How to Study for the LSAT with Limited Time

How to Study for the LSAT in a Month

In order to study for the LSAT in a month and see a significant score improvement, you will need to use your time very efficiently. Maybe you registered for the test one month ago and got caught up in work, school, family, or other fun. Or maybe you just made the decision to apply to law school and are signing up for the test now. Regardless, if you’re going to take the LSAT in a few short weeks, you’ve got some work to do. As someone who has coached several thousand LSAT test takers, and who is a pretty good procrastinator in my own right, here are my “must do” tips for you to make the most of your time between now and test day.

 

Six Last-Minute Preparation Tips

  • Practice the LSAT (you can’t cram for it)

    With at least some of your college courses, you could overcome procrastination by cramming, finding out what you needed to know for the final and dedicating the whole day (and probably night) before the test to drilling it into your short-term memory. As long as you could recall the salient facts during the exam, you were good to go. But this won’t be case on the LSAT because, quite simply, there’s nothing to memorize. The LSAT rewards the application of law school skills such as incisive, critical reading and logical reasoning to a range of subject matter so wide there’s no way you’ll be familiar with all (or even most) of it. This is a test of what you’re able to do, not of how much you know. Realizing this changes everything. You can no more hope to master the LSAT by passively learning about it than you could hope to master the guitar by reading a book.

    Make sure the course or materials you use have a lot of real LSAT questions, sections, or tests to work with. Just as importantly, make sure all of the questions and tests have clear, complete explanations so that you can review everything you get right and wrong. Getting into the batting cages and swinging away will help you become better at hitting a baseball, but you’ll make much faster and more reliable improvement if you have a coach there who can explain what you’re doing differently between the swings that made solid contact and those that miss.

  • Discover your starting point

    Right now, or at least as soon as you’ve finished reading this post, find the next available time to take a complete practice LSAT. You’ll need about three and half hours to take a full-length, timed test. But once you do, you’ll have a much clearer picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and of what LSAT questions are all about. Again, having explanations available for all of the questions is an enormous plus. In some cases, you’ll realize that you simply misunderstood what the question was calling for. In other cases, you’ll realize that you selected a correct answer, but could have done so much more efficiently by recognizing a pattern or process that the testmaker uses over and over.

  • Keep your study balanced

    The LSAT always contains four scored sections: two sections of Logical Reasoning (~50 questions), one of Reading Comprehension (~27 questions), and one of Logic Games (~24 questions). Many test takers will discover that they’re weaker in one of those sections and try to improve their score by focusing exclusively on this one area of opportunity. The fact is that all 101 questions are scored equally and adding four right answers to your strongest section will help your score just as much as adding four right answers to your weakest one. The sample study schedule below takes this into account.

  • Avoid concern about that “one weird question”

    For those of us who follow the LSAT, every test administration seems to produce one or two outstandingly difficult or unique-looking questions. We’ll argue about how best to crack these tough little puzzles and where they fit within the standard taxonomy of question types. Some self-styled LSAT gurus will even try to make their reputation by showing off a trick or two for the weirdest examples. But in reality, these outliers have a small impact on your score, especially when compared to the standard questions and games that show up in large numbers on every administration of the test. Someone like you, practicing with limited time before test day is far better served by gaining confident mastery of Assumption, Strengthen/Weaken, and Inference questions, Sequencing games, and the standard Reading Comp passages and questions than by seeking out obscure question types, even if those oddballs seem like the hardest problems to solve. You need a teacher or material that knows the test inside out and can guide you to the most valuable question types so that your practice is guaranteed to turn into points on your official LSAT.

  • Target efficiency, not speed

    There is no denying that timing is the greatest challenge the LSAT presents for an enormous number of students. You will, at some point in your practice, say “I could get every one of these if I just had more time.” (If you doubt me, just come back and read this again after you’ve taken a couple of tests.) In response, most test takers try to read faster or cut corners in their analysis. This is a big mistake. Most of the wasted time on the LSAT actually comes from rereading and second guessing. Test takers patient (and practiced) enough to read an argument one time, analyze it, and predict the correct answer before testing the choices will easily outperform someone who tears through the argument, but has to reread it as they consider choice (A), and then (B), and then (C), and then (D), and so on. The same is true in Logic Games, where the highest scorers may take as much or more time to sketch the game’s setup and make its entire string of deductions as they do to answer its set of questions. Gaining mastery and confidence will make you more efficient, and in the end, allow you to outperform haphazard test takers who are trying to simply work faster, not smarter.

  • Stay positive – a few more right answers can make you a much stronger applicant

    For as much as pre-law students talk about the 120 to 180 range of LSAT scaled scores, the same students often have little insight into how those scores are calculated. Without getting into complicated algorithms – and trust me, you do not have time for that before the October LSAT – the chart below points out some eye-opening information.

Raw, Scaled and Percentile Scoring

You will receive not one, not two, but three scores on Test Day:

  • A raw score (0-~101), the total number of scored questions answered correctly translated into…
  • A scaled score (120-180), the score by which law schools will evaluate your candidacy; and
  • A percentile score, comparing test-takers across various testing cohorts

Since there is no wrong answer penalty on the LSAT, you score is determined solely by the number of questions you answer correctly. On a typical test, approximately 57 right answers will produce a score of 151 and land you squarely in the 50th percentile, better than half of all test takers. If you add just five correct answers, you’ll move to a 154 and be in the 60th percentile. To a lot of students, that jump of three scaled points (from a 151 to a 154) doesn’t sound very impressive, but when you consider that around 130,000 people take the LSAT each year, that increase means that you’ve passed around 13,000 competitors, applicants potentially vying for the same school(s) you’re trying to get into. Notice that each time you add four or five correct answers, you make a comparable leap past the other test takers. That should tell you just how much you can accomplish, even with the limited time before the next test. It should also underline how important it is to get additional correct answers wherever you can on the test, including sections in which you’re already relatively strong.

 

Sample LSAT Practice Schedule

Here’s a sample schedule for someone practicing for the LSAT with limited time. It assumes that you have between two and three hours per day to spend on LSAT practice. You can adjust the schedule to account for your own availability, but follow the balance of practice activities and note the section-specific focus for different days of the week.

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
Take a full-length LSAT (min. 2 ½ hours for the four scored sections and a ten minute break; Add 1 hour 10 minutes to take a full test with an experimental section and Writing Sample)Review the first Logical Reasoning section from your Sunday test (30 to 60 minutes) AND practice 25-35 Logical Reasoning questions (two hours)Review the Logic Games section from your Sunday test (30 to 60 minutes) AND practice 4-6 logic games (two hours)Do timed sections from a released LSAT (35 minutes each) and review the explanations (30 to 60 minutes per section)Review the second Logical Reasoning section from your Sunday test (30 to 60 minutes) and practice 25-35 Logical Reasoning questions (two hours)Review the Reading Comprehension section from your Sunday test (30 to 60 minutes) AND practice 4-6 passages (two hours)Leave one day per week LSAT free to relax and recharge. Make sure to rest the day before your official LSAT, too.

 

With limited time until test day, making and sticking to the practice schedule (or your personal variation on it) is essential. Many test takers who see that their time is running out try to cram in a flurry of tests, without reviewing them or learning why they are getting some questions right, but consistently missing others. Others succumb to panic, throw up their hands, and “wing it” on test day. You have the opportunity to beat both groups and make solid, repeatable improvements in your score. But act now. Take advantage of Kaplan’s LSAT expertise and become the author of your own LSAT success story.