else, you’ll live longer).

Lesson 2: Know why you want to go to law school (or at least why you’re taking the LSAT). I’m not talking about some half-formed ghost of a hope of opening elusive doors or a desire to stave off the “real” world (you know, that scary place of 9 to 5 jobs, where Thursday night drinking is no longer a foregone conclusion) for three more years. You should have a definitive end in mind (bonus points if you can figure out why that is your goal). This is your motivation; use it to fuel your study. This may sound like some new-age, tree-hugging, vegan-soy-latte-sipping hippie-crap (I am from Berkeley), but reminding yourself why this test is important to you will help you focus on preparing. And when you’re trying to decide if going out to celebrate your roommate’s 21st birthday the night before the LSAT is a good idea, you can use this motivation to fill in the gap left by your dying social life.

I took the LSAT without wanting to go to law school. I had my eyes on loftier heights: a part-time job where people pay money to listen to me talk for hours at a time. I wanted to teach and I knew I needed a baller score to achieve it. That was my motivation. What’s yours?

Lesson 3: “Practice makes perfect” is rubbish. Why? Because quality trumps quantity (60% of the time, every time). If you practice, and practice, and practice some more, you’d expect to get better, significantly so – but that doesn’t always work. In fact, it only works if you’re practicing properly. The truth is perfect practice makes perfect. This means that all those marathon, 14 hour study sessions under the neon-white glow of the library lights, fueled by caffeine and desperation probably aren’t doing you all that much good (in fact they may even be detrimental – and no, I am not sanctioning a cease of studying).

The LSAT is not the MCAT (thank god) – you are tested on the application of basic rules, your skill in applying informal logic. The LSAT is fundamentally a skill based test, and skills are not well learned through mind-numbing, unengaged repetition. Rather, they are best learned with frequent sessions of fresh practice. The goal of LSAT preparation is to get better (more effective or more efficient) – if you overwork your capacity to learn, all those hours become pointless, and may actually reinforce bad LSAT habits. I prefer shorter sessions (~35 minutes) with breaks in between (and naps, lots of naps!).

Lesson 4: Take a Blueprint course. For a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a prep class by any other name is pointless. Up to now I’ve just been addressing the mental side of test prep – the soft skills. Equally important, though, are the hard skills. Hard skill is the understanding of logic and possession of a method for addressing questions; soft skill is your ability to apply those skills effectively and efficiently. Each is important in its own right, but both are vital (just like the rugged strength of Brawny is good for some jobs, while the cuddly softness of Bounty is good for others).

If you’re serious about the LSAT, you should take a class (and if you’re not serious you should probably stop reading LSAT blogs). There is no better way to learn the skills behind the LSAT. You can’t replace the in-class experience with blog posts or books.

Lesson 5: Have fun. If you’re having fun you learn more easily. However, class time only makes up a part of your total prep time. You can make all of your self-study much more effective if you shift your mindset and fully embrace your nerdy pre-law side. Make studying into a game or prep with friends. Create a biography of Thurgood Marshall in your head from RC passages, annoy your friends by pointing out every flaw in their arguments (“Ted, your silly ad hominem attack again fails to prove I’m a loser, and your appeal to your own authority in the matter is misguided”), etc. Do whatever you need to make the process more enjoyable.

That’s it. Now you have my personal blueprint for LSAT success. And while my methods may not satisfy your desire for instant results (especially in this world of fast food, immediate information, and instant miracle cures), properly applied, this advice can take you to new heights in the LSAT world. God speed and good luck.