LSAT Courses
June 5, 2005 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I am looking to take the October LSAT in Austin and was thinking about taking one of the many LSAT preparation courses (Kaplan, Princeton Review, Powerscore, ScorePerfect, etc). Does anybody have some reviews of the major LSAT preparation courses or experience in taking any of them? Alternatively, can anyone speak to the benefits/detriments of self-study alone?
posted by roundrock to Education (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I found self-study effective. I had at my disposal a whole boatload of practice tests. I took a couple of tests, timed, and found that the logic puzzles were the only part for which I needed a lot of work. I also had a Kaplan guide which was useful for categorizing the different kinds of questions in all sections of the test. I found the computer-administered practice test a good guide for getting the feeling of the timing, but because the actual test was administered on paper, not great for the mechanics of it.

I found that doing the puzzle sections, timed, repeatedly, really helped. I did the same ones over and over again, forcing myself to rediagram each of them, until I got them all 100% correct. That meant doing some sections 4 or 5 times, but redoing the ones I had no problem with still got me deep inside the structure of the questions. Almost every day I did at least one logic puzzle section and every couple of days I also did one of the other flavors. Once a week I did a full test. This was for about three months preceding the test.

From the beginning to the end, I raised the scores I was getting on the practice tests by about 15 points, and I ended up getting a score which was an average of the last few practice tests I took.

I cannot imagine I would have done much better with a formal prep course, but I also had plenty of spare time during this period, and the other sections did not present me with much challenge. I would take a practice test and try and figure out what you need most help with. You may find that the hints contained in the books are enough to get you through, but if you need assistance with all the parts of the test, I imagine having an instructor who can design (or at least follow) a more comprehensive course of study would be beneficial.

That being said, the test really is about structured thinking, and nothing else. The more you expose yourself to, and try to understand the form of the questions, the better you will do.
posted by mzurer at 11:52 AM on June 5, 2005

I self-studied and did reasonably well, but if I could go back I would take Testmasters. I have talked to multiple fellow law students that report 5-15 point increases in their LSATs due to, they claim, Testmasters. They are just friends and aren't shilling for anyone, so I take their recommendations seriously. Whatever you do, taking lots of practice tests in as realistic conditions as possible is the best way to self-prep. Good luck, it is a huge pain in the ass.
posted by Falconetti at 11:56 AM on June 5, 2005

I took Kaplan and improved my score about 6 points with a ton of studying. I was near the upper end of the scale, so 6 points was pretty big.

I found the Kaplan course not so great, but the materials that Kaplan provides access to were very helpful. Stuff like practice tests in a timed environment. I would go to Kaplan a few times a week and take practice tests with a kitchen timer. Then I would listen to these audio-taped explanations Kaplan has for each test. This really helped, I think.

Time, time, time! Time is the single most important factor in taking the LSAT. They don't give you nearly enough time to think about each question and finish the test. Even reasonably smart people end some LSAT sections with 3-5 questions unanswered because they just couldn't get to them. (Fill them in anyway, no guessing penalty.) For this reason, if you study at home, you have to be super disciplined about time. Use a kitchen timer--go buy one. Even if you unconsciously "fudge" the time just a little bit when studying at home at give yourself an extra 60 seconds, you are not going to get realistic practice.
posted by Mid at 12:06 PM on June 5, 2005

I self-studied. Main Benefit? It cost about $1000 less.
posted by falconred at 12:15 PM on June 5, 2005

I suggest you search Ask Metafilter using the link at the top of the page. This question has been asked at least twice in the last couple of months, and received some good answers.
posted by alms at 2:13 PM on June 5, 2005

First: take at least 2-3 diagnostics before making any decisions. Do this seriously and better yet, on paper. The first time I took a diagnostic I got somewhere in the 140 range, but that was based on off-the-cuff answers to an online test. This made me think I could never hack the test, but it really just revealed that careless test taking makes you look stupid. Do you generally do well on standardized tests? In my experience your SAT score is a good predictor of your LSAT, even though the skills tested are different.

If after some familiarity with the test format and questions you are still scoring substantially (10 points or more) below where you think you could be, consider a prep course. I signed up for PR but did not take the full class. The first class was a diagnostic and I got a high enough score that they gave me the option to get my money back (thus my injunction to take practice tests beforehand--why waste time?). I got to keep the materials and they kept a deposit of roughly $250-300. I'm not sure if that was a good return on investment, but it did include many actual tests, which are expensive to purchase directly from LSDAS. You may be able to find the books on Ebay for less.

My actual study strategy: lots of drills, 1-2 hours per day, 5 days per week. Weekly: a full practice exam taken under timed conditions. This for about 6 weeks. Do not overstudy. Don't start studying for the October test now or you will burn out.

Good luck!
posted by amber_dale at 2:27 PM on June 5, 2005

I did fine with self-study using the Powerscore books and lots and lots of real practice LSATs, but I don't feel like I achieved the best score of which I was capable. In hindsight $1000 invested in a study course to yield 5 more points might paid off for me with at least twice that in scholarship money for my law school.

Also: here's the LSAT thread on Monkeyfilter that helped me when I was in the same boat last year. Also, don't forget about the MeFi Lawyers group on Google.

Good luck!
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:55 PM on June 5, 2005

Also: You can check out Lawschoolnumbers to get a rough sense of what LSAT and GPA acceptance numbers were for this past admissions cycle for your target schools.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:00 PM on June 5, 2005

I had good results with Kaplan. I took the LSAT and did reasonably well with self prep (160) but needed a higher score because of a terrible undergrad GPA. I think it really helped with the logic games because it taught techniques I hadn't thought of. It may be that I just had a good Kaplan instructor. I was able to raise my score by 8 points. Do the self test and see how close you are to the LSAT score you think you need to be accepted. If you've got a ways to go and the money to pay for the course go for it. It can't hurt.
posted by Carbolic at 8:20 PM on June 5, 2005

Nothing wrong with self-study, provided you have the discipline to do the required work. The biggest thing the LSAT classes have to offer is that they force you to spend 5-6 hours a week (if not more) thinking about the test. There's no magic key that will unlock the damn thing; the stuff you'd figure out by doing the work in class is the stuff you could figure out if you did enough LSAT prep on your own.

Just be sure to practice using real LSAT questions -- you can purchase them directly from the lsac if you like. Some test prep books available at stores use simulated questions rather than pay to license the real material. Avoid these.

When practicing using old LSAT tests/questions, structure your practice to progress from the older tests to the most recent. The LSAT has shifted considerably in the past 10 years (1993 being the biggest change, when they outsourced a new company to write their questions). In the late 90s they were making the games more difficult to challenge students who had figured them out. Today it's the Reading Comp. section that's becoming more challenging. These changes are reflected in the current LSATs you'll use while prepping. For more on this, visit here.

If you're stuck for study guides, PowerScore publishes some solid books. Their LogicGames book is particularly strong.

Lastly, don't overlook the Internet for self-study. When I was prepping for the LSAT, there was a Yahoo group for people studying for the test, and many of the posts were extremely helpful.
posted by herc at 1:39 AM on June 6, 2005

I took a Kaplan GMAT course three years ago and found it to be a big help (disclaimer: I worked for Kaplan in the mid-1990s, but there was no correlation, and I paid for my course). The teachings were somewhat useful, partially for tactics and partially to regain the test-taking mindset after being away from standardized tests for a decade.

What really helped me, though, was the computer lab. I had access to eight practice tests in a controlled setting, and I used the lab rigorously the week before my exam. This contributed mightily to my potential score--I rose 150 points from my first practice test to my last--and especially to my comfort level when I got into the real situation. I was in a similar cubicle with a similar computer, which allowed me to think, "Oh, this again," and maintain poise and calm through the entire test. If you can replicate such a scenario with self-study, you should.
posted by werty at 6:55 AM on June 6, 2005

I really hate people who don't put an email in their profiles.

But you can email me if you'd like a couple of pointers.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:30 AM on June 6, 2005

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