Thanks to LSATMax LSAT Prep for this guest blog!
All right, so you've decided to take the LSAT and go to law school. How can you optimize your LSAT prep experience to ensure you do as well as possible on this all-important exam?
As we've written, top LSAT scorers are consistent, engaged, and strategic about prep time. In addition, top scorers develop and stick to an LSAT study calendar. This post is designed to help you do just that.
Step 1: Create an actual calendar. Work backwards from the date of your intended LSAT exam day. Ideally, ensure that you have at least twelve to sixteen weeks of prep time before that exam date.
Step 2: Divide the calendar into Learning Time and Practice Time. The most successful LSAT takers know that prepping for the exam requires two distinct phases.
First, you have to learn the strategies necessary to perform your best. Then, and only then, you have to ensure that you consistently apply those strategies, without fail, through practice, practice, practice. An ideal LSAT study calendar reflects this important bifurcation.
Let's assume you've allotted sixteen weeks for LSAT prep, starting your review approximately four months before your chosen exam day.
The first six to eight weeks of your study period is Phase 1, during which you should focus exclusively on learning the strategies necessary to perform optimally on the LSAT.
For Logical Reasoning, for example, you should use this time to learn the answers to questions like: What is the difference between the stimulus, the question stem, and the answer choices? How should you approach each Logical Reasoning question? What is the difference between an argument and a set of facts? What are the different question types, and why does this typology matter?
For Reading Comprehension, you want to gain familiarity with common passage subjects (i.e. Science, Humanities, Social Science and Legal); question types; and strategies for breaking down long stretches of text into manageable components.
And for Logic Games, you want to review the common game types; learn how to create the setup efficiently and accurately; and practice diagramming game rules and making deductions.
During Phase 1, you should not be engaged in timed LSAT practice. Rather, you should be doing practice questions, passages, and games without time pressure, focusing exclusively on learning the fundamentals inside and out. The reality is that you will initially slow down as you learn new strategies and begin to apply them to actual LSAT questions.
It is perfectly fine to be aware of the time—1 minute and 24 seconds per Logical Reasoning question and 8 minutes and 45 seconds per Logic Game/Reading Comp passage—but do not stop working on the question/game/passage when the time expires.
You should structure your learning during Phase 1 so as to cultivate the focus and stamina required to excel on the LSAT. This means scheduling study periods of up to four uninterrupted hours, ideally at the same time of day as your actual LSAT exam.
Only after this period should you embark on Phase 2: timed practice.
Step 3: Schedule full-length practice LSATs during Phase 2. During Phase 2, you should engage in two different types of timed practice. First, you should schedule one full-length practice LSAT per week, as well as debrief time (during which you carefully review that LSAT and ensure you fully understand each and every mistake you may have made).
Second, you should schedule additional practice time that consists of timed sections (two or three at a time), but NOT full-length LSATs.
The point during Phase 2 is to hone the strategies and techniques you learned during Phase 1 under time pressure while also avoiding burnout. Some students feel like the only way to optimize their LSAT score is to take back-to-back full-length LSATs in the run up to test day. That's crazy, and you should not do it.
Rather, you have to pace yourself. You should endeavor to take your practice LSATs under conditions that are identical to the ones you will face on the day of your real LSAT exam. This means: a quiet place, at the same time of day of your actual LSAT, with no distractions of any kind. You can use our free iOS app, Exam Proctor, to simulate an authentic LSAT experience with proctor instructions and even background noise.
You must also schedule review time to go over each and every full-length practice LSAT you take. You should set aside approximately the same amount of time to review a practice LSAT as to take one, and you should go through each and every question to ensure you understand (a) why you got the answer right, or (b) why you got the answer wrong. Reviewing your mistakes is imperative if you want to avoid repeating those mistakes.
Once you understand the importance of a bifurcated LSAT study schedule, you'll see why it's a mistake to sign up for an LSAT prep course that is paced to complete only Phase 1—the learning of strategies and techniques—right before your target LSAT date.
It's no coincidence that LSAT prep companies that cut off your access make tons of money by recharging you to retake the course once you realize you haven't practiced enough to be prepared to sit for the actual LSAT on the date originally planned. We understand the importance of Phase 2 and this is precisely why LSATMax is the only LSAT prep course to offer instant and lifetime access to our course materials.