Pre-Law Studies

Preparing for the LSAT

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day test required for admission to law school. When you apply to a school, it will request your Credential Assembly Service documents from the Law School Admission Council, which will include LSAT scores for the past 5 years. Some schools average all scores, while others take only the highest, but it stands to reason that you should give significant time to preparing for this test in advance.

Timing the LSAT

Determining which test date you should choose boils down to these factors:

  • The application deadlines for the schools you’re interested in. A convenient way to find them is to go to www.petersons.com, click on the green "Grad School Center" box, then select "advanced search." The site will walk you through the rest;
  • Your current testing level: take a timed practice test to get a sense of how you would perform if you took the test today;
  • How much time you have to study: between now and your deadline, how much discretionary time you have, how busy your summer and fall will be relative to each other;
  • How efficient you are at studying when you have time;
  • The ultimate score you are shooting for.

Note that common wisdom among pre-law advisors says that you should begin preparing to take the LSAT 3-4 months before your test date, and during that time treat it like a part-time job, studying 15 -20 hours a week.


How to Prepare

  • Get ready to practice:
    • Buy a book of 10 “official” (actual, previously administered) LSATs from the Law School Admission Council. (You can also find LSAC tests on Amazon);
    • Buy a commercial test prep book for its strategies on how to approach each style of question in each section (an online course can substitute for this, but will be expensive);
  • Practice: Schedule as many full-length official practice tests as you possibly can, preferably all 10, preferably beginning at the same time of day as the actual LSAT. Each time, use the same routine that you will use when you take the actual test.
    • [Note: we recommend that you not use the tests provided by commercial test prep books for timed practices: they might not be as reliable as are the official tests in replicating the distribution of questions types and difficulty levels. Therefore, they won’t help you to get your timing down as effectively, enable you to anticipate the test as accurately, or predict your ultimate score as reliably. Do use them to learn strategies to approach the questions that slow you down];
  • Focus on improving your accuracy. Analyze your right and wrong answers. Between practice tests, develop a strategy for the questions you find harder, and do a lot of related practice questions to become more efficient.
  • Practice faster. With each test, gradually reduce the amount of time that you allow for each section, working down to 25 minutes per section in order to increase your efficiency and to accustom yourself to the pressure. Here’s how to do that:
    • Teach yourself to recognize each type of question at a glance so that you can skip your tough questions: start with those you find easier and come back to those you find harder at the end with your remaining time. All questions count equally; there’s no point in wasting time on hard questions when you can get as many points for easy ones.
    • Study the strategies the commercial book offers for the question types that you find challenging.
  • Between tests, analyze your performance. What are the patterns of the questions you've been getting right and those you've been missing? Do you consistently do better on certain types of questions than on others? How is your strategy working so far? Polish your approach so that it is automatic.
  • How are your scores so far? About 2/3 of the way through this process, after about the sixth full-length practice test under shortened timing, take a full-timed practice test or two to get a sense what your score will be on the actual LSAT when the minutes you have shaved off your practices have been restored.
  • Don't skip any of these steps.