Should I take an LSAT class if I got a 161 my first try?
June 11, 2007 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Should I take an LSAT weekend review course if I got a 161 when I took a practice test?

I've read the other posts on this site with interest as to which course I should take and which books I should buy. I'd definitely do Test Masters and pick up a bunch of practice tests, but is it good to start or finish with a weekend review course. I'm wondering this a lot because I'm not sure whether to buy a bunch of practice tests if I'd get these in a course packet.

On the other hand, I could just buy all the materials, start studying and see how it goes. But does a higher initial scorer such as myself really benefit from a review class?
posted by names are hard to Education (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I imagine that the structure of the course and the effort, time, and expense it takes will convince you to study more than a pile of books would. I haven't taken the LSAT, but I have studied things with and without a course - and those things I've studied with the help and in the context of a class seem to stick longer.

Good luck.
posted by mdonley at 2:43 PM on June 11, 2007

Take the course and study diligently. It will be worth several points to you, in addition to those you would invariably gain through self-directed study. I'm quite sure that the course helped me, and I scored around what you did on my initial, unprepped pass at the test. The course will help you identify where you need the most help and maybe help you recognize a pattern or two that will yield a few extra precious correct answers.

Those extra marginal points are the difference between getting in and not getting in, getting scholarship money and not getting scholarship money.
posted by kosem at 2:50 PM on June 11, 2007

I think that courses are a waste of time. A while back I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and took the LSAT. I found the best way to prepare was buying a collection of previous LSATs and taking one every night for a week. If I recall correctly, I started in the 160's and ended with a score in the high 170s. YMMV.
posted by lucasks at 2:51 PM on June 11, 2007

If you take the full Testmasters course, they'll provide you basically every LSAT question from the modern version of the test that has been released. I don't think there's any reason to do both the full course and the weekend review, because the weekend review is just a condensed version of the full course.

As for whether you should take a course at all, it really depends on how disciplined you are. Conventional wisdom is that gaining more than 8 to 10 points over one's initial practice score is really, really hard for the vast majority of people.

If you're like most people, then, if you study to your maximum potential, you'll end up right around 170. Now, you want to be sure you get every last point you can. Getting a 170 instead of a 167 could quite possibly gain you admission to a whole additional set of schools that will provide better career opportunities on graduation, regardless of what you decide to do. Alternately, a 170 will get you a lot more scholarship money from schools you could've gotten into with that 167.

If you feel you have the discipline to push yourself hard enough to fully realize your potential on the LSAT, a course isn't necessary, but most people frankly don't have that much discipline. Most people do benefit from having a structured learning environment in place.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:07 PM on June 11, 2007

I've taught for Testmasters in the past; the course is worth it.

We regularly had students add 10+ points to their scores.
posted by Cycloptichorn at 3:29 PM on June 11, 2007

I took the same route as lucasks... only go with a course if you can't provide yourself with the proper structure.
posted by modernnomad at 3:46 PM on June 11, 2007

I am pro-Kaplan. They have a money back guarentee. Testmasters doesn't.
posted by k8t at 3:51 PM on June 11, 2007

It depends on the school you want to go to and your financial situation. Many schools, especially those that get huge numbers of applicants (e.g., most schools in the high end) rely very heavily on the LSAT score in determining both acceptance and scholarship distribution. From that perspective, spending $500-$1000 on a prep course that could (indeed should) increase your score by at least a few points will more than pay for itself in scholarship money and, potentially, earning capacity.

Also, especially if you're looking at the upper-tier of schools, virtually all of the applicants will be using substantial test prep of some form or another. The arms race is unfortunate, but you do yourself a serious disservice by not at least going for a weekend course.

Also, a 161 is a good score, but it's still 19 points away from the highest score on a scale that's really only about 60 points long (120-160). It's folly to think that you won't do better. You can, and I fully expect that you will, especially with appropriate preparation.
posted by jedicus at 3:52 PM on June 11, 2007

I think 1000 bucks is worth it if you can get 5 extra points. The difference between 161 and 166 is tremendous, like 20 additional IQ points. Not exactly the same thing but it can look that way. The law schools want smart people, if you have the money, think of it as an investment. But you still have to study on your own to increase that number.
posted by icollectpurses at 4:06 PM on June 11, 2007

I think the best way to prepare is to get a commercial review book that will give you hints on how to solve the different sorts of questions (I used Princeton Review), and then get a book of LSATs from LSAC. Do as many of these under realistic, timed conditions as possible.

I really don't know if you can raise your score by 5 points. The LSAT tests skills that you've built up over many years. It's a bit hard to improve these simply by taking a course.
posted by reenum at 4:11 PM on June 11, 2007

I taught for both Princeton Review and Kaplan. First off, taking a course is definitely worth the money. Your LSAT score is worth about 50% of your law school application (your GPA is the other 50%). You spent four years getting your GPA, you should invest at least a month and a $1000 in the other half of your number.

Second, a 161 is not that high. It won't get you into any top-tier law schools. And it won't get you a scholarship at a second-tier law school. Realistically, you need another 10 points and the higher your score is to begin with, the harder the extra points are. That is, it's easier to go from a 130 to a 140 than it is from a 150 to a 160. Going from 170 to 180 is mountain of work. So, again, a course is a good way to go.

The reason I'd recommend Kaplan over Testmasters or Princeton Review is that Kaplan is a Washington Post company. They are highly regulated. No matter what teacher you get, no matter where in the country you are, you will get the same quality course. At Princeton Review, it's a franchise, and the teachers are kind of mavericks because there is little to know monitoring of the classrooms. So you might get a good teacher, you might not. The same is true for any mom & pop test prep company.

Also, Kaplan gives you more tests with explanations for every single right and wrong answer than anybody else. And that's what you really want. You want to know why your answers are wrong -- not just why some other answer is right. Or worse yet, a simple key that just tells you it was "A" or "C" with no explanation.
posted by GIRLesq at 4:29 PM on June 11, 2007

Personal opinion:

Please don't take Kaplan. It will probably hurt your games score if you're starting from a 161--the diagramming method is bizarre and burns time. Also, when I took their free diagnostic cold they told me I could teach for them. Gulp.

Check out the Powerscore bibles and LSAC books of previous tests and, as others said, if you can provide yourself with structure you'll be fine. If not, sure, take a course if it's worth it to you. I started just a few points higher and wound up with a score I was very happy with without a class... YMMV. Agree on the importance of LSAT... well over 50%, though, I'd say.
posted by deeaytch at 6:09 PM on June 11, 2007

This is anecdotal, but I've been told to stay away from Kaplan and Princeton Review as the LSAT-only companies, so to speak, teach a better course. Often a bit more expensive, but from the advice given me the benefits are greater from TestMasters/PowerScore/etc.

And the answer to your question is, if you can afford it, definitely. $1000 will seem small in the long-run compared to the money you'll be paying to go to law school, and it could, as mentioned before, get you some extra money from those schools. This is, of course, assuming you're gunning for the best law school you can get into. If you are more interested in state schools or staying in a particular geographic region (or want to avoid the hot-shot law firms, in which case there's not really much need to go to T1 schools) then it may not be worth the money.
posted by jckll at 7:39 PM on June 11, 2007

Why would you not try everything possible to raise your score? Although the damn test predicts absolutely nothing, schools base a huge proportion of their decision-making on it, because they don't have to think about the decisions they are making. As my first-year legal writing prof said, "why wouldn't you shoot every bullet in your gun?"
posted by Ironmouth at 7:46 PM on June 11, 2007

I agree with most of the above posters - the money you spend on a class will probably be well spent. But if you think you'll end up scoring high anyway, maybe get a private tutor instead? It was about $1000 for 10 sessions when I last checked, which is comparable to a course. (And you still get the books.) If you can't decide which to do, you could buy a book of practice tests (~$30) and take a few tests to determine whether you need a full class, or just a tutor to focus on certain sections. (Part of it for me was just getting used to the timing - I had never run out of time on a standardized test before.)

My experience: I got either a 161 or 163 on my first practice test and ended up with a 175 on the real thing. I didn't take any classes, but it wasn't because I didn't want to - nothing fit my schedule and there weren't any private tutors available. I studied a couple of hours a day for a few weeks and in the last 10 days took a full-length practice test every day. (It was not fun, and it definitely helped to be temporarily unemployed.)
posted by loulou718 at 10:24 PM on June 11, 2007

I'd take the course. 161 is a respectable score, but depending on the school you're aiming for, is probably not high enough. If a course can add a few points and have you cracking into the 170s, I'd definitely give it a shot.
posted by meerkatty at 2:37 AM on June 12, 2007

Where do you want to go? If you want to go the HYS route (or any first tier and many second tier schools), you're going to have to take the course. If you want to go to the local law school that happens to not be ranked really high, maybe you skip it. Just remember, $1000 in law school terms is a drop in the bucket. You'll spend that on books your first year.

Even at Local Law School X, 5 points on the LSAT can be worth a lot more than $1000 in scholarships. If you're not sure whether the test will pay for itself at the law school you want to go to, call admissions and ask them, "What's the difference between the package I'd get with LSAT 161 and LSAT 1XX?."

I didn't take the course, but if my undergrad GPA had been higher (and thus had not slammed a lot of doors closed) it might have been another story.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:58 AM on June 12, 2007

I taught the LSAT for Kaplan for about a year and provided private LSAT tutoring with my own custom materials and methods for about two years. If you scored the 161 on an actual LSAT under test-like conditions (i.e. you didn't give yourself a few extra minutes or take a long break between sections), you should just study on your own or possibly take a brief course centered around as many actual test questions as possible (maybe Testmasters?). If you are sharp and a hard worker, Kaplan and PR would mostly be a waste of your time.

Course or not, you should do as many "actual LSAT" practice tests as possible. And understand the test and where you are losing points so that you can game it to the extent possible.
posted by jcwagner at 8:30 AM on June 12, 2007

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