Studying for the LSAT: Tips & Tricks for Success
- Apr 06, 2022
- General LSAT Advice, Law School, Law School Life, LSAT
- Reviewed by: Matt Riley
There are many things to do to prepare for law school, and taking the LSAT is one of them. If you’re planning to take the LSAT, it’s important to start off on the right foot. The LSAT isn’t really the kind of test you can cram for, which means you should get ready to put in some serious study time. But, of course, not all study time is created equal. With that in mind, here are our top LSAT test taking tips that will boost your prep.
The LSAT Isn’t Like Other Standardized Tests
The first thing you need to understand is Blueprint Prep students regularly spend 200-300 or more hours prepping for the LSAT, and for good reason: it’s not uncommon to hear that the LSAT prep process was harder than any individual undergrad course. Unlike normal coursework, the LSAT isn’t testing a fixed body of knowledge that you can memorize with a heroic and ill-advised all-nighter. The skills tested by the LSAT are just that — skills. They need to be carefully learned and honed.
A Good Study Plan Is Key
As part of that whole “you can’t cram for this test” situation, you’ll need to make a plan for how you’re going to work all of this studying into your actual life. All the LSAT study tips in the world will only do you so much good if you have a shoddy or unrealistic study plan, so let’s dissect how you can craft one that’ll really work.
Pick a Test Date (Early, if You Can)
You can’t make a fully informed study schedule if you don’t know what your end date for studying is. Although it varies according to personal circumstances, generally speaking, the best time to take the LSAT is between January and June the year before you plan on entering law school – during or after Junior year, for current college students. Since most law schools have rolling admissions, applicants have a better chance of getting in if they apply sooner rather than later.
That said, most dates have their advantages and disadvantages. A test date earlier in the year allows for potential retakes, if your first attempt doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, and means that you might be able to get a head start on applications. A later test date could give you some extra time to study. Either way, be sure to factor the timeline into your study plan.
Consider Your Study Options
You’ve got plenty of them, from using books or videos to self-study to taking a class or receiving one-on-one tutoring. When reviewing materials, do you tend to do better looking over notes by yourself or talking it over in a study group? Are you a sworn wrong-answer-journal keeper or a flash-card enthusiast? Select whatever method(s) complement your learning style.
Personalize Your Plan
Next, make your study schedule. While doing this, you should think over things like how well you scored on your first practice test (by the way – you should take a practice test to see where you’re at right out of the gate), what your target LSAT score is, and what the differential between those two numbers is. You should also take into account what kind of time commitment you can make for studying. Plan to work on test prep for at least 10-15 hours a week for a few months.
Now that all that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the stuff you’ll be dealing with from now until test day. These LSAT tips will help you tackle tough concepts and form good study habits.
Anticipate – And Prepare For – Unfamiliar Concepts
On every exam, there are common pitfalls that trap students, and the LSAT exam is no different. To avoid them, there are three big skills that you’ll want to start working on early:
Logic Games Setups
Logic Games throw pretty much every newcomer to the LSAT for a bit of a loop. But don’t worry: Logic Games are extremely learnable. The most important skill for mastering Games is to be able to quickly and accurately draw out the information that’s given to you by the game’s rules into a coherent setup, while being sure to incorporate deductions along the way. A rule of thumb for what should go into a game setup is “if it’s in your head, write it down.” The more you put on paper, the easier the game will get.
Formal (or “symbolic”) logic is a critical skill for both the Logic Games and Logical Reasoning sections of the LSAT. You aren’t ready to take the LSAT if you’re not an old hand at diagramming statements out in formal logic and finding the contrapositive. (If you can’t diagram that conditional statement, you should definitely start practicing!) Any decent tutor, course, or LSAT book should teach you this skill, but there’s a difference between knowing and mastering a concept. Practice makes perfect!
The Structure of an Argument
Arguments in the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT are comprised of premise(s) and conclusion(s). Being able to identify these two components, as well as practicing finding the missing assumptions that are often built into these arguments, is critical to effectively solving 80% of questions on logical analytical reasoning, so this skill should be at the center of your LSAT preparation.
As you continue through your LSAT prep journey, you’ll master these skills, and move on to take on new challenges like “Why are the questions about this LSAT Reading Comprehension passage so different from what I saw on the SAT” and “What conclusions can I actually draw from a causal argument,” but this is a great place to start!
Form Good Habits
To get the most out of your studying, there are some good habits you should take the time to learn. They can be broken down into general study advice, how you take LSAT practice exams, and how you review them.
Obvious, but it’s worth saying. Don’t watch TV. Keep the music off. Save the texting and making your next move in Wordle for later. To succeed at the LSAT, you have to train yourself to think in new and different ways. Multitasking only hurts you in this endeavor. In fact, researchers have found that the more you multitask, the worse at it you are. You don’t have to study for the LSAT in an anechoic chamber — it’s worth it to be able to cope with some distractions since there are likely to be a few on test day. But keep your focus on the LSAT.
Since you’re learning some pretty difficult concepts, make sure you fully understand a topic before moving on. Reread. Then reread some more. Don’t be afraid to cover the same concepts again and again until you get them. One of the biggest pitfalls LSAT prep students fall into is focusing on quantity over quality. It’s better to do ten questions thoroughly than twenty shoddily.
Study (Almost) Every Day
Repetition beats sheer hours. The techniques you’ll use on LSAT test day have to become second nature. The best way for this to happen is to make the LSAT a regular part of your life. If you were trying to get in shape, would you spend all Saturday at the gym and not exercise at all the rest of the week? If you were trying to learn a musical instrument, would you set aside your Sunday to practice and never touch it otherwise? LSAT prep is no different. You can and should give yourself a day off now and then. But otherwise, even if you can only spend an hour on the LSAT some days, make it an everyday thing.
Anticipate What the Right Answer Will Look Like
For many questions in Logical Reasoning (and a decent handful in Reading Comprehension), effective test-takers learn to predict the answer mentally before ever looking at the answer choices. Knowing what to look for makes it easier to quickly and confidently choose an answer without getting distracted by a tempting-looking, but ultimately incorrect answer choice.
Think (And Read) Strategically
There are only so many kinds of questions that show up on the LSAT. It’s worth your time to learn about the patterns that those questions fall into, and how to approach questions with a tailored approach. Different kinds of questions ask about different pieces of information, so it pays off to know what kinds of things you should be keeping an eye on for each question.
There are four 35-minute sections of the LSAT (albeit, one unscored), which means you’ll need to be able to keep your focus on this test for a nearly uninterrupted two and a half hours. Eventually, you’ll need to build up your endurance, but that’s something that you can work on gradually.
At the beginning of your LSAT study, when your brain starts to feel like it’s shutting down, take a break. If you force it and keep going, you risk two negative consequences: First, you’ll start getting lots of stuff wrong and your confidence will suffer, and second, you’re likely to glean next to nothing from whatever you practice when your brain is offline. Give yourself 15 minutes, then get back to the LSAT prep. Keep track of how long you work before you feel like you need a break, and try to bring that number up over time.
After you complete your day’s LSAT question goals – be it a handful of questions, or a full practice exam – it’s imperative to look back and understand what happened. Pure repetition will only help you improve so far: you need to diagnose your own weaknesses to succeed. If possible, address them in each study session.
While You’re Reviewing Any Set of Questions, Be Sure To:
- Do your review within 24 hours of when you answered the questions. Any longer than that and you’ll have forgotten all of the details of that incredibly boring Reading Comp passage or fussy Parallel Reasoning question.
- Keep track of questions missed, questions you were unsure about, and questions that you spent longer on than you wanted to. Note down things like question type and section to help pinpoint where your weaknesses are.
- Try to answer any questions you missed (or skipped) before you read a question explanation. Thinking through where you went wrong before can help you correct your own mistakes.
On the other hand, correct answers don’t automatically translate to shorter reviews. Have you ever finished an LSAT logic game, checked your answers, found that you got everything right, and felt thrilled yet incredibly lucky? Don’t be complacent and move on just because you got everything right.
Review carefully. If it wasn’t luck, if your process really was good, reviewing will let you take credit and will boost your confidence for the next LSAT logic game. You’ll know you were on the right track. If, on the other hand, you were lucky, reviewing your work will let you know. You won’t blindly carry on mistakenly thinking you have something mastered.
Final Push Before Test Day
Test day is an incredibly high-stakes, nerve-wracking experience (as if you didn’t know). Preparing yourself mentally and physically for the ordeal can mean the difference between putting all your training to good use and getting a disappointing score because you weren’t in the right frame of mind. In general, try to take things easy and get a good night’s sleep. If you need specifics, here’s what to do the day before the LSAT.
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