Your LSAT Test Score
What does your LSAT score measure? Your LSAT test score is a measure of how well you answer LSAT questions (on that particular test day). What does a high LSAT score mean? A high LSAT test score means that the person reads well. It is probable that a low LSAT scorer does not read well (although there are a number of other factors that might contribute to a low score). This makes sense because the LSAT is a test of how well you apply your reading and reasoning skills to LSAT questions. In a previous post, I suggested that the LSAT should be called the “R.E.A.D.” test (Reading Effectively and Deducing).
The Two Kinds of LSAT Preparation
“Formal LSAT preparation” = the process of specifically learning to improve the application of your reading and reasoning skills to actual LSAT tests, for the purpose of achieving your maximum LSAT score
“Informal LSAT preparation” = the process of improving your general level of reading and reasoning skills so that you are starting your “Formal LSAT preparation” from a higher general level of reading and reasoning
Although the “Formal LSAT preparation” stage of your life is relatively short. The acquisition of reading and reasoning skills is a life long project. You will start your “Formal LSAT preparation” from the level of reading and reasoning skills that you have developed from a lifetime of reading and critical thinking. Different people start their “Formal LSAT preparation” from different levels.
“Informal LSAT preparation” is a process of improving your reading and reasoning skills with a view to starting your “Formal LSAT preparation” from a higher level.
I once attended a MAPLA (Mid-West Association of Pre-Law Advisors) conference. There were a number of seminars about the LSAT. One adviser commented that she encouraged law school applicants to treat LSAT preparation (she meant “Formal LSAT preparation”) as a process of improving the skills that are necessary for success in law school and beyond. Both the LSAT and law school are about reading and reasoning.
What Can You Expect From LSAT Preparation Books, Courses and Tutors?
A good LSAT preparation program is dependent on the quality of the LSAT teacher. It will will start from your current level of reading. A good LSAT preparation program CANNOT improve your general reading skills but it CAN improve your ability to better apply your existing reading and reasoning skills to LSAT questions and answer choices.
The LSAT Reading Comprehension section is not emphasized in most LSAT prep courses and books. This is underscored by the fact that there are few LSAT reading comprehension books. You are likely to find that practicing LSAT reading comprehension questions will improve your performance. This is also a fertile area for Pre-LSAT “Informal LSAT preparation”.
A good LSAT preparation program should teach you to simplify LSAT passages and arguments. A good LSAT program should heighten your sensitivity to the LSAT language. Furthermore, by learning how LSAT questions are designed, you will learn to focus better on what you read.
How Long Should “Formal LSAT preparation” Be?
One of the most common questions I get is “how long should one prepare for the LSAT”. In terms of formal LSAT preparation, I would suggest a period ranging from six to twelve weeks (you can always add if necessary). I do not recommend that you start your “Formal LSAT preparation” too early. At the beginning (this is the truth) LSAT preparation is interesting. You will get your best improvements while the preparation is interesting. At a certain point LSAT questions become tedious. The tedium will cause mistakes that could be avoided. To put it another way: you want to peak at the right time. Remember that you can always add to your “Formal LSAT preparation” if necessary. You cannot subtract once you have started.When is the best time to take the LSAT? The answer is June or October.
It is essential that your “Formal LSAT preparation” includes the taking of lots and lots of actual LSAT tests. Most of these actual LSAT tests be reserved for “Formal LSAT preparation”.
Remember that improvement implies that you are starting your “Formal LSAT preparation” from a specific level of reading and reasoning skills. What about improving your level of reading and reasoning prior to “Formal LSAT preparation”?
“Informal LSAT Preparation” – Pre-LSAT Prep
Since the LSAT is about the application of reading and reasoning skills, taking steps to improve your general reading and reasoning skills will raise the level from which you will improve. LSAT preparation is not a short-term task.
How can you improve your level of reading and reasoning?
- Reading Improvement – In order to improve your reading you need to: read, read a lot, read the right kind of material and read material that is challenging. Here are some suggestions for how to do this. Why not devote one hour a day to reading (just cut down on the computer time). For the “right kind of material” I suggest reading “op-ed” pieces from newspapers (New York Times, Herald Tribune). I recommend the Economist Magazine (you can get a student subscription). You will find that this is reasonably challenging.
- Reasoning Improvement – Much of the LSAT Logical Reasoning section consists of questions that require you to analyze arguments. LSAT describes the task as evaluating “how the argument goes” – that is how the premises relate to the conclusion. This is a skill that must be practiced. Reading “op-ed pieces” will improve your skills at recognizing good and bad reasoning. Pay attention to arguments and reasoning in everyday life. One of the national LSAT prep companies had a podcast series on LSAT logic and everyday life. (I haven’t listened to any of these, but the idea is a good one.)
- Linking Reading and Reasoning is essential. You must understand what you are reading and how language can be “slippery”. The book “Logic Made Easy” by D. Bennett is a wonderful book that will help you in life (and of course in your LSAT Prep).
- A course in “logic” and/or “critical thinking” might be of help. When it comes to LSAT Logic Games, a course in formal logic would help you understand some specific reasoning patterns that have appeared on the LSAT. Most schools offer theses courses in their philosophy department. Did you know that philosophy students tend to perform higher on the LSAT? Note the following from the Santa Clara University Department of Philosophy:
In addition to all the reasons for taking philosophy classes and minoring in philosophy listed above you should know that a recent comprehensive study of college students’ scores on major tests used for admission to graduate and professional schools shows that students majoring in philosophy received scores substantially higher than the average on each of the tests studied. The study compared the scores of 550,000 college students who took the LSAT, GMAT, and the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE with data collected over the previous eighteen years. It was conducted by the National Institute of Education and reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Philosophy majors scored 10% better than political science majors on the LSAT. They also outperformed business majors by a margin of 15% on the GMAT and outperformed every other undergraduate major except mathematics. In another study of LSAT scores, Philosophy was tied for first with Economics among the 12 largest disciplines with an average score of 157.4.
Note also the confirmation that studying math is likely to result in higher LSAT GMAT and GRE test scores. I have noticed that students who take English (gotta do a lot of reading) and philosophy (gotta do a lot of reasoning) come to “Formal LSAT preparation with a competitive advantage. (Math and English are special subjects because they are the tools of learning for other subjects.) Those who study math, English and philosophy (without knowing it) are participating in “Informal LSAT preparation” which counts as Pre-LSAT prep.
Copyright © 2011 John Richardson. All Rights Reserved.