LSAT study guides
April 7, 2005 9:19 AM   Subscribe

It has come to be the time in which I partake of the mother f*cking LSAT. What study aids assisted you? I have the Logic Games Bible, what's next, taking a class? Pick up the big LSAT study guide? Should I study for at least two months, or six months?
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket to Education (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I took the KAPLAN course. It raised my score by 15 points (155-170). It's pricey, but I loved the classroom atmosphere and being able to discuss the test with intelligent people around me. It's nothing like an undergrad course; the people in this class are motivated, eager to learn, and are generally more intelligent than the general college population. Plus, they have a library of tests that's indispensable. And if you don't do well on the test, I'm pretty sure they let you retake the course for a significant discount. I highly recommend it.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:26 AM on April 7, 2005

I thought the big book o' tests from the LSAT people was helpful. I did about 6 of the 10 tests. Nothing prepares you like doing the real thing, timing yourself, over and over again. However they do NOT explain the answers for you, which can be really frustrating if you don't "get" one of the questions.

To solve that problem, the Kaplan's "two real LSATs explained" is decent. They take the time to explain and go in depth on why/how you should reach each answer. I suggest doing these two tests first and going over your wrong answers before tackling the real tests from the above book.

I think 3 months is plenty - do one test each saturday or sunday morning from the above books, supplement that with Logic Games Bible or whatever else you happen to pick up at the book store.

I didn't take the Kaplan course for mostly monetary reasons, and I'm happy with the score I ended up getting (165 if I remember correctly). Really it wouldn't have mattered that much if I had gotten any higher on the LSAT because my undergrad GPA kind of stunk. Your situation may be different.
posted by falconred at 9:34 AM on April 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

You can often find Princeton Review and Kaplan materials for sale on ebay . I'm not talking about their branded books that you can find for sale anywhere, but the materials they give to their students. For the MCAT, these books, totaling several thousand pages, were definitely the best study materials, but they're not available in stores. I'm not sure whether the same is true for the LSAT but I think it's worth checking into.

I'm also not sure whether there are any legal ramifications, as both companies want these materials available only to their thousand-dollar paying students. However, that's more than a little unfair to the lower and middle-income kids those students are competing against.
posted by hazyjane at 9:38 AM on April 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

I took the LSAT cold (without even looking at the practice test) and got 157. I used study prep from someone like Princeton and took it again - 160. I took the Kaplan class and jumped to 168.

The improvement from 157 to 160 was probably as much due to having taken the test before as anything. Kaplan is pricey but I was well satisfied with the results.
posted by Carbolic at 9:44 AM on April 7, 2005

Let me vouch for Princeton Review here -- helped me pick up about a dozen points. Given my GPA, this was undoubtedly the difference for me between a top 5 school and an outside-the-top-20 school.

Law school is an investment of at least $100,000 counting tuition and lost income from full-time work, and easily $250,000 if you have a good job now and are going to a private school. It is incredibly short-sighted to try to save a grand or whatever the courses costs and run the risk of seriously impairing your return on the vastly larger investment that law school represents.

Hazyjane, those auctions are fine -- in the U.S., copyright law permits you to resell any hardcopy media (book, CD, DVD) you legally bought.

Non-copyright contracts can restrict such resale (trade secret, confidentiality agreement) but no consumer service provider like Kaplan or PR would ever be allowed to enforce that kind of provision in their enrollment agreements.

If Kaplan / PR wanted legally to supress these sales they'd structure it so that you only borrowed the books, and had to return them afterwards. BarBri approaches it with a carrot, not a stick: they pay you a hefty price to sell back your Bar prep books to them after the exam.
posted by MattD at 9:51 AM on April 7, 2005

I bought old tests from the LSAS and studied on my own. I did a practice test each night for several months, and raised my score from 150ish to 178. It is definitely worthwhile to study as much as possible, even if you are confident of getting in to your first-choice school -- many law schools give out scholarships based on LSAT scores, and a few extra points can translate into significant dollars.
posted by Emera Gratia at 10:04 AM on April 7, 2005 [2 favorites]

I taught LSAT for The Princeton Review for a while. Here is my advice if you decide not to take a course.

- take actual TIMED tests under as close to testing conditions as you can [no bathroom breaks except where specified, no outside noise, uncomfy chair, early in the morning]. Space these out over the course of your prep time. get used to the time limits so you know them internally, it will keep you from being a clock watcher.
- go over them like crazy afterwards and drill on the types of questions you got wrong, real questions, not questions sort of like the ones you blew. Don't convince yourself you could do it right the next time, learn what you did wrong
- don't read the reading comp, learn how to skim and outline and find trick words to pay attention to [however, although, despite. words that change the meaning of a sentence, words that slower people miss]
- get over worrying about the right answer. you now look for The Credited Response. Period. Don't argue with the test, learn it and learn to beat it. While a good vocabulary will help you, in general this test is measuring test-taking ability
- If you are a stressy type or "bad test taker" you will benefit as much from yoga as you will from more studying, or relaxing generally
- reading and messing around with the games in Games Magazine that are like the logic games is a fun way to spend spare time and hone your mind when you just can't study anymore
- do not think for one second about the writing sample
- only aim for a score as good as you need to get in to where you want to go. You may benefit from spending more time on fewer questions of you only need a 160, for example.

Feel free to email me if you have other questions. I'm not a super expert, but I'm pretty familiar with the LSAT.
posted by jessamyn at 10:08 AM on April 7, 2005 [7 favorites]

I didn't take any classes myself, but from what I hear, Testmasters may be better than Kaplan or Princeton Review. I would suggest taking a practice test. If you do well enough on it, don't waste the money as test review courses can be expensive. But if you feel like you need a better score to get into a better school, spend the money. Since the legal profession is heavily biased towards those with a better pedigree, it's probably worth it.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:18 AM on April 7, 2005

Practice, and practice again, always using a stopwatch. Real LSATs -- tests that were actually written by the LSAT company and put before test-takers -- are better prep materials than the sort of fake LSATs that some companies write.
posted by profwhat at 10:45 AM on April 7, 2005

I took the LSAT a few years ago after having taken the Princeton Review course, and honestly, I don't think it helped me much at all. I had the bad luck of getting an instructor who they fired after my course was over because he got so many complaints. He was all of 20 years old. That's the problem with Princeton and Kaplan. The only qualification you need to teach it is scoring a 170 on the LSAT (or at least that's what my friend who was formerly a Kaplan instructor told me). You don't need any actual teaching experience.

I took the LSAT again last year, and I hired a private tutor who helped walk me through all of the actual tests I purchased directly from the LSAC (and I bought ALL of them). You'd be amazed at how far your $1200 will go with a private tutor (after Kaplan/Princeton Review take their cut the instructors only net 15 bucks an hour or so), and you are getting one-on-one learning. This is particularly helpful for the Games section. I raised my score by 10 points with the tutor. Craigslist often has tutors advertising their services - get in touch with one of them and try them out for an hour to see if you groove with them. With Kaplan/PR you are stuck with who you are assigned. And don't worry about not having the structure of a classroom setting - a good tutor will devise for you a plan of attack, homework assignments between sessions - they'll even proctor for you while you take a practice test. One-on-one beats a classroom setting any day...
posted by piedrasyluz at 12:27 PM on April 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

Don't study too much. I know people who overstudied and burnt out. Take two or three practice tests to see if you need a class; if you are scoring below 150 or missing nearly all of a certain category of questions, it is probably a good idea. I signed up for a PR class and dropped out after the diagnostic (you get to keep the books, but some $200-300 is nonrefundable). I found that using those materials on my own for 2 months or so was adequate.

Work your way through practice questions until you get the hang of the different types. Don't get used to having lots of scratch paper to work out the games--you won't on the exam. And take as many practice tests as you can under actual test conditions (sitting at a table, quiet, etc.). jessamyn's advice, as usual, is very good.
posted by amber_dale at 12:45 PM on April 7, 2005

I took the LSAT cold and got 160. Took it again after the Princeton Review CD course and about 1,000 logic games, got 172. Take that as you may. The CD course is way cheaper than the in-person courses. It got me boku scholarships and many opportunities, plus I just found out(April 1) that I passed the Illinois bar. Don't let anyone fool you, the LSAT IS an indicator of your success on a bar exam, but so is GPA and bar review course performance.

Think of it this way, if you do the CD and you don't get a score you want, the most you wasted was $40 AND you can take it again and do an in-person class. If you do the in-person class and don't get the score you want, you wasted $1000's.
posted by MeetMegan at 1:12 PM on April 7, 2005

Don't stress it. Seriously. That's my advice I give everyone and I'm sticking to it. It's a very dumb test and it has nothing to do with actual law school. Advice above is good - try a full practice test, if you're weak, then you might consider a course. Know where you want to apply and what scores you need. Don't burn yourself out before you even get to law school (and btw, don't let that kill you either. Not worth it).

Um. Helpful? I'll let you decide. But it got me in and through and I don't have the ulcers so many of my classmates have.

Email me if you want to chat at all, always willing.
posted by livii at 1:19 PM on April 7, 2005

I did not take any courses and got a very good score. What was most helpful to me was repetition (taking practice tests over and over, timed) and using the Kaplan CD (it has about five practice tests on it) and the Kaplan 180 book.
DO NOT use Thompson's stuff. The book I had from them had errors in the practice tests, so that the answers were actually misprinted or non-existant.
Also, don't stress it too much. My score on the actual test was several points higher than any practice test I did; several other people I talked to had this same experience.
The logic games section is the only difficult one, but once you've figured out some tricks to setting the games up, etc., they actually become kind of fun.
Good luck!
posted by ohio at 2:11 PM on April 7, 2005

I'm with Jessamyn and Emara: take actual tests, in timed conditions.

In my case I purchased a dozen or so old tests for about $5 each and a Kaplan and Princeton book for about $12 each. The books had good theory for understanding the tests, and were good for practicing and analyzing individual questions. (Note: Princeton and Kaplan had very different approaches to solving the games. One of the worked much better for me, I think it was the one that emphasized diagrams. Anyway, the lesson from that is to realize there are multiple approaches and to use what works for you.)

With those supplies in hand, I spent about six weeks studying. The most useful part was taking actual timed tests, at the time of day when I would be taking the real thing, and with the food in my belly that I'd have there during the real thing.

About three weeks in, I realized that on the logic games, it was always taking me fifteen minutes to solve the first one, then seven minutes for each of the next two, and then I was out of time. When I saw that, I realized that I needed to be able to enter a sort of "hyper focus" as soon as the stopwatch started. Once I got that down, I was able to finish the games section pretty consistently.

It ultimately was a training routine, sort of like I imagine it would be for a marathon (though I'm not a runner). Plus it was fun, and I got a 176, which made me happy.

(The postscript is that I didn't end up going to law school, and in my current (public interest) job I see lots of resumes from JD's who no longer want to practice law. So make sure you want to actually go to law school!)
posted by alms at 5:18 PM on April 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

It's been awhile, but it seems that I studied for 3 or 4 mos. I used a one one one Princeton Review tutor. I really liked having the tutor to myself. I also bought all the sample test books and did at least one section of a test per day. I didn't worry about the time until the test was just around the corner. I didn't worry about time when I studied for the bar either.

I was really good at the games and would have aced it, but they introduced a new game when I took the LSAT. It had something to do with radars. I'm certain that game cost me 4 or 5 pts.

Good luck!
posted by Juicylicious at 7:04 PM on April 7, 2005

The $30ish I spent on the 10 sample tests from the LSDAS was the cheapest practice you can get, and it worked fine for me. I took 7 or 8 in actual timed conditions, and it made the test-taking day a piece of cake. I don't know if it did anything for my score besides take away my nervousness, though. I like this idea of a CD-rom course, but never heard of it at the time. An interviewer told me that prep courses can raise your score by 10 points. Yeah, it's the first step on the road to a big investment, but when I was looking at a prep course, I had to pay for it with Real Money, not like now, where I pay for things with "loans," so I didn't take one.
posted by MrZero at 9:25 PM on April 7, 2005

1) Repetition, especially in areas where you're not doing well (for me, logic games; I think I did almost every logic game released since 1992 before my test)

2) Actual test conditions. Start out by taking 1 section at a time and allowing yourself only 35 minutes; move up to several in a row, and finally, towards the end, take a full 5 sections (or at least 4) beginning at almost the same time in the AM that the real one starts.

3) get used to getting up, if you have trouble with that; if you need to be up at 6 to get to the test center on time, do that at least a week in advance.

4) Perhaps most importantly, work at a steady, REASONABLE pace. Don't work so much that you get burned out, and don't count on learning disproportionately much in the last week or 2 before the test. I planned to study for 6 weeks, for various reasons dallied around and only studied for 5, and I think it was just right. Be very sensitive to feelings of burnout, and if it happens, take a day off (or at least mostly off) -- schedule far enough ahead that this won't be a problem.

As others have said, I'd also be willing to chat about any ol' thing if you want. Oh! And apply to the University of Chicago, no matter what; their applicant bulletin board is a great way to let off admissions-related steam without all the blood n' guts of (*shudder*).
posted by rkent at 10:17 PM on April 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

thread hijack

I disagree with alms - I don't think the only reason for going to law school should be to become a lawyer (though, that's obviously an important reason - just not the ONLY). I am a JD (and a soon-to-be licensed attorney) who went to law school with the explicit intent of NOT practicing law. I took the bar exam and went through the horrors of law school to make myself more marketable in my field - law firm marketing. I do have the benefit of also being able to practice law whenever I want, but it was never my intent or desire.

I went to law school with a number of people in my same position. They were financial advisors, insurance agents, real estate agents, police officers, and even a landscaper. Not one of those people planned on practicing, but they planned on using what they learned (and earned) to better do their job. Don't ask me how that helped the landscaper - I never figured that one out.

Even if you do go to law school and don't want to practice law, there are thousands of jobs out there where you'll find that your JD sets you apart from others, sometimes by the mere fact that you've learned to reason differently than someone else. I encourage anyone who is even remotely interested in law school to at least do the first steps and take at least one course.

/thread hijack
posted by MeetMegan at 8:20 AM on April 8, 2005

my brother took the LSAT with no prep. then he took a course and did a review book. and got the exact same score with the exact same distribution the 2nd time.
posted by playtragic at 6:01 PM on April 12, 2005

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