Every student and lawyer I go to for advice on law school, the LSAT, being a lawyer or any other related legal topic, always prefaces their wisdom with a healthy dose of negativity:
“[Classes] could be going worse.”
“You will stay up until midnight studying and have very little sleep and social life.”
Most of the time, they’re coming from a place of humor but I’ve always been a firm believer that jokes always have truth in them somewhere. While I appreciate authenticity and transparency when giving advice, there is an art and nuance to giving it in a way that is both honest and encouraging. Most people, including myself at times, could use some training in this art-form.
So, if I’m going to be giving you a little taste of my LSAT-prep-and-testing journey, I want to make sure that I give you both the positive and negative of what I went through. Keep in mind, I am DEFINITELY (did you see the emphasis on “definitely?”) not an expert on LSAT prepping. I’ll leave that to Kaplan, The LSAT Trainer, and The Princeton Review. However, my experience is one that others, I’m positive, have also gone through and one that can be learned from just like anyone else’s.
I like to end on a good-note so let’s start with the things I could have done differently or better:
- I should have signed up for the test earlier. That should have been the first thing I did when I decided that I was going to take it. As I started studying, the lack of a firm deadline floated underneath the surface of my subconscious the whole time. While I did have a vague timeline in my head of when I wanted to be done with testing and I approached the LSAT with a study schedule, topic logs etc from the get go, I still had not committed to it. Plus, with that deadline, I could have properly staged my studying period for it. I began to burn out about a month-and-a-half before the LSAT. I kept studying but I remember a lot of the content feeling more foggy and was not nearly as focused as I should have been.
- This next one I go back-and-forth on but have a feeling that many people would attest and say, I should have taken the test again. That’s right, I only took it one time. Take that for what you will – I scored an average 153 and that was the score I needed to get into the school I was looking at with a scholarship. However, I did decide as I was putting in applications (way before then actually) that should I not get accepted, I would take a break over the holidays, sign up for the LSAT again, and try the next year. If you have the opportunity to take the LSAT again, I would recommend it unless your score is truly at a place where you can be content with it. For me, I knew I could have done better had I switched up my study game but that being said, it got me the result I aimed for so I’m still on the fence with this one.
- Having a study partner would have been very helpful with accountability and challenging myself more. If you are in your undergraduate years studying the LSAT, count your lucky stars! This is a great time to take it and if I could go back I would have forced myself to take it the first time, at least, during college. I would have been able to network more easily with other pre-law students, study together, have more time to study, and have the benefit of pre-law, on-campus resources being at hand.
- I would have focused more, from the very get-go, on practice tests and quizzes. I started off taking a practice test and followed The LSAT Trainer for the first four months, I learned so much from the book itself but my test-taking ability and applying what I was learning needed honing. For whatever reason this has always been my issue in education – I understand the subject matter but then applying it is the hardest and I would imagine a lot, if not most, could commiserate with that! I would have doubled the exposure to quizzes and practice tests if I could go back even when I was already taking them consistently.
- No comparing. Comparison is the thief of joy. I am good at asking for help, advice, and gleaning lessons from other’s wisdom (it is the Anthropologist in me). However, sometimes being too concerned about how other’s approached situations can paralyze me from making my own. Do not let this blog post, or any other post or piece of advice you receive keep you from moving forward. Make the next best decision you need to for you, okay?
Now. The irony is that the majority of the things I would have corrected are things I commonly heard from other law students about their experience with the LSAT – and all of them had varying degrees of where they went or what they were doing. The point: studying, just like learning, is different for everyone and at the same time, the majority of us are going to experience similar feelings, fatigue, and fears with the LSAT. You are not alone. Keep working and you will get there! So, let’s end on a good note of the things I did well…
- Immediately when I started, I created a study plan. Actually, a lot of the planners and logs I utilized in the beginning were from The LSAT Trainer’s Student Resources (highly recommend them!) plus, he has different study schedules you can use if you need help determining when and for how long you should study! *This is where having a set date for when I needed to be done would have been ideal – I ended up just studying with no end in sight until I finally committed to a test date. No bueno.*
- I changed methods when it suited me. About four months in, I had had a conversation with an acquaintance about his LSAT journey and he said the number one regret he has was not taking a prep-course of some kind. I mulled over that for a bit because I, too, was self-teaching. In the beginning, I felt good and I could see improvement, small but improvements nonetheless, in my scores anytime I would take a practice test. However, I did feel a lull anytime I sat with the book and my pencil – I was starting to hit a wall. Ultimately, four months before the test I signed up for Kaplan’s Self-Guided Online Prep Course. I felt refreshed, I didn’t need to think too hard about what I needed to do next because Kaplan pretty much laid it all out for me, I just needed to do the work.
- As I stated above, it’s good to get advice from others until you start to get too concerned about how others did things. It’s a double-edged sword: you absorb wisdom by asking people about their experience without actually having to do what they did BUT you then wonder if perhaps it would work differently for you should you do what they did (or vice versa, NOT do what they did). At the end of the day, I think it’s always better to ask how others approached the LSAT. It’s interesting to hear (at least to me) and helps provide perspective. Just don’t ruminate too much on how Sally studied 6-weeks before with a tutor and improved her score the second time or John self-taught himself 6-months before and scored high the first time…it truly does not and will not help you. Focus on you and the improvements you are making and will continue to make if you keep working.
- Although I struggled in the deadline department, I DID have a goal for schools I wanted to attend and more so, how I wanted to finance my law school career. I wanted scholarships, just like we all do; however, I was never tied body-and-soul to one particular law school which gave me freedom to look at my score, see what my options were, and then decide whether I should go for it or try again. The alternative would have been aiming for a particular law school and taking the LSAT until I got the score I needed to attend that school. Just because you get accepted with that score does not mean you will get scholarships though which is why I focused more on my score first before picking schools.
- I stayed hopeful. I would be lying if I told you that I studied from the end of February/beginning of March all the way to November with gusto, organization, and constant improvements. I work full-time and have a handful of other commitments that I also had to budget time into – there were periods that I fell off of my study plan. That being said, I kept trying, switching things up as needed, and at the end of it all, I consistently kept coming back to my study books and at long last, showed up for the test.
I actually came very, very close to throwing in the towel the day of out of nerves and fear. I didn’t because I knew I would regret that even more than scoring really low – so, stay hopeful even when you make mistakes, score lower than desired, or the subjects start to run together. There will be an end and you get to decide when that is! If you score low? Try again. If you end up not taking the test for whatever reason, give yourself some time then hop back on the horse. If you get rejected from your dream school because of your score, try. Again.
The LSAT is learnable and you are coachable. That only stops being true when you decide it is false.
“The LSAT is learnable and
you are coachable.
That only stops being true
when you decide it is false.“-KimberMarie Faircloth