(This guest post is written by Mark Skoskiewicz and Jon Lock, co-founders of MyGuru.)
Your LSAT score is obviously a critical component of your law school application, and most folks need to invest a significant amount of time in preparing for it. Certain LSAT preparation approaches can work better for different personalities. Ann recently wrote a post on this blog about the best LSAT prep options, explaining the positives and negatives of preparing for the LSAT via:
- Online prep
- An LSAT in-class prep course
- Using an LSAT tutor
This post is for individuals considering private tutoring, and will offer up four key questions to ask during the process of choosing an LSAT tutor.
If you think about it, there is a pretty wide variety of factors to consider when evaluating potential LSAT tutors or tutoring companies, such as:
- Tutor’s own LSAT score
- Tutor’s LSAT tutoring or teaching experience
- LSAT training received
- Materials used
- Confidence with each section of the test
- General “fit” with the student
- In-person vs. online
- Tutoring style
- Years since they took the LSAT
All of these factors matter, but it’s probably intuitive that some matter more than others. While not every tutoring company or individual tutor will offer a free initial session, it should go without saying that any good tutor will be happy to get on the phone with you to introduce him or herself, discuss their background, and answer any high level questions about their approach. Basically, the first step is to assess general “fit” and comfort level with the tutor. If a tutor refuses to do this, they probably don’t have the right attitude towards tutoring.
But, beyond that simple point, the four ideas below are an attempt to capture all the relevant considerations when choosing an LSAT tutor – they are a way to synthesize a laundry list of factors into some key criteria.
Four Key Questions
#1 Expertise: Does the tutor have a well-rounded mix of experience and personal success with the LSAT?
If your goal is getting into an average law school and you thus need to score a 155 or higher, a great tutor for you might not be a great tutor for someone committed to breaking 175 and going to Harvard. The second person probably needs advanced guidance on the most demanding questions.
But, the following three rules will hold true for any student studying for the LSAT, regardless of skill level or target score:
A. Someone with a perfect 180 LSAT score but no experience is probably not going to be a great tutor
B. Someone with a 155 LSAT score but lots of experience is probably not a great option either
C. Some amount of professional training in LSAT prep is clearly desirable, all else equal
When it comes to “expertise” teaching the LSAT, the best tutors display an attractive mix of the above characteristics.
At MyGuru, we often get questions such as “did the tutor score in the 99th percentile?” Or, “how many years of professional training has the tutor had?” These are fine questions, but a holistic view of the tutor’s expertise is what’s really important. The answers to the above two questions are “No.” and “Zero.” for several of our best tutors. But, if the tutor scored in the 93rd percentile and has been tutoring privately for 6 years, they could be a fantastic fit for you (as is the case with several of our tutors).
A few final tips: (1) your tutor should be comfortable with all sections of the LSAT, and (2) there are frameworks and strategies for doing LSAT logic games. If the tutor suggests some sort of “guess and check” strategy, they are probably not a good option and I’d consider this a red flag.
#2 Approach: Does the tutor focus on core concepts and use official practice tests?
No matter what anyone tells you, there just aren’t huge differences between all of the LSAT prep materials available online or in a book store. Most cover, in reasonable detail, each section of the LSAT and the core concepts tested. It is these core concepts which you need to master and be able to apply on test day. When discussing materials to use, your tutor should be comfortable working with whatever LSAT prep materials you already have, although they might have their own personal preferences. They should certainly suggest that taking official timed practice tests is an important part of the LSAT prep process. Official tests under timed conditions are key – that’s the only true way to test progress.
A tutor that relies too heavily on a particular set of materials or methodology may not fundamentally be comfortable enough with the core concepts tested on the LSAT to answer questions or explain things in different ways that may make more sense to you.
#3 Style: Do you want an LSAT genius or a trusted guide and mentor?
We, in general, see two types of tutors from a style perspective. The first is simply an LSAT genius. She can clearly and crisply articulate the key to the most complex LSAT questions. The mentor/guide, on the other hand, focuses more on helping you develop a study plan, provides motivation, time management through the preparation process, and helps you structure your journey towards the LSAT and towards law school. Of course, most tutors display characteristics of both generic tutor categories. But, you should ask yourself, what type of tutor, if I had to choose, would I prefer? After speaking with a potential tutor or reading an introductory email from one, you can often get a sense for which category they fall into.
#4 Logistics: Will this tutor be easy to work with?
Studying for the LSAT and applying to law school is stressful enough. You don’t want to choose a tutor with the potential to increase this stress by responding to emails slowly, being difficult to schedule with, or being located far away requiring you to sit in traffic on the way to a session. So, while certainly the expertise, approach, and style of the tutor are probably more important than logistical concerns, don’t ignore logistics. If you work full-time and you find the perfect tutor, but he or she is located a 45 minute drive from you, think about whether that’s really going to be practical.
Choosing an online tutor can often alleviate many logistical concerns. If you have the right mindset and the tutor is using the right technology (video camera, electronic tablet/pen, etc.), an online tutor can actually be extremely convenient. But, it’s certainly different than in-person tutoring, and if you aren’t comfortable with it, stick with in-person tutoring. Again, if you choose an online tutor but really aren’t comfortable with it, that will increase your stress level.
By asking these four questions of any potential tutor or LSAT tutoring company, you’ll be well on your way to choosing an effective partner to aid you on your journey towards the LSAT and law school.
About the Author
This post is written by Mark Skoskiewicz and Jon Lock, co-founders of MyGuru, which provides customized in-person and online LSAT tutoring. Mark holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Jon holds a JD/MBA from Northwestern University. You can read about MyGuru’s thoughts on the LSAT and law school on their LSAT blog.