My 18-points-in-six-months increase story (and how you can do it while working full-time too!)

tjphilbricktjphilbrick Alum Member
in General 174 karma

Hey everybody!

I wanted to share my 18-point increase story with you all and outline how I did it while working full time. I started studying for the December 2016 LSAT in late July on very short notice. My wife is in graduate school in a very remote part of Missouri and the only job I could find was 1.5 hours away at an agricultural law firm. I’ve worked a full eight-hour day every day since August 1st and only studied for a little over a week before starting my job, so it’s pretty much been a constant balancing act.

I’m not anything special. I have a very average intelligence level. My diagnostic PT was a 145. I had to work my tail off for the score I got, and the score I got reflects my best effort over six months of, on average, four or five hours of studying a day (minus Fridays). That’s what I have to work with and it reflects my absolute best effort. Sure, I’d love it if I was naturally smart enough to get a 170 with ease, but at the end of the day the most fulfilling part of this entire process is the knowledge that I gave it everything.

I was blessed to have the amazing advice and wisdom of Sage Daniel (@danielznelson) throughout my prep process. If he was able to take every single 7sager in the world as his personal pupil, I would make it mandatory. As it turns out, he went to middle school and high school with my wife and came to our wedding, so we had a connection to begin with. If you are stuck at any point of your prep and need to break through a plateau, get in touch with Daniel and let him help you. It’ll be the best thing you could ever do for your LSAT score.

My daily schedule was the same throughout my entire LSAT experience. I would wake up at 6, study from about 6:30 – 8:00am, get ready for work and go to work from 9 – 5, then either work out and study till 11pm or go home and study until 10:30 or 11pm. Some days I would also go to the library until 10 or 11pm if I wanted a change of scenery. I would also utilize any spare moment I had at work (down time, lunch breaks, etc) to do a few extra logic games, complete an RC passage or two, or peruse the 7sage discussion forums. On slow days at work, I would sometimes get in an extra two hours of studying this way.

The way to beat the LSAT is to become obsessed with it. Steve at has a great document of 101 tips for the LSAT from pupils of his that improved ridiculous amounts (like 140 to 170), and the biggest take-away from that list is that the people who conquer the test are the people who make it their life. I did that, and it paid off, especially near the end of my prep. If you really want it, you have to mold your entire life around the test. For instance, I decreased my frequency of working out, started timing my morning chai tea so that I would be most awake around the time I knew the LSAT would start, started some basic meditation that I would do before each section, made sure that I was always putting in focused study time on weekends from 8am to 1pm, and much more. I made a binder, divided into sections for Games, LR, and RC, and filled it with notes, reminders, tips, and tricks that I learned from the LSAT Trainer, the 7sage curriculum, my conversations with Daniel, and my personal discoveries as I studied. I’ve condensed that binder into a bullet point list that is at the bottom of this post that covers the most important things I learned for each section.

Now for the actual study schedule. I broke my studying down into two phases – an understanding phase and a preparation phase. Since I had just over four months to get ready for the December LSAT, I spent the first two months learning the test and second two months taking practice tests and working on my weaknesses. Do not start taking practice tests until you have a broad, functional, relatively comprehensive knowledge of the test. Knowing how the LSAT works and what it will try to do to you is half the battle. To that end, spend the first half of your prep (or at least two months) just learning the test. Read the LSAT Trainer, go through the entire 7sage curriculum and take religious notes, answer questions on the 7sage forums, read the Powerscore bibles (but only to do the problems and get extra practice – I wouldn’t recommend their games-tackling methods, for instance), subscribe to Steve from’s weekly LSAT emails, do the free logic games at Cambridge LSAT’s website, read papers on formal logic, do at least 4 logic games a day and watch JY’s videos for them, read a book or two to keep your reading skills sharp, get used to reading RC passages quickly, choose a few LR sections a day from the early PT’s to do untimed, etc. I used predominantly the prep tests from 1 – 39 for this part of my prep, which lasted from late July until mid-September. This approach paid off bigtime for me. I was shooting for a 160 on the December LSAT, and when I took my first PT in late September after doing nothing but learning the test for two months, I hit a 160.

Then comes the preparation part of the process. This entailed starting with 1 PT per week on Saturday mornings for two weeks, then doing 2 PT’s a week until two weeks out from the LSAT. I understand this might change for some of you depending on your timeline. I started with PT 67 and worked my way up through PT 77 a week and a half before the LSAT. The weekend before the LSAT I took a retake so that I could build confidence. For me, I took my PT’s on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings (Fridays were my off day – make sure you have an off day every week! It’s important for mental health). In the days between your PT’s, your focus should be identifying your weaknesses and drilling them to find ways to improve.

I want to add a little bit of my personal experience here to explain what I really mean by drilling your weaknesses. This is where your obsession has to change focus but increase in its intensity. After every PT, I would go through the 7sage analytics. This gives you a good idea of where your weaknesses are. However, I would also do my own set of analytics, and this is where you can really break down your weaknesses. For me, Flaw, NA, and MSS were my original weaknesses. Up through the December test, I would count how many of each I got wrong and drill them over and over. This worked to some extent, as I was able to achieve a 163 on the December test, tying my previous best PT score. However, it was in prepping for the February LSAT that I discovered what it really takes to conquer your weaknesses. You have to get much more in-depth with your analysis. Ask yourself, “Why did I get this wrong? Was the issue in the stimulus or the answer choices?” For me, it was the answer choices. “Did I not reading the answer choices carefully enough? Did I not understanding how the answer choice impacts the argument? Or was the issue in my lack of scrutiny? Did I not think carefully enough through whether or not the stimulus actually says what the answer choices says it does?” In short, you have to get down to this level of nitty gritty in order to truly understand your weaknesses. I realized after several PT’s that I wasn’t fully understanding what certain AC’s were doing to the argument. This was especially troublesome on Strengthen and Weaken questions. Only by getting to this level of understanding will you know your weaknesses.

That’s how you understand them. Now, the way to conquer them is to write out explanations for why each and every answer choice on a troublesome question is right or wrong. I did this for LR and RC and can honestly say it was the single most beneficial technique I ever used for increasing my LSAT capabilities. I wish I had started doing it earlier, so if you are in the later stages of your prep, start doing it today! Write your explanations out by hand, and then, if the question is really hard, type a full explanation. In my opinion, this is the key to breaking through that huge mid-160’s plateau that so many of us struggle to get out of. A week after implementing this habit, I rocketed to a 167. I’m telling you, it works. You just have to put in the time.

The list of tips for each section is below. Before I go, I want to share with you one more thing about the mindset for the LSAT that I believe is very important for anyone setting their sights on the test. I grew up on a small-scale, draft-powered, self-sustaining organic farm in New Hampshire. I fully intend to buy some land and have a farm again myself once I am out of law school. Part of our farm’s unique appeal was that we used teams of oxen for all of the farm work, rather than tractors. Over the years, I spent hours each day with our teams of oxen, hauling firewood, plowing gardens, bringing in the harvest, and much more. Years of this kind of closeness have shown me the intricacies of these massive animals’ gentle personalities (some of them weighed over 3,000 lbs). They are smart, goofy, athletic, loyal, devoted, caring, and courageous in ways I will never be. Not to mention tremendously, unbelievably, mind-blowingly strong. But one thing that all of them have, no matter what their personality differences may be, is an unquenchable sense of commitment to the task at hand. I’ve stood next to them as they’ve strained to move a giant downed tree, falling on their knees and back up again, foaming at the mouth, clashing their horns together, just for the sheer joy of trying. Even when I managed to get them to rest for a few moments, they would restlessly paw the ground and shake their heads, eager to throw themselves against the yoke again and conquer their nemesis. As you approach the LSAT, think carefully about what you are willing to put into it and what you hope to get out of it. If you’re willing to be even half as consistent and committed as these oxen were, you’ll go far.

- My method of attacking LR questions: Read Question Stem, Read Stimulus, Prephrase,
- When reviewing LR questions, don’t just understand why you got it wrong. Understand why you chose the one you did, why it was incorrect, and why all the other answer choices are correct or incorrect.
- LSAC likes to put emotionally appealing answer choices fifth (E) on hard questions so that you go for it. Watch out for this!
- Underline the parts of an AC that make it right or wrong
- Know all of the types of flaws for memory.
- Know all the types of valid and invalid arguments for memory
- Know logical opposites for memory (some/none, all/some…not, etc)
- The Negation Test for NA questions is YOUR BEST FRIEND!
- Don’t be afraid to skip. Skip often and very readily. Mark an AC down in case you don’t make it back, but if you aren’t getting the stimulus after one (or at most two) reading(s), move on and come back later. It is a much better use of your time. My scores went up by a lot once I started being okay with skipping a lot more.
- Watch Nicole’s webinar on Strengthening and Weakening questions! This was the single most helpful webinar for me and I found that I could apply its concepts to other types of questions as well. You will gain SO much from this webinar.
- Know the Group 1, 2, 3 and 4 quantifiers for memory.
- Spend time up front to understand the stimulus/passage
- Mindset should be one of elimination of what is wrong, not searching for what is right

- Two weeks before the LSAT, make sure you go over all of the hardest games out there (any circle games, the CD game, the Dino game, PT 27 Game 2, PT 29 Game 2, PT 33 Game 3, PT 79 Game 4, the Stained Glass game (62), PT 70 Game 3, etc
- If given an In-Out game, use a vertical diagram with multiple levels/tiers
- I wrote out contrapositives for every rule, even in the test. Just a preference, but it really helped me.
- If given a sequencing game with two sets of variables, always use the set of variables that has fewer variables as the determining/limiting factor in your diagram

- Don’t accept AC’s that sound “good enough,” especially in the 70’s. Be incredibly scrutinizing, and hold a high standard on whether or not the passage actually does what the AC is saying it does. They will often give you a very clear, simple AC that sounds great except for one tiny little detail that you are unlikely to catch that makes it entirely wrong. The right AC will often be very obscure and hard to figure out.
- If you can’t decide between two AC’s, insert synonyms for key terms and see how that sounds.
- I wasn’t a big annotator. I just bracketed the main point of each paragraph as I went and circled any unique/weird words or phrases.
- Spend time up front to understand the stimulus/passage
- Underline the parts of an AC that make it right or wrong
- Mindset should be one of elimination of what is wrong, not searching for what is right


  • Mo ZubairMo Zubair Alum Member
    391 karma

    This is amazing. Great tips. Thanks for writing this.

    And more importantly, Congratulations! What an achievement!

  • Chipster StudyChipster Study Yearly Member
    893 karma

    That story about the oxen is really quite inspirational.

  • SprinklesSprinkles Alum Member
    edited March 2017 11542 karma

    Everything about this is magnificent! Congratulations on the amazing score increase in such short time! @danielznelson let's hope you can continue being of help even after switch is released lol jk. Thanks for sharing your story, OP. I'm definitely bookmarking this and will refer back to it often. You're right. To defeat this test you have to practically make it your life. It's an obsession but you gotta do what you gotta do to make huge gains. People who work full-time generally use that as a reason as to why they think it's impossible to reach their full potential on the test and you've clearly demonstrated otherwise. So thanks again. I'll be bumping this thread every so often haha. :)

  • Bevs ScooterMinionBevs ScooterMinion Alum Member
    1018 karma

    Absolutely ALL of this! Thank you for taking the time to be so detailed in helping those of us still in CC, to prepare us for the next phase!

    Well done on your scores!!

  • Jessica_KubaJessica_Kuba Core Member
    461 karma

    Congratulations on your score!! Thank you for sharing your journey with us and the wonderful advice.

  • tjphilbricktjphilbrick Alum Member
    edited March 2017 174 karma

    Glad it is helpful, keep up the good work! And I think we all know that @danielznelson will go completely off the grid with the Switch being released haha

  • plantbaseddiyaplantbaseddiya Alum Member
    83 karma

    Enjoyed reading this! Congrats, your story is motivating and inspiring!

  • partyondudespartyondudes Alum Member
    424 karma
  • janesp34janesp34 Member
    38 karma

    Thanks for sharing your journey through the exam. Congrats on your score! I got some amazing information from this and will implement it in my studying.

  • poohbearpoohbear Alum Member
    496 karma

    Incredible story! Thank you so much for sharing and congratulations on your well deserved score jump! I especially loved the story about the oxen!

  • bklsat05bklsat05 Member
    edited July 2017 177 karma

    Does anyone have a link to the webinar?

    P.S. Great writeup - I will do the notes thing per Q during B/R

  • AlexAlex Alum Member
    23929 karma

    @bklsat05 said:
    Does anyone have a link to the webinar?

    P.S. Great writeup - I will do the notes thing per Q during B/R

    Here ya go! It is a great webinar and a must watch. Gosh, I think all the webinars are more or less worth listening to. I've gotten so much strategy and motivation outside the CC from these.

  • tringo335tringo335 Alum Member
    3679 karma

    Great tips!

  • This is great! Thank you!

  • jimmyrivera201-1jimmyrivera201-1 Core Member
    547 karma

    Incredible story! Great tips!

  • dfletch5dfletch5 Alum Member
    260 karma

    Congrats! So proud of you! Thanks for sharing your tips for success -:)

  • AlexAlex Alum Member
    23929 karma

    @dfletch5 said:
    Congrats! So proud of you! Thanks for sharing your tips for success -:)

    Also, congrats my man! Doing it with all the extra responsibilities really says a lot about your level of commitment. I love reading stories like these because they are truly what keeps me going while knowing I have to be to work in 2 hours, but I'm up prepping and on 7Sage :)

    Guess I'll rest when I'm dead/get my 170+ score back

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