Studies have shown that Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores are strongly correlated with law school grades. Because of this, your LSAT score is an important factor in determining where you will be admitted to law school.
The good news is that, unlike some standardized tests, you can prepare for the LSAT. With the right studying techniques and plenty of time in which to implement them, it is possible to raise your LSAT score significantly from your first practice test.
Test Structure and Format
The LSAT consists of six timed sections. Five of those sections consist of multiple-choice questions, and you have 35 minutes to complete each section. These are divided by:
Section 1: Reading Comprehension
Section 2: Analytical Reading (sometimes referred to as “Games”)
Sections 3 & 4: Two sections for Logical Reasoning
Section 5: A final, variable section that could fall into any of the above categories. This fifth section is experimental and is unscored; however, there is no way to tell from the exam which section is experimental so you should do your best on all sections.
The sixth section is a writing sample, which you will have 35 minutes to write. It is also unscored, but the writing sample is sent to the law schools to which you apply so, again, you should do your best.
Preparation – Where Do I Start?
The first key to doing well on the LSAT is to give yourself plenty of time for preparation. While the time needed for preparation may vary depending on your initial score, your target score, and how quickly you are able to pick up the necessary information, in general, you should plan to study for at least two months and for approximately three to four hours a day, four or five days a week. Yes, that is a big commitment, but then, so is law school!
While some people may choose to invest in a commercial study course to help give structure to their LSAT studying, it is entirely possible to do well on the LSAT using only self-study. Still, no matter which path you take, everyone should begin their LSAT study by taking the free practice test offered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).
You should take the test under conditions simulating the real LSAT to not only get a sense for the types of questions on the test but also to get a realistic picture of what you need to work on to improve your score.
- Timing yourself
- Sitting up at a desk or table
- Eliminate all interruptions (yes, turn that cell phone off!)
- Take a ten minute break between the third and fourth sections.
Next, you should focus on honing your skills in the various question types. Each of the different sections requires its own plan of attack.
Conquering Each Section
The Reading Comprehension section tests your ability to understand and answer questions about difficult material quickly. The questions in this section are pretty straightforward; the difficulty lies in being able to read and understand complicated and unfamiliar material in a short period of time so that you are able to answer the questions accurately. An excellent method for studying for this type of question is to read passages from books and magazines on topics that you don’t normally read. For example:
- If you tend to read a lot of political works, you might
try looking at science books or magazines.
- If you were a math major, try reading books or articles on
the fine arts.
- Look for materials that are academic in nature.
The Analytical Reasoning section is composed of a series of logic puzzles. These types of puzzles were not invented for the LSAT, however, and there are magazines chock full of logic puzzles at many bookstores. On this part of the test in particular, the adage “practice makes perfect,” holds true. The more logic puzzles you complete, the easier they will become as patterns in the clues given and the types of questions asked become apparent. Here is an example:
Sample Analytical Reasoning Question:
A law firm has exactly nine partners: Fox, Glassen, Hae, Inman, Jacoby, Kohn, Lopez, Malloy, and Nassar. Their salary structure must meet the following conditions:
Kohn’s salary is greater than both Inman’s and Lopez’s.
Lopez’s salary is greater than Nassar’s.
Inman’s salary is greater than Fox’s.
Fox’s salary is greater than Malloy’s.
Malloy’s salary is greater than Glassen’s.
Glassen’s salary is greater than Jacoby’s.
Jacoby’s salary is greater than Hae’s.
If Malloy and Nassar earn the same salary, what is the minimum number of partners that must have lower salaries than Lopez?
(A) 3 (B) 4 (C) 5 (D) 6 (E) 7
The correct answer is (C). This question is considered “moderately difficult” compared to other questions on the test.
The Logical Reasoning section tests your ability to recognize logical and illogical arguments. For this section, it is helpful to understand the basic logical fallacies usually introduced in an introductory philosophy course, such as the “straw man” fallacy. Another good way to practice for this section is to read opinion pieces written by respected authors with whom you disagree because it is easier to pick out mistakes in logic when you are already coming to a work with skepticism. For example, if you tend to have very liberal political beliefs, you could read popular conservative magazines and vice versa, which will give you practice in recognizing errors in logic.
Sample Logical Reasoning Question:
Photovoltaic power plants produce electricity from sunlight. As a result of astonishing recent technological advances, the cost of producing electric power at photo-voltaic power plants, allowing for both construction and operating costs, is one-tenth of what it was 20 years ago, whereas the corresponding cost for traditional plants, which burn fossil fuels, has increased. Thus, photovoltaic power plants offer a less expensive approach to meeting demand for electricity than do traditional power plants.
The conclusion of the argument is properly drawn if which one of the following is assumed?
(A) The cost of producing electric power at traditional plants has increased over the past 20 years.
(B) Twenty years ago, traditional power plants were producing 10 times more electric power than were photovoltaic plants.
(C) None of the recent technological advances in producing electric power at photovoltaic plants can be applied to producing power at traditional plants.
(D) Twenty years ago, the cost of producing electric power at photovoltaic plants was less than 10 times the cost of producing power at traditional plants.
(E) The cost of producing electric power at photo-voltaic plants is expected to decrease further, while the cost of producing power at traditional plants is not expected to decrease.
The correct answer is (D). This question is classified as “difficult.”
Finally, for the Writing Section, you should practice writing clean, coherent essays under time constraints. If you are able to adopt a thesis, come up with two or three points to support your thesis, use examples to illustrate your points, and write a short conclusion in 35 minutes, you will do well.
How Your Score is Tabulated
Additionally, remember that your LSAT score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly, and no points are deducted for wrong answers. Thus, if you are stumped on a question or running out of time, you should always make a guess.
Practice, Practice and Practice Some More!
Although all of the above tips can help you achieve a good LSAT score, nothing replaces practice. You should plan to take at least five or six LSAC practice tests over the course of your studying, preferably spread out so you can adjust your studying as your score improves.
You may also want to invest in one or more commercial LSAT study guides available from a variety of companies. These guides are filled with study tips and practice tests, though the LSAC practice tests should be your bread and butter for truly gauging your progress since the tests available in commercial guides are typically created by the guide’s editors rather than by LSAC, which writes the actual LSAT exams.
It’s Not the End of the World
Whatever study methods you use, keep in mind that your LSAT score, though important for law school admissions, defines neither your intelligence nor your potential as a lawyer. Study hard and do your best, but, remember that in the end, your success in law school and as a lawyer will depend far more on your determination and perseverance than on your performance on a single test.
- Familiarize yourself with each of the different sections and
formats of the exam.
- Give yourself plenty of time for preparation.
- Download free sample tests, and practice taking them in
- Your LSAT score doesn’t predict your potential – but a good score can vastly expand your opportunities.