5 Tips for LSAT Self-Studiers

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Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friend Nathan Fox of Fox LSAT.  Fox LSAT offers personalized LSAT prep with a casual, irreverent approach. Nathan can show you how to have fun with the test, leading to dramatically increased scores.

I won’t lie: The very best way to prep for the LSAT is with a dedicated tutor at your side. An LSAT pro would help you breeze right through many common roadblocks, making your LSAT prep a far less frustrating journey.

But just because you can’t afford a fancypants LSAT tutor doesn’t mean you should say “FML” and give up. It’s totally possible to improve your LSAT score without a tutor. Yes, it will take diligence and hard work. But that’s true even if you do have a tutor. (And if you don’t want to work hard, I hate to break it to you, but you just aren’t a lawyer in the first place.)

Self-studiers are the underdog, so they need to be ruthlessly efficient. These five tips will maximize your score gains on a limited budget of money and time.

1) Start now, and do a little bit every day.
You won’t be ready for swimsuit season if you start doing pushups on June first. But if you start doing pushups on January first, you’ll have a hell of a lot of pushups under your belt — and that belt will be a couple notches tighter — by the time your first pool party comes around. Rather than trying to cram all your studies in at the last minute, keep it civilized by starting early and doing a tiny bit every day. I recommend the same basic “study plan” for just about everybody. Do one 35-minute section of a real LSAT every single day, then thoroughly review your mistakes. This should take about an hour in total. Maybe some days you’ll find time to do more than one section, but even if you don’t, one section a day is enough to make major progress if you do it for three months or more. If you’re self-studying, it’s especially important to give yourself plenty of time. Start now!

2) Study only real LSAT questions.
 If you want to improve your LSAT score, you need to work on REAL LSAT QUESTIONS. Sorry for shouting, but this is non-negotiable. Specifically, buy this book. And buy this one too. There are five books in the “10 Actual Official LSAT” series. The two most recent ones, linked here, are imperative. If you have time to do more, work backward into the previous volumes as well. But at a minimum, you’re simply not prepared if you haven’t done the tests in the two most recent volumes. These are the primary texts that I use in my classes and with my tutoring students.

Be very, very careful about which books you use.
Many of the cheapest LSAT books are cheap precisely because they don’t use real LSAT questions. Fancypants LSAT authors pay hefty license fees for the LSAT questions they include in their books. For example, every time I sell a copy of my Logical Reasoning Encyclopedia, which includes 550 real, recent LSAT questions, I have to pay a crazy $26 fee to the LSAC. If you’re buying an LSAT book for cheap, it simply can’t contain very many real LSAT questions. Sometimes, LSAT companies make up their own cheesy LSAT questions so they don’t have to pay the fee. This screws the reader; when you use these books, you’re not even studying the actual test. In other cases, LSAT books use the super-old LSAT questions, which carry a lower LSAC fee (and aren’t as similar to the questions you’ll find when you take the real test.) Go ahead and spring for the two volumes I’ve linked above. They’re the cheapest way to get the recent tests.

3) Practice first.
I’m always shocked when I speak with a student who has been “studying” for weeks or months, but has yet to take their first real practice test. This is a tragic error. If you’re not doing real, timed LSAT tests, then you’re not doing the LSAT at all. It’s like reading book after book about Bicycle Riding Theory without actually getting on a bike. Waste of time! The LSAT can be understood largely via common sense, so don’t confuse yourself with a bunch of unnecessary trademarked jargon. Start with the actual tests, and let the tests show you which ones you need help with.

The very first thing I do in LSAT class is administer a full, timed test. And then I continue administering full tests and individual timed practice sections throughout the course. The point isn’t to assess your potential. The point, very simply, is to make some mistakes, learn from those mistakes, rinse, and repeat. While doing your tests and practice sections, you should completely ignore the clock and focus 100 percent on accuracy. If you go slowly and carefully, the test will make more and more sense every day. Speed will come from accuracy. Stop wasting time on theory, and get to the real work of plowing through the practice tests.

4) Learn from your mistakes.
I’m also shocked when I see students hammering practice test after practice test without thoroughly reviewing their mistakes. This is like practicing free throws without noticing whether they’re going in. Every one of your mistakes is a golden opportunity to learn! When you miss a question, you need to get ruthless about figuring out exactly what you did wrong. Why did you choose the answer you chose? Why did you not choose the credited answer? Did you understand the argument? Did you understand the question type? Do you frequently miss questions of this type?

These are the types of questions that an LSAT tutor would sort out for you. (You know how rich folks at Disneyland can get a “guide” that takes them to the front of every line? Yeah, that’s what an LSAT tutor is like. You do tests, you put together a list of questions, the tutor fixes your mistakes. It’s like skipping the line.)

Whether or not you have a tutor, get a study partner! When I prepped, for the February 2007 test, I didn’t have a tutor. I did have a study buddy, however. We met for coffee once a week at Ritual Coffee Roasters. (In case you’re wondering, here’s how it turned out for me.) Sometimes you won’t know the answer, and your study partner can explain it to you. Sometimes you’ll know the answer, and explain it to your partner. Teaching is the very best way to learn! In some ways, this might be better than working with a tutor. As a general rule, when you’re self-studying, don’t take too long reviewing any one question. Give it 5-10 minutes, max, and assemble a list of questions you don’t understand. Bring this list to a tutor or study partner, and see if they can help you figure them out.

5) Maximize study time with modern tech.
Every time I schedule a Skype tutoring session, or refer a Thinking LSAT Podcast listener to my free online class, I get butterflies for technology. Yup, I’m a nerd. But the benefits really are amazing. Self-studiers in particular should avail themselves of the dizzying spectrum of resources available online. Start by printing this free LSAT. When reviewing that test, meet with your study partner via Skype instead of driving across town, giving yourself that much more time to study. Listen to my free LSAT podcast while working out or commuting. If you get stuck and decide to do an online LSAT class, you’ll find that it’s cheaper than an in-person class and you can increase your LSAT score before work, at lunch, even in your pajamas. What else? Here’s a free digital sample of my upcoming Logic Games Book. Oh, and use Ben Olson’s awesome new LSAT score tracker. Increase your point-increase-per-hour by maxing out on tech.

Nathan Fox, Guest Blogger

Nathan Fox, Guest Blogger

One thought on “5 Tips for LSAT Self-Studiers

  1. I’ve always had a hard time studying for tests and the LSAT will probably by my hardest test to date. If it isn’t I’ll be relieved, but also kind of dissapointed. Thanks for the tip about using books that have actual LSAT questions.

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