Are you interested in getting a job that will put you in a position to change the world? Or maybe your plan is to be the next US president.
This is where a career in the law field could get you (among others).
But, big dreams are nothing without action, especially when it comes to such big goals. So, if you’re serious about becoming a lawyer, a judge, a fighter for the environment, or more, you have to take the first step.
In this case, the first step is the LSAT or the Law School Admission Test. This is the standard first step in the law school admission process and helps filter the candidates based on their scores.
As such, if you plan on getting into a top-tier law school like Harvard or Stanford, a high LSAT score is mandatory. If you don’t really care about the name of your law school or its reputation, you can relax a bit, but you will still need to pass the exam with good results.
So, if you plan on starting a law career and are currently thinking about taking the LSAT, we put together a detailed guide to help you get as prepared as possible.
Understand What Your Are Being Tested On
Many candidates fail to understand that this is a test of skills, not knowledge or experience.
The LSAT was designed to test a candidate’s ability to read and understand complex texts, analyze difficult situations and complex information, use logical reasoning, and perform well in a stressful, timed scenario.
Usually, these are skills you already developed as an undergraduate (you need an undergraduate degree to take the LSAT), but they will be heavily tested during this exam. So, you need to know how to apply these skills in a format that’s particular to the LSAT and law school in general.
In addition, law schools consider that the candidates with the highest scores are most prepared to excel at studying the law. That’s why the best universities will only accept the best candidates – they are the ones most likely to do well during their first year and ultimately, pass the bar exam and start a stellar career.
Know Where To Start
Before you start hoarding books, papers, online courses, references, and other types of resources, make sure you understand what is required of you during the exam.
The exam is comprised of four sections (for each, you have 35 minutes to complete):
- Analytical reasoning.
- Reading comprehension.
- Two logical reasoning sections.
- An unscored variable section (used to determine the validity of various questions that may be included in future exams).
There is also an unscored written portion, also known as the essay, but this one is administered separately and takes place online. This section of the exam can be taken at a time that is most convenient for you, but we strongly recommend that you do not put it off for too long.
As of July 2020, anyone taking the LSAT must have a complete writing sample on file in order to get their scores. In addition, the essay may be used as a tool to differentiate two candidates with similar scores since a sample of your essay will be sent to each school to which you apply.
1. Analytical Reasoning
25 questions & 35 minutes to complete everything.
This section is also known as “logic games” because it only consists of four scenarios. But don’t let this fool you!
This is one of the most challenging sections of the exam and each scenario has 5 to 7 accompanying questions that you must solve for a perfect score. Each of these scenarios will test your ability to understand and use a set of specific rules while keeping track of the options you were initially given.
Keep in mind that this is one of the most challenging sections of the exam and many candidates fail to prepare well for it. While you can pull up your scores in the other sections, this one may help you get into the right school or gain financial aid to a top tier school.
How to Prepare?
The secret behind doing well in this section is simple: practice, practice, practice!
To solve the games correctly, a candidate needs to understand and visualize the scenario while also understanding the implications of the given rules. You will also need to understand the connection between rules and why they are set in place.
Lastly, to solve each of these games correctly, you have to organize the information and use it in an analytical way. This last part is crucial since the games can be organized in confusing orders or patterns.
So, work on developing your analytical reasoning skills by playing as many LSAT logic games as possible.
2. Reading Comprehension
27 questions & 35 minutes to complete.
This one may sound simple since it’s simply asking candidates to understand the context of a text in the given time.
But there’s a trick to it – the text will be dense (imagine a wall of text) and on a topic that’s unlikely to be familiar.
How to Prepare?
Start by reading as many dense texts as possible, from all sorts of areas. But don’t limit yourself to just reading – also analyze the text and make sure you understand well enough to reproduce it with your own words.
It will be hard at first since our brains don’t like heavy texts and the eyes tend to glaze over it, but it is important to force yourself to stay focused. In addition, it’s important to choose from varied fields since the topics for the actual test are specifically chosen from areas that are less likely to be familiar to test-takers.
Quick note: the LSAT is now taken in a digital format which means you will be using tablets instead of booklets. This may throw off some candidates, especially during the reading comprehension section, so get used to reading dense texts on the screen of a tablet.
3. Logical Reasoning
2 sections of about 25 questions – 35 minutes per section.
Since there are two logical reasoning sections, it’s safe to assume that it is twice as important as the other sections. These questions will test your ability to analyze the range of possibilities of a presented argument, and then criticize it based on the instructions you received.
These are the skills that will help you argue for a cause, dig up useful information while writing grant applications, or reconciling opposing parties. As such, there’s no wonder the LSAT dedicated two sections for testing these skills!
How to Prepare?
If you were part of the school’s debate team or you are the one who always knows how to support their view on a topic, you may be a bit more prepared than the rest of the candidates. However, you shouldn’t rely only on that.
We recommend taking classes in logic, public speaking, debate, philosophy, or other topics that may help you improve logical reasoning. These classes can be taken while in school or online while preparing for the LSAT.
4. The Unscored Variable Section & the Essay
Each has 35 minutes to complete.
The unscored section will not affect your final score, but you don’t know where it will be placed within the exam. This means you can’t treat any of the questions differently to reduce your effort or shift focus on the ones that really matter.
Lastly, the essay is another part of the test that won’t be scored. Additionally, you get to work on it from the comfort of your home, using the resources you want, without anyone breathing down your neck.
Also, there is no right or wrong way of doing this. Well, the wrong way would be to not take it seriously enough, but if you’re serious about this path, we trust you won’t do such an appalling thing.
The idea of the essay is to show the school admission representative your way of thinking when you develop an argument. For this, you are presented with two (usually conflicting) positions and you must choose one and argue in its favor. Both positions are defensible and you will receive extra information so you can make an informed decision.
The one reading the text will be looking for your argumentative and logical reasoning skills as you build the defense. It also matters to present your reasons well and deconstruct the other position in a way that can be used in favor of the one you selected.
It Takes Real Commitment
The LSAT is only the first step on a difficult path that will ask a lot from anyone who dares to go to a distance. However, if you are truly committed, the rewards are worth the effort since you may actually have the chance to make a difference in your field of interest.
Start with at least three to four months in advance and spend at least 6 to 8 hours per week working on improving your skills. You want to do as well as possible, so there is no room for error on the day of the test.
Once you clear your schedule, start gathering useful resources (books, online classes, the LSAC site, blogs, papers, and more). To make sure the resources you collect are useful, take a few practice exams without any prior preparedness.
This way, you will easily identify the areas and topics where you need to work harder (your so-called weak spots). Focus your future study sessions on improving the weaknesses you identified and when you feel confident, take another round of practice tests to see if you have actual results to show for your efforts.
It’s important to keep your calm and avoid getting discouraged if you don’t seem to make any progress (at least in the early stages of studying). It takes a while to find your footing, so make sure to be consistent and diligent with learning and practicing.
A good learning schedule and quality resources are the ideal ingredients for success, but if you need a bit more, here are some extra tips:
- Familiarize yourself with the test format and atmosphere, to avoid any surprises during the actual test.
- Work with previously administered LSAT questions and make sure you understand the answer (these questions usually come with the answer).
- When you make mistakes, understand why a given answer was wrong and how to answer correctly. Also, check if the same pattern applies to similar questions.
- Take care of yourself during prep time and during the exam. If you’re constantly tired and stressed out, you will not be able to function at your optimum parameters. This means your mental and focus powers will be diminished, which may affect the final score.
Lastly, it is totally possible to study for the LSAT on your own (and pass it successfully), but it takes discipline, motivation, and determination. So, if you have a tendency to procrastinate under pressure, you may want to enroll in an online class that will keep your study sessions on track and monitors your progress.
The LSAT is the first step to a difficult but rewarding career that can add meaning to one’s life. So, if you are serious about taking this path, you need to invest time and effort into sharpening the right skills.
In addition, we recommend keeping an open mind. Nowadays, the rules start to change and employees may have different requests due to the influence of the digital world (especially in a field like law, which’s less flexible). As such, it’s best to get your head out of the books and library shelves and check the real world from time to time.
While the law school curriculum may not provide much flexibility, it’s important to challenge the status quo where possible. Also, don’t be afraid to stand up against the system and identify ways of improvement. If you do this right, you’ll finish law school with a lot of real-life experience that will come in handy after the bar exam.