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Modern LSAT Score Estimator

This is based on having the same raw to scaled conversion table, but scored as though there was only one LR section (one half of the usual amount). No one outside of LSAC knows how the scoring will actually be done, so is just for illustrative purposes.

PrepTest:

It's frustrating and disorienting not to know how the Flex test will be scored. The LSAT is stressful enough without worrying about a new format.

But, the truth is, you've already been given the best converter in existence from the LSAC itself: the regular 4 section PrepTest. Take 4 section PTs. That will be the best predictor of how you will do on a 3 section Flex test. On test day, frame the loss of 1 LR section to yourself as a treat: 1 fewer stress inducing nerve-racking task to do.

We've debated creating a "Flex score converter" and a "Flex PT" and we've been hesitant to do so because of how speculative it would inherently be.

The truth is that only LSAC can create a "Flex score converter" or a "Flex PT." LSAC has not given any significant details on how they will score LSAT Flex. Anything we try to do on that front will necessarily be guesswork and misleading.

Having said that, we made this "Flex Score Estimator" based on requests by students to see what their score would be if LR, RC, and LG were weighted the same. Feel free to play around with it and don’t take it seriously!


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Why Does the United States Have Two Different Kinds of Courts?

In the United States, we have two different kinds of courts: federal courts and state courts. It’s been this way since 1788, when a group of nerdy Americans ratified the Constitution. Article III of the Constitution states that the “judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” With this little sentence, James Madison et al. set the stage for the development of the complex federal judicial system we have today.

Before the ratification of the Constitution, the thirteen original states were governed by the Articles of Confederation, which didn’t provide for a federal judiciary. Instead, legal disputes were largely settled by state courts (the only courts around). This approach had some problems.

First, where cases introduced conflicts between federal and state interests, states had little incentive to enforce federal laws. Second, without a Supreme Court, state courts couldn’t maintain uniformity in their interpretation of federal laws. Third, state courts were too biased to hear disputes between the states themselves. Finally, in the absence of a court with national authority, citizens had no place to file complaints against the national government.

For all of these reasons, we’ve had a federal Supreme Court since the ratification of the Constitution. But wait! You’re a smart cookie. You’ve read in the news that other federal courts exist too. These lower courts were created by Congress in 1789. The number and structure of these lower courts has changed since then, as new laws have been passed and cases decided, but our doubled system of state and federal courts has persisted.

How Is the Federal Court System Structured?

The federal judicial system has three tiers. A litigant in the system starts off in a federal district court. A district court is where the trial actually happens. Where the parties have different stories about what happened, the district court acts as a fact-finder, and writes the official summary of events. Based on these findings of fact, the district court renders a legal decision, applying the law to the facts. 

If a litigant believes the district court decided the case wrongly, the litigant may ask an appellate court to reverse the decision. In the United States, we have 94 district courts, but only 13 appellate courts. Appellate courts are also known as circuit courts because they preside over “circuits” that govern several district courts within the same geographic region. (An exception is the Federal Circuit, which hears cases that involve specialized subject matter.) 

Appellate courts do not have juries, because they do not find facts. Generally, after deferring to the district court’s judgment as to the facts of the case, the appellate court will scrutinize the district court’s judgment for errors of law. If it finds that the district court was right on the facts, but wrong on the law, it will issue a new decision correctly applying the law. 

Litigants who are unhappy with the appellate court’s decision can ask the Supreme Court to hear their case. However, the Supreme Court only hears oral arguments in roughly 100 cases every year. As such, decisions of the federal appellate courts are almost always final. 

How Are State Court Systems Structured?

State judicial systems are also composed of a state’s trial courts, appellate courts, and a state’s highest court(s). However, each state uses a slightly different naming system for its courts, which can make things confusing. For example, the highest court in New York State is known as the New York State Court of Appeals, while its trial court is known as the New York Supreme Court. 

Furthermore, some states have a judicial structure unique to the state. Texas, for example, has two highest courts: the Supreme Court of Texas, which renders decisions in civil cases, and the Court of Criminal Appeals, which renders decisions in criminal cases. Our national highest court, the Supreme Court of the United States, can review the decisions of all state supreme courts. 

What Makes Federal Judges Different from State Court Judges?

Rather than being directly elected to office, federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Given good behavior, the Constitution grants federal judges the protections of life tenure. Furthermore, Congress cannot reduce their salary. This insulates federal judges from political blowback when they make unpopular decisions.

Generally, state judges must run for office. Furthermore, they rarely enjoy the wide set of career protections granted to members of the federal judiciary. As a result, some people argue that federal courts are better suited to protect constitutional rights, particularly the rights of minorities, and enforce politically unpopular laws.

What Kinds of Cases Are Litigated in Federal vs. State Courts?

The vast majority of cases are heard in state courts. State courts are courts of general jurisdiction, meaning that they can try all cases, except those that Congress has specified should be litigated only in federal courts. Federal courts, on the other hand, are courts of limited jurisdiction: they can only try certain kinds of cases.

Generally, a case can only be heard in federal court if it presents a federal question or involves diversity of citizenship. A case presents a federal question if it involves a violation of federal law. A case involves diversity of citizenship if the opposing parties are citizens of different states (or if one is from a foreign country). Given that so many lawsuits involve diversity of citizenship, federal courts will only hear these cases where the amount of money the parties are arguing over exceeds $75,000.

Can State Courts Decide Issues of Federal Law?

Yes.

State courts can rule on questions of federal law, except where Congress has mandated that a specific kind of case can only be heard in federal court. As the Supreme Court noted in Claflin v. Houseman, federal law is the law of the land––effective in every state. Not only are state courts allowed to rule on federal law, they must enforce federal law to perform their duty of enforcing laws valid within the state.

Can Federal Courts Decide Issues of State Law?

Yes.

The Supreme Court can review decisions of each state’s highest court, but only insofar as a case raises a question of federal law. Decisions of a state’s highest court are final on questions of state law.

The lower federal courts also regularly rule on matters of state law. As we’ve discussed, even a case that exclusively involves state law can enter the federal system if the parties suing have diversity of citizenship. In cases like these, the court must apply state law to decide the issues. Determining which state’s laws to apply is a convoluted process, but the federal courts are theoretically better able to make impartial decisions than the state courts themselves.

Furthermore, cases that do raise federal questions may be tightly bound with matters of state law. In these cases, a federal court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction to decide the state law issues along with the federal.

Of course, these jurisdictional principles are complicated by a variety of exceptions and legal wrinkles—but you'll learn more about those in law school.


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[latexpage]

Circle graphs (also called pie charts) let you see the relative amounts of different categories. For example, if you run a local grocery store and want to see where your sales are coming from (perhaps because you are considering whether to re-allocate floor space), you might look at a chart like the following:

and conclude that as most of your sales come from produce, you may want to allocate more space to new kinds of produce.

Now, when reading a circle graph, the percentages of the different sections will generally be labelled as in the above. So circle graph tells you that in January of 2010, 23% of all sales were from frozen foods, 10% of all sales were from pharmaceuticals, and so on.

Now, if you are given the actual value (as opposed to the proportion) of any category, you can find the value for each category. So, for example:

Example 1

Suppose that in January of 2010, the grocery store sold \$23,000 worth of frozen foods. How many dollars worth of canned foods did they sell?

Answer

We can also use circle graphs to determine various trends. For example, by comparing the following charts:

we can conclude that the proportion of revenue from canned foods drastically shrunk from January 2010 to 2011.

Example 2

From January 2010 to January 2011, which category grew the most as a proportion of total sales?

Answer

Now, if we know the actual value of some category in 2010 and the actual value of some category in 2011, we can calculate the value of each category and 2010 and 2011. Thus, we can calculate the absolute increase in revenue for any particular category as follows:

Example 3

Suppose in January 2010, the total amount of goods sold was \$200,000. In January 2011, the amount of canned foods sold was \$6,000. Find the absolute change from 2010 to 2011 in the amount of dairy products sold.

Answer

Practice Problems

  1. Suppose produce sales were, in absolute terms, \$10,000 greater than pharmaceutical sales in January 2010. What was the total amount of sales for all goods?

    Answer
  2. Overall sales in January 2010 were \$100,000. How much more revenue was generated by dry foods as compared to canned foods?
    Answer
  3. Suppose dry foods in January 2010 were twice as large, in absolute terms, as pharmaceutical sales in January 2011. What is the ratio of overall sales from January 2010 to January 2011?


    Answer


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A box plot is so named for its iconic shape:

(They can also be laid out horizontally). The parts of the graph correspond to:

Looking at a box plot can give you a quick sense of what the distribution of the data looks like. For example:

Example 1

Find the 25th percentile, 50th percentile, 75th percentile, range, and median for the below boxplot:

Answer

Example 2

The following chart represents the books read by the 500 fifth-graders in a school over the summer. Suppose no student read exactly 4 books. How many students read more than 4 books?

Answer

Example 3

The following chart represents the books read by the 500 fifth-graders in a school over the summer. What is the approximate number of students that have read between 3 and 4 books?

Answer

Practice Problems

  1. The following chart represents the books read by the 100 fifth-graders in a school over the summer. What is the approximate number of students that have read more than 5 books? (We assume that people can only read positive integers of books).


    Answer

  2. The following chart represents the books read by the 500 fifth-graders in a school over the summer. Suppose 7 is the 80th percentile of this data. Approximately how many people read between 6 and 7 books? (We assume that people can only read positive integers of books).

    Answer

  3. Researchers measured, over 36 months, how often it rained in a month. About how many months had rain from between 13 and 18 days?

    Answer


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[latexpage] Talk of "data" is ubiquitous -- what does that word mean in the context of the GRE? We will think about data as observations of given variables. Now what does that mean?

Well suppose we are trying to help our child increase her earnings from a lemonade stand. Some days, she sells a lot and some days she sells almost nothing. To figure out why, we might start keeping track of how much she sells on a given day. So we would start making a table that looks like:
$$\begin{center}
\begin{tabular}{ |c|c|c| }
\hline
Date & Lemonades Sold \\
\hline 7/2/19 & 1 \\
\hline 7/3/19 & 2 \\
\hline 7/4/19 & 5 \\

\hline 7/5/19 & 2 \\

\hline 7/6/19 & 3 \\

\hline
\end{tabular}
\end{center}
$$

Now, each of the rows in the table is an observation. And we have our variables at the top of the columns: the date and the number of lemonades sold. And more generally: variables are just the characteristics that we keep track of, while an observation is some particular occasion when we record the values of our variables.

Now, a very simple way to keep track of data is via a frequency distribution. This is a table that records, on the left-hand side, possible values of a given variable, and on the right-hand side, it records how often those values appeared. Applied to the above data, we would get:

$$\begin{center}
\begin{tabular}{ |c|c| }
\hline
Lemonades Sold & Number of Days\\
\hline 1 & 1 \\
\hline 2 & 2 \\
\hline 3 & 1 \\

\hline 4 & 0 \\

\hline 5 & 1 \\

\hline
\end{tabular}
\end{center}
$$

This table answers questions like "How often did my child sell three lemonades?" To find the answer, we go to the "Lemonades Sold" column and look for the row with three lemonades sold. In that row, the right hand column (corresponding to the number of days) says one. So there was one day where the child sold three lemonades.

And, in addition to a frequency distribution, we can also create a relative frequency distribution which records, on the left-hand side, possible values of a given variable, and on the right hand-side, the percentage of all observations where that value occurred. So, in the above example, we would get:

$$\begin{center}
\begin{tabular}{ |c|c| }
\hline
Lemonades Sold & Number of Days\\
\hline 1 & 20\% \\
\hline 2 & 40\% \\
\hline 3 & 20\% \\

\hline 4 & 0\% \\

\hline 5 & 20\% \\

\hline
\end{tabular}
\end{center}
$$

since the total number of days is $1 + 2 + 1 + 0 + 1 = 5$ and $\frac{1}{5} =$ 20% and $\frac{2}{5} =$ 40% and so on through the table.

Now, to really get a handle on what is driving her lemonade sales, we should probably add some more variables (e.g. daily temperature, day of week) and collect some more observations:

$$\begin{center}
\begin{tabular}{ |c|c|c|c| }
\hline
Date & Lemonades Sold & Day of Week & Temperature (Fahrenheit)\\
\hline 7/2/19 & 1 & Tuesday & 68 \\
\hline 7/3/19 & 2 & Wednesday & 73 \\

\hline 7/4/19 & 5 & Thursday & 75 \\

\hline 7/5/19 & 2 & Friday & 70 \\

\hline 7/6/19 & 3 & Saturday & 71\\

\hline 7/7/19 & 2 & Sunday & 71 \\

\hline 7/8/19 & 5 & Monday & 78\\

\hline 7/9/19 & 4 & Tuesday & 75 \\

\hline 7/10/19 & 3 & Wednesday & 72\\

\hline 7/11/19 & 3 & Thursday & 73\\

\hline
\end{tabular}
\end{center}
$$

Here are some practice problems on the above concepts:

Practice Problems:

  1. Using the above data, construct a frequency table that tells you how often a certain number of lemonades was sold:
    Answer
  2. Using the above data, how many lemonades were sold on Tuesdays?
    Answer
  3. Using the above data, how many days had more than 3 lemonades sales?
    Answer
  4. On days where the temperature was at least 73 degrees, how many lemonades did she sell on average?
    Answer
  5. On days where the temperature was less than 73 degrees, how many lemonades did she sell on average?
    Answer

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In the next few posts, we’ll unpack some of the statistical terms that the GRE throws around. These terms can be seen as ways to answer two central questions:

  1. What’s Typical?
  2. What’s Possible?

In response to the question of "What's Typical?" we can find the median, mean, or mode of the data. These give you a sense of what the average value is, or what the most common value is; in short, they describe what a typical value might be.

And in answering "What's Possible?" we can find the range, quartiles, or percentiles of the data. These give you a sense of the possibilities and how the possibilities are distributed.

In later posts, we will give actual definitions of these concepts. But first, some overarching advice about learning these concepts.

There are four main ways you’ll get tested on these concepts.

  1. Given some data, find the value of one of these concepts (e.g. the mean, median, range, etc.).
  2. Given some data, alter the data in some way (e.g. by adding 10 to every value), and then find the value of one of these concepts.
  3. Given some graph/chart, estimate the value of one of these concepts.
  4. Answer some question about some concept's general properties (e.g. that the interquartile range is always less than or equal to the range).

Thus, you want to understand the formal definition well enough to do questions of the first and second types. But you also want to have some intuitive sense for the concepts, so that you can do questions that fall in the third and fourth categories.


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As an LSAT tutor, one of the question types my students most struggle with is “resolve the paradox.” As a law school applicant, the paradox that most nettled me was a paradox centered on law school itself: given that law school is so arduous, why are application figures so robust? Does law school simply attract masochists (or whiners)? Is the well-trod pathway to wealth and political power what tempts people to accept such a hideous fate?

But these questions assume a basic premise, which is that law school is actually hard. Is this true?

Is Law School Hard?

Sorry to disappoint, but the answer to this question is an emphatic “yes”! Of course law school is hard! Have you never talked with a law student? Observe any 1L during finals, or any bedraggled OCI participant, and you will witness the rigors of law school wrought on the human body. Before law school I was youthful and energetic; by November of my 1L year I looked like the “Before” picture in an eye cream ad, and that was on my good days.

Making the decision to attend law school requires accepting that it will likely be difficult.

Why Is Law School (Usually) Hard?

Some people—veterans, parents, interns for Meryl Streep’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada”—don’t find law school particularly onerous because they have survived tougher gauntlets. But most law students are mostly untested in the ways that law schools challenge their students. Looking at the profile of the typical 1L, this is hardly mystifying: a fairly young, relatively recent humanities grad possessed of an abbreviated work history and a roster of academic successes in a context where they are somewhat easy to come by. Despite the maxim that past outcomes do not guarantee future results, most people enter law school either overconfident, underprepared, or both.

A Tale of Two Law School Experiences

One characterization of law school has it like this: you’ll be thrown into a group of dozens of strangers in a pseudo-professional, contentious setting. You will leave behind a lifetime of continuous and easily-won academic validation for a system in which you are evaluated anonymously, for the first and only time, by a professor whose primary interactions with you will be to point out the weaknesses in your reasoning and comprehension in front of the 50+ snickering strangers whose respect you most covet. Unlike the forgiving grading curves of undergrad, which stretched from lowly B+ to unremarkable A+, desirable grades in law school are in limited supply, and you are competing for them against the people with whom you spend most of your waking hours. Remember also that, like you, these people have probably selected into this profession because of a yen for confrontation and an ability to work hard.

But another characterization has it like this: you have to go to class for between 12 and 17 hours per week, with no other responsibilities. To prepare, you will have to read approximately 25-50 pages per class. In the one-in-twenty chance that you get cold-called and can’t remember every single detail of the case, you can just access one of the many overzealous outlines floating around your school and grow comfortable with CONTROL+F and bullshitting—skills that, incidentally, are useful for any attorney.

So Which Experience Will I Have?

The answer to this question is that it’s largely up to you. If you are a welter of insecurities who regards law school success as the paramount test of intelligence and worth, then you might have the former experience. To ensure that the former perspective doesn’t overtake the latter reality, try to keep the following in mind:

  • Take law school seriously: it is a professional school, and how well you do will likely shape your career prospects. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t screw up...
  • ... And don’t be afraid to screw up: the first time a student in your section gets cold-called and doesn’t know the answer, visceral group mortification sets in. Every time after that point is pretty uneventful, because half the class is on Facebook or shopping online.
  • Treat yourself kindly: go to the gym, eat well, avoid forming bad habits, get lots of sleep, have fun, and relax. I learned this lesson the hard way: as a 1L, I took to pouring myself a fluorescent yellow glass of Mountain Dew each night and setting it beside my bed. Why? Because I knew I would be too exhausted to go make coffee in the morning, and I needed a kick to get myself out of bed. I thought, “I can rest when I am a 2L!” until a mentor encouraged me to sleep more regularly and more often, eat better, and exercise. I was doubtful at first, but another paradox that I was happy to resolve was that my comprehension and attitude improved with more leisure and relaxation time and better self-care.
  • Maintain your values: decide why you are in law school and stick to it. This doesn’t mean you can’t grow or change your mind, but resist the urge to jump through hoops just because your peers are doing so. Law students slobber over honors like clerkships and law review, but these might not be right for you, might not matter for your career, and might just make you miserable. There are things in life worth suffering and striving for, but make sure they’re important to you before you commit to them.
  • Your classmates are going to be your future colleagues, so get to know them through study groups, clubs, and other extracurricular activities.

If you’ve been through law school, what other tips or suggestions do you have? Let us know in the comment section. If you’ve got questions, let us know too.

[ss_editor_bios name="Conor"/]

Featured image: Markus Spiske

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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.”

Featured image: theilr

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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.

Featured image: Randy Heinitz

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