The LSAT is one of the most intimidating tests that a student can take. This is because the LSAT is unlike the other standardized tests that most students who have graduated college are familiar with. Unlike the SAT or even the GRE, the LSAT has a very particular set of questions that test a particular set of skills. Still, if you want to attend law school, taking the LSAT is in your future, so it's best to prepare.
What Is on the LSAT?
For most recent college graduates or for students who have been in the working world for a while, the LSAT is a test that is unlike any other that you have taken before in your career as a student. Unlike the GRE or the SAT which test general verbal ability and quantitative knowledge, the LSAT is unique. It is a skills-based exam that tests your logical reasoning, critical reading and analytical thinking skills. These are the skills that will be most important to you in law school and in your career.
The LSAT is divided into six separate sections. The first section is called Logical Reasoning, and it is worth approximately half of your score. This section tests your ability to understand and to evaluate complex arguments. The Reading Comprehension section is more complicated than Reading Comprehension sections that you have likely encountered before. Rather than simply requiring you to point out facts and main ideas, you will need to understand the purpose, structure and tone of the given passages.
The Logic Games section requires test takers to make a series of deductions about rules, conditions and other factors that test your ability to analyze and apply reason. There is also a wild card section, which is impossible to identify but is not scored. It contains questions that may be used in the future on the LSAT and is inserted to see how students fare. Finally, there is a writing sample; it is not the most critical piece but will likely be used to compare you to students with similar applications, so it's worth it to make yours stand out.
What's the Best Way to Study for the LSAT?
There are a number of ways to study and prep for the LSAT, depending on how prepared you are in certain subject areas. The best way to get a gauge on where you are and what you still need to work on is to take a practice test. A practice test can give you a sense of which areas of the test you are certain to do well on, and which areas are really going to give you trouble. Once you have that information, you can set about making your prep plan.
Experts say that you should plan to study for about four to six hours a week for three to four months leading up to the test date. The best thing that you can do to prepare yourself is to get a sense of the format of the questions, the format of the test and the kind of answers you can expect to see. This is where taking practice tests and reading over practice materials can truly help you to have a leg up. The ideal situation you want is to sit down to take the LSAT and have everything look very familiar.
What Are the Best LSAT Prep Courses?
Because the LSAT doesn't test you on any particular body of knowledge, virtually all of the questions are testing you on your ability to reason, to analyze, to apply logic and to identify arguments. These are the skills that a lawyer must have, and the test will let evaluators and admissions personnel see how adept you are at these things that are critical to your career. This is why your score is such a crucial piece of your law school application. Law schools need to see that you're capable of handling this coursework.
With that in mind, courses like the Princeton Review's LSAT prep course, LSAT Max Review, AlphaScore LSAT and Kaplan are designed to help you get familiar with the format of the test and to practice the kind of thinking that will be required of you on test day.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.