Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tips for the LSAT

The LSAT, or Law School Aptitude Test is exactly that - an aptitude test. You don't need to know anything about the law at all to take it. It is what you take before you've ever set foot in a law class. It is supposed to test reading comprehension, problem solving, and logic.

The LSAT is what got me to go to law school, and I don't mean that in the ordinary sense (which is that to get into law school, you need to take the LSAT and get a good score and also need a good undergrad GPA). I mean that I was in a bookstore one day, browsing (as I often did back when I had time to browse), and I came across a book about studying for the LSAT. I decided to flip it open and take a look, curious as to what it was about. I saw several sample questions. I did them right there (they were mutliple choice) and discovered that they were breathtakingly, almost trivially easy. "Hey, I could do this," was my next thought. So I bought the book (which included a lot of sample questions and a few sample tests) and brought it home.

At the time, I was recently laid off (or about to be, I forget) so I was collecting unemployment and looking for another job. Thus, I had a bit of time on my hands. Which I mostly wasted. But I did spend a few weeks reading through that book and studying for the LSAT. Now, as I indicated above, there is no knowledge you need to bring with you to the exam - every bit of information needed to answer each question is supplied with each question. But what you DO need to know is the format and nature of the test itself. Because it is timed. And the time is very short. You get something like just over one minute to answer each question. Probably most people of reasonably good intelligence could get every single answer correct if given enough time to think about it. But you really aren't given that much time to think about it.

At the time I took the test, I think there were five sections, two of which were the same sort of question, making four different classes of questions. I found one section hard in the sense that the time was not quite enough for me to get through all of the questions. I called this the "puzzle" section - the questions were such things like you have ten people standing in line, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J and then it gives a few more bits of information and then you answer several questions about it - with each question supplying just enough additional information that you could figure out the order they were in. I could figure that out, it was just that I had to write stuff down, draw it out, and with only one minute to do it in, time runs out fast. All of the other sections were a breeze - I'd finish with plenty of time to spare.

(One other note - the exam takes all day - my dad when he took the LSAT said his score was hurt by having to go use the restroom during the exam and eating up time. I planned on this happening - and just made sure to go during one of the sections where I had time to spare - after I was done with it, of course).

Thus, the only studying you need to do is of sample questions to figure out the types of questions - and be used to them and figure out your own best strategy for answering them quickly. Just be sure to get a selection of sample questions that is relatively new. They change the sorts of questions they ask over time. In fact, they change them during each exam - you take six sections instead of five, with the sixth being an "experimental" set of questions from one section that don't actually count. But you don't know which section that will be. When I took the exam, the first section was a really nasty puzzler section with questions I had never seen the like of before and it was not a good start to the exam. Then my last section turned out also to be a puzzler, much easier, and so I figured out that the first one was the experimental section that did not count.

Really, there's nothing more to this test than getting used to the sort of questions asked and understanding the directions so that you don't have to waste time on the exam figuring that stuff out. That's it. Do a bunch of sample questions, time yourself while doing them, figure out which areas are a time crunch, and focus your efforts there.

I spent about two or three weeks "studying" for this exam by doing sample questions in sample tests. Then I took it and got a pretty decent score, went to law school, and the rest is history. Oh, though I ended up finding a new job just after I took the exam (and before I even got my results). But this did not stop me from going to school anyway - I just went at night.

Soon I'll put my own thoughts and advice up about the MBE, every lawyer's favorite multiple choice exam.

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