A good score on Law School Admission Test, better known as the LSAT, is viewed by many to be the most important part of getting into a top-tier law school. Rather than testing what you've already learned, it's designed to measure and project your ability to excel in law school. Because of this narrow focus, the LSAT is vastly different from many other standardized tests that students take in high school or college. Its unique nature requires that you clearly understand its format and the type of questions that will be asked.
The test is broken into five separate sections: analytical reasoning, two logical reasoning sections, reading comprehension, and a writing section. The writing section is unscored, but it's provided to each law school to which a given student applies. The other sections are each 35 minutes long and contain 24 to 28 questions. Given that there are two logical reasoning sections, that portion of the test carries the most weight—it counts for 50 percent of the final score. Those sections test your ability to analyze and criticize arguments that are presented to you. The analytical reasoning section contains four "logic games," which test your ability to understand the structure of complex relationships. The reading comprehension section more closely mirrors those that can be found on other standardized tests, asking you to understand what you read in the limited time you're given. The maximum score for the test is 180, but a score of 170 usually puts you in the 98th percentile.
Given that the LSAT is considered by many law schools to be the most accurate measure of your ability to perform in law school, it is given a tremendous amount of weight in the application process. Admissions officials feel that solid performance in undergraduate classes might not necessarily correlate to success in law school. So, it's important to invest significant time and energy prior to taking the LSAT. Use these seven tips to get started:
1. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Oftentimes aspiring law students will let LSAT preparation slip by the wayside during their busy weeks in school or at work, only to spend hours on the weekends cramming and taking an endless number of practice tests. While practice tests are important, it's best to keep your mind LSAT-ready at all times, practicing a new section each day with the occasional or weekly practice test thrown in the mix, experts say. Andrew Brody, national content director for LSAT programs for the Princeton Review, compares preparing for the LSAT to training for a marathon. He encourages students to keep their minds sharp at all times, but not to overwork them. "You wouldn't run a marathon every day to train for a marathon," he says. "But you also wouldn't do nothing all week and then run miles and miles on the weekend. You do a little bit of focused work [everyday] to keep yourself in shape with occasional long runs—or practice tests—mixed in."
2. Help yourself, not your buddy. While there are benefits to studying anything with a friend, the LSAT exposes your personal strengths and weaknesses more clearly than any other standardized test, experts say. Given the analytic nature of most questions, what comes easily to one person may prove to be a challenge for their friend. Studying in a group can be detrimental, given that it might make you prone to review the test in a general fashion rather than focusing on your specific weaknesses. Because the test does not quiz you on content but rather how you use logic and think analytically, cramming with a friend is of little benefit. It's best to learn what gives you the most trouble and drill yourself on those questions alone or with the help of a tutor or LSAT instructor. Because the LSAT is a skills-based test "every student is unique," says Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. "If a student and a buddy are prepping for the LSAT and if they go along the same course of action, same assignments, same prep exercises, they're going to have immensely different results. Every student is different."