The first factor establishes a range of scores that you could get on the test, say 155 – 168. The second factor – studying – determines how close to the upper bound of your range you approach. Since the first factor is largely out of your control, your LSAT potential is mostly determined by the second factor: studying. To make sure that your studying is pushing you closer to your LSAT potential you need to make sure that 1) you are studying the right way and 2) you have studied for long enough.
Are you studying the right way?
First, the theory you learn to tackle the LSAT may not be powerful enough. A couple of thousand years ago, all the smartest people thought everything in the universe went around the Earth. That was their theory. It's fine for explaining some stuff, like "Why does the sun rise in the East and set in the West?" Well, cause that's how it goes around the Earth, duh! But, it break apart when we try to explain other, harder to explain things, like retrograde motion, or why certain planets are brighter when they are opposite the sun. The geocentric theory kind of suck for those things.
So, a couple hundred years went by and more smart people came along and proposed a different theory: the heliocentric theory. We all take this for granted, but at the time, it was pretty cool. This new, more powerful theory could explain everything that the older, weaker earth centric theory could explain but also things that the older, weaker theory could not explain. That's what makes it better.
That's what I mean when I say that the theory you are using for the LSAT may be too weak. It may be a theory that explains the easy questions fine, but breaks down and is useless or even misleading for the harder questions. How do you know if you've been taught a weak theory or a strong theory? Well, take the hardest LSAT questions you can find and see if the theory you learned is able to explain why the right answers are right and why the wrong answers are wrong.
Second, assuming you learned the correct theory, you still have to be able to apply it. That's why we encourage our students to use the Fool Proof Method for Logic Games, the Blind Review Method for Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension while taking as many proctored, simulated LSAT practice tests as they can.
Training through the Blind Review Method and the Fool Proof Method is like going to the gym. You have to work hard. But, as long as you keep pushing and don't give up, you will win.
Have you studied for long enough?
Fewer, but still a good number of students tell us that they have been studying with the right theory and they have been applying it consistently, but they are still not hitting their target score. Have they peaked? Or do they need to study longer?
This question is a lot more subjective. Think about it this way – if you had the next 10 years to do nothing but study LSATs, your score would improve dramatically. You'd probably get a 180. (The first factor is not really out of your control.) But why would you want to do that? Please don't. Life is precious.
My point is how long you want to study is a personal decision. It depends on many things, including your goals, free time, finances, and determination.
If you have the summer to study for the LSAT, do it because that's the best time to study with the fewest distractions. Don’t take that for granted. Lots of students have to study during school or concurrently with a job. That just makes something already hard even harder.
If your LSAT tolerance has reached saturation, then call it. You've hit your LSAT potential. You gave it all and did the best you could. There are other things in life that matter way more than this test.