Admissions Question: July 17
July 17, 2016
Q: I’m really nervous about taking the LSAT. What should I do to prepare?
A: How you prepare for the LSAT depends on how much time you have to study before the test and how you best learn. Many people say you need at least 8 weeks of dedicated and diligent studying to prepare. In fact, most LSAT prep courses are between 6-12 weeks long, though there are some courses that are longer and some weekend-long cram sessions. Either way, you need to be able to spend enough time to take several practice tests – enough tests so that you feel very comfortable with the test, so that you have seen improvement in your speed, and that your practice test scores are consistent (and you’re happy with the result).
One option is to study on your own. You can buy books from the bookstore, online, or get them in the library. The test prep business is huge and there are a lot of materials out there to help you. Our recommendation is to use these books to learn about the various sections and to develop ways to approach each question. If there are practice tests included in the books then make sure they are real LSAT exams that come from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). LSAC is the company that develops and administers the test. LSAC also sells previous tests and prep materials on their website.
It is very important to time yourself from start to finish while taking these practice tests and do not allow yourself any breaks that wouldn’t normally be scheduled. Finishing the test in the amount of time allotted is one of the biggest hurdles to doing well on the LSAT. You may be able to get most of the questions right if given all the time in the world, but the LSAT only allows you a certain amount of time per section and you’ll want to get through as many questions as you can. Also make sure not to get used to using scratch paper, as it is not allowed during the exam. If you find that you’re dedicating regular time to study over a few weeks and are satisfied with your practice scores, then studying on your own is probably an effective way to prepare.
Another option to preparing is to take an LSAT prep class. This can be effective if you are the type of learner who needs someone to instruct and motivate you, and/or if you are a more visual or oral learner. Because you are paying for the class, it’s more likely that you will go and thus, dedicate some time to preparing. Test prep companies will provide you with the prep materials and will conduct practice exams so that you can get a feel for what it is like. Again, make sure they are using previous tests that come from LSAC and are not just simulated to look like the LSAT. The downside to this method is that LSAT prep courses can be expensive. If you cannot afford a class, ask the prep company if they have any scholarship or grant programs that you could apply for that would either pay for or reduce the cost of the class. Also note that simply taking the class will not ensure a higher LSAT score. You should also spend time outside of class to get the most out of it.
A third option is to work with a private tutor. The test prep companies, your college learning center, or your prelaw advisor may be able to refer you to a tutor. A tutor will give you individual attention and cater the teaching to your learning style. A tutor will also be more able to work within your personal schedule.
Further, if you know or suspect that you have a learning disability, a tutor may be able to give you some more directed strategies. You should look into getting the disability diagnosed that is necessary in order to apply for testing accommodations on the LSAT. This process can take several months so you will want to explore this option long before you plan to take the exam.
Whichever option, or options, you use to prepare for the LSAT, make sure to give yourself plenty of time and practice often. You want to be as ready as possible when you do take the exam and ideally, you’ll be satisfied with your score the first time so you won’t have to take it again!