So you want to be a lawyer? Maybe you’re in the stages of scoping things out, examining exactly what it entails, and first and foremost, asking what the dreaded LSAT is about. When you’re first embarking on discovery what it takes to be a lawyer from start to finish, the first questions that should pop up in your mind are, “what do I need to know about the LSAT to get a good score?,” “how much do I need to study?,” “how long is the LSAT test?” and “what am I even tested on?”
Knowing this preliminary information will give you a good head start on the beginning of a long and rewarding journey to becoming a lawyer. Preparing for the LSAT with as many great resources as possible gives you the confidence to maximize your results on test day.
What is the LSAT?
If you want to go to law school, you need to take the Law School Admissions Test. The LSAT is administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) four different times throughout the year. You need to register through LSAC and pay the required fees by their deadlines in order to sit for the exam. Because a large majority of schools begin admitting students in the spring semester for the upcoming fall class, it is recommended to take the LSAT the summer prior to applying for law school. So to be exact you would take the LSAT in the summer, apply that fall, get accepted the following spring (we hope!), and then begin law school that fall after being accepted.
What are the mechanics of the test?
Taken verbatim from LSAC’s website,
“The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, typically is used to pretest new test questions or to preequate new test forms. The placement of this section will vary. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.”
Broken down, the test consists of this:
“The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex texts with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inferences from it; the ability to think critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and arguments of others.
The three multiple-choice question types in the LSAT are:
- Reading Comprehension Questions—These questions measure the ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school. The Reading Comprehension section contains four sets of reading questions, each consisting of a selection of reading material, followed by five to eight questions that test reading and reasoning abilities.
- Analytical Reasoning Questions—These questions measure the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about that structure. You are asked to reason deductively from a set of statements and rules or principles that describe relationships among persons, things, or events. Analytical Reasoning questions reflect the kinds of complex analyses that a law student performs in the course of legal problem solving.
- Logical Reasoning Questions—These questions assess the ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language. Each Logical Reasoning question requires the test taker to read and comprehend a short passage, then answer a question about it. The questions are designed to assess a wide range of skills involved in thinking critically, with an emphasis on skills that are central to legal reasoning. These skills include drawing well-supported conclusions, reasoning by analogy, determining how additional evidence affects an argument, applying principles or rules, and identifying argument flaws.” (LSAC.org)
Now the Truth about the LSAT
Knowing what a standardized test consists of is of course essential, but figuring out what can garner a high score is super important. Test taking strategies for success on any exam require mental clarity first and foremost.
- Mental Clarity
I remember when I decided I would be a lawyer. I was in my senior year of college. I felt energized at the same time I felt excited and nervous. It was an awesome feeling to know I had the next few years of my life planned out. Having an undergraduate degree is a great accomplishment in itself. But getting a job after college can be a daunting task and flooded with competition. So knowing that law school was ahead of me followed by becoming a lawyer was fulfilling to say the least.
But the most poignant memory I have of that time was how useful it was to have a clear mind while studying. I didn’t really appreciate mental clarity through my undergrad years and below because I always seemed to do well so there was no reason to fix what wasn’t broken. Studying for the LSAT was a different story. The LSAT is notoriously known for having its own world from which we as test-takers have to enter and accept or else we won’t do so well. What I mean by that is curveballs and subtleties will be thrown at you under time constraints and you will have to walk in there with a mind clear of distractions or else you will mentally stumble left and right.
Some of the ways I achieve mental clarity is through meditation, exercise, and clean eating. Udemy offers a wonderful course on meditation and test-taking called: Meditations in an Emergency: How to Conquer Test Anxiety. After having sat for many standardized tests in my life, one common theme among them that seems to trip people up (including myself) is how to handle test anxiety. That not only includes test day but more importantly it’s the anxiety that is present will studying for the exams. Your final score on test day is determined by what you do during study time. When you show up on test day, all you have to do is take the test. The score building is done in the months prior to that day. So make sure you have a strong clear mind preparing for the exam.
Next, success on any standardized test demands knowing the material’s tips and tricks.
- General Tips
Don’t stay stuck on the really hard questions.
The LSAT contains a wide range of difficulty questions so when you come across the most difficult ones, it’s OK to skip them if you are having trouble.The LSAT doesn’t penalize for guessing. Focus on the easy and medium questions first. You can go back to the hardest questions later, when time starts running low. And if you don’t know the answer, just guess.
- Reading Comprehension Section
Lack of subject matter familiarity can pose a huge barrier in the reading comprehension section, and most students struggle with the passages based on science. The passages from which you are tested on are real text written by scientists. Test-takers often freak out when they’re given a science passage that is completely foreign to them. So familiarize yourself with various science topics early on in your studying.
- Do Short Term Memory Drills
LSAT takers run into another big problem when they forget what they just read. When you go back and scan the paragraph (which you’ll have to do) you waste precious time.
The idea isn’t to remember all the details. Because no one can do that. You do, however, need to retain the main points, which makes checking the information easier and less time-consuming. And to remember those, you need to bolster your short-term memory during practice tests.
- Analytical Reasoning
Most people know the analytical reasoning section as the “logic games” section. Yes, the section really contains games (and riddles). These 22 questions tend to send students running to the hills. But this is the section where you can practice and practice and will eventually begin to learn the tricks to see your score here improve greatly.
The LSAT’s directions recommend that you draw pictures to help your mind process the questions. But you only have so much space on the page. If you write too largely, or too messily, you’ll get overwhelmed.
A last tip for logic games is to make sure you combine the rules. This one is a must.
- Logical Reasoning
The logical reasoning section, at about 50 questions, comprises half of the LSAT. The questions present various scenarios in which you have to identify the flaw or problem. A big part of the test is understanding assumptions and not falling into the LSAT trap.
For example, a classic question will state, “All men are human. Is it true that George Clooney is a human?” Not necessarily. We don’t know that George Clooney is a man. We all are familiar with the actor but in the LSAT world it could be a dog’s name! The wrong answer assumes George Clooney is the human actor. That’s an assumption that the LSAT examiners love to test you on. (businessinsider.com)
Making the decision to take the LSAT embarks you on a long and rewarding journey that begins the minute you register to the end of test day. Do it right so that you only have to do it once!