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How NOT to Prepare for the LSAT

March 3rd, 2009 · 17 comments

Hacking Law School AdmissionsSATs

I receive a fair number of e-mails asking me about law school admissions. I’m the first to admit that these queries falls outside of my expertise. With this in mind, I asked my friend Steve Schwartz, who runs the popular LSAT Blog, to offer up his best advice for smart LSAT preparation. Specifically, I got him to list ten common mistakes students make while preparing for this dreaded exam, and then offer tips on what you should do instead.

Without further ado, here are Steve’s ten things not to do while preparing for the LSAT…

10. Take a cookie-cutter LSAT prep course when you’re aiming for a 165+ score.
Many prep courses are taught by instructors who haven’t even scored above 165 on a real LSAT themselves. First pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses through self-study, then seek out an expert to help you perfect your technique.


9. Use any old LSAT prep book you find on a bookstore’s shelf.
Many companies don’t use real LSAT questions in their books. Why? Because they’d have to pay a licensing fee to the Law School Admission Council to reprint real questions. Unfortunately, many non-LSAC questions don’t adequately reflect the LSAT and even contain mistakes. If an LSAT test prep book uses real LSAT questions, it’ll say so on the cover.

8. Study with LSAT CDs and DVDs because it sounds cool.
The LSAT is a pencil-and-paper exam. Much of it is based on the process of elimination and diagramming complex rules. You can’t adequately do ether of these if you’re not able to write on the page. Most LSAT CDs and DVDs don’t use real questions anyway.

7. Try to do the Logic Games in your head to save time.
It’s tough to hold 5 rules, 7 variables, and their relationships to each other in your head when you’ve never seen a particular game before. Efficient diagramming strategies will allow you to complete Logic Games more quickly and accurately.

6. Let the results of an initial diagnostic test discourage you.
LSAT-style thinking is likely different than anything you’ve ever encountered. Without any prep at all, your score will simply tell you what you already know — that you have a lot of work to do in every area of the exam.

5. Underline every “important” word in each Reading Comprehension passage to save time.
This reading strategy is more appropriate in an exam where you’re reading for content. However, you’re reading for the passage’s arguments: the main argument and opposing viewpoints. Sure, it’s fine to note unfamiliar terms, but the opinions that the passage presents are more important than the passage’s details.

4. Write several practice essays to prepare for the Writing Sample.
It’s unscored, many law schools don’t pay too much attention to it, and you can adequately prepare for it in about 5 minutes. It’s much more important to focus on the scored sections of the exam.

3. Give yourself a month or two to prepare, completing a practice test each weekend.
The LSAT doesn’t require memorization, but you still need to exercise your brain. Weekends-only just won’t cut it. Treat the LSAT like a part-time job (at the very least), and study for at least 3 months on a regular basis.

2. Always study in a quiet and peaceful environment so you can concentrate.
Who knows what your test center will be like? You could have the LSAT proctor from hell. Take a practice test or three in a crowded coffee shop or library to get used to distractions.

1. Focus on completing as many LSAT PrepTests as possible because you’ll get better with time.
Sure, it’s great to get through dozens of PrepTests. However, if you want to enjoy the full benefit of you must review each to determine your areas of strength and weakness. Otherwise, you won’t enjoy the full benefit of doing these exams.


Steve Schwartz is a professional LSAT tutor living in New York City. He updates LSAT Blog every week with free LSAT tips and tricks.

17 thoughts on “How NOT to Prepare for the LSAT

  1. SM says:

    Great article. Would love to hear tips for scoring > 700 on the general GRE Quantitative Reasoning section.

  2. Study Hacks says:

    Great article. Would love to hear tips for scoring > 700 on the general GRE Quantitative Reasoning section.

    I accomplished that goal by first reading a review book about best strategies for the various quantitative question types, then just took the computer practice tests until my score was where I needed it to be (very high 700s.) Took about a week.

  3. Lee H. says:

    Pretty good advice, Cal, though it’s shocking that a professional LSAT tutuor would recommend hiring an “expert” rather than studying on your own or taking a generic course (#10).

  4. Study Hacks says:

    Pretty good advice, Cal, though it’s shocking that a professional LSAT tutuor would recommend hiring an “expert” rather than studying on your own or taking a generic course (#10).

    True enough. Rumor has it that you did pretty well when it came to the LSAT…perhaps you could share a few of your insider secrets?

  5. @Lee – Haha, well said. Always keep the info’s source in mind.

    I made this point because the generic courses tend to review the basics, which 165+ scorers have probably mastered.

    Of course, many people are perfectly capable of scoring 165+ with nothing but self-study and with no outside advice of any kind.

    Those individuals would probably not be searching online for LSAT advice or Study Hacks of any kind. For those who want advice, an “expert” can help. Notice that I didn’t say “tutor” – this person could simply be a friend.

  6. Lee H. says:

    Steve’s advice is generally very good. A couple more pointers:

    ** Make sure you’re practicing on the most recently administered tests, as the LSAT has changed in subtle ways over time (or it least it had when I took it several years ago). Recent LSATs are available for purchase on the LSAC website.

    ** Make sure you take the practice tests under strictly timed conditions – it’s no use being able to get all the questions right if it takes you twice the allotted time. As the test nears, consider taking the practice tests in less than the allotted time – this will give you some breathing room come test day.

  7. Greta says:

    Where do you find these LSAT tutors that aren’t the Kapalan/Princeton Review types? Craigslist makes me nervous.

  8. Amy says:

    Hey Cal,
    It would be great if you did one of these for people seeking to screo 35+ on the MCAT.

  9. Jessica says:

    What about intensive courses/training like Kaplan?

  10. Study Hacks says:

    It would be great if you did one of these for people seeking to screo 35+ on the MCAT.

    I agree. But I would need to find an MCAT equivalent of Steve, as I don’t have personal experience with the test.

  11. Study Hacks says:

    What about intensive courses/training like Kaplan?

    In item #10, Steve recommended to avoid such “cookie cutter” classes if you want a top score. His advice:

    Many prep courses are taught by instructors who haven’t even scored above 165 on a real LSAT themselves. First pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses through self-study, then seek out an expert to help you perfect your technique

  12. d says:

    where would you suggest seeking a tutor who scored 170 or higher?

  13. @d – I certainly think that you should aim for a tutor that has scored at least a 170 on the LSAT, particularly if you hope to hit the 170+ range yourself. Until you are consistently scoring in the 170+ range, I don’t think that you have really mastered the LSAT.

  14. AP says:

    I don’t think your tutor necessarily has to have a top score in order to be an effective tutor. For one thing, being a good coach/teacher requires a skill set unrelated to LSAT scores. Additionally, a person who easily scores in the 700s after a week of studying is not going to have the same knowledge as a person who initially struggled and/or had to work hard to raise their own LSAT score.

  15. Daniel Nancy says:

    Law students, Prepare for the LSAT test with prep classes from right lsat tutor, law school tutor, or bar tutor, LSAT private tutoring, and other LSAT exam help from FindMyLawTutor.com. Go to the law school you want with the LSAT score you need with the Expert Bar Exam Tutors.

  16. Creately says:

    Good tips, but scoring has always been not easy. And diagrams are not really helpful

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