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How To Get Into Law School: LSAT

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Can you imagine being attacked by this monster?

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to continue our look at each piece of the law school application. We’re going to work chronologically—that is, we’ll take each item in the order that you should (in a perfect world, one in which you can maybe go back in time and fix your mistakes) be working on it. I’ve chosen to use a Q+A format, to make you feel like we’re in this together. It will be fun. I promise absolutely do not promise that.

Last week, we looked at how your letters of recommendation figure into your admissions decision. This week, we’re taking a crack at your LSAT score. Again, we’re going with the Q+A structure, because it’s delightful:

What is it? A standardized test.

Really? That’s what you’ve got for me? Sigh. It’s just that, if I’m being honest, I don’t know how much more I can talk about the LSAT and keep what little sanity and/or dignity I have left.

Cry me an effing river. It’s your job; just tell me more about the LSAT, OK? OK. It’s purported to be a standardized test of your reasoning abilities, but it is highly susceptible to a pattern-intelligent approach. In other words, you can be very successful at this test without necessarily being a very proficient logician.

Are you yourself a proficient logician? I do OK. But let’s keep this about the test, which has 6 sections on it, but only 4 of them count toward your score.

Hold up. That’s crazy. Why? First, I was about to explain that but you interrupted. [Ed. note: I feel this format is becoming a little unnecessarily combative] Anyway, there’s 5 multiple choice sections on the test, plus an essay. Every section gives you 35 minutes to take it. There’s always a break after section 3, and the essay is always administered at the very end. And all of that is true, but it’s a little like trying to describe being attacked by a wild dog by counting the number of teeth it had; it doesn’t really tell the whole story.

So, what’s the story? Like, how much is it worth? It’s nearly everything.

Wait. How is that possible? You’ve already written about two other factors that you said had an influence. What’s the deal, man? Well, it’s a question of how you look at it. If you think of all the factors altogether, as, like, a pie chart, say, then it’s fair and roughly correct to say that at most schools, the LSAT score accounts for more than half of the admissions decision. But it’s also correct—and probably gives a more complete picture—to think of admissions as a process, not a pie chart. Like a series of hurdles you have to get over.

And the LSAT is the first, and highest, hurdle. If your score doesn’t at least approach the median at the school you’re applying to, you just aren’t at all likely to get in.

But, let’s say your score does make you competitive: imagine you’re applying to Law School X (again, for the Xtreme aspiring attorney) where the median score for admitted students is 165. And you got a 166. Yay! You’re in the mix! But so are thousands of other applicants. Your LSAT score is the first-order sorter (that rhymed), but once you’re over that first hurdle, you still have to find a way to distinguish yourself (through GPA, LOR, and your Personal Statement, mainly). 

In that way, even though the LSAT is by far the most important single component, it is also truly only part of the picture.

That was a lot of words. Sure. You want fewer?

I am a simple caveman. OK; if your LSAT score is low, you aren’t getting into the school you want. But even if your score is high, that doesn’t mean that you’ll get in for sure. So the LSAT is hugely important, but it’s not enough all by itself.

OK. Let’s get back to the part where they don’t score the whole test? Right. The essay isn’t scored, even though it does get scanned and sent to every law school you apply to. 

Weird. How come? Well, it would be expensive and time-consuming to hire people to grade essays. LSAC is providing law schools with a sample of your writing, they just aren’t judging that writing; they’re leaving that to the schools.

So does the writing sample matter? That’s a question for another blog post.

But it’s not the only section that doesn’t count? Correct. One of the five multiple-choice sections is likewise not included in your score. 

Tell me about those sections. OK; the four scored sections always include two “Logical Reasoning” sections, each of which has 25-26 questions that ask you to deal with brief arguments in various ways—make them stronger, or weaker, or identify their flaws. Like that. And that’s half your score right there.

The other two sections include one scored Reading Comprehension section (like the reading you remember from the SAT/ACT, only harder) that has four passages and 27-28 questions in it, and one scored Games section with 22-23 questions. The Games section is like four logic puzzles. Then you’ll have a fifth multiple-choice section from any of those three types, but that doesn’t count toward your score.

Why? You’re being used as unpaid labor! That unscored (often called “experimental”) section is there to test-drive questions for use on future tests. Since the test is standardized, you can’t have a section that is too easy, nor too hard. The unscored section is making sure that the questions that will appear on future tests have met that standard.

Is there any way to know which LSAT section doesn’t count? Nope. Usually, the unscored section comes before the break. But not always. If you have two Games sections, you’ll know one of them doesn’t count, but it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to guess which one. That’s largely because, after more than twenty-five years, LSAC has gotten pretty good at writing questions that are just like all their other ones.

Would you say that they are LSAT-writing mofos? For sure.

OK, any tips for how to get better? Yeah. Check out this post for tips on using our free resources, and this one for how our paid course can help.

How long should I spend getting ready for the LSAT? Three months. That’s a single-size answer for a many-sized audience, but for most people who take my course and follow my advice, three months is enough time to be ready as you can be.

Because I’ve heard that you should spend a year? Only if your prep work is really, really very inefficient. I mean, it’s up to you, I guess, but I’d rather prep smart in less time than prep dumb in more time. But we all get to make our own choices.

Could you give, like, your top three tips on how to get good at the LSAT in general? Sure thing:

  1. Think about the way that you've learned to get good at anything else you've done - hard work and smart practice. Expect to put in real effort if you want to succeed at this. Anticipate that you can probably benefit from a good coach. Know that you'll have to do organized review in order to grow.
  2. Don't just take practice tests - try instead to gain mastery of each individual question type. This will give shape and focus to your prep. In order to be fast for test day, you'll need to be good at what you do.
  3. (Really more of number 2) Pattern recognition is key. For example, there's just not enough time in a Logical Reasoning section (at least not for me, and I’m pretty good at this test) to analyze every argument. Instead, we've figured out how LR passaged are related to others by kind. That way, you get to recognize answers rather than having to synthesize them anew for every question you work.

Anything else I should know? Oh, goodness, yes. There’s a whole world of stuff you should know. You can learn a lot of it by checking out our FAQ section.

Well, Dave, I must say that I’m convinced. I will work hard and find a good coach and concentrate on pattern-recognition. Good. You’ll improve that way.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.

Be good to one another, for we need it now more than maybe ever,

d

P.S. Looking for a smoking hot Velocity LSAT discount code? Use this code: DHALL10 at checkout to get 10% off your enrollment in any course! That code will work for the remainder of 2017.

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