The BriefA Blog about the LSAT, Law School and Beyond
As part of a new series here in the 7Sage blog, we've asked our community leaders (Mentors, who were selected from among their peers for their outstanding contributions and character, and Sages, who are community leaders who scored above 170 on the LSAT) to answer a series of questions and provide us with their LSAT wisdom.
This series is just a sampling of the kind of wisdom ready at hand to anyone in our Discussion Forums.
What's the biggest myth about the LSAT?
Mentor Sam “That 2-3 months is plenty of time for a 170+ score. It's not, unless you're a genius or have somehow mastered logic prior to ever being exposed to the LSAT.”
Sage Alex “In my opinion, the biggest myth about studying for the LSAT is that you should only expect to improve your score by 10 points. This claim is not only false, but very detrimental to future law students. Relaying to people that 10 points is all you should expect to gain from studying deters test-takers from devoting enough time to study for the LSAT until they reach their goal score.”
Mentor Brett “In my mind the 2 biggest myths about studying for the LSAT are that you only have to study for 3 months and that you won’t see improvement in any one section. This is a long test, and the skills that it tests aren’t things that you can truly learn and master in 3 months for most people. It’s one where it may take you 3-5 months just to get through the curriculum and then from there you take another 3-6 in taking tests. But the process is worth it in the end. “Also, the assumption that ‘You can’t improve on RC, LG, or LR’ is completely false. Everyone taking this test is different but all of the sections are exactly the same at their base; the questions all test a set of skills and are created by professionals who can exploit the psychology of test takers. All you have to do is learn the skills, avoid the pitfalls, and be able to be able to do this efficiently and confidently.”
Sage Allison “One myth about this test is that it's just an input, output equation with how many hours you put in leading to a particular score. That is part of the equation, but cranking through PTs without good reflection is bad practice. You absolutely must scrutinize your comprehension, question your thought processes, and accept that you have erroneous ways of reasoning that need to be corrected in order to excel on this test. Do your homework, but reflect on your methods and spend time to diagnose your weaknesses.”
Mentor Daniel “That high scores are rare and achievable only among those who are great at tests, geniuses, or savants destined for Harvard. I was once told by an instructor of a test-prep company that I could reasonably expect a score five points higher than my diagnostic. I'm now sitting at an average score increase more than four times that, and I firmly believe at least most should be aiming for a score fifteen-to-twenty points higher than their diagnostic. It takes time, but a score that much higher is doable.”
I'll answer with something cryptic, which the rest of this lesson will further explain: you're making a bad assumption. You're assuming that you will actually get everything you answer correct, which is, for 99.99% of the people, false.
The way you want to approach your LSAT is to embrace a principle borrowed from Economics: the low hanging coconut.
Imagine you're on a desert island and you're thirsty. The only source of potables is coconut water. But, coconuts grow on the top of some really tall trees. How do you get them?
Let's pretend there are exactly 25 equally sized coconuts. You need to get at least 20 of them within 35 minutes to not die of thirst (yeah, they're, um, really small coconuts), but it'd be great to get all 25. Sound a little familiar? Haven't we all been trapped alone on a deserted island dying from thirst with coconuts as our last salvation? At least emotionally? Figuratively? Just me?
Anyway, let's walk a little closer to the tree. Or, actually, just you. I'm only there with you as an apparition, narrating this because you're hallucinating from thirst.
The first thing you notice is that the tree is really tall. There are lots of coconuts at the top, but hey! Look! Around the trunk, there are 12 of them just lying there, like idiots. Oh stupid coconuts, what joy you bring! Scoop them up quick before you start to think that we're actually talking about coconuts instead of questions on an LSAT section.
That took no time at all! What will we do next? Let's have you shake the tree to see if any will fall down, eh? I mean why wouldn't you. So, you shake and shake and lo and behold, 7 more delectable coconuts drop down from the tree. Great, we're at 19 coconuts! And we still have 10 minutes left. Now what?
There are 6 coconuts left in the tree and you still have 10 minutes to get as many as you can. There is only one thing left to do: climb. This is time consuming and the results are uncertain because you probably suck at climbing trees. And coconut trees... are an absolute nightmare. Instead of branches for you hold onto, they have perfectly smooth bark. But, lucky for you, some of the coconuts hang lower than the others! So, you climb a couple of feet, and grab the lowest hanging ones first. Then, you climb a bit higher to get the harder to reach ones near the top. The 10 minutes evaporate like drops of coconut water on hot sand and you manage to score 4 more coconuts for a total of 23/25. Not bad.
These are macadamia nuts, which are delicious nuts. A coconut is also delicious, but is not a nut.
Now, to bring the analogy home, imagine each of those 25 coconuts had a number on them, 1-25, like the LSAT questions are numbered 1-25. The ground-lying-coconuts, those 12 easy to get coconuts, are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14, 21, 22 and 25. Those 7 medium difficulty, shake-me-loose-coconuts, are numbered 5, 7, 10, 11, 17, 19 and 24. Those 6 difficult-to-get-way-up-on-the-top-of-the-stupid-tree coconuts are numbered 9, 15, 16, 18, 20, 23. The way you approach your LSAT sections ought to mirror the way you approach your coconut collecting. Get the easiest ones first! Save the harder ones for later. This way, you ensure that each incremental minute of time you spend on answering a question is spent on the lowest hanging question, the easiest coconut. This must become a habit.
On V-Day, you'll certainly be hit in the face with a couple of ridiculously hard coco... I mean questions. The worst thing for you to do is to be stubborn. You just knocked out questions #7 and #8, easy. Now you see coconut #9 hanging on top of the tree and you spend 30 seconds reading it to realize that you have no clue how to get it down easily, except to climb. Don't climb. Move on. To spend the next 3 minutes climbing up to the top of that tree to collect coconut #9 while coconut #13 is just lying there on the sand is foolish. It's not worth it. It'll cost you too much, even if you get #9 right.
In addition to overpaying for that question in terms of time, you will also be overpaying in terms of psychological strength. You may freak out once you realize what a bad decision you just made. "Arg! That was 3.5 minutes on 1 question and I still have 16 questions left." I'm also assuming the best case scenario where you actually get #9 right - a big assumption, since you tend to miss hard questions. But even if you get it right, you still lose. You shouldn't have gone for it until after you finished up gathering the easy to get coconuts first. Every question is worth 1 point anyway! Why would you risk not having time to do an easy question in order to attempt a difficult question?
When you're taking your timed practice LSATs, learn to intentionally skip questions that you suspect may be "out of your league." Cut your losses and move on. Don't try to fix one mistake with an even larger mistake.
Nicole here. I wanted to offer some quick words of encouragement for those of you who might be bummer about your June LSAT scores.
The first time I ever took the LSAT, I underperformed my PT average by about 7 points. I know a lot of folks who have similar stories. We were PT'ing in a certain range—a range that we would have been very happy with—and the score we got back was one we hadn't seen in months.
If you did your due diligence studying, took the average of your last 3-5 PT scores, and were satisfied with scoring +/3 of that score—yet STILL underperformed, I know how that feels. Taking the LSAT in the actual testing environment can have unexpected effects on our physiologies and, in turn, on our minds. It's definitely disappointing, but 100% understandable.
My biggest piece of advice is to be kind to yourself. Feel free to take the rest of this week off from studying. Go ahead and sign up for the next LSAT administration. And then first thing Monday, get back on that grind. You GOT this.
And here's a self-care corgi to soothe you.
Ok. LSAT Logical Reasoning—you got this! You're logical. You're reasonable. You destroy (or repair) arguments all the time on Twitter or Tumblr. You've even done some debate in high school or college. How hard can it be?
And then you take your first PT after completing the Core Curriculum.
First few questions are a little wordier than you'd like, but you feel like you got this. You get to question 4 and ...
... Pff ... You know you got this! Just had to get up to speed, that's all. Things are going fine until ...
... You come to a Necessary Assumption question with a really unattractive answer choice that just nags at you. Why did they even bother putting that one in there? And then there's this other answer choice that sounds like EXACTLY what the argument needs ... But is it the right answer choice? And then ...
... A Most Strongly Supported question with an answer choice that seems to be just soft enough, just specific enough, just irrefutable enough to fit the bill for the right answer choice. It's got all the hallmarks of a right answer choice for MSS. So ... You ... Slowly ... Circle ... the AC ...
... And run smack dab into a Parallel Flaw question that takes up the entire left hand side of the page. So you find the flaw in the stimulus ... And then you try to remember if you're supposed to map out the logic in the Answer Choices ... Or is that for the other Parallel question type? You thought you HAD this ...
... And even though you're on FIRE with the next 3 questions, finding those main points, honing in on those flaws in the support structure, naming those assumptions, you're still thinking about that question 2 pages back.
You finish the PT and you question your whole existence for a good 10 minutes.
Then you remember ...
... You've got dreams to grab ahold of.
So you pick yourself up and get ready for some Blind Review.
And you think to yourself ...
And maybe it would.
You worked hard in undergrad and now you're getting ready to start applying. But do you know how hard is it to get into law school? Or more importantly, how do you get into a good law school?
The one thing you need to know about how to get into law school
The answer can be summed up in four letters. LSAT. You need to demolish the LSAT. That's the one thing you need to know.
In the topsy-turvy world of law school applications, LSAT is king.
Isn’t GPA / Personal Statement / Recommendations / Whatever More Important for Getting into Law School?
What about GPA? First, your GPA is pretty much set. Even if you still have another year of grades before you send in your applications, the A in GPA will ensure that the impact of your best efforts won't have much of an impact. Secondly, even though most people agree that GPA is the second most important admissions criteria, it is not nearly as important as the LSAT. A rule of thumb many students use is +1 LSAT point = +0.1 GPA. It's reasonably common for students to improve 10 points on the LSAT with 4 months of studying. Good luck bringing your GPA from 3.3 to 4.3 with 4 months of studying :D.
What about Personal Statements, Recommendations, Extracurriculars, Job Experience and Interviews? They make a difference, but not that much. If you have a lame-duck recommendation or a douchey personal statement, it can tank you. If you were the President of your home country it'll really help.
Most of the time these aren't going to make a big difference. At least not compared to the LSAT. Most of the time, you should put effort into making these shine only after you've taken the LSAT.
WTF? Why do law schools care so much about the LSAT?
There are some obvious reasons, and at least one non-obvious one.
Among the obvious reasons is that the LSAT isn't subject to grade inflation/deflation and competitiveness of different colleges. For example, are a 4.33 GPA from Greendale Community College and a 4.33 GPA from MIT equally impressive? Probably not, at least not academically :) The LSAT acts as an equalizer.
Another reason is that the LSAT tests abstract logic and reasoning, as well as time pressured reading comprehension skills. Both of these are extremely important in law school when you grind through endless readings and try to pull out the arguments and implications.
Here's one non-obvious reason: US News & World Report Rankings.
They rank 200 or so US law schools using a bunch of metrics. One of these metrics is the LSAT. The better the median LSAT score of a school's students, the better the school's rankings. The better the school's rankings, the higher the prestige. More prestige lets the school attract better law students (prestige is like crack for law students), and get a higher median LSAT. The circle of LSAT continues.
If you want to go to a good law school, now you know how to get in. You study your ass off for the LSAT. Sign up for a free trial to get started on LSAT prep. Or jump right in and prep for LSAT with a full 7Sage Course (there is a 14 day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind).
1. False Hope
You check your LSAC account the day after your official LSAT administration because, well, there's a chance your LSAT score will be up, right? Go ahead and check.
No way; it's not going to take the full three weeks to get you scores. That can't really happen—right? They won't wait until the last day to release them, would they? No, they couldn't do that.
You realize that all everyone who took the LSAT has taken to social media—and they're all talking about when the scores will come out. You can't take it anymore, so you go on a 3-week social media fast.
Ok; it really IS going to take the full three weeks (usually this stage occurs a few days after the earliest predictions of score release). Seriously? In 2016, we can't throw a bunch of scantron sheets into the machine and get the scores into the computer any fast than this?
Maybe if you call LSAC, they'll give you your score over the phone, right? Maybe no one has thought of that one yet ... Right? Or maybe ... Maybe if you hit refresh again on the LSAC website, it'll be Gray Day ... Right?
Around 2pm, you realize ... You would have heard by now if scores were going out. And the let down sets in. Today is not Gray.
Ok. Today's not Gray Day. And it might not be tomorrow, either. But you know what? You'll have your scores soon. And everything's gonna be all right.
If you're taking practice LSAT PrepTests, then you need to simulate the test environment. It is crucial so that you are ready for the real thing.
It’s really important to experience testing with a simulated proctor so you’re not thrown off on the test day by a person announcing a five minute warning or by the lack of time between the first three sections. In a test that’s as psychological as the LSAT, practicing dealing with those things is critical. - Robyn B.
If you're using our video proctor with real LSAT instructions, that's a great start! But setting up an LSAC approved timer, and finding a place with just the right amount of ambient noise can be a bit of a pain...
So we made an LSAT Proctor App for iPhone/iPad/iPod just for you ;) We designed it to be easy to use, while including all the features we knew were important from teaching thousands of LSAT students. Simulate the LSAT test environment perfectly, anytime, anywhere.
This includes procedurally generated distraction noises, turbo mode, realistic virtual timer, five minute warnings, real instructions, and more. If you like it, give us a great rating! It'll encourage us to keep making great LSAT tools available for free :D
Did you know that there's no such thing as a brand new Logic Game? It's true. Every LSAT Logic Games is only disguised to look like it is new when in fact, it is simply a reincarnation of older, existing Logic Games. Dwell on that for a second. That means you're never going to encounter a brand new Logic Game. That means every new LSAT PrepTest you take (including the one that actually counts) will have Games that you've pretty much have already seen before. Not exactly the same, but very similar. Isn't that awesome?
Think of it this way. Each Logic Game is a cookie. The LSAT's been baking for over 20 years and they've baked close to 300 cookies. But, back in the kitchen, there's actually only a few different cookie cutters that they use. Each cookie cutter cuts cookies that are very similar to the others cookies from the same cutter. So, a square cookie cutter will cut square cookies. All of these square cookies from the square cutter will resemble each other.
What does this mean for you?
You have to become acquainted with the cookie cutters (the Types of Logic Games) and not just the cookies (the Logic Games). Stop thinking that there's 300 different Logic Games. Instead, understand that there's only a few different types of Logic Games. Then, you have to get good at recognizing so called "new" games as old, familiar games. Old games that you've done already, games that you've already mastered through the Fool Proof Method.
You're probably thinking "How do I know which Games are similar to which other Games?" We're going to tell you. Right now, we are sorting all the Logic Games from LSAT PrepTest 20 (October 1996) - 68 (December 2012) into their Types (cookie cutters). We're publishing the results as they become available.
Below, you'll find the "In/Out" Game Type. If you're enrolled in our online course, you'll know that In/Out Games are the foundation of all Grouping Games (which is one of the two broad category of Logic Games, the other being Sequencing Games). In/Out Games are incredibly important to master. Here, we've sorted In/Out Games by similarity and difficulty.
How do I use this?
Look at the set below. Say you had trouble with the Logic Game 2 from LSAT PrepTest 33. You should do and redo (and redo and redo...) every Logic Game in its set (including itself), starting with the Games listed in its set. The ones listed in another set are less similar, though still quite similar because every Game on this page is an In/Out Game.
1. Print this list out and tape it to your wall. Games are displayed as LSAT PrepTest#.Game#.
Optional. Purchase the PDF with all the Games in the list (coming soon!)
2. Do these Game together in their set clusters using the Fool Proof Method.
3. Never miss a question on an In/Out Game again.
The Basic In/Out Games Set
PT33-Game2 | PT40-Game4 | PT45-Game3 | PT58-Game2
These are the "purest" In/Out Games. All the rules chain up very nicely. They require only an understanding of basic conditional logic.
The Basic+ In/Out Games Set
PT34-Game4 | PT41-Game3
Like the Games in the Basic group, these Games also have rules that chain up nicely. They are a little bit harder though. These Games are not immediately apparent as In/Out Games because the LSAT has disguised them.
The Difficult In/Out Games Set
PT31-Game2 | PT32-Game2 | PT49-Game3
These Games resemble each other less than the ones in the Basic Groups. Some of them require you to know Bi-Conditionals, De Morgan's Law, and some are also disguised. Some of these Games have fixed their slots some did not. You also need to be aware of when conditional rules trigger and when they become irrelevant.
The In/Out with Sub-Categories Games Set
PT24-Game4 | PT26-Game4 | PT33-Game3 | PT42-Game1 | PT50-Game2
These Games contain game pieces that fall into sub-categories. At first, they are challenging, but once you learn to recognize them and draw the game board correctly, they become manageable.
The In/Out with Sequencing Games Set
PT25-Game3 | PT30-Game2 | PT32-Game1 | PT40-Game2 | PT61-Game3
These Games require you to Sequence items within the In/Out groups. You should master Sequencing Games before attempting this set. Knowledge of Conditionals, Bi-Conditionals, De Morgan's Law are also required for some.
Extended In/Out Games Set
PT33-Game2 | PT40-Game4 | PT45-Game3 | PT58-Game2 | PT34-Game4
PT41-Game3 | PT24-Game1 | PT29-Game1 | PT36-Game1 | PT48-Game1
PT54-Game1 | PT63-Game1 | PT20-Game2 | PT39-Game4 | PT47-Game2
PT58-Game4 | PT59-Game3 | PT31-Game2 | PT32-Game2 | PT49-Game3
PT24-Game4 | PT26-Game4 | PT33-Game3 | PT42-Game1 | PT50-Game2
PT65-Game3 | PT25-Game3 | PT30-Game2 | PT32-Game1 | PT40-Game2
PT61-Game3 | PT22-Game4 | PT23-Game2 | PT57-Game3
The key to Logic Games is the 7Sage Fool Proof Method.
LSAT Logic games are pretty much just variations on previous games. Logic games are easy once you get used to the game types and inference patterns that are used.
How to do you get used to them?
You repeat them. Over and over. You print out multiple copies of every game and do it over and over until you master each one.
You're essentially training your mind to see the possible inferences in a game. Eventually Logic Games become intuitive, and new logic games begin to feel like mashups of old games.
Learn more about this in your LSAT course or on the blog.
This series is just a sampling of the kind of wisdom ready at hand to anyone in our Discussion Forums. We've interviewed mentors in regards to whether the LSAT is worth the effort and offer a piece of advice for those looking to transition into a law career.
What would you tell someone who’s wondering if studying for the LSAT is worth it?
Sage Alex: The most important thing to consider before deciding whether or not to study for the LSAT is whether or not you want to be a lawyer. If you are passionate about becoming an attorney, then you should devote an adequate amount of time to studying for the exam. The LSAT is arguably the most important component of your application. A high LSAT score opens up the door to the best law schools in the country and can yield tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships. To put it simply, the LSAT is too important a test to forego adequate preparation. It is worth the time and effort to make sure that you are scoring in a range that makes you competitive for your target schools and merit scholarship awards.
Mentor Sam: No matter how you look at it, the answer is yes.
—If you want to be a lawyer: Well, you kind of need to study for the LSAT. Ultimately, decide on what you want to do in life. If your goal is to become an incredibly successful attorney, than going to a top tier law school will help you get there. Getting into a top tier school requires tons of studying for the LSAT.
—If you don't want to be a lawyer: That's okay—the LSAT teaches you to approach everyday tasks and conversations with a more critical eye. It teaches you to be analytical, and to stay sharp.
Mentor Brett: Rarely in life do we truly have second chances. We live in a society that is fixated upon first impressions; whatever you’ve done in the past is going to stick with you for the rest of your life.
But what if I told you that you could take one year and make up for nearly all of the problems you had in college? Maybe you struggled a certain semester; maybe freshman year was rough for you. If I told you that this one test could make up for all of that—and that if you pounded out a good score, not only could you be accepted, but given a scholarship over someone who scored lower than you on this test but had a higher GPA? The LSAT is the great equalizer and this is the only universal thing that every aspiring law student has on their resume. Take advantage of it!
Mentor Dan: The LSAT opens so many doors financially and occupationally. Before getting hardcore into studying for the LSAT, my dream school was the second best school in my state. Now, my dream school sits at the top of the T14. The LSAT is so learnable, and being that it carries the most weight in the application process, learn it!