Preparing for the September LSAT During the Summer!
Planning to spend the summer studying and preparing for the September LSAT? Excellent! The summer is the perfect time to study, and for most, the perfect amount of time. For current college students, the summer can offer a lower stress time to prep. Plan to get started near the beginning of the summer while you’re still in “academic mode.” LSAT scores are valid for 5 years, so you can take the test in September even if you aren’t applying to law schools next year.
First, take a baseline test
The first step in preparing for the September LSAT should be to get a baseline score by taking a full timed practice LSAT, ideally under conditions that mirror those of the real test. This means not going over time or pausing in the middle of sections, and taking the test in a realistic setting, like in a library, rather than in the comfort of your own home. Try to understand the format of the test first, but you don’t need to do much more than that before you take your baseline test. This baseline is to give you an idea of where you are starting out and is helpful for setting goals and planning your summer study schedule.
If you have the option to take a professionally proctored baseline test, go for it! You can be confident that you’ll be told the rules of the test and held strictly to the appropriate timing.
The LSAT is graded based on four 35-minute sections, each with 23-27 questions:
- Logical Reasoning, also called the “Arguments” section, tests one’s ability to understand the structure of an argument and make logical inferences. There are two of these sections on the test, which make up about half the overall questions.
- Reading Comprehension tests one’s ability to read and comprehend complex texts on a diverse selection of scholarly concepts and is the most similar section to other standardized tests.
- Analytical Reasoning, also called the “Logic Games” section, tests one’s ability to solve analytical puzzles through process of elimination, hypothesis testing, and the use of logic in general.
On the real test, there is also an experimental ungraded section, which could be any of the three types. It is important to include a 5th section on your baseline test to get an accurate score. Since there is only a 20% chance that the experimental section will be the last section of the real test, your best bet it to include it earlier, like at the start of the test.
Finally, there is an ungraded essay at the end of the test, but no need to worry about that for your baseline.
Second, plan out your overall summer study schedule
Preparing for the September LSAT or any LSAT is a lot of work, so plan to get started in the early part of the summer. Because LSAT work is quite draining, plan on spreading out when you are working on it. You will benefit a lot more from working on the LSAT 1-4 hours per day for 2 or 3 days each week over around 12 weeks than trying to cram in everything at the end, or planning one marathon day every week. For most people, 4-12 hours per week is ideal. Figure out what time of day and what days of the week you’ll work on this material. Having a schedule worked out from the start helps you stay accountable to yourself and set incremental goals that you later reassess as needed. Over the summer, you should plan to work through 10-20 tests worth of material: at least two tests worth of questions untimed, three tests worth of questions timed by section, and five full timed practice tests. Consider getting two of the Official LSAT PrepTest books, including Volume VI, to use for practice tests.
Divide the summer into thirds
Start by learning the format of each of the sections and practicing techniques, and then incorporate full timed sections into your schedule by the end of the first third of your time spent studying.
The middle third of your summer should be spent mostly doing timed sections and full practice tests and constantly revising and practicing your technique. Your second full timed practice test, after your baseline, should be taken by the middle of this period of time, so ideally during week 5 if you’re going for a 12-week plan.
The last third of your studying should be spent mostly doing full timed practice tests and going over your answers in detail.
Finally, be strategic about the prep work you do – work smart
With all sections, when you first start preparing for the September LSAT, focus on the format and feel of the sections, the types of questions asked, and techniques for finding your way to the answer. Once you’ve worked up to a solid level of proficiency on a section, that’s when you should start working through those sections timed. Work on incremental timing goals. You shouldn’t try to answer so many questions that you have to rush through them and risk making careless errors.
The first section you work on should be Logic Games / Analytical Reasoning
This is the most objective section and is often the most difficult initially due to its strangeness. Luckily, there are excellent resources and techniques you can use to improve. Others have put a lot of time and effort into coming up with super-efficient techniques for understanding, notating, graphing, and working through the logic games. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here – get a tutor or pick up a book, learn a system, and master this section.
After getting through a solid amount of Logic Games, start working on Reading Comprehension and Arguments
In addition to working through practice passages and questions, you can work on your Reading Comp skills through background reading. If you don’t have a lot of experience reading difficult technical passages on a range of natural science, social science, and humanities topics, plan to get into the habit of reading such things on a regular basis. The more used to that type of format and language you are, the easier it will be to quickly understand what’s happening in any given LSAT Reading Comp passage.
For the Arguments / Logical Reasoning section, focus initially on learning the different types of questions along with techniques to help narrow in on the most important information and translate the questions into more understandable terms, like underlining the conclusion in an argument and graphing out the logic in a question with multiple conditional statements. If you haven’t had much experience with critical analysis or formal argumentation, it can be helpful to spend some time reading up on the structures of arguments, like the Toulmin Method, and common logical fallacies.