With the help of Steve’s coaching Jared increased his original LSAT score by 20+ points.
When I first began my LSAT quest I was, like many law school hopefuls, overwhelmed with the immense quantity of LSAT prep books. I assumed from the beginning that not all LSAT prep materials were created equally—but with each prep company boasting insane promises and drastic score-improvement-testimonials on their covers (oh, how I would have analyzed these claims if my pre-LSAT logic skills would have been what they are now), choosing prep material was a stormy sea to navigate.
I talked to the book salesman (he seemed credible), and he recommended the Kaplan LSAT book (“It does guarantee higher scores. Any book with that kind of guarantee must be worth the investment,” he said), and I walked home thinking that this exam couldn’t be so bad, that Kaplan would unlock the secrets of the exam, that all it would take was this book and a few practice exams before I’d be ready to slay the real thing.
I’ve grown up a lot since then.
Kaplan bolstered my confidence to such an insane degree that I couldn’t help but feel like the difficulty of the LSAT was overly exaggerated. For assumption questions, “you simply have to find the missing link,” logic games are merely “a matter of following rules,” using grids with Xs and checkmarks is “the best way to diagram a matching game,” reading comprehension is easy “because the answers are all in the passage.”
Words like simple, simply, easy, and the like permeated the prep book, and I felt my confidence inflate every time I read them. I never took a cold test because I wasn’t interested in a score that reflected total unfamiliarity with the LSAT. I finished working through my Kaplan book at the end of June, picked up the most recent prep-test I could find early July, set aside a Saturday morning and prepared to annihilate the LSAT.
I scored a 152. Confession: I cheated. Lots. I gave myself extra time, looked at the answers when I had narrowed my choices down to two, bubbling in the right one saying, “I would have chosen that answer anyway.” I actually gave up during the second LG. I stopped my timer and walked out of my room utterly defeated. I came back to finish it, scoring 9/23 on the section. I’d put my actual performance in the low 140s (when I went back to it for the sake of comparison, I couldn’t remember how many questions I’d cheated on, but I know it was a lot. I flipped through my Kaplan book, wondering how I could have done so poorly despite my diligent studying.
At that point, I almost gave up on the LSAT completely. Then I found LSAT Blog (no, Steve doesn’t pay us to write these remarks, nor does he request that we shamelessly promote him as a tutor/free advice giver.) I read every article, every prep book review and made a list of the materials I would need. I cleared my schedule, preparing to start over from square one.
Fact: any prep book that attempts to inflate confidence by underestimating the difficulty of the LSAT probably isn’t worth your while. It’s best to have a realistic understanding of the LSAT, knowing that some of the questions are brutally difficult, and understanding that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the questions/individual question types. There is variance between question types (one Principle question might require a different approach than the next) and you must have an adaptable approach to them.
Tip about games for those overwhelmed by them: Don’t worry about inferences at the beginning. I remember wondering, how did they make this deduction? Don’t try to grasp all of the subtle nuances of the logic games section right away. First work on the fundamentals: the rules, the action, and the variables. Familiarity will reveal patterns and as you get more comfortable with how rules work, the ability to make deductions will increase.
After working through logic games, I took another prep-test and scored an almost legit 153 (no cheating except for an extra minute here or there). Performance on logic games increased, logical reasoning and reading comprehension were the same. Seeing as logical reasoning comprises half the test, I tackled it next. This section took a long time to figure out for me to ‘get,’ so I’ll detail some of the general mistakes I was making and how I fixed them:
Mistakes: under immense time pressure, I’d jump straight to the answers after reading the stimulus and question without taking time to actually analyze the stimulus. I’d analyze the stimulus through the answer choices, wasting valuable time in the process. I diagrammed too much, and I was extremely rigid in my techniques. I didn’t separate premise/evidence from conclusion, and I consistently took the whole stimulus at face value. My advice to you is basically to do the opposite of these things. Know what the stimulus is saying before you look at the answer choices, only diagram when absolutely necessary, adapt your approach accordingly, etc.
Even so, my performance on logical reasoning improved to -5 to -7—up from the -11 before I’d started. My scores at this point (around mid-September) were consistently in the mid-150s. I stopped working on logical reasoning after reading somewhere that every LSAT taker has a ceiling, and it’s around 10 points higher than your diagnostic score. When progress seems to halt, you’ve hit yours.
I emailed Steve about this, telling him my target score. I’ll sum up the conversation like this: you get out of the LSAT what you put into it. Diligence and a high level of commitment are the keys to success on the LSAT. Steve advised me to look at ALL of the logical reasoning questions I’d gotten wrong and to analyze the ‘why’ behind each wrong/right answer choice. I did this for every wrong answer I’d gotten in the logical reasoning section, looking for patterns, and identifying areas of weakness: Assumption, Principle, and Flaw questions were mine. Know yours and drill them. My scores skyrocketed up to the high 160s and into the hallowed realm of the coveted 170+ after this conversation with no cheating (I’d leave the answer sheets at home and write at the library), no extra time, etc.
I enlisted Steve as a tutor, and together we worked on my logical reasoning problem areas. Steve helped me to finally realize the difference between Must Be True and Most Strongly Supported questions, how to approach a Sufficient Assumption vs. a Necessary Assumption, etc. That was time well invested.
The week leading up to the December LSAT was pretty rough. I had a migraine on Wednesday and was pretty delirious for most of the next day. I was exhausted on Friday, and was pretty nervous about how my health would impact my performance. But nothing was going to stop me from writing that exam, nothing. I was extremely nervous during the first half of the LSAT (not to mention exhausted from being sick during the week), but came back after the break and vandalized some stained glass windows and absolutely crushed the last LR section. I can’t say the same for my writing sample though, but maybe I’m just being too hard on myself.
I’m pleased to say that I scored a 164—that’s lower than my average on my last batch of practice exams, but somewhere between 20-24 points higher than my first practice LSAT (it’s hard to know exactly what my score would have been on my first practice LSAT with the cheating and dramatic leaving).
So here I am, contemplating a re-write, knowing full well that I could have performed better. And yet, as I write this diary, I can’t help feeling entirely satisfied with the knowledge that the work I put into the LSAT actually paid off.