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The LSAT Mindset

An LSAT Unplugged subscriber Jacob conducted a lengthy interview with me about the strategies of top-scoring LSAT takers.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:


In your courses on the LSAT, I know you cover subjects about high scorer habits. Why is it so important to learn about high scorer habits, or about habits in general? 

Steve: Well, I find that people who do really well on the LSAT – people who are getting in the 170s – have something I call the “LSAT mindset.” Some people are born with it – they’re natural-born geniuses. Then you have other people who intentionally prepare for the LSAT and eventually acquire that kind of mindset. Myself? I would fall in the latter group. I wasn’t born this way. I used to be normal. I eventually developed these reasoning abilities through studying the LSAT.


I find that most people taking my course and reading my articles… most of them are not geniuses. Most of them are simply people who are smart. They have great aptitude, but they are still gaining new skills and information. So, developing that mindset is not only something that can help you with the LSAT, but also with life in general. We’re focused on the LSAT here, so we’re supposed to talk about that. That’s why I call it the LSAT mindset or the LSAT mentality.


People who score in the 170s, they tend to develop a similar approach to reading arguments, reading the passages and, of course, to attacking the games. That approach comes from being critical of arguments, being skeptical of them, not taking things at face value, considering alternative causes for any result and alternative explanations for any conclusions. It’s about really developing that attention to detail, not just looking at things in a general way and skipping over important modifiers or qualifying statements. You have to really get an appreciation for the nuances of what you’re reading. So, what I’m suggesting now is really applying more to reasoning and reading comprehension where you have a lot of language involved.


Then, with games, it’s about taking what they give you and not only applying it, but, at the same time, reading carefully and not reversing conditional statements, for example. Having this general approach (and you can gain it, of course, through doing lots and lots of the LSAT problems and reading anything critically that you encounter in real life) will mean you’re much better suited to attack any LSAT question you come across, whether it seems familiar at first or not. If you simply apply a technique that you learned from somebody else, you’re not going to be able to attack that as well when you’re faced with an unfamiliar problem on test day, and it may throw you off due to general test day stress and that sort of thing.


So, it’s really important to learn the habits of high scorers so that you can adopt them, rather than just simply knowing how to diagram this kind of rule when you come across it.

Will the habits of high scorers carry over to law school and help a person succeed in that environment? 

Steve: I absolutely believe that they would. I have a hard time seeing how they wouldn’t! I think that learning to read more critically and developing an appreciation for detail on what you read – I certainly believe that would carry over to law school. I haven’t been to law school myself, as I’ve said, but I did take a law school-style course in undergrad that even included the Socratic Method used by the professor.


We read a lot of Supreme Court cases, and they are complicated. They’re wordy. I mean, they’re written in a difficult, high level style. So, being able to dissect cases that you have to read in school and being able to appreciate the nuance of contracts is incredibly important. I think that’s one reason the LSAT is so big on trying to trick you with lots of little details and synonyms and things that might seem like synonyms, but actually aren’t. It’s because if you are a lawyer, and a client comes to you and gives you a contract to read over, and you don’t catch something really important in that contract, your client’s going to be in big trouble. You might be guilty of negligence for not seeing that detail in the contract. So, being able to read carefully is an incredibly important skill for a lawyer to have, and, of course, law school, to some extent, is training you to be a lawyer, so you would certainly apply those skills there as well.


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