LSAT Kung Fu Blog / LSAT Kung Fu Blog
LSAT Kung Fu Blog
Here’s a thing I’ve learned this summer; DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) and USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) rival the IRS in the number, scope, complexity and inanity of their forms. I’ve become very familiar with:
As you get started with your LSAT prep (or somewhere in the middle of LSAT prep, or even if you’re already well into your LSAT prep. OK, let’s just say that at any point in your LSAT prep), one of the key things you’ll need to figure out is how to find the Main Point of a Reading Comp passage.
Well, that’s where this post comes in! I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided to write a few words on identifying the main point of passages, and you are now reading those words. IT’S AN EXCITING TIME TO BE ALIVE.
Here’s one thing for you to do; every single time you read a passage, pretend that you have a friend sitting next to you. We’ll call that friend Francisco.
When you finish reading, turn to Francisco and say, “Francisco, I’ve just read a passage about [topic X].”
The words you put into those brackets are the main point of the passage.
See? The answer was in you all along! You’re just like the Karate Kid, but with less cultural appropriation.
Let’s do an example (using passage two from PrepTest 76, because that is where I opened my book while looking for an example to use).
In the dream, our impulse was to welcome rather than to turn away. We wanted to be a shining city on a hill,1 not too far away, not impossible to reach, with a draw like an electromagnet. We were not pollyanna-ish about it. We knew that we must protect ourselves because there are always threats.
In the dream, we were smarter. We knew that families fleeing persecution are not the threats. We also knew that separating families as a deterrent against future families seeking asylum was cruel, arbitrary, immoral, and pointless from a practical point of view. In the dream we were practical.
In the dream, we judged each other on the content of our character.2 We could tell who the good guys were and who the bad guys were by what they did. We didn’t make excuses for intolerable behavior. In the dream, we knew better.
In the dream, we believed it was important to be decent. We put a premium on it. We built a whole system of government to protect it against indecent men and women. In the dream, we thought that a decent majority would be an adequate backstop against the minority threat from the bad guys who are always present. In the dream, we knew enough not to give them power.
Yesterday we went to tax court!
One more exclamation point: !
OK. Two together now: !!
US Tax Court is a Federal trial-level court like the US District Courts, but it’s only for tax matters. Its decisions are appealable to the US Circuit Courts, just the same as any District Court’s decisions. The judges ride circuit! That means that they’re based in Washington, D.C., but they travel to courthouses around the country for one to three days at a stretch to hear cases. I love the term “ride circuit.” I didn’t look it up, but I’m pretty sure it comes from the days when there weren’t permanent judges in most locations, but instead judges from larger cities would literally ride their horses to smaller communities to hold court. It’s quaint!
I went to General Sessions Court yesterday, and to Juvenile Court today. I’ve been to both places before: GS Court in my own county for a traffic ticket (I WAS FRAMED I TELL YOU) and Juvenile Court in a nearby county many times as a CASA volunteer (you can really help out some kids, your local court system, and therefore the larger Cause of Justice if you can spare some time to volunteer for CASA. Do one year before you start law school (it’s probably too much to do while you’re in law school)).
It strikes me that if you want to understand America as it is today, you should go to court. On the outside, it’s usually a grand old pile. It’s intended, I think, to symbolize the central place of regard in which we were meant to hold the law in this country. Inside, it stinks of sweat and unwashed hair and unwashed clothes and a collective million years of cigarette smoke. There are torn jeans (but not the kind you pay $200 for) and stained shirts and wailing babies in just diapers. The only ones in suits are the lawyers. The building is suffused with the nearly-palpable miasma of people who are fighting over scraps. When scraps are all you have, they’re worth fighting over.
Well, the first week was interesting, and the second week was a weird series of adventures (well, that’s a generous characterization. I started to catch a cold Friday of Week 1, and by Memorial Day, it had turned into a sinus infection. I went in to work Tuesday and got sent home. I stayed home Wednesday too, and Thursday decided I had to actually go to a doctor (ugh). Loaded up on antibiotics, and Friday I carpooled with the other 1L summer clerk to the firm’s state main office for a day of training. That’s the extent of the adventures; postnasal drip, a long road-trip and a Memorial Day at home sick. So really I totally lied about the adventure aspect of Week 2).
I’m working in a small public interest firm. One thing that’s weird about this for me that may not be weird for you is that I’ve spent the last 10 years almost completely in charge of my own time (except when I taught live classes and had to be in the classroom at specified times; even then, though, I chose the class schedule). It’s been a strange transition to office work.
I’ll keep it short. I’ve been meaning to create a timeline to help you visualize how your LSAT prep should go. This week, after the end of the semester and before I start my summer job, seemed like the right time.
So I did. It’s above.
First, know that it’s intended as a rough guide to help you think about how to order your prep and roughly how much time to spend on each element of your prep. I didn’t mean it as a prescription—you may spend more or less time on any single element of your practice if it makes you feel happier. However, it is a pretty close approximation of my recommendations to you. So, for example, you may want to do 6 or 7 timed practice exams instead of 5 as your test date approaches. Fine, but it’s probably not best for your score to do 20 of those and not do any stop-time drills. In other words, as long as you’re sticking relatively close to this timeline, I think you’ll be doing good work.
Here’s the idea: From the time you press “play” on your first Velocity video until test day comes (and you’re ready for it!), your prep can fit into five main boxes. I recommend that you tackle those boxes in the following order:
Well, I wish I had used a more automated system for tracking my time this semester. I mean, like a spreadsheet. Instead I just kept notes like a dummy, which means I just spent several minutes adding up numbers in my head (faster than retyping them into a spreadsheet).
But enough about how big a dummy I am. Cut me some slack, man, is what I’m saying.
We spent 15 weeks in classes this semester at Mavis Staples (plus two weeks of finals, which I’ll deal with separately at the end, and one week of spring break, which I’ve totally ignored for reporting purposes here).
Over those 15 weeks, I spent 169 hours in class. I missed a few classes this term; mostly while doing Mock Trial, but also one snow day and a random other class or two. Here, I am not recording all the hours that I was scheduled to be in class, but only the hours that my butt was actually in a seat.
And over those 15 weeks, I spent 62 hours reading in preparation for class. Here, I counted only time that I spent reading casebooks or doing other preparation for normal classes. In other words, this represents my total time commitment to class preparation. It’s my study time allotment.
Well, last week was the last week of classes for my 1L year. As I write this, my first final (Contracts II) is tomorrow morning. Then I’ve got two days off, then my second final (Civ Pro II), then two more days off, and final three (Property) followed by two more days off, then the final final (Torts II) of my first year of law school.
I clearly remember the feeling I described as I approached my first set of law school finals: like we’d run off the cliff but hadn’t started falling yet (to be fair, I mean, I’m old, but not so old that I cannot clearly remember something that happened fewer than five months ago).
Right now, the feeling is so different. Our final tomorrow is closed book, so I spent about two hours yesterday and so far two more today reviewing my notes and previous exams. I will probably do another hour this evening.
This is probably going to be a very short post. I’m in the last week of class (meaning next week finals start! IT FLEW BY), and I’m feeling lazy.
But I was thinking about the way I’ve read for class this semester, and how it’s different from the way I read for class last semester, and especially different from the first half-ish of last semester.
As I wrote back then (a little bit here, and a little bit more here), I read for understanding. Thing is, I’ve decided now that I spent WAY too much time reading. I over-read like a boss. Now, to be clear, that method of reading is GREAT for learning. Making sure that I understood every difficult point before I moved on was a powerful strategy for gettin on top of the material.
There was just no need for me to do that much work. This semester, I’ve been doing the reading at a much higher-level skim. I am not trying to make myself understand every nuance. In fact, I’m applying almost exactly the strategies I use for the LSAT Reading Comp.