Should I go to law school?

That depends, are you comfortable with a lot of reading and writing?  Do you enjoy debating and arguing (as in making and defending reasoned assertions, not throwing the dishes at your girlfriend/boyfriend/roommate/younger brother)?  A legal education is narrower than what you encountered in college and is mostly focused on teaching you a set of skills - critical reading, analysis, synthesis, and presentation of a wide range of information, as well as advocacy, counseling, and negotiation.  Do you have any experience of an actual legal environment and do you think it's something you would be comfortable in as a career? Ultimately going to law school is a personal choice.

 

How do I register for the test?

You'll need to register on the LSAC (the people who run the LSAT) website and to do that you'll have to create an account. The test is held at various testing centers in your town (high schools, colleges, etc) and you should register as early as possible so that you can get the test center that is most convenient for you since space is limited and the longer you wait the more likely it is that you'll be left with a test center that is far away or inconvenient for you.

 

When should I take the test?

The short answer is that you should take the test whenever you've prepared enough for it to do as well as you can.  The LSAT is held four times a year - in June, October, December, and February.  Most law schools will require you to take the test by December if you want to enroll in the fall of next year (ie if you want to go law school in the fall of '12 you need to take the test by December of '11).  However, most law schools also have rolling admissions which means that by the time you submit your application they will already have accepted people into their program and there will be less space.  You should check with the schools you're applying to if admission is rolling.  LSAC score reports are held on file for five years so you don't have to apply to law school immediately after you take the test, you can apply at any point in the five years after you take the test.

 

Can I take the test more than once?

Yes, however you're limited to three tests in a two-year period.  So you can take the test more than once, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you should.  LSAC releases your entire score report to any schools that you apply to, and that includes all of the tests that you've taken - not just the latest one or the one with the highest score.  Some schools will average your scores together and will only pay more attention to the higher score if it's substantially higher, others no longer do that.  You should check with the schools that you're applying to for more details.  In general, I tell my students that they should aim to do their best the one time that they take the test.

 

What's on the test?

The test consists of five 35-minute multiple choice sections.  Of those five only four are going to be scored and one of the sections is an experimental section in which LSAC tests out questions for future tests.  You won't know which section is the experimental section.

The test is designed to measure the skills that are considered essential for law school: reading comprehension of complex texts, making inferences from information, critical thinking, and reasoning/argument analysis.  To that end, the test is broken down into three distinct parts: an analytical reasoning (games) section which measures your ability to understand a structured set of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about it, two logical reasoning (arguments) sections which measure your ability to analyze and evaluate arguments as they're found in normal speech and writing, and a reading comprehension section which measures your ability to read and understand/evaluate lengthy and dense materials like you would find in law school.  In addition, there's an unscored writing sample, also 35 minutes, which is sent to the law schools that you apply to.  The first three sections are given one right after another, with a 10 to 15 minute break after the third section.

 

What's a good score?

That depends on a couple of different factors, and the short answer is that obviously the higher the better.  But, the key thing is that you need to keep in mind what schools you're applying to.  The test is scored on a scale from 120 to 180 with no deductions for wrong answers and no section being given more weight than any other section.  Your LSAT score and your GPA are the two most important elements in your law school application; the essay, letters of recommendation, work experience/etc are all much less important than when you were applying to college.  If you're applying to the top 10 or 15 schools then you'll need to do well on both.  Take a look at this website for a good analysis of what kind LSAT score you're going to need in order to be competitive for the school that you're aiming for.  If you don't feel that you did well on the test you can cancel the score on the day of the test or via written request within the first six days after the test.

 

So how do I prepare for this thing?

The LSAT is a skill test, not a knowledge test.  What I mean by that is that there is no particular information that you need to study and memorize.  Primarily you're tested on your reasoning abilities.  'Reasoning abilities' is a broad term but the important elements are those identified above - the ability to comprehend complex texts, make inferences/deductions, and think critically.  The fact that the LSAT is a skills test structures how you should approach preparing for it.  In a nutshell: you need to learn the strategies that will allow you to most effectively approach all the different question types in the test (different question types have different approaches) and you need to practice those strategies until you've got them down cold.  The way to do that is to work on specific question types in isolation and with no time pressure - at this stage you're just working on getting the questions right and on internalizing the approach for each one.

The videos in my lectures are designed to dissect variations for each of the question types and to provide a step-by-step approach for each one.  In this blog I will also provide tips and explanations for each question type as well and I'll give you a list of questions for each of the question types.  Once you have the question types down for a section you should move on to doing full sections in isolation.  The order that I teach starts with the logic games section, followed by arguments, followed by reading comprehension.  The reason for this is that games stress skills that are useful for arguments and reading comprehension, and arguments likewise stresses skills that are useful for reading comprehension.  Once you're comfortable with the approaches to the different question types and have practiced the sections in isolation you should move on to doing timed tests.  Ideally, by the time you're ready to take the test you should have done every single LSAT that's been published.  Roughly, the breakdown would be the first 15 for practicing and internalizing the techniques and the last 20 for doing timed tests.  Keep this 3-part structure in your head:

  • you first need to learn the correct techniques and approaches
  • you then need to internalize the correct techniques and approaches
  • finally you need to apply what you've learned under time pressure

Come back to this blog periodically to read posts that go more in-depth about the nature of the test and the possible schedules for it as well as the correct approaches to the questions and lists of practice questions.

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