LSAT Study Guide or How Should I Prepare for the Law School Admissions Test
What follows is VOYAGER'S LSAT PREP PLAN. My understanding is that he is or was a Kaplan Instructor so take his advice about them with a grain of salt.
First, I am assuming you have 3 months to study for your Law School Admission Test. You can adjust the below for less time, but 3 months really is the ideal time period.
Second, you are not using a LSAT prep course. If you are, you need to adjust the below to match the course.
Third, you have the discipline, resources, and drive to carry out my plan and to study in an effective way (i.e. NOT while watching Grey's Anatomy).
Fourth, as a result of my previous statement, you are ready to put in 20 hours per week of studying (or a little over 12 a week if you are in a prep class). Less than that will not get you into the high 160s.
I am breaking this plan into 4 sections by time period (pre-plan, and months 1, 2 and 3) which are, in turn subsectioned with the goals for that month.
Pre-study Prep: in which you acquire all the materials you need to carry out what follows. This will probably take you a few days. Here is what you need:
A. Logic Games Bible.
B. Logical Reasoning Bible.
C. A Kaplan prep guide which covers their reading comprehension strategy in detail.
D. Lots of practice tests. By this I mean AT LEAST 10 REAL (as in, actually given) LSAT tests. You are best off with 15-20. You also need to explanations for them. This is absolutely critical. I was prepping with Kaplan and they provided me with every test every given along with the explanations.
E. LOTS of number 2 pencils. These are the ones you will use on the real thing. Remember, we want to mimic the real test when we practice as much as possible.
F. A large eraser. You are best off with those soft white ones. The regular pink ones are garbage.
G. An analog watch. LSAC no longer allows digital timers. You need an analog watch to time yourself.
H. A comprehensive prep guide (if you don't like the rest of Kaplan's.)
The best place to buy your law school study guides is on our Amazon law books site. You can usually find used ones at at very cheap price. We have lisited the most popular LSAT STUDY GUIDES at the link below. Be sure to click on the used link for the best prices.
Month 1: in which our hero gains exposure to the 3 main sections of the test (NOT including the writing sample... yet): Logical Reasoning (hereafter referred to as LR), Logical Games (LG) and Reading Comprehension (RC). What follows are the problem types you need to learn in the first month. They are the most common types and will the base upon which we build in month 2. Remember that, in order to learn a new skill, you MUST focus your efforts on that skill alone for a bit. A "shotgun" approach to studying is doom.
*IMPORTANT NOTE*: spend no more than 3.5-4 hours studying in one sitting. That is your limit. You CAN study 7-8 hours on the weekend IF you give yourself a 3-4 hour break in between.
A. Logical Reasoning. This part of the test covers over half the questions and is difficult to master. So don't try to learn it all at once! In month one just worry about learning the following types. These types make up almost 1/2 of the LR sections!
1. Types to Learn:
2. Reason for focusing on them: All of them tend to revolve around the following concept: evidence+assumption=conclusion. Further, the skills for these three are very useful for the other sections.
3. Study Tips:
a) review the relevant chapters in the logical reasoning bible as well as the comprehensive book.
b) When you first begin DO NOT time yourself and DO NOT do entire tests or even sections. ONLY do individual problems.
c) When you miss problems, be sure to go back and read the explanation, then REDO the problem with the explanation in mind. I will tell you to do this over and over again in this guide. It is a critical part of the plan. Yes, you will sometimes remember the answer. But you are not just trying to get it right on the second go around, you are trying to correctly articulate to yourself WHY that choice is correct. This exercise is HOW you learn to SOLVE new problems correctly.
d) When you sit down to study, focus on 1 problem type at a time. An hour completely devoted to Assumption questions, for instance, is going to see much better results than an hour spread among all 3. Again, this is a critical study concept that applies to ALL I present here.
B. LSAT Logic Games. Start with the most common ones first.
1. Types to Learn:
a) Strict Sequencing (7 race horses finish 1-7 with no ties)
b) Loose Sequencing (bill is taller than meg and jan, etc...)
c) Matching (each of these cars can have the following options). Matching is normally difficult for students!
2. Reason for focusing on them now: sequencing is easy and is a great way to ease into games and achieve success early. Matching and sequence are also very common components of hybrid games.
3. Study Tips: Same as previous. Learn each type individually.
C. LSAT Reading Comp. This month your goal is to begin learning how to diagram a RC passage, identify critical pieces of info, and get used to the RC strategy I have outlined elsewhere. I am not going to get into detail as I have done so elsewhere (look at the next posts in this thread)... just be sure to NOT time yourself yet. You need time to learn how to do this appropriately. Your goal, by the end of the month is to have your own shorthand notation worked out and to be able to approach RC with a strategy. You also need to know how to find the Topic, Purpose, Main point and Scope as well as how to research detail questions. Learn to do it corrrectly BEFORE you try going for speed.
D. MONTH 1 Study Schedule: You can write this up on your own. Just be sure you are doing loads of problems focusing on the above. By Week 3 or so you should begin timing yourself... just to see how quickly you are getting through stuff. Week 3 is also about the right time to start doing entire sections of the test in practice. You need to take a practice test at the end of the month to see how you are doing! That should give you enough work to occupy 20 or so hours per week. The point of the practice test is to check that the areas you have worked on have improved... don't worry about strange problems you haven't prepped yet (principle questions, for example). If you are not seeing improvement in the AREAS YOU STUDIED, then you not to take on honest reappraisal of your efforts: have you learned the concepts from the ground up? Have you put in the required time? Has the time you have put in been free of distractions? If the answer to the previous three questions is "yes" then you need to ask yourself a fourth: are you functionally retarded?
MONTH 2: in which we continue practice of our month 1 skills and add the following:
A. LSAT Logical Reasoning: Now we add some new problem types.
1. Types to Learn:
(a) Inference. This is THE key one to master in month 2. Between your month 1 LR stuff and inference, you have covered OVER 2/3 of the LR section.
(b) Principle. This problem type is becoming much more common on the recent tests (Dec06 and Sep06).
(c) Parallel Reasoning. These are often rough for most people. Better get started on them now.
2. Study tips: same as before. HOWEVER, we now are going to add a couple of things:
(a) Include all points made in month 1.
(b) Now you MUST add section practice daily. That is: every day you must do 1 section of LR, LR OR RC. Timed. If you run out of time, make note of it and finish the section. Review section as I have outlined above. I woulod prefer if you did 2 sections per day... but you have to mix this with specific problem practice... you need to fidure out the right ratio for your current skill level.
(c) Go back and review assmpt, str/wkn and flaw questions periodically. Keep those skills sharp! Section practice will help this a bit.
(d) Constantly be aware of your LR weaknesses. Adjust study plan to shore them up.
B. Logic Games: More new problems!
1. Types to Learn:
(a) Distribution (putting people into boats...)
(b) Selection (rules are a series of formal logic statemets)
2. Reasons: you now have learned the 5 basic LG problems. We will save the 6th, the hybrid games, for later. Selection games can be tricky if you do not have a strong grasp on formal logic. MAKE SURE YOU LEARN HOW TO SET UP FORMAL LOGIC STATEMENTS AND THEIR CONTRAPOSITIVES.
3. Study tips:
(a) Include month 1 tips when learning new stuff.
(b) Try to do a timed LG section regularly (see point 2.(b) above).
(c) Continue to review the LGs we learned in month 1.
(d) Be aware of your weaknesses. Shore them up.
C. LSAT Reading Comp: Continued improvement of your approach.
1. You need to add inference questions to the types that you can handle on RC. Remember that the answer is what MUST be 100% TRUE based on the RC passage alone.
2. You need to start timing yourself. Your passage prep time should be less than 4 minutes (target is 3-3.5 minutes) which will leave you more than 4.5 minutes to answer questions... which is plenty.
3. Conduct section practice as discussed previously.
D. LSAT Practice Tests: during month 2 you will begin doing regular practice tests. You need to do 1 per week. What follows are instructions on how to make the best use of your practice tests.
1. ALWAYS take the test in the exact way you will take the test in real life... or as close as you can get it. NO fvcking TV (or regular tv, for that matter), significant others, cats etc should be around. Use all the real stuff you have on the test. Choose a quiet area.
2. After you are done, grade the test. Check you score. Your score will bounce up and down as you study... but it should always generally progress upwards (I went like this: 163, 168, 166, 169, 173, 171, 176, 174, 176, 179!.... 174 on the real thing) so don't be discouraged if this test is slightly lower than the previous one. It is the overall trend we care about. By the time you take the real deal you will have a very good feel for what you will probably score.
3. Give yourself an hour break. Now come back to the test and read ALL the explanations of the problems you missed. UNDERSTAND how to solve them correctly. For LG I actually REDO the problem from scratch with the explanation in mind... that is FROM MEMORY. Recopying from the book is not helpful.
4. The next day, go back and reread the problems you missed. Can you now explain to yourself why the answers are the way the are? If so, you have learned some new stuff! Yay.
Month 3: You now have a couple of great things going for you relative to your peers. At one month out you (a) know what your score will probably be AT THIS POINT, (b) you know your weaknesses and (c) you have been exposed to and have studied for the vast majority of the test. You need to spend the next month constantly honing your skills.
A. LSAT Logical Reasoning: Add all the infrequent problem types. Master the section.
1. There are a bunch of problem types that occur in small numbers. Paradox, Point At Issue, Method of Arguement, Main Point (I think those are the only ones left... (a) I am writing this off the top of my head and (b) I am hungry for lunch... I will probably come back and edit this if I missed something). Same process as before. Just be sure to complete it WITHIN THE FIRST 2 weeks of this month.
2. Same section practice as above. Don't forget to continue to practice your previously mastered skills! They will atrophe within a week if you do not use them.
3. Implement VOYAGER'S LSAT RECURSIVE STUDY PLAN
B. Logic Games: Only 1 left. Learn that one. Continue to master previous.
1. New Types: Hybrid games. Really just a combination of the previous. They are not so tricky after you practice them a bit. I should add that there are 2 other LG types that have appeared on previous tests: process games and mapping games. They appear very infrequently on the tests, but it is nice to know how to do them. I assume the LG bible presents them. If not, PM me.
2. Section practice as discussed previously.
3. Recursive studying.
C. Reading Comp: Keep working this. By now, you should be truly rocking RC sections.
D. VOYAGER'S RECURSIVE STUDY PLAN. This is a great way to refine your skills. This plan needs to be implemented at the beginning of month 3.
1. Take a LSAT Practice Test.
2. Review test as outlined above (see point "D").
3. Now, take your test and analyze it to identify the sections and problem types you are doing the worst in. Steps 1-3 will take you a full weekend day.
4. Spend 2-3 days attacking those problem areas with the same ferocity that Rosie O'Donnel exhibits when confronted with a mayonaise sandwich.
5. Take a new LSAT practice test.
6. Repeat 4.
Over the course of month 3 you will be able to perform this cycle 6 times and should see some dramatic improvement. If you try to do this too early (in month 1 for example) there will be too much for you to review and you will be overwhelmed.
The reading comp CAN be approached much like the games: you need a format to use for each game and a structure to refer back to as you answer the questions. The whole trick is NOT to have to reread the whole passage each time you tackle a question. You want easy references that allow you to find critical pieces of information quickly. The trick is that the approach I use will save me between 10-20 seconds per question. If you multiply that over 26 questions, suddenly I am saving myself ALOT of time. And frankly, time is the whole trick to the passages.
You will find that each passage will cover 4-6 main points. This may occur in 5 paragraphs or 2, but as long as you identify AND HAVE A REFERENCE TAB/MARKs for certain key pieces of information it will not matter how dense the passage is.
You will use 2 main techniques to create references for yourself: (1) actually writing out the main idea of each paragraph and of the passage itself in the margin. This should consist of just shorthand notation. You will be surprised how many questions are quickly and easily answered by these notes ("what is the author saying in paragraph 2?"). It will also help you immediately zero in on specific paragraphs for detail questions. If you noted that paragraph 3 gives 2 examples disproving "certian critics" then if you get a question asking about types of examples used by the author you immediately know where to go.
In dense passages (with 2 or 3 paragraphs) look for natural topic shifts within the paragraphs. I guarantee they are there. Once you find them CREATE YOUR OWN NEW PARAGRAPH by just writing the point of the next section of the paragraph in the margin and putting a bracket in the text. Suddenly that rough 2 paragraph passage is now a much more manageable 4 paragraphs. And, since the dense ones turn out to often have easier content, it is now cake.
(2) Underlining and boxing. I put BOXES around all terms which have definitions and all names. That way, when a term or a certian person's view/background comes up in a question I do not have to hunt the paragraph for the definition. My eye goes to the boxes. I UNDERLINE all phrases that I think might be relevant later on. This includes paragraph and passage thesis statements as well as the author's viewpoint, among others. What I underline is based on my experience taking practice tests and figuring out what I will most likely be asked later.
One danger with both of the above is doing too much marking. If you do too much, the markings become worthless, so you will need to practice balancing having the right amount of reference notes/marks.
By doing the above I not only have handy references for myself, but I also find that I flat out RETAIN the knowledge in the passage much more easily. You become an active reader and suddenly you are able to answer questions without even looking at the passage (sometimes... and be careful with that). Most people have the attention span of 3rd graders. Yes, this includes you. By forcing yourself to be an active participant in the passage, you end up actually reading and comprehending the text instead of just letting your eyes wander over the words.
Practice making notes/marks for each of the following you will be fine:
1) Main point of the passage (usually covered in the first paragraph). I actually write out a 3-5 word/symbol summary next to the text. For example, "16th legal reform=bad for women" or something along those lines. Practice identifying the thesis statement.
2) Main point of each paragraph. Same as 1. If you split a paragraph up into smaller paragraphs, you should summarize the points of both of these little paragraphs ("formalists' view" and "pro-RTT view" to take an example from one of the old tests)
3) Boxing all names and terms. There is almost ALWAYS an explanation of the person/term right after it. Now you can just find your boxed name and read the explanation that follows for certian questions.
4) Underlining key points/evidence. This just takes practice. Over time you will figure out what is key and what is not. In the beginning, if it seems important underline it. As you take practice tests you will refine your approach and underline less.
5) If, at any time, the passage tells you what the author thinks (sometimes it will do it in a sneaky manner) WRITE IT IN THE MARGIN. Most passages will have a question asking about the author's opinion. You just gained yourself a free point.
6) Look for keywords and cues. When the passage says "some critics argue..." you KNOW the passage will post evidence against them 2 sentences later. Watch for it. UNDERLINE the "some". There are tons of these key words and I do not have the space to delve into them in detail.
Finally, in addition to the above, you have to be a fast and competent reader who can read for content. The above will help, but nothing is better than just doing tons of reading passages over and over (use the above techniques when you practice... you will need the above skills anyway as an attorney so you might as well learn them now). You need to learn to read quickly and to understand the stuff quickly. If you were in the brown reading group in 2nd grade, thought reading books and writing papers was for "dorks" in high school, graduated from some shit-hole college (anything with the word "state" in the title, for example) or any combination of the previous, you will have a difficult time with the LSAT. All I can say is work on it.
Mastering the above is the formula for top performance on reading comp. It amazes me that some test prep programs don't teach this approach to reading comp. Reading comp should be just as easy as logic games after mastering the technique. I saw both of those sections as "gimme" sections.
Logical Reasoning, on the other hand is a completely different story.... that is about 10-12 different approaches you just have to learn through practice... I will also say that mastering logical reasoing, since it is MORE THAN HALF of the test is REALLY the key to a top score. If you can average only 2 wrong on each logical reasoning section, you are totally set.
For more assistance on preparing for the Law School Admission Test see our main page at LSAT Preparation and Guides We highly recommend the PowerScore Bibles.