Pre-law students obviously differ from one another. But there are certain things that I frequently see that come up over and over again. After having trained thousands of LSAT Prep students, and after having taught thousands of other pre-law students in my UC Irvine, Chapman and Cal State Fullerton law courses, here are 5 of the most common mistakes I see students make when preparing for the LSAT:
1. Inadequate Preparation Time: The LSAT is a uniquely challenging standardized exam testing the logic and legal reasoning skills used by law students and lawyers. It also is the single most important part of your law school application. The LSAT requires a completely different mindset than studying for college exams. Give yourself a meaningful amount of time to prepare. I usually tell students that (1) you can do a lot in a month, (2) the minimum I would want to give myself to fully prepare is two months, and (3) ideally, I would want 3-6 months to prepare (on a part-time basis) for this exam. You may want to prepare even longer than 6 months, depending on your particular situation. If possible, plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to prepare for this critically important exam.
2. Failing To Analyze and Study Wrong Answers: The LSAT is a multiple choice exam. Each question has one correct answer and four incorrect ones. The incorrect answers, though, are much more than simply “wrong.” They frequently involve logic concepts and/or terminology that is extremely helpful to know and understand for future questions. There are clear patterns on the LSAT. In some cases, the wrong answer to one LSAT question is the correct answer to another one. In other cases, understanding exactly what the wrong answer is saying will allow you to recognize much more quickly whether that same answer choice (or terminology) is the right or wrong answer when you see it again in a future question. We spend a lot of time in my LSAT Prep courses explaining exactly what many important wrong answers are saying (as well as how they could be slightly modified to make them the right answer) so that students are well-versed to recognize the underlying logic or legal reasoning concept when they see these answer choices again.
3. Theory “Oversaturation”: Imagine someone planning to run a marathon for the first time. It probably would make a lot of sense to read up on how to train effectively for a marathon before starting out. But, once you have a good sense of the most effective way of training, you need to simply get out there and do it. That means running, and doing a lot of it. You wouldn’t simply keep reading one theory after another after another without actually training and running. Well, the same is true with LSAT Prep. It is critical to learn the underlying logic and legal reasoning concepts, and to have them explained to you clearly and effectively. But then you need to get out there and do it – the bulk of learning comes from working through lots and lots of LSAT questions. In my courses, we discuss the underlying theories, but the bulk of our time is spent diving right into LSAT questions (from day one!). You need to do lots of running to train effectively for a marathon, and you need to work on lots of real LSAT questions to train effectively for the LSAT.
4. Insufficient Timed Practice: Finishing each LSAT question within the 35 minutes allotted (or within the extra time provided if you are granted an accommodation) is not easy. In fact, it is extremely challenging. I had an excellent student who told me that, in her opinion, one needed to take 50 timed practice exams to fully be ready for the LSAT. That may be a bit excessive, but the truth is that most LSAT Prep students do far less training under timed conditions than they should. In my ScoreItUp “triple” courses, students do nine (9) full-length, proctored and timed “live stream” exams. That is far more than any other company offers, and students routinely tell me how beneficial it is. But even that is not enough. It is important to do lots of timed testing on your own, as well as in class, if you want to reach your potential on the LSAT.
5. Over Categorization: This one is similar to Item 3. I sometimes see students try to memorize a ton of things, including what “category” a particular question or question set belongs to. If you find that helpful, that’s fine. But be aware that it is not necessary, and it often creates a false sense of security. Memorizing is not what is key on the LSAT. It is about comprehension and the ability to apply what you have learned. The writers of the LSAT are notorious for using different logic concepts in different questions. The key is a clear and thorough understanding of the underlying logic and legal reasoning concepts, and then seeing how that plays out in a wide variety of test questions. Remember that you are studying for the LSAT, and not engaging in the “memorization and regurgitation” process that is common in taking college exams.
Questions? Please email me at email@example.com. I hope you find this helpful, and good luck!