Preparing for the LSAT
If you hope to get into a good
school, doing well on the LSAT is essential. Every accredited
law school requires an LSAT score before they will even consider
admitting you. The LSAT is the best known predictor of first
year law school success.
What Should I Expect from the LSAT?
The LSAT exam is designed to measure skills that are
considered essential for success in law school: the reading and
comprehension of complex tests with accuracy and insight; the
organization and management of information and the ability to
draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think
critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and
argument of others. The test has five 35-minute sections of
multiple choice questions and an essay. The score is derived
from four of the five multiple choice sections. One section is
un-scored and is used to pretest new questions. You should not
try to guess which section—even seasoned professional test
takers have confessed that they don’t know. The written section
is not scored, but it is sent to law schools.
You register for the test at the
Law School Admission Council(LSAC) website. On the site you can find other information about
the test, including some free practice materials. The test is
given in February, June, October, and December. The most popular
time to take the test is October, but the recommended time is
June so that you don’t have to be distracted by your other
Last year over 171,500 aspiring law students took this test.
These prospective law students are competing for around 58,000
law school seats. 2 out of 3
potential law students will not have a law school seat.
Only half of the test takers even apply to law school. Of those
that have good enough scores to apply to law school, 1 out of 3
will not make it.
In general, you can expect to have a difficult time getting into
law school if your score is below 150. Assuming a decent GPA,
scores in the 150’s will give you a legitimate chance at some
law schools, but you are not going to be in the presumptive
admits; your application will be scrutinized. When you make it
to the 160’s you will be in the presumptive admits for all but
the top 50 or so law schools. With a 169, you have a legitimate
chance at virtually any law school. In the 170’s you will be a
presumptive admit in all but the top 10 law schools.
Because of its weight in the law school admissions process, the
LSAT should be taken seriously. If you would have scored in the
150’s without preparation, and you are able to work your way
into the 160’s, it will make all the difference in your choice
of law school. In the 160’s, with a 3.0 G.P.A. you can be
confident in a seat at a top 100 law school, and almost
guarantee a seat at a Tier 3 or 4.
How Can I Be Ready for the LSAT?
The LSAT does not test knowledge. Instead, it tests skills
(critical thinking and reading). The LSAT does not assume that
any test taker has knowledge of a particular academic
discipline. The only thing that LSAT assumes is that you read
and write English at a college level. Undergraduate college
courses that require logic, writing, or critical thinking, will
help develop LSAT skills.
You should plan on a minimum of 3
months to study
. If you are great at
standardized tests, you might get by with 2 months, but why risk
it? If you are terrible at standardized tests, you should plan
on budgeting even more time. With a little practice and
familiarity, your score will improve by a few points
immediately. It will usually take another 150 hours of study
before any more significant improvement occurs. Most people
experience an immediate improvement, when they learn a few
little logical tricks that they didn’t have before, and then
they plateau for a while. If you want to see real improvement,
and not just a small bump of five points or so, then you need to
understand that studying for the LSAT requires consistent
effort. It’s rumored that the writers of the LSAT have stated
that a person should study for six months if they want to do
At a minimum, you need to find some good prep books. If you look
to the right column, we have recommended some good, and very
reasonably-priced, books to use. Or, you can run down to the
local bookstore and pick a couple out. The LSAT requires you to
think differently than you are used to. And, there are concepts
you need to learn about basic logic, and the significance of
words like “if,” “only if,” “unless,” “necessary,” and
“sufficient.” These prep books are going to give you the
foundation you need to begin this transformation.
You should strongly consider studying for an hour or so a day,
instead of trying to do marathon sessions. If you study
frequently, you will be in the habit of getting into the test
taking zone that will help you on test day. While each book and
system is going to recommend a slightly different study
schedule, you should expect to pick an area of focus, review the
study materials for that area, work on practice questions, and
review and score your answers. It is important to attempt to
understand why each answer is correct, and to gradually work on
increasing your speed at the questions.
Because of the importance of the LSAT, we recommend taking a
prep course. Studies consistently
show that people who attend an LSAT prep course do better on the
Even if your score is only a few points
higher from this process, it could mean the difference from
having a seat at law school or not. And, even if you are
reasonably confident you will get into a law school, a few
points can make a major difference in the quality of law school
that you are admitted to. On the right is a link to a free
Kaplan LSAT Practice test. At a minimum, take advantage of
this free offer.
The courses are going to take an investment of money. Expect to
pay about what you would pay for a normal 3 hour class at a
university. But, they organize the material for you and keep you
disciplined. The instructors give you individualized attention
and tailor their advice to your unique weaknesses. Often you
will not even notice the problem that a professional will help
you to identify and correct. The course will also cover
everything you need to know for the LSAT. You will also get an
accurate gauge on where you stand with your score, information
you can use in determining whether or not to postpone the test
or hire a personal tutor.
General Strategies for the LSAT
The most important advice we have
for LSAT takers is to be confident that you are achieving your
highest potential score before you sit for the test the first
Do not go into the LSAT planning to retake
the test if you are unhappy with your score. If needed, postpone
the test so that you have the opportunity to do your best.
The LSAT test is scored by counting the number of correct
answers. You are not penalized for incorrect answers. So, the
worst thing you can do is leave a question unanswered. If you
find that you are out of time—hopefully your prep will minimize
this occurrence—then you should guess at any unanswered
The LSAT randomly mixes the level of difficulty in its questions
and contains a variety of easy and hard questions. On the LSAT,
easy questions count just as much as hard ones. If you are
spending a lot of time on a hard question, guess and move on.
There are easier ones to come. With practice, however, you can
learn to identify the hard questions and skip them altogether.
In general, in the Logical Reasoning section, look for the
shortest questions—they are the easiest; in the Reading
Comprehension or Analytical Reasoning sections, look for the
least intimidating game or passage to start with. Once you have
completed the easier questions, you can spend whatever time you
have left on the hard ones.
Answer each question carefully the first time you go through the
exam. The LSAT is designed to be time constrained. You will not
have time to review your answers.
Take a timed practice exam so that you can gauge how you handle
the questions when you are under the time limits you will face
on exam day. You should save a full practice exam that you have
never seen before for this purpose.
The Writing Sample of the test will not count in your score, but
each law school you apply to will get a copy. Given two
identically scored applicants, it could make a difference. Spend
a few minutes outlining your essay. It is a basic, persuasive
essay. The writing sample question poses a situation where there
are two more-or-less equal alternatives, and your task is to
make an argument about why one alternative should be chosen over
the other. A good answer would discuss the pros and cons of both
alternatives but then make a case why one alternative is better.
(For example: While A provides such and such, B provides such
and such as well but also has the added bonus of so and so;
therefore B is the better option). There is no right answer to
this question: the question simply tests your ability to make a
clear, well-organized, well-supported, persuasive argument. A
well-organized, concise, essay will serve you better than a
long, rambling, essay that makes brilliant points.
What Do I Do if I Bomb the LSAT?
Hopefully, the advice we have given you has adequately prepared
you to do your best on the LSAT. But, if something happens and
you know that you have really messed up during the test, you can
consider cancelling your score. There are two ways to do this.
You can cancel the score on your answer sheet by following the
instructions given. If you mess up on this part, LSAC will
report your score. You can also fax LSAC a score cancellation
form within 6 calendar days of the test. If you are cancelling
your score, you might consider doing both.
If you get a score, and it is worse that you wanted, you may be
tempted to retake the LSAT. According to one study, candidates
who took the test a second time earn scored on average 2.7
points higher than their first scores. But, remember, this
number is an average. Many test takers achieve higher scores but
also many test takers actually earn lower scores. Some law
schools will look at the higher score, but many will average the
scores. All law schools will know that you have multiple scores.
So, should you retest?
We think it depends. If your score is not good enough to get you
into a law school, the answer is yes. But, you should definitely
spend time in a live prep class and consider a personal tutor.
If your score is ok but you know you can do better, we don’t
recommend that you retake the LSAT unless you are very confident
that you will increase your score by at least 8 points.
For more tips, be sure to check out the Law School Coach
Guide to Law School Admissions