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Why you shouldn’t take a big-prep corporate LSAT class

  • by John
  • Jun 15, 2010

Next Step Test Preparation is about individual attention on entrance exams. Most often, students are comparing our tutoring against a class at one of the big corporate prep companies. I’ve been in the prep industry for years, starting at one of those companies. I want to explain in detail what’s wrong with LSAT prep classes to those considering taking them. Is this self-serving? Sure; I’d like for you to tutor with Next Step and not take a class. That doesn’t make any of the following less true based on my experience.

  • Poor results. Have you ever tried to get the actual, official average prep increase from a sales rep at one of the big companies? They won’t give it to you, because it’s embarrassing. Shouldn’t a prep company know this and be proud of it? (Next Step’s average LSAT gain is 11 points). I’ve heard local marketing reps say the average is “5-10 points.” Does this sound like an official estimate?
  • Oh, and claims they have made have been proven false. Here’s the Princeton Review being forced to withdraw their advertising claims about score increases. Their CEO: “Score improvement is not our core mission.” If it’s not score improvement, what is it?
  • Tenuously qualified instruction. When I worked at a big national prep company, I had 4 Saturday mornings of training before being asked to teach a full class. 4. This is perhaps the biggest secret of the prep companies; they hire extremely young instructors and pay them maybe $18/hour. That’s good money to a college kid, but how many of their brightest instructors do you think they retain, even at $20/hour? Not many. (Next Step is able to recruit many, many refugees by paying a higher wage).
  • Hamstrung instructors. Even the best instructors at such companies often feel hamstrung by the rigid syllabus. The instructor must work through a specific progression in their big binder, using exactly the practice questions printed there. I can’t tell you how many Next Step tutors coming from these companies have been relieved not to be tied down to rigid curricula.
    • Lack of personal attention. This one is obvious; you’re in a class with 15 students and one instructor. But this is complicated material, and you won’t have the ability to specifically go back and forth with the instructor. The need to have a set curriculum for everybody also leads to terrible mis-uses of class time. You’ll spend a ton of time, for example, discussing intricate categorizations of question-types, which should take about 20 minutes and is of limited value on the test. The curriculum has to be heavily tilted towards subjects that are easy to lecture on and that don’t generate lots of questions. Advanced logical thinking is incredibly hard to teach, and you’re definitely not going to be able to do it with a room of people starting from the 130’s to the 160’s.
    • Reliance on “shock and awe” marketing. How did you hear about that big prep company? My guess is a flyer or presentation at your school. Word of mouth from these companies is awful.Talk to 5 of their ex-students. They can afford to have poor word of mouth because so much of their income can be ploughed back into posters and bus ads.
      • A sub-set of this is the famous “score improvement guarantee.” This is an ingenious marketing trap. First, students should improve their scores based on any additional exposure to the test. Almost everyone improves just with self-study. This is also why they tell you not to have any exposure to the exam before taking a course; they want credit for the score improvement you’d get anyway. Second, if you do badly on the test do you really want to take the same class again that didn’t work the first time?
    • Needlessly expensive. Here’s a thought experiment. If you’re in a class with 15 students, and you all paid $1,300 to be there. There are 36 total hours of instruction. How much do you pay an hour? ($36). $36×15 students =$540 revenue per hour. Remember, the instructor is getting $20/hour if they are lucky. Sure, some of your fees goes to books. But the point remains that you are paying an astounding amount of money, the vast majority going to paying for advertising, real estate, administration, and, of course, profit. (For comparison, Next Step offers complete one-on-one tutoring packages for the same price as a class).

    Please, please do some research before signing up with these prep companies. Students often choose them as the “default option.” They should not be. Check out any of the law school prep forums like TLS to see what kind of word of mouth they get. There are numerous prep options for the LSAT; taking a big-prep class is probably the worst. Next Step Test Preparation provides complete courses of one-on-one tutoring with an LSAT expert for less than the price of a commercial prep course. Email us or call 888-530-NEXT (6398) for a complimentary consultation.

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