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Preparing for the LSAT

LSAT Study Guide on a desk with highlighter -- Law school concept

Test preparation is typically pretty straightforward. The student reviews the material covered by the test, memorizing the information to help them successfully answer the test questions. However, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a very different kind of test. Interested students will need to seek out LSAT-specific materials to prepare.

The LSAT tests reading comprehension and logical reasoning. As a result, the test does not ask the student to recall memorized materials and instead checks the student's ability to analyze problems. This makes it a particularly difficult test to prepare for. A good starting point is to look at materials provided by the organization responsible for the LSAT.

Below you will find a discussion of LSAT prep resources available to help you study and achieve your best possible LSAT score.

What to Expect from the LSAT

Although the LSAT questions change every year, the structure of the test and the question types are very similar from year to year. The bulk of the test is a four-part multiple-choice exam that tests analytical reasoning, logic, and reading comprehension. Each section is 35 minutes, with a 10-minute break between the second and third sections.

You might have heard that the LSAT is mostly “logic games." These questions are likely different than anything you've encountered on previous standardized tests. LSAT logic games will begin with a scenario and rules, like this example from the June 2007 exam:

Exactly three films—Greed, Harvest, and Limelight—are shown during a film club's festival held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Each film is shown at least once during the festival but never more than once on a given day. On each day at least one film is shown. Films are shown one at a time. The following conditions apply:
On Thursday, Harvest is shown, and no film is shown after it on that day. On Friday, either Greed or Limelight, but not both, is shown, and no film is shown after it on that day. On Saturday, either Greed or Harvest, but not both, is shown, and no film is shown after it on that day.

Then you'll have to answer questions based on these rules, such as:

Which one of the following CANNOT be true?

(A) Harvest is the last film shown on each day of the festival.
(B) Limelight is shown on each day of the festival.
(C) Greed is shown second on each day of the festival.
(D) A different film is shown first on each day of the festival.
(E) A different film is shown last on each day of the festival.

Most test takers solve these problems by creating diagrams, which many LSAT prep programs will teach you how to do.

The LSAT also includes a required writing sample, which is not scored, but law school admission committees review them as part of your application. You can complete the writing exam up to eight days before you take the multiple-choice exam.

The LSAT is now administered remotely, so you'll need a quiet, private space to take the exam, a reliable internet connection, and the right equipment. Test takers schedule their own exam time.

How is the LSAT Different from the GMAT or the GRE?

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is similar to the LSAT because it primarily tests analytical and writing skills. A handful of law schools, including Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, accept GMAT scores in place of the LSAT. Others will admit someone with a GMAT score if they wish to pursue a dual degree, such as a JD/MBA.

More law schools accept Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores as an alternative to the LSAT. The American Bar Association (ABA) recently gave accredited law schools the green light to accept GRE scores. The GRE tests verbal reasoning, analytical writing, and quantitative reasoning. It can be an attractive option for those who wish to apply to law school but have a busy schedule, as there are more test dates offered throughout the year.

Official LSAT Study Materials

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) designs and administers the LSAT and provides official test books and online materials, including sample questions with explanations, practice exams, and study guides.

LSAC offers a free LSAT prep course that includes four official LSAT PrepTests® or unlimited access to more than 70 PrepTests for $99. The PrepTests mimic the real LSAT, giving you a chance to get comfortable with the format.

LSAC recommends practicing for the exam under “testing conditions," using the time constraints and other conditions that are part of the LSAT test-taking procedure. That way, come test day, you'll not only feel comfortable with what is on the test but also the test environment. Be sure to complete at least one LSAT practice test in the space where you plan to take the real test.

LSAT Test Preparation Programs

Many students choose to use LSAT prep materials from multiple sources. Several test preparation companies offer LSAT practice materials, ranging from free practice tests to study guides and lectures that students pay to access.

Some prep companies provide materials they generate to help guide your study, while others use materials licensed from the LSAC. Some companies may provide one-on-one study plans, while others are held in a lecture hall with very little personal attention given.

Most prep materials will include logic games and practice exams. Some provide feedback on your practice test scores, LSAT flashcards, or online lectures. Because the LSAT tests skills rather than knowledge, prep courses will provide you with test-taking strategies rather than informational lessons.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you rather create your own study schedule or have tasks given to you to complete?
  • Do you find physical study materials helpful, or do you prefer the convenience of online study?
  • How many full-length practice tests do you wish to complete?
  • Are you looking for free LSAT prep resources, or are you willing to pay for a guided program?

Having a solid understanding of your learning style and the environment that will be most conducive to preparing for the test will be critical to choosing the best LSAT prep option for you.

Some well-known LSAT test prep companies include:

Blueprint LSAT Prep

Blueprint offers live courses as well as self-directed study, tutoring, and an intensive option guaranteed to get you at least a 170 on the LSAT. Prices vary based on how long you wish to use the study materials, starting at $799 for three months and topping out at one year of study for $1,599.

Kaplan LSAT

Kaplan offers an on-demand LSAT course, a live online course, and an in-person prep course. These courses come with a fairly hefty price tag, from $700 for the on-demand course to an intensive 4-6 week “boot camp" for $3,900.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a solid choice if you're looking for a more economical option for LSAT prep. They've teamed up with the LSAC to offer prep tools based on real LSAT tests — all for free. You can complete a diagnostic test to determine which areas of the LSAT you should focus on, and they supply a personalized LSAT study plan based on your results.

The Princeton Review

Princeton Review offers several LSAT prep options. One course guarantees a score of at least 165 on the exam, which would put you in the 90th percentile of test takers. On average, top-tier law schools require a score of around 163 for admission. So if getting into one of the nation's top law schools is a priority, it might be worth shelling out the $1,799.

Velocity Test Prep

Looking for all-online LSAT preparation? Velocity offers more than 100 hours of LSAT prep videos, feedback anytime, and online forums where you can trade study tips with other students. You can opt for a monthly subscription at $99/month or $799 for a full year.

Helpful Apps for LSAT Study

It seems like there's an app for everything these days, and LSAT test prep hasn't been overlooked. But studying for the LSAT using an app has some obvious limitations. Instead of a classroom with a teacher who can answer questions or other students to trade study tips with, you may have your phone or tablet and little else.

That said, apps are much cheaper than LSAT classes, which can cost thousands of dollars. And some programs offer additional services that more closely approximate the LSAT test prep course experience.

On the other hand, LSAT app creators are not subject to any regulation, and the quality of the materials they offer may vary greatly. Some (but not all) of the app makers also maintain an online presence, allowing you to continue your studies on a desktop computer.

The following is a short list of LSAT apps that users found helpful:

  • LSATMax — a free app with video lessons, a community board, and instructors to answer questions
  • Magoosh— a free flashcard-based study tool
  • 7Sage LSAT Prep App — a free app with study tools, test tracking, and instructional videos

Other study apps might be helpful as well, whether you need help managing stress or managing your study time.

Next Steps

Preparing for the LSAT and law school involves making a lot of important decisions with very little information. Fortunately, FindLaw for Law Students provides resources to help you learn more about the LSAT, law school, and the bar exam.

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