Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friends at Next Step Test Preparation. Next Step provides one-on-one LSAT tutoring programs nationwide. They provide a free upfront consultation to help students.
First things first: You absolutely must spend time reviewing your practice exams, in detail. This is the #1 reason why students get stuck on avoidable score plateaus. Every year, we take hundreds of calls from students who are caught at a particular score range, and one big reason is that they keep making the exact same mistakes over and over.
To put it as strongly as possible, it’s barely worth doing a PrepTest if you aren’t going to thoroughly review your mistakes.
For most students, reviewing a 4-section PrepTest should take 1-2.5 hours. Yes–for many students, reviewing the test should take almost as long as actually taking the test. There’s a big range in there because someone who is scoring in the 170s and missing only 5-10 questions will move a lot faster than someone starting in the 140s and missing 30-40 questions.
As you take the test, mark questions where you are either guessing completely, or, as is very common, you have it narrowed down to 2 choices and are really making a guess between the 2 best answers. (I like to put a big circle around the question number.)
Take a break right after you finish the exam. For you Type A LSATers out there, your brain is going to be dead right after finishing the exam. In fact, a great overall schedule for LSAT study is to take a practice exam on day 1. Review that exam thoroughly on day 2. Take day 3 off, and then repeat.
Make a list of every question you missed, along with every question you circled as one you need to review. After all, the way students improve on the LSAT is getting more of those “coin flip” questions correct by understanding finer distinctions in the answer choices.
For each of those missed questions, you’re looking to understand:
- Why was the correct answer correct? What is the exact logic that justifies that choice? Don’t let yourself give up on this–answers are never correct on the LSAT “because I crossed out all the other choices” or “I didn’t understand what that answer meant, so I figured it must be right.” You need to be able to make an affirmative choice for the correct answer.
- Why was the wrong answer that you chose wrong? Again, it’s not “because the right answer was right.” There’s a specific defect with each incorrect answer which you should identify.
- Finally, what sort of pattern does your mistake fall into? Some mistakes are just “silly,” like overlooking a logic game rule. Others fall into categories like “wrong because of extreme language,” “makes unwarranted assumption,” etc. It’s not critically important to make a big catalogue of these, but you do want to make sure to consciously work through why you made that mistake.
If you run into trouble on any of these 3 steps, you should look for help. You can get explanations to many LSAT questions online (or from our explanations book), work with a LSAT tutor, or go to a smart friend for help. Ultimately, if you can’t figure out why right answers are right with unlimited time to review, you’re missing some basic tools and may need to review your methodology a bit.
Understanding your mistakes is what helps you improve on the LSAT (at least once you’ve mastered the basics).