What Advantages Does Your Major Give You on the LSAT?
- Aug 16, 2019
Pre-law, thankfully, isn’t like pre-med. There’s no horrifying gamut of weed-out courses designed to drive out all but the most dedicated devotees of the art. There is no law school equivalent of the soul- and GPA-destroying ordeal of organic chemistry. (Instead, we’re lucky enough to get the LSAT to fill that role 😉). As a consequence, the academic backgrounds of law school hopefuls are somewhat diverse. So what does this mean for you, the prospective LSAT-taker? How can your major make the LSAT a more or less pleasant experience? Let’s talk about it.
The LSAT, as you know by now, has very little to do with actual legal content. You can excel in this test without knowing a tort from a hole in the ground. (If your first thought was about how you could connect torts to holes in the ground: congratulations, law nerd! Unfortunately, that knowledge about the duty to warn licensees of known dangers on a property isn’t going to be of much use here.) In fact, the LSAT is designed so that a base of specific knowledge isn’t needed. Anyone, in theory, can succeed.
But let’s get real here. Yes, anyone can do well, but we’re looking for advantages. You can absolutely use some of the skills you’ve already honed to help get an edge on the competition. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the most common majors among law school applicants.
Political Science: Poli sci is by far the most common major among law school applicants. And why shouldn’t it be? Political science is an eclectic field of study that mixes reading massive amounts of text with a hefty background in statistics. The ability to flip between different topics with ease will help in the Logical Reasoning section, which moves from idea to idea more quickly than anywhere else on the test. Hope you paid attention in those stats classes, though, because that math-y ability to turn word problems into visuals is key for nailing logic games.
Psychology: Has there ever been a field of study more attuned to the Logical Reasoning section than psychology? Clearly not. Psych straddles the line between physical and social sciences, which means that you’ve no doubt had more than your share of reading technical scientific papers and thinking about how and why people make decisions. Make sure you keep that perceptive eye on the author’s opinions in the Reading Comp section.
Criminal Justice: An interdisciplinary major! Having spent your undergrad career bouncing between departments, you’re ready for the sharp swings in topic that fill the Logical Reasoning section. A paragraph about moral philosophy followed by a question about a mayor’s policy choices chased by two people arguing about whether television causes violence? That’s your every day! Just don’t get too complacent when you hit the law passages in Reading Comp — the LSAT expects that you’re walking in not knowing the content, so over-relying on your own knowledge can lead to skimming through some text that holds important details.
English: Ah, English majors. Masters of reading giant tomes and pulling out the nuances of authors’ meanings and intentions. Clearly, the Reading Comp section is going to be comfortable ground. But don’t underestimate the benefits an English major brings to the Logical Reasoning section. A keen eye for patterns of language could help you quickly sweep up some long parallel reasoning questions that slow many test-takers down. That said, logic games may not be your natural allies. Luckily, we’ve got your back on that one.
Economics: Finally, someone who’s looked at a graph. Kidding, kidding. Mostly. The graph thing is actually going to be useful for dealing with logic games. Most of “Analytical Reasoning” is taking a series of messily phrased conditions and turning them into a visual model. What is that if not the essence of economics? Watch out for Reading Comp, though. Pulling out the authors’ personal beliefs can get a little tricky when you’re used to reading for factual content.
Philosophy: The major most likely of the bunch to have taken a formal logic class! Philosophy majors are quite well set up to succeed on this exam. Between your likely familiarity with necessary and sufficient conditions and your ability to down huge amounts of text quickly, a philosophy major doesn’t really have a natural weak spot on the exam. Congratulations, you exemplars of a liberal arts education! Gold stars all around.
Biology: Okay, I will admit to a bit of self-indulgence in including bio since biology doesn’t even make the top 20 most common majors among law school applicants, but I gotta throw something to my fellow natural science majors! (Hey, y’all, what’re you doing here? Don’t you have a problem set to do?) Bio majors might find that they do particularly well in the Logical Reasoning section. That’s because, for whatever reason
(to scare humanities majors) (to prove that you don’t need to know particular factual content) (because the test writers think science is hard), the LSAT draws heavily on material that touches on biology. You still don’t need to know the actual science they’re talking about, but reading quickly goes smoother when you’re already familiar with the terminology. Try not to get too overconfident with the logic games, though. It may look math-y, but it’s not like any t-test i’ve ever run.
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