Everyone can practice and be trained to understand and beat the LSAT; however, various learning styles necessitate different methods of preparation. Some students learn most effectively with books, while others benefit from the kind of personal interaction that comes with a live course. In deciding what works best for you, begin by considering your particular learning style.
If you decide to prepare with books exclusively, make sure to go over the concepts consistently and thoroughly, and don't forget practice tests! A strong conceptual foundation should be complimented by practical experience to ensure a solid overall LSAT performance.
If you choose to take a prep course, be sure to take advantage of the instructor's knowledge and expertise—don't hesitate to ask questions! That is one of the best ways to ensure that you are becoming fluent with the concepts covered, and are getting the most out of each lesson.
One thing holds true for all methods of preparation, though—careful, consistent study over a prolonged period of time is the best option when it comes to preparing for the LSAT.
You should take the LSAT no later than the summer or fall of the year in which you intend to apply, a full year (or more) before you intend to begin law school. If you're still in school, It's best to take the LSAT the summer before your senior year at college, so that you can spend your senior year acing your classes and preparing your law school applications instead of studying for and worrying about the LSAT. If you decide to wait until the summer after your senior year, that's okay; it will not affect you positively or negatively in the eyes of admissions committees as long as you spend that year between college and law school in a productive capacity.
Although some LSAT test dates are certainly more advantageous than others due to their timing in the admissions cycle, one rule holds true: You should take the LSAT on the earliest date when you feel you are completely prepared. Taking the LSAT early gives you ample time to sit for the LSAT again at a later date if you decide to cancel your score or retake the test. The LSAT is now offered almost monthly, giving students plenty of opportunities for a retake. Just keep in mind the limits on retakes as there are guidelines for the number of times you can take LSAT within a year, every five years, and in your lifetime.
First, understand that every single person that takes the LSAT feels unsure and unhappy with their performance immediately upon completing the test. This does not mean you did poorly; more than likely it is the exhaustive after-effects of having prepared for months for a four-hour test on which your law future rests. However, if you are certain you did not perform well, there are things you can do.
If you're worried about how multiple scores will look on your LSAT score report, take a moment to read the answer to the question "How do law schools see multiple LSAT scores?"
You have two options if you are unhappy with your performance on the LSAT: cancel the score (and then retake the test) or keep your score (and potentially retake the test).
If you decide to cancel your score, you must be familiar with the following:
You only have six calendar days after the test to submit a written score cancellation notice to LSAC;
You will never know what your score was.
You may ask yourself, "If I can't see the score, then how do I know I should cancel it?" That's a very good question. To make that determination, first start by objectively analyzing how you feel about your overall test performance. Perhaps you felt completely lost and you guessed on all the logic games, or you know that you did not understand well over half the logical reasoning questions. Come up with a best-possible and a worst-possible score scenario, and decide if you're willing to live with the results of a "worst-possible scenario" score.
What happens if you decide to cancel your score? As per LSAC.org:
If you cancel your score, you will not receive a score or copy of your answer sheet. You will receive written notification of a score cancellation and, if you took a disclosed test, you will receive a copy of the test questions and the credited responses for the scored sections as well. Law school reports will reflect that your score was canceled at your request; this advises the law schools that you were exposed to test questions. There are no refunds for canceled scores. Valid score cancellation requests are irreversible and cannot be rescinded.
Schools will not look negatively at a single cancelled score—however, when multiple cancelled scores appear on a student's score report without a good explanation (and schools will require an explanation for multiple cancelled scores), then it can potentially count negatively against the student's application.
Retaking The Test
Think carefully about retaking the LSAT. On the day of the test, were you fully prepared? Did the test go exactly as planned? Were there no extenuating circumstances either personally or at the testing center? If the answer to all three questions is "yes", then retaking the test might be a risky move. There is no guarantee that circumstances will improve to the point where you will achieve a significant score increase, and you run the risk of actually achieving a lower score. However, if test or preparation conditions were adverse and you feel that with more preparation and study you will certainly increase your score, then study, prepare, and retake the LSAT a second time.
When you decide to retake the test is entirely up to you and when you feel the most prepared to retake it. Just be sure to check with the admission departments of all of the schools where you intend to apply for any applicable dates and deadlines.
One of the most common questions we are asked regarding law school admissions is, "Should I take the LSAT again, and if I do, how will law schools interpret my scores?" In order to help you better understand your options, we have researched LSAC policy, as well as that of top law schools, and spoken with many admissions counselors regarding these issues. Check our Free Help Article for the full details.
Much like the SAT is used in college admissions, the LSAT is used as a standardized measure in law school admissions. Why? Because the only across-the-board numerical indicator that law schools have when comparing applicants is the LSAT. Law schools have no way of knowing how one major in one college stacks up in difficulty to the same major in another college, or how a 4.0 GPA from one school compares to a 4.0 GPA from another. When it comes to the LSAT, they know that everyone was given the same level of difficulty and very similar questions. This makes the LSAT is the single most important number on your application, even more important than your undergraduate GPA. In fact, some schools weigh your LSAT 4 or 5 times more than your undergraduate GPA—which means that a three-and-a-half hour test can weigh much more than four years of college!
Use this information to your advantage. Think of it this way—even if your GPA is below the median for the school of your choice, you can significantly improve your chances by thoroughly preparing for the LSAT and scoring in a high percentile. And, if your GPA is well above the median for your dream school, you can make yourself a virtual shoe-in by getting a high LSAT score and making sure everything else in your application is well taken care of. No matter which category you fall into, you can play the LSAT score game to your advantage.
If the school looks at your writing sample at all, it will be for one of two things: (1) to see how well you can develop an argument; and/or (2) to compare your writing style to that in your admissions essay(s). This is why it's important for you to take the LSAT writing sample seriously, and treat it like a very valid representation of your writing abilities
For some law school applicants, particularly those that have been out of school for a while, the writing sample might be a rather difficult part of the LSAT. This happens for a variety of reasons:
- The LSAT writing sample gives you 35 minutes to write a cohesive, logical essay arguing in favor or against one of two equally good options (which, depending on how long you've been out of school, may seem like an impossible task—"A full essay in 35 minutes or less? That's madness!")
- The LSAT writing sample is the dark horse when it comes to understanding its role in LSAT scores and law school admissions—and you know this, which can affect how you approach it.
So how is the LSAT writing sample used? It varies from school to school. Admissions committees do read it, and although they're not looking for a polished final product, they are interested in seeing how you logically develop an idea under time constraints (a situation very similar to the myriad tests you will take in law school).
A logical follow-up question would be, "Does the LSAT writing sample affect my LSAT score?" No, it does not. Your LSAT score is determined by your answers to the questions on the LSAT, and your essay does not affect it in the least.