15 Tips for a Better LSAT Experience
Preparing for the Exam
1. Start to learn about the LSAT as far in advance as possible—about a year in advance is not unusual. Read about the exam on the LSAC website ( lsac.org). Become familiar with the four different sections of the LSAT: analytical reasoning (logic games); logical reasoning; reading comprehension; and writing sample. Investigate LSAT preparation programs online. These programs may have practice questions from the LSAT that you can try for free. Begin reading the strategies these programs recommend. The purpose of this early exploration is to prepare your brain for the type of thinking that is required by the LSAT; with enough time and practice, your brain will actually adapt itself to doing that type of thinking better and quicker.
2. Approximately two months before the exam, begin intensive preparation for the exam. The LSAT is an exam that you can prepare for, and sustained and focused preparation will increase your score. You may be able to prepare for the LSAT on your own using published guides to the LSAT and the numerous practice tests available from LSAC. However, if you have trouble creating and sticking to your own preparation schedule, then you may benefit from the structure of a commercial preparation course. Also, your particular learning style may affect your decision whether to prepare on your own or take a commercial preparation course online or “live.”
3. Begin your intensive preparation by taking untimed practice tests. At the beginning, you want to develop the skills that allow you to answer questions correctly. Therefore, take untimed practice tests where your only goal is to get correct answers. Go slow and think through problems all the way. When checking your answers, devote substantial time to analyzing the questions that you did not get correct. Determine why your answer is wrong and, more important, determine why the right answer is the right one. Some learning takes place while you take the practice exam, but equally much or more learning takes place while you are analyzing your results.
4. Once you become confident in your ability to find the correct answers, begin taking timed practice exams. Initially, allow yourself more time than you will have on the real exam, but choose a time that still pushes you. For example, instead of limiting yourself to the 35 minutes the LSAT allows for a section, work against a 45-minute clock. As your speed improves, gradually reduce the time to the 35-minute limit. Be sure to take several full exams under simulated exam conditions to build your stamina.
5. Become familiar with and learn to identify the different types of logic games (for example, sequencing, matching, and distribution). When analyzing your practice exam results, keep track of how well you scored on the different game types to determine which types of games types you tend to do better on. Likewise, keep track of whether you tend to do better on the one-passage or two-passage reading comprehension question sets. This will not only help you focus your practice, but will allow you to develop a test-taking strategy for those sections on exam day (see tips 10 and 12).
THE DAY BEFORE THE EXAM
6. The day before the exam (or sooner if it is convenient), visit the testing location if you can, so that you know where it is, how to get there, how long it takes to get there, where to park, and what the testing room is like. The more you know about the testing location, the lower your anxiety levels will be.
7. The night before the exam, get everything together that you will be bringing with you to the exam: admission ticket, ID, pencils, erasers, a highlighter, an analog wristwatch (the only kind allowed), a sweater in case you get cold, protein bars for energy, etc.
8. Get a good night’s sleep. You want to be rested and relaxed when you begin the exam (if not relaxed, at least not stressed by frantic last-minute preparations).
THE DAY OF THE EXAM
9. Eat a healthy breakfast and arrive at least 15 minutes early. You do not want to sit down for the exam and be hungry, tired, out-of-breath, or stressed by almost being late.
10. The analytical reasoning section. You will be presented with four logic games, each usually having five to seven questions. You can do the games in any order you choose, and you can likewise do the questions for any game in the order you choose. Therefore, quickly skim all four games and identify each game’s type (see tip 5). Then tackle the games in the order of easiest to hardest for you. This puts the game type that is most challenging for you at the end, when you might have to be guessing anyway because of the time limitation. When working on a game, always answer the first “orientation” question, then tackle the questions that include an additional constraint, then tackle the general questions, and finally attempt any question that changes any of the rules for that game.
11. The logical reasoning section. You will be presented with 24-26 short arguments, each of which will be followed by one question about the argument. One strategy for this section is to formulate your own answer to most questions before looking at the answers provided. Often, one of the answers (probably the right one) will be close to your answer, making it easier for you to recognize it.
12. The reading comprehension section. You will be presented with four sets of reading questions. Three of the sets are based on a single reading passage, and one set is based on two related passages. For each set, there are five to eight questions. As with the logic-games section, skim the passages and choose the order in which you will do them based on whether you tend to do better on one-passage or two-passage question sets, and based on any general comfort you have with the topic of the passages (for example, you may generally prefer history passages to science passages). Once you pick the passage set you’ll start with, skim the questions to get an idea of what you will be asked (you don’t need to skim the answers, just the questions). Then, as you read the passages, selectively highlight the passage and mark it up with short notes. This active reading will increase your comprehension and also allow you to efficiently find the particular parts of the passage that you need to review to answer the questions.
13. Fill in a bubble on the answer sheet for every question, even if you have to guess. You get credit for every right answer; there is no penalty for wrong answers. When you have to guess, improve your odds by using process of elimination. The more wrong answers you eliminate, the better your chances are of guessing the right answer. If you correctly narrow your choices down to two answers, you’ve improved your odds to 50-50.
14. While taking the exam, stay focused on the present. Do not think about the prior section of the exam or what’s to come.
AFTER THE EXAM
15. If your score is not at or above the average score of your last few full practice exams, consider taking the test a second time. And if you are applying to a school that considers only your highest score (such as WVU!), do take the test a second time just to see if you can score higher. If you improve your score, you may qualify for a larger scholarship award! Take your first LSAT exam in June or October; you would then be able to retest in December and still have your score be timely for your law school applications.
BELIEVE IN YOUR ABILITY.
ENJOY THE CHALLENGE.