When is the best time to start preparing for the LSAT?
Thinking of taking the August LSAT? Then it’s a good idea to get started ASAP if you haven’t already. Starting now gives you about 6 weeks to prepare, which may be enough if you’re able to spend 10-20 hours a week preparing. If you’re working full time or taking classes this summer, plan on a later test date to give more study time. The LSAT is a complicated test: a quick paced study schedule might take 50-60 hours to master the test, but most people will need 80-120. If you think you’re ready to take it on, the regular registration deadline for the August LSAT in the United States is July 2nd, so make sure to register before then. For the October LSAT, you have until late August to register.
Does this mean if I’m planning on a later test date, I should start studying now?
It depends on when you want to take the test. While getting started with plenty of time before the test is a great idea, you risk burnout and running out of good study material if you start more than about 4 months before the test. Thus, if you’re thinking about October, now is a great time to start studying. However, if you are shooting for a later test date, you will probably want to wait to get started unless you know you are going to be very busy consistently between now and then.
Why is it important to start preparing for the LSAT a few months before the test?
The LSAT is unlike most other standardized tests, so nearly all test takers will need to spend significant time becoming familiar with the test material and mastering it. In addition to a very difficult reading comprehension section, which features high-level scholarly passages on many topics, the LSAT has two sections, logical reasoning and analytical reasoning, that are unlike anything you might encounter on an SAT or ACT. Logical reasoning presents short arguments that require mastery of some key logical terms and an ability to analyze and respond to arguments of many kinds. Analytical reasoning, commonly called logic games, presents sets of questions on intricate logical puzzles, requiring elaborate diagramming and complex thinking. Because of these unusual sections, it takes a lot of practice for most people to master the test. However, if you give yourself time, you can steadily develop the skills required, and many test takers even come to enjoy them!
I’m ready to begin preparing for the LSAT. How should I get started?
Although the LSAT is a demanding test, you can improve with sustained effort, especially through one-on-one sessions with a tutor, since the path to success is often highly individualized. After you’ve read up on the basics of the format of the test, your first step should be to take a full practice LSAT under simulated testing conditions. This will provide you with a baseline to help you set both your score goals and your schedule for preparation, a process that a tutor can help you navigate. Once you’ve got that set, you’ll want to get started learning key content and strategies for each section, and then practice those strategies. When you’ve got a grasp on each section, you will focus on completing practice sections and full tests from released LSAT tests until you are consistently hitting your score goals.
Does that mean I need to try to take all the released LSAT practice tests?
Definitely not. There are more than 90 numbered practice tests officially released since the 1990s, but the more recent ones will be the most useful. Although the format of the test hasn’t changed drastically over the course of these tests, there have been a few noticeable changes, such as the introduction of a comparative (paired) reading passage in 2007. The test switched from paper to digital in 2019, and there are a many digital practice tests available, but the test sections are still the same as the paper tests, so paper tests are still great for preparation. Most students see the greatest benefit from completing about 10-25 full practice tests worth of sections before taking the real test.
Changes to the August 2021 Test:
In June 2020, the LSAT switched to the at-home LSAT Flex test. Whereas previous tests had 5 sections total, this new version of the test was only three sections, cutting out both an extra Logical Reasoning section and an unscored “experimental” section. In August 2021, the LSAT is adding the experimental section back in. LSATs from August 2021 and for at least the several months following will have one Logical Reasoning, one Reading Comp, and one Logic Games section, as well as an experimental section that will be in the same format as one of the other sections (i.e. a second Logical Reasoning, Reading Comp, or Logic Games section). The sections will be in a random order and it will not be possible to determine which section is experimental while taking the test. The experimental section does not contribute to your score but rather is used to calibrate the difficulty of future LSAT tests. The test will offer a 10-minute break after section two. There is also a Writing Section, but it is not scored as part of the test, and it is taken on a different day and does not need to be scheduled in advance. Law schools receive a copy of this essay along with your other application materials.