In a few ways, I was putting this post off because I have tried to block the monster that is the LSAT from my memory. And I’m not kidding. The LSAT is a stressful, and perhaps the MOST stressful, component to the law school admissions process. I thought I’d do well, but I was scared about the concept of a standardized test because i get testing anxiety, and don’t like exams that have a stigma along the lines of “my whole life is riding on this four hour exam…” However, I refrained from writing an addendum to my applications about testing anxiety because at the end of law school we have the Bar, which is an exam. I also did my best, given my anxiety, and that’s all I could personally do. Anyway, I’m here today to offer some pointers/ lessons for the LSAT component of the process. The tips are kind of a compilation of my own experience along with a lot of commonalities/misconceptions I saw around the web! So, let’s get to it!
- YOU ARE NOT YOUR SCORE. If you’re like me, and just generally don’t perform well on standardized tests, but know you can do the work and do well in class settings, go into the exam with the understanding that no matter what number comes via email from LSAC is not necessarily what kind of law student you’ll be. Yes, schools use the exam to gauge how good of a law student you’ll be, but also know that there are some people who could take the exam, walk out with a 175, and then have zero work ethic to strive and succeed in law school. The test does not define your potential. Do not let a lower score deter you from chasing your dream of becoming a lawyer! Work hard for the exam, and work harder in law school.
- Do NOT go into the LSAT cold. After meeting with admissions officers, reading countless websites and blogs, and talking to students, a single piece of advice that was held across the board: take the time to study and study well. This is not the SAT, and you should not expect to do well without ever picking up a prep book. The Logic Games section typically gives people the most trouble, and is a section that should have a lot of attention given to it way before test day.
- Prep courses are well worth it. I think that 90% of test taking well is being confident about the exam. I always get jittery, but the second time I took the exam, I felt astronomically better about it. I felt more confident about attacking questions, recognized question type faster, and could hear my instructor telling me how to approach a section. If you are thinking about a prep course, I would say take it!
- Timing is key. The timing of the LSAT is designed for not everyone to finish. In fact, most people are not supposed to finish. So, when you take practice tests or your diagnostic, you should always time yourself and NOT allow any extra time. I highlight this because people often give themselves a minute or two extra, which doesn’t seem like much on a single section, but is actually hugely hindering your ability to gauge your score accurately. If you give yourself extra time per section and score a 175 on practice exams, do not expect a 175 on test day! You need to time yourself accurately always.
- Practice, practice, practice. Take as many practice tests as you can get your hands on. The key to doing well is knowing what your doing, being at ease doing the exam, and having the confidence to know when to move on from questions that stump you! Someone told me this, and I found ordering a bunch of practice exams online and taking them helped me a lot! Note: only order real tests. I found actual LSATs that are released by LSAC on Amazon, and bought as many recent exams as I could!
- You Can Improve On ALL Sections. A lot of people worry about the Reading Comprehension section, but as an English major I wasn’t particularly worried about it. The Logic Games, however, seemed completely alien. The more I read about each section, though, the more I realized there’s always room for improvement on all sections, and you can totally improve. Don’t be discouraged if your score is oddly low in any section, just give that section special attention and know you can improve!
- Don’t let other people’s scores discourage you. When I went to an admissions officer talk at UC Berkeley on of the students near me was complaining about getting a 170. A 170/180. I was NOT near a 170, and was getting SO anxious knowing this student was also applying to schools. But then I thought about it, and all that I’ve done during my four years, and realized that although I didn’t have 170 to offer, I still had a lot to offer as an applicant.
- Study as far in advance as is realistic. Don’t start studying actively three years before you take the exam, but do start studying about 3 months, maybe more, before! I studied for almost 6 months, but as I said, I get really bad anxiety about exams. If you know studying for 6 months will completely burn you out, don’t study for 6 months. Figure out what schedule will work best, and stick to it!
- Even if you don’t achieve the score you want, you’ll get into a good school. I like to think that even if you don’t get the score you want, you can still go somewhere good! Do your absolute best, and start studying early, but if you never get to that 175, it’s okay! Not everyone is Elle Woods (not everyone can go from being upset about getting generic toilet paper in their sorority house to a 179 on the LSAT). Someone in the admissions office of a school you’re applying to will see potential, and want you as part of their school. If you don’t get in anywhere, take a step back, re-evaluate, and rethink your plans. You can ALWAYS reapply in a year or so!
So, go study for the LSAT, and be happy when it’s over!