How to study for the LSAT is a challenge for any law school applicant as this is one of the toughest, most difficult to prepare for admissions exams you can take. As we can see from , getting into law school is no easy task and the LSAT is one of the biggest hurdles in your way. You’ll need to work hard and smart, prepare well in advance, and follow the right exam preparation strategies to ensure you maximize your chances of getting a .
In this blog, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide of how to study for the LSAT, with some expert tips to help you make the most of your prep time.
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The Law School Admission Test, also called the LSAT, is a crucial component of your application to , the US, and a few other countries such as Australia. This test is designed to measure the skills you need to study law and excel in law school. It tests aptitudes and abilities rather than knowledge of any specific content.
As you see, the last section is obscure and unscored. It is an additional section of one of the three other types, including experimental questions designed to test the validity of potential question strategies. You won’t be able to tell which of the sections is unscored and hence you’ll have to answer all five sections with the assumption that they are scored.
After completing the LSAT, you also have to complete a written submission which you can submit at your convenience (within a year of taking the test). In this section of the exam, students have 35 minutes to write an argumentative essay in response to a provided prompt. This essay is not graded and does not affect the LSAT test score, but it is submitted to law schools that ask for it and they may include it as part of your application review.
The maximum score for the LSAT is 180, and a score of 170 or above is essential if you want admission into the top law schools. How can you get this score? The LSAT isn’t a test of your pre-existing knowledge of any specific area. Rather, it tests you on your ability to process complex information, apply logic, analyze data, use reasoning to arrive at solutions, and perform under high-pressure, timed situations. So, to ace your LSAT, you need to spend enough time developing the required skills, get familiar with the questions, and get extremely comfortable with the test format so you can complete the test in the given time.
We recommend completing the following steps to effectively study for your LSAT:
It’s never too early to begin preparing for your LSAT, and if you really want to get ahead on developing the required skills for this exam, consider taking relevant coursework in your undergrad. For instance, you could take courses such as Logic, Critical Writing, Philosophy, Advanced English Literature, etc., to help you sharpen crucial skills such as the ability to parse dense information, understand complicated texts, analyze important data, and reason out a solution, all of which you need to answer the Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning sections of the LSAT.
Note that these aren’t mandatory courses for law school, nor do they offer specific instruction on LSAT test-taking strategies. Essentially, the courses we suggest above help you get comfortable with reading dense passages on new topics, which would make your transition into LSAT preparation that much easier.
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Before you actually start studying for the LSAT, it’s very important that you take the time to thoroughly research everything you can about the LSAT, including the test format, the key skills being tested, and the test-taking instructions. The LSAT is all about quick turnaround as you get just 35 minutes to answer each section and you simply won’t have any time to ponder over every question, understand what’s being asked of you, and read through the instructions during the actual exam.
Instead, you should come into the test already knowing exactly how to answer each section, what types of questions to expect in each section, the key skills to apply to arrive at the answer, and how you will be scored. For instance, the Analytical Reasoning section of the LSAT poses “” that require students to analyze the data given, decipher the complex relationships between multiple objects, and use critical analysis to arrive at an answer. Hence, you need to develop specific strategies to tackle these questions without wasting too much time trying to “understand” them, which is bound to happen if you’re not familiar with the skills being tested on the question!
After getting familiar with the LSAT test format and understanding the skills required, the next step is to take a diagnostic LSAT test. The Law School Admission Council or , from the official LSAT administrating body, is ideal for this purpose – since it’s an official source, you can get a reliable diagnosis of your performance. This initial diagnostic test is taken “cold” i.e., without any prep, so you can get a clear idea of where you stand, what are your key areas for improvement, and therefore, which sections of the LSAT you should be focusing on. The data you gather in this step will help you create a more personalized and effective in the next step.
Once you are thoroughly familiar with the LSAT format and have at least a basic idea of what you need to do to prepare for the test, you can focus on creating a comprehensive, effective study schedule that meets your specific needs. Here are some tips to help you at this stage:
1. Ideally, you should spend at least 250-300 hours studying for the LSAT, over a period of 3-4 months, at a rate of 20-25 hours per week. Anything less and you’re risking being under-prepared for one of the most important exams of your life. What is the point of writing an excellent and taking challenging pre-law coursework if you end up with pitiful LSAT scores because you didn’t give yourself enough time to prep? Make sure you create a plan that gives you plenty of time to prepare and practice for the LSAT.
2. Divide your plan into three broad stages:
We will discuss what to do in each of these stages in further detail later in this blog, when we go over the next few steps of this guide.
3. Make sure the plan includes consistent, evenly spread-out study and , as opposed to frantic cramming sessions on weekends and in between classes. Remember that the LSAT doesn’t require you to memorize set texts about law or any other topic. Rather, it tests specific skills and the only way to develop those skills is to consistently practice, practice, and practice. This is a matter of slow and steady wins the race. There is absolutely no scope for last minute cramming when preparing for the LSAT!
4. Figure out how much time you need to study, and an effective study plan that works with your schedule and other commitments, and only then book the date of your LSAT exam. That way, you can ensure that you’ll be fully ready when you take the exam.
Looking for some Law School Personal Statement Examples to compare to your own? Check out this video!
Next, gather LSAT preparation materials and go over the required concepts you need to know for the exam. The LSAC offers previously administered , that are essential study materials for every student.
Start by going over these to get a more in-depth understanding of each section of the test as well as the key test-taking strategies you need to develop, such as:
Many of the LSAT prep guidebooks provide not only strategies but also exercises to help you sharpen the skills required for the exams, such as logic games to help you improve your performance in the Analytical Reasoning section.
Additionally, you can also choose to take on external help via a course or tutoring. From guidebooks with detailed explanations of each question and recorded courses covering each section to live classroom training and individualized LSAT tutoring, there’s a lot of preparation options available for you to choose from, depending on your needs. When you’re making this decision, consider your own study style and decide accordingly what you think is the best way to study to maximize your chances of getting a good score. For instance, if you prefer one-on-one coaching and want intensive help with a specific area of the test, hiring an LSAT tutor would be a good idea. On the other hand, if you’re a self-sufficient learner and you prefer audio-visual learning, you can consider taking a pre-recorded video or audio course series for LSAT prep.
Once you’re thoroughly comfortable with the test format, and you have understood the basic test-taking strategies required, you can move on to actually practicing sample questions. At this stage, it’s best to focus on answering the questions correctly rather than trying too hard to keep within the time limit. You will work up the speed with more practice.
Remember that these questions are designed to be challenging and difficult to grasp, and it will take you time to get really comfortable with them. Initially, you may take a long time to answer each question and that’s perfectly okay. The LSAT is one of those exams where students show a great deal of improvement with consistent, targeted practice. They key to success is to just keep practicing until you get the hang of it.
As you practice, you should identify the question types, game types, and skills that are most challenging for you. Focus on isolating and practicing these types of questions over and over until you see your performance improving. Completing the same types of questions again and again consecutively can help you identify the common patterns between questions and build on your previous experience to quickly consolidate the skill required to tackle those questions.
The focus at this stage should be on applying all the test-taking strategies you learnt about in the previous stage to answer the actual questions. At first, it will be a struggle, as for every question you have to pause, think, apply the right strategy, and then find the answer. However, the more you practice, the more these theoretical strategies will become part of your pattern of thinking, aka a “habit”. Soon, you’ll find that you don’t need to spend as much time understanding the question or figuring out HOW to answer it – you can quickly move on to parsing the information given and arriving at the answers thanks to the strategies that are now embedded in your brain.
Once you’re confident in your ability to answer the different types of questions in each section of the LSAT, you can move on to completing timed practice of each section. Remember that your goal at this stage should just be to complete each individual section within the 35-minute limit, trying to get as many correct answers as possible. In the final exam, you’ll get 35 minutes for each of the sections, and you won’t have the option to adjust the time between sections. This means that you have to complete each section in the allotted 35 minutes without the option of taking extra time for a particularly difficult section.
Rather than focusing on one section at a time, try to cycle through each section, to ensure that the skills you’ve developed for each LSAT section stay fresh in your mind throughout this preparatory period. Of course, if you find that you’re performing particularly poorly in one LSAT section, you can always choose to schedule a few extra practice untimed sessions for that section.
As you attempt to do this, you’ll contend with one of the most difficult aspects of taking the LSAT – time vs questions. The nature of the LSAT exam is such that you can easily spend way too much time dwelling on one question, before you even realize what you’re doing! You need to consciously practice going through questions quickly and sticking to the time limit. The problem is, always considering that ticking clock can actually be very stressful and can negatively impact your ability to think logically and answer the questions. That is why it is so crucial to drill down on practicing completing each section within the given time limit. You need to develop the extremely important skill of being aware of the ticking clock without being distracted by it.
When preparing for the LSAT, it’s not enough to just practice answering questions. You also need to thoroughly review your answers and understand why and how you incorrectly answered the ones you got wrong. This is the best way to identify your areas for improvement so you can then move on to targeted practice to help drill down further on those questions.
To help you at this stage, there are plenty of guidebooks with sample questions and detailed explanations for each question available, which could provide sufficient practice if you’re good at self-analysis. Remember, the LSAT is not a test of what you know – it’s a test of how you think. To correctly identify what went wrong with your answers, don’t be afraid to dissect your thought process and go over each step of your reasoning to identify the error. Did you read the question wrong? Did you incorrectly think through the reasoning argument in the question? Or did you apply an illogical inference to arrive at the wrong answer? You will have to spend time breaking down your thought process for each question, so that you can figure out how to do better next time.
Some students find prep courses or personal tutoring particularly beneficial at this stage. Often, with questions based on logic or reasoning skills, personalized feedback from professionals or experts can be crucial to help you fine-tune these skills and quickly improve your performance.
Ideally, you should complete at least 4 sample tests in realistic test-taking conditions. You may take a few complete practice tests throughout your LSAT prep, for instance, a diagnostic test at the beginning and an additional test mid-way through prep to review your readiness. However, our recommendation is that you complete majority of your timed sample LSAT exams in the last month or month and a half before your LSAT. This is a great way to build momentum and stamina and be in the right state of mind just before your exam.
At this stage, you need to practice sustaining your focus and alertness throughout the different sections of the exam and managing your time between each section. The LSAT is a very mentally taxing exam and despite all your previous preparation, it might take you a couple of tries before you get comfortable with answering all the sections one after the other.
Try to practice the LSAT in conditions as close to the final test conditions as possible. For instance, recently, the LSAT transitioned from a pen-and-paper exam to a digital exam that is conducted on a tablet. Make sure you practice answering in this format otherwise you might waste some time getting used to the gizmo during the final exam.
Finally, make sure you take it easy in the week leading up to your LSAT exam. Of course, keep up with your scheduled practice and prep tests, but don’t try to cram too much last-minute prep into this week. There’s really no point – as I explained before, the skills you need to ace the LSAT cannot be crammed into your brain via last minute preparation. If at this stage you really feel you’re not ready, then it’s better to postpone the test. You will have to pay a small fee, but it’s better than the alternative of taking the test before you’re ready and receiving a poor result.
Ensure that you get a good night’s sleep the day before the exam and get to the exam destination with plenty of time to spare. The LSAT takes every bit of focus and determination you have, so make sure you’re mentally focused and physically fit when you sit down to take the test.
While the LSAT can be one of the most challenging aspects of your law school application, don’t let the pressure of getting a good score bring you down. Just focus on preparing for it one step at a time with the help of the steps we’ve outlined in this handy guide.
1. Can I prepare for the LSAT in one month or less?
No, that’s not enough time to prepare for the LSAT, which is one of the most challenging grad school admissions tests. You need to spend at least 250-300 hours over a period of 3-4 months, at the rate of 20-25 hours per week, to develop the skills necessary to ace the LSAT.
2. How can I do well in the LSAT?
To do well in the LSAT, you need to create and follow an effective LSAT study schedule that gives you enough time to learn, prep, and practice. First, make sure you learn everything you can about the exam and get familiar with the test format, questions, and instructions. Next, you need to study up on the important LSAT test-taking strategies and develop the skills necessary to answer the different types of questions. Finally, you need to practice answering sample questions until you’re confident in your ability to apply your skills to answer the questions in the given amount of time.
3. What study materials will I need for the LSAT?
The specific answer to this question depends on your study style and requirements. Generally speaking, you’ll need the official LSAC study materials including their guidebooks, question banks, practice exams etc. They also offer an official LSAT prep course that you can take online. In addition to this, you can always get guidebooks, audio courses, video trainings, recorded classes etc. from unofficial sources. And finally, if you think you need additional help, you can seek out LSAT tutoring or LSAT prep courses. Prep courses and tutors generally offer prep materials of their own to help you supplement your learning strategy.
4. What do I study for the LSAT?
The LSAT does not test students on their knowledge of any specific content. Rather, it tests the skills that are required to excel in law school, specifically, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension. To prepare for this exam, you will have to work on your ability to read long, complicated passages, identify the key data in the question, and apply reasoning and logic to arrive at the answer.
5. How many sections does the LSAT have?
The LSAT has five sections:
- Analytical reasoning (1 section)
- Logical reasoning (2 sections)
- Reading comprehension (1 section)
- Unscored variable section (one of the above)
In addition, the LSAT also includes a written component. This does not contribute towards the LSAT score but is sent to law schools as part of your application.
6. How important is the LSAT?
The LSAT is an extremely important part of the law school admissions process. Most law schools in the US and Canada ask for students’ LSAT scores and consider it a critical part of their application, sometimes even more important than your GPA, essays, letters of recommendations etc. The more prestigious the program, the higher the LSAT score you’ll have to achieve to guarantee an acceptance.
7. What is a good LSAT score?
The average LSAT score is approximately 150, and a score of 160 or above is generally considered a “good” LSAT score. However, if you’re targeting even the easiest , you’ll need an LSAT score of 170 or above. Some schools may accept students with a lower-than-average LSAT score, if they prove themselves to be exceptional in every other area of their application, but this is rare.
8. Do I get negative marks for incorrect answers on the LSAT?
Nope – you don’t get marked down for incorrect answers on the LSAT, which is why you should make sure that you answer every question to maximize your chances of getting a good score!