10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Taking the LSAT

Taking the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience, especially if you don’t know what to expect. It can feel like everyone else just inherently knows the best way to study and prepare, while you are on your own trying to figure everything out. While studying for the LSAT, I spent four months wondering if I was studying correctly and whether I was even cut out to take the test at all. Of course, all of that worrying was unnecessary. If I could go back and talk to my stressed-out pre-LSAT self, these are the 10 things I would have said.

 

1. Taking a formal logic course in school will definitely help you

I took two formal logic courses before starting to study for the LSAT. When I enrolled in them, it was purely out of curiosity and interest, but now that I know how much they helped me to grasp LSAT concepts, I would definitely recommend them to anyone who is considering studying law. Formal logic is at the heart of every section of the LSAT, particularly the analytical and logical reasoning sections, so it’s crucial to have a good understanding of what it is and how it works.

 

2. It is possible to work and study for the LSAT at the same time

I remember googling LSAT study tips online and seeing comments by people who had dropped everything for four months in order to spend eight hours a day studying for the exam. This freaked me out because, for me, not working over the summer was not an option. I needed to make money for school and I did not want to miss out on a summer’s worth of work experience. In the end, though, I found that if I did a couple logic games over my lunch break, carved out an hour or two to study after work and made use of my free time on the weekends, I was able to study effectively while working 40 hours a week. It was definitely tiring, but it was possible. Additionally, I found that I was more productive when I studied for just a couple hours at a time, rather than hours on end in one sitting.

 

 

3. There is no set amount of hours you need to study in order to succeed

Some people will need to study more than others, and that’s totally okay! You just need to figure out what works for you. Kaplan Test Prep recommends spending between 150 and 300 hours studying for the exam, averaging about 20–25 hours a week over a two- to three-month period. In my experience, though, trying to stick to a strict study schedule only stressed me out more. I found that it was more effective to focus on the progress that I was making with the material and to set goals for myself, rather than worry about whether I was studying for long enough.

 

4. You do not necessarily need to take a prep course

Exam prep companies will make you feel like you need their services, but this is not necessarily true. Prep sessions can be expensive and time consuming, and they are often taught to a large group of students without focusing on the learning styles and paces of individual members. Try borrowing an exam prep book from the library and taking a look at a practice exam before you decide whether or not you can see yourself studying the material effectively on your own. That being said, if you are the type of person who needs help sticking to a study schedule and/or is motivated by studying with others, prep sessions could be the way to go! Just be assured that you will not be at a disadvantage if don’t take one.

 

5. Practice exams are your most valuable resource

Practice exams show you where your strengths and weaknesses are while simultaneously familiarizing you with the test format. I found that LSAT drills and workbooks were helpful in the initial stages when I needed to solidify my grasp on logical reasoning and specific types of logic games, but once I had a solid understanding of the basics, I used exclusively practice exams to study. In fact, I completed over 35 practice exams in total. I found that I learned best by identifying my errors and focusing on those areas on my next practice test.

 

6. Practice under realistic conditions

The best way to benefit from practice tests is to take them under realistic conditions. Chances are, your score will be significantly different if you take the test under test conditions than it will be if you are relaxed about time constraints or take long breaks between sections. For me, taking tests under test conditions forced me to learn how to deal with moments of panic during a test. When you feel like a section is going poorly, it is easy to shut down and give up on the rest of the test. When I faced moments like this in my practice exams, I forced myself to persevere instead of stopping the timer or starting over. Through doing this, I proved to myself that I am capable of overcoming test stress and that I can still score well even if I struggle with one section. This helped me to stay calm during the real exam.

 

 

In order to simulate test conditions, take the test in a quiet room with no distractions. This could be a study room at the library or an empty classroom, but it should not be your bedroom or kitchen table, where you feel comfortable and at home. For each section, only give yourself 35 minutes with 5-minute breaks between sections and a slightly longer break between the first three and the last three sections. Finally, be honest with yourself about your score when you are marking your test—you can’t get questions “almost right” on a multiple-choice exam.

 

7. Do not underestimate any sections

The exam is composed of two logical reasoning sections, an analytical reasoning section, a reading comprehension section and an essay. When I looked at my first practice exam, I remember thinking that the analytical reasoning section was definitely going to be challenging, but I was not at all concerned about the reading comprehension. After all, I had been taking reading comprehension tests since I was in middle school—how hard could it be?

I was mistaken. When it came to the actual exam, I ended up getting 100 percent on the analytical reasoning section and bombing the reading comprehension. While it evened out in my final score, I would have scored even higher if I had spent a little more time preparing for the reading comprehension. Once I mastered analytical reasoning, I should have shifted my focus and spent more time on improving my reading speed and learning techniques for approaching reading comprehension questions.  

8. The essay is not marked, but it still matters

The essay is another area that I wish I had spent a little more time preparing for. It is easy to put off studying for this section, because it does not contribute to your overall LSAT score, but it is, however, made available to law schools when you apply for admission, so you want to make sure you are prepared to show off your best writing skills. For this reason, it is worth doing a few practice essays so that you can get used to the kind of prompts that they will give you and are comfortable crafting an essay in only 35 minutes.

 

9. Be confident! And don’t compare yourself to others

I sometimes felt like a fraud when I would tell people that I was studying for the LSAT. In my mind, only SUPER smart people took tough tests like the LSAT, and I didn’t think I fit into that category. Even when I was starting to feel really prepared, I would watch a YouTube video about some girl with a 4.0 GPA and a rigorous 18-month study plan and question how I could ever compare to that.

After chatting with my fellow test takers on test day, though, I realized that, in real life, no one is overconfident and completely organized going into the exam.

You’ve heard this a million times, but it definitely applies to the LSAT: barely anyone posts about their struggles on the internet, yet everyone experiences them, so it is useless to compare yourself to what you see online. The best thing you can do is focus on your own progress and take pride in your achievements over the course of your study period!

 

 

10. It is more than okay to rewrite the test—in fact, lots of people do

The LSAT is a stressful exam to study for because it can feel like your entire future rests on the outcome of one test. Fortunately, this is not true at all. You are allowed to write the LSAT multiple times, and you can even re-write the test after the application deadline for most law schools. Many people rewrite—in fact, in any given LSAT exam, approximately 22 percent of the people there are second-time test takers. Some law schools count the average of all of your LSAT scores, while some take your highest score. Additionally, most schools also take GPA, work history and extracurricular activities into account when making admissions decisions. While the LSAT is important, it’s not a dealbreaker, so don’t put too much stress on it!

 

Of course, this was my own experience, so take it with a grain of salt, but I hope that I’ve shed light on the fact that everyone is lost and uncertain while preparing for the LSAT, and that the key is to be confident in your abilities and focus on the study techniques that work best for you!

At the end of the day, there is no standard way to prepare for the LSAT, because there is no standard LSAT taker. Though we don’t see it on TV, real law schools are filled with people with different backgrounds, undergraduate majors and grade point averages, and they all made it through the LSAT.