The journey to law school is akin to a roller coaster ride – filled with highs, lows, twists, and turns. At its crux? The LSAT. Whether you’re a current undergrad juggling term papers and the future weight of the LSAT or a night owl fervently wrestling with Logic Games, this exam is an omnipresent force. Believe me, I’ve walked a mile in those shoes, and the LSAT isn’t a sprint, it’s an endurance test.
For some, it’s the golden ticket to prestigious law schools like the T14 or Ivy League institutions. For others, it’s just one of the many steps toward practicing law locally. Regardless of your end goal, the LSAT holds power, and understanding this exam is essential.
In the subsequent sections, we’ll delve into the LSAT’s pivotal role in law school admissions, set realistic score targets, and arm you with proven study strategies. A brief heads-up before we dive deep: I’m not an Ivy League prodigy boasting a 175 score. My LSAT journey culminated in a commendable 167, not because I was a “natural test taker,” but because I put in the blood, sweat, and tears required. Let’s explore how you can optimize your LSAT journey, regardless of where you aim to study.
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Why is the LSAT So Crucial for Law School Admissions?
If you’ve been told how important the LSAT is and that it pretty much determines what school you can get into, you’re not being lied to, it’s true. Law School Admissions offices may seem unfair to many students because of the enormous weight they place on a single exam, instead of focusing on a student’s performance in college. Admissions Offices have good reasons, however, to place the most emphasis on the LSAT.
You might throw your hands in the air and scream “I’m just not a good test taker!”, too bad. I’ll let you in on a secret, everybody sucks at the LSAT the first time they take a practice exam. For most people, this will be by far the most difficult, lengthy, and strenuous exam you have ever taken. My senior year final exams were a walk in the park compared to the LSAT.
Why Law Schools Value the LSAT
The LSAT is so important to law schools because it’s the best predictor of law school success that they have. Yes, it’s better than your undergraduate GPA and whatever extracurricular activities you participated in. Although those things can definitely help as well.
Comparing GPAs and Institutional Reputation
Think about it, a 3.8 GPA is an excellent GPA no matter which undergraduate institution you attend. But is a 3.8 GPA really equivalent wherever you go? No, of course not, an extreme example would be a 3.8 at a local undergraduate institution versus a 3.8 at Yale. For those familiar with North Carolina institutions I attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, which is a fairly good school. No matter how good of a GPA I received though, I knew that students with an equivalent GPA attending the University of Chapel Hill would have an edge in most markets because of the name brand recognition, prestige of the school, and quality of education.
LSAT Scoring Explained: What’s Your Target?
The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120-180, 120 being the lowest and a 180 being the Einstein of Logic. The average is somewhere in the middle, usually 150, but it varies a little bit every exam. The LSAT Score you need will be almost entirely dependent on what kind of law school you want to go to.
Tier Rankings in Law Schools: The U.S News Perspective
Law schools are technically divided into tiers, tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 law schools. They are ranked by the U.S News and World Report every year. The U.S News and World Report ranking is very important for many law schools, as their selectivity to some degree can be guided by a want to increase in the ranking. When I mention in this article a ranking of a school or a selection of schools, I am referring entirely to the U.S News rankings.
This is T14 range here, the higher the better, but anything in this range is great. This range will put you in the top 3 percentile.
These scores put you in the top 10% of test takers, very competitive. This is a great score range to be in, unless your aiming for a T14 law school. In that case it’s the most frustrating range to be in (trust me I know, I got a 167). It’s frustrating, because anyone that got a score in this range almost certainly studies their A$$ off for months, probably with the aim of getting into a top-tier school. Just a couple more points and they would comfortably be there.
Top 25% of score takers, good range to be in.
This score will put you ahead of the average, but will not be advantageous if applying to highly competitive schools.
151 and below
You can still more than likely get into a ton of schools, but you won’t have a chance at admission into a competitive school.
So, depending on the competitiveness of the law school you want to get into, a good LSAT may be very different than someone else’s definition of a good LSAT score.
Crafting Your LSAT Strategy
There is no easy way to obtain a high score on the LSAT examination, if you score into the 160s and 170s you scored it because you earned it. If you score 150 or below, you earned that to. Coming out of college you may have been able to get by or even do exceptionally well on most exams by simply cramming for the test a night or two beforehand. I won’t lie to you, I did that all the time in undergrad. I would wait to study until a day or two before the exam, and then I would brew a ton of coffee and stay up all night. This is not the way to prepare for the LSAT, and honestly if you want to succeed in law school you will never be able to prepare that way for a law exam either.
- David M. Killoran (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 2006 Pages - 09/27/2021 (Publication Date) - PowerScore Publishing (Publisher)
The LSAT requires a re-gearing of thinking that is difficult for many students. How many times in your life have you solved complex logic games prior to the LSAT? I know I had never seen an advanced logic game before beginning my LSAT preparation. It takes months to get really good at the various sections of this exam, and there’s simply no way to do it unless you put the time in.
Most sources will highly recommend beginning your preparation at least three months before the date of your LSAT. This may seem like overkill, but there is so much material to potentially prepare with.
Considering Local Practice? The Impact on Law School Choice
So what if you already know that you what to practice in a certain state and you want to go to an area law school? I interned for the local District Attorney’s Office for five months prior to attending law school. The advice I received from most of the attorneys there was to attend a school in the state I wanted to practice in regardless of how well its ranked.
Unlocking Law School Scholarships with a High LSAT Score
No matter where you plan to attend you should still aim to get a score that’s above your target schools median, preferably by a couple of points. Why? Because above-median LSAT scores open the door to merit scholarships, and Law School is extremely expensive. You’ll want as much free money as possible.
I can honestly say that obtaining a score well above your target school’s median is by far the best way to get some serious merit based scholarships. Every single school that had a lower median LSAT Score I applied to and got accepted into offered me a significant amount of scholarships.
Demystifying LSAT Myths: Prep Courses & Self-Study Options
As you embark on your LSAT journey, you’ll quickly find a plethora of both online and offline preparation resources – from prep courses to study guides. However, it’s crucial to remember that not all resources are created equal.
- David M. Killoran (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 2006 Pages - 09/27/2021 (Publication Date) - PowerScore Publishing (Publisher)
1. Customizing Your LSAT Prep: Understanding your study habits is the cornerstone of effective LSAT preparation. Ask yourself:
- Do you thrive with a structured study regimen?
- Are you a habitual procrastinator, or can you consistently stick to a study plan?
If you resonate with structured learning, consider enrolling in an LSAT prep course. Though in-person courses often come with a higher price tag, the direct interaction with instructors can be invaluable for some.
For my part, I opted for an online course with Testmasters and found the content-rich experience to be rewarding. Yet, my subsequent discovery of the LSAT Bibles made me realize their unparalleled value. If you’re leaning towards self-study, the LSAT Bibles – available for each LSAT section – come highly recommended. For a deeper dive into various study materials, explore our LSAT prep book comparison.
2. The Power of Real LSATs:
- Consistently practice with genuine LSAT exams, aiming for 1-2 tests weekly.
- Post-test analysis is crucial. Instead of merely tallying your score, delve into the questions you missed and ascertain the reasons.
- Treat each practice test with the seriousness of the real deal. Respect the time constraints and breaks to mimic the actual test environment.
3. Balancing Work and LSAT Prep: If you’re juggling a packed work schedule, you might need to reassess. Thorough LSAT prep demands time, and while ambition is commendable, spreading yourself too thin can be detrimental.
4. Avoiding Burnout: Yes, the LSAT is pivotal, but it’s essential to strike a balance. Relentlessly studying from sunrise to sunset can lead to fatigue and diminishing returns. Burnout is not merely a buzzword; it’s a genuine state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, often accompanied by feelings of cynicism and detachment. Over time, consistent burnout can hinder retention and critical thinking skills – the very abilities the LSAT assesses.
To stave off burnout, ensure regular breaks during study sessions and dedicate at least one day a week to relaxation and non-LSAT activities. Remember, mental well-being is intertwined with optimal performance. Nurturing your mind with diverse experiences, adequate rest, and leisure can, paradoxically, be one of the most effective strategies in achieving your LSAT goals.
5. Prep Courses vs. Self-Study: While some may swear by formal prep courses, it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Don’t be swayed by naysayers. If self-study aligns with your learning style and confidence, embrace it wholeheartedly.
Some learners thrive on the discipline and collaborative atmosphere that structured prep courses offer, benefiting from the insights of instructors and peers. On the other hand, self-study grants unparalleled flexibility, allowing students to pace themselves, revisit challenging areas as needed, and allocate time according to personal strengths and weaknesses.
In this digital age, a hybrid approach is also gaining traction. Many students are blending the benefits of traditional prep courses with the autonomy of self-study, using online resources, apps, and forums to augment their understanding and get diverse perspectives. Regardless of the path you choose, the key is consistency, understanding your learning style, and seeking feedback to continually refine your approach.
LSAT Test Day Tips
The LSAT is more than just a test of logic and reasoning, it’s a culmination of months, and sometimes years, of hard work. After all that preparation, the test day can feel like the final hurdle, and it’s essential to approach it with a strategic mindset. Here are some essential tips to ensure you bring your A-game on the day of the LSAT.
1. The Night Before: Rest, Don’t Cram
- Prioritize Sleep: Your brain functions best after a good night’s sleep. Make sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep the night before. Stay away from last-minute cramming; your brain benefits more from rest than late-night reviews.
- Prepare Your Test Kit: Lay out everything you’ll need the next day: admission ticket, photo ID, a laptop, #2 pencils, eraser, an analog wristwatch, and a snack for the break.
2. Dress in Layers Test center temperatures can be unpredictable. Wearing layers allows you to adjust your clothing for comfort without much fuss.
3. Eat a Balanced Breakfast You need fuel for your brain. Eat a nutritious breakfast that combines protein, complex carbs, and some healthy fats. Avoid too much caffeine or sugar, as they can make you jittery or lead to a mid-test crash.
4. Arrive Early Aim to get to the test center at least 30 minutes early. This gives you ample time to locate your room, use the restroom, and settle your nerves without feeling rushed.
5. Leave Your Phone Behind While this might feel counterintuitive in today’s age, it’s crucial. LSAC has strict rules about electronic devices. Avoid any potential issues or distractions by leaving your phone in the car or at home.
6. Embrace a Positive Mindset Before the test starts, take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself of all the preparation you’ve done. Avoid negative self-talk and instead focus on positive affirmations.
7. Manage Your Time Wisely
- Use Your Analog Wristwatch: Keep an eye on the time, but don’t obsess over it. Plan to pace yourself so that you allocate roughly the same amount of time for each question.
- Don’t Linger on Tough Questions: If a question seems too hard, mark it and move on. Return to it if you have time at the end.
8. Read Each Question Carefully It’s easy to misinterpret a question if you’re rushing. Take the time to understand what’s being asked before you answer.
9. Use the Break Wisely The LSAT includes one 15-minute break. Use this time to eat your snack, stretch your legs, use the restroom, and take a few deep breaths. This break is not just physical but also a mental reset.
10. Stay Calm and Stay the Course It’s natural to feel nervous, especially if you encounter a challenging section. Remember that everyone faces difficult questions. Trust your preparation, take things one question at a time, and stay focused.
Once the LSAT is behind you, it’s natural to feel a mix of relief and apprehension. Though the test is over, your journey to law school is far from complete. To navigate the post-LSAT period effectively, here are some essential steps to consider.
1. Give Yourself a Break
- Rest and Recover: The LSAT is mentally exhausting. Before you dive into next steps, take a day or two off to recharge and reward yourself for your hard work.
- Avoid Overanalyzing: While it’s tempting to dissect every question with friends or online forums, it’s best to avoid this. Second-guessing can cause unnecessary stress.
2. Consider Whether to Retake the LSAT
- Evaluate Your Performance: Think about how you felt during the test. Were there external factors or specific challenges that might not be present if you took the test again?
- Compare to Practice Scores: If your official score is significantly lower than your practice tests, consider retaking the LSAT.
3. Receive and Review Your Score
- Accessing Your Score: LSAC will email you when your score is available, typically a few weeks after the test date. You can then log into your LSAC account to view it.
- Understand Your Score: Along with your score, you’ll receive a percentile rank which indicates the percentage of test-takers who scored lower than you over the last three years.
4. Finalize Your School List
- Consider Your Score: Your LSAT score, combined with your GPA, will play a significant role in where you apply. Research law schools’ median LSAT scores to gauge your competitiveness.
- Balance Reach and Safety: Apply to a mix of “reach” schools (where your scores are below the median), “target” schools (where your scores are close to the median), and “safety” schools (where your scores are above the median).
5. Draft and Finalize Your Personal Statement Your personal statement offers law schools insight into who you are beyond numbers. Craft a compelling narrative that showcases your passion, experiences, and why you’re pursuing a legal career.
6. Request Letters of Recommendation Reach out to professors, employers, or mentors who know you well and can speak to your capabilities and character. Give them ample time to write and provide any materials or guidance they might need.
7. Complete and Submit Applications
- Stay Organized: Keep track of deadlines, required materials, and application fees for each school.
- Proofread: Ensure all components, from personal statements to resumes, are free from errors.
8. Apply for Financial Aid
- Submit the FAFSA: Even if you think you may not qualify, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is crucial.
- Research Scholarships: Look into scholarships both within your desired law schools and from external organizations.
9. Await Decisions and Make Your Choice
- Stay Patient: Response times vary by school. While waiting, focus on other pursuits and avoid constantly checking your email.
- Evaluate Offers: Once acceptances, waitlists, and scholarship offers start coming in, evaluate each opportunity in terms of financial, academic, and cultural fit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the LSAT
1. What exactly is the LSAT?
Answer: The LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, is a standardized test administered multiple times a year, primarily designed to assess reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical reasoning skills of prospective law school candidates. It’s used by law schools in the U.S., Canada, and a growing number of other countries as a key component in their admissions process.
2. How long is the LSAT exam?
Answer: The LSAT exam is approximately 3 hours. This duration includes multiple choice questions and a writing sample.
3. How often can I take the LSAT?
Answer: You can take the LSAT up to three times in a single testing year (which runs from June 1 to May 31) and up to seven times in total. However, if you score a perfect 180, you can’t retake the LSAT unless you receive permission from the law school to which you are applying.
4. How is the LSAT scored?
Answer: The LSAT is scored on a scale of 120 to 180. The score is based on the number of questions answered correctly (the raw score), which is then converted into a scaled score. There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so it’s beneficial to answer every question.
5. When should I start preparing for the LSAT?
Answer: Most experts recommend dedicating at least 2-4 months of focused study for the LSAT. Depending on your personal strengths, weaknesses, and schedule, you may require more or less time.
6. Do all law schools require the LSAT?
Answer: While the majority of ABA-accredited law schools in the U.S. require the LSAT, the winds have been shifting for some time and more law schools now allow for you to take the GRE in lieu of the LSAT.
7. Can I use a calculator on the LSAT?
Answer: No, calculators are not permitted on the LSAT. The test is designed to assess your reasoning skills, not your mathematical computation skills.
8. How long are LSAT scores valid?
Answer: LSAT scores are typically valid for five years. However, individual law schools may have different policies, so it’s always a good idea to check with the specific institutions you’re interested in.
9. How do I send my LSAT scores to law schools?
Answer: When you register for the LSAT, you can sign up for the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS). This service compiles your undergraduate transcripts, LSAT score, and letters of recommendation into a report which is then sent to the law schools you apply to.
10. Can I cancel my LSAT score?
Answer: Yes, you have the option to cancel your LSAT score. If you feel you didn’t perform well, you can cancel your score within six calendar days after the exam. However, this decision should be made carefully, as once cancelled, a score cannot be reinstated.
Closing Thoughts: Embracing the LSAT Journey for Law School Success
Navigating the intricacies of LSAT preparation can be daunting, but with the insights shared in this article, we hope to have shed light on its significance in the law school admissions process. While the role of the LSAT in law school admissions can be a topic of debate, its impact is undeniably profound.
As you embark on this pivotal journey, remember: dedication and persistence are your allies. Dive deep into your preparations, stay committed, and embrace every learning opportunity. The road ahead might have its challenges, but with the right mindset and resources, success is within reach.
For more insights and guidance on the world of law school and beyond, don’t forget to explore our other invaluable articles.