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Tips for the LSAT from a former test tutor (and now lawyer)

Photograph of Nils Preshaw As any prospective applicant to law school in North America (and Australia) knows, the Law School Admission Test (or “LSAT”) is a required half-day test you must take before applying to law school.

The LSAT is administered seven times a year at official locations around the world.

The test had existed since about 1948 and was created to give law schools a standardized way to assess applicants above and beyond their grade point average based on reading comprehension and their logical and verbal reasoning.

The LSAT has six total sections that include four multiple choice sections, a short essay and an experimental section designed to assist the council with creating future exam questions.

A perfect score is 180 and it is extremely hard to get. Minimum LSAT scores differ by school.

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I recall being terrified of the LSAT. I convinced myself that I would mess it up and never ever get into law school. In my experience, this terror is not uncommon.

I was so concerned that I paid to take a private course. I recall diligently attending an evening course once a week for what seemed like forever where I was taught tips and tricks about the LSAT from an honest-to-goodness law student who had aced the exam.

I vividly recall taking the LSAT in New York City (where I was living at the time) and the audible gasps participants involuntarily let out when a guy in operating scrubs flipped open the first page of the exam booklet (far ahead of everyone else in the exam room).

No one at law school ever asked me what I got on the LSAT.  No prospective employer ever asked me either. (I did very well. In fact, and to my great surprise.)

I did so well that during law school I was hired by the same private company I had attended to teach the LSAT (and parts of the MCAT) to prospective law school applicants.

Now others had to put up with me strutting around a room one night a week because I was a bona fide law student who had aced the LSAT…

Thinking back, my advice to prospective LSAT test takers is as follows:

1) Go get a recent, full length, official exam. These can be found for a fee online or sometimes for free at various libraries.

Set up a fake exam room and take the entire test. Don’t take any breaks (other than an occasional bathroom break). Don’t bring anything other than a pencil and water (perhaps a snack is allowed, I can’t recall).

Try to make your faux exam as realistic as possible.

Be sure it is a recent one since the LSAT Counsel strives to make tests comparable to earlier ones within the last few years.

If you get an acceptable grade then you may be one of those lucky people who don’t need further study (maybe take a few tests just in case).

However, if your result is not as good as you as hoped…

2) Then, I suggest that months in advance of the official LSAT test you should practice reading complex news stories in newspapers like the Sunday NY Times in the USA or the Saturday Globe and Mail in Canada.

Use a pencil to underline key points of a complex article that does not interest you (perhaps from the business or sports pages depending on whichever you would not normally read). You need to be able to understand complex writing to the point that you can explain it to others or answer tricky multiple-choice questions designed so that many of the answers seem to be correct. Newspaper articles are a similar length to the prompts on the test and you won’t be able to pick the subject matter there either.

3) Practice the LSAT games sections. It takes a little more effort to track them down but there are definitely tips and tricks to the LSAT games sections and unless you are a natural savant at logic puzzles these puzzles may clean your proverbial clock.

Practice your writing (you are applying to become a lawyer after all).

4) Take a LSAT prep course if you are not performing up to your expectations or if you are, like I was, terrified. There are numerous sources out there, but it can be hard to choose and to know if it will actually help your score that much more. Try here for the “Best LSAT Prep Courses”, Princeton Review resources, and Kaplan for places to start.

5) When taking a practice exam, I used to suggest to my students that they cross out those multiple-choice answers that they were sure were incorrect, place a wavy line next to those options they thought were maybe’s and of course circle the answer you end up selecting.

My students frustratingly found that they often placed multiple wavy lines next to answers they felt might be correct but in analyzing their test later (something you need to do to improve) they found that the correct answer was one of the options they rejected for one reason or another.

Prospective law school applicants who are struggling with the LSAT need to analyze their own performance and try to work out why they are selecting the wrong answers. This is often rooted in less than precise reading of the materials or the question or both.

6) I have a secret trick left. But you will have to connect with me on LinkedIn to get that information (it’s too embarrassing to write here).

Good Luck!

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