When it comes to preparing for the LSAT, it seems like everyone, from your parents to your friends to your professors, has their own ideas about the most effective way to raise your score. Some insist that taking a class is the way to go; others believe that private tutoring is much more effective. Still others argue that you should just study on your own using prior exams.
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From more than a decade's worth of experience preparing students for the LSAT and from talking with countless successful applicants about what worked for them, I have discovered that, for most students, the best method to reach your maximum score potential on the LSAT is a combination of these three approaches:
1. LSAT classes: A professionally-designed LSAT course with a highly qualified instructor and limited class size (under 20, ideally) will give you a strong overview of the exam and many of the tools you need to increase your score. For the most part, the skills required to ace the LSAT are not ones you will have learned in school, so leveraging the best strategies and problem-solving techniques from a true LSAT expert can be invaluable.
However, a course alone may not give you everything you need to succeed on the exam. Everyone learns at different speeds, so it is possible that by the end of a course you will still have a couple topics on which you need to work further. Therefore, if possible, I recommend that students not take a class that finishes right before their desired LSAT exam date. Give yourself the time after the course to reinforce what you have learned.
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2. One-on-one tutoring: An experienced LSAT tutor can be an excellent complement to a course. A professional LSAT tutor, who has been teaching the test for at least two years, can customize your preparation to address your specific needs, filling the gaps in your knowledge that are preventing you from truly excelling. Attending tutoring sessions a couple times a week forces you to stay engaged, address your problem areas, and keep working toward your goal.
3. Taking practice exams: In many ways, preparing for the LSAT is similar to learning how to drive. An LSAT class is the equivalent of a driver's education course, in which you learn the rules of the road (or, in this case, of the exam). However, until you actually get in the car and start driving, you are not ready to take the test. It is absolutely essential that you do at least 30 full-length practice tests (after a class and/or tutoring) before you are fully prepared for the real LSAT.
You will likely do some of these tests on your own. You can take practice tests at home or in a library (basically any relatively quiet space with just a tad of ambient noise to mimic the real testing conditions). But you should also seek out group, proctored tests that better simulate the real testing environment.
Some LSAT class programs offer access to proctored and explained practice tests; ask how many and when these are offered when considering in which course to enroll.
Taking practice tests is a critical step in your preparation, but practice tests alone are unlikely to be effective and efficient. You will get the most out of the practice tests if you have first established a solid foundation from a class and/or tutoring, which also substantially reduce the time it takes most students to prepare. You can conquer the LSAT!