So, how do you get started preparing for the LSAT?

The good news about the LSAT is it can be prepared for. It can be prepared for effectively and scores can be increased significantly. The catch is that it takes time and effort, hard work and analysis. It might even take money, and it certainly takes resilience. Michael Jor­dan said it best “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”

Here is a quick pre-LSAT training camp plan:

Tips from an Expert Tutor

The question I am asked the most often after revealing that I’m a professional standardized test tutor is, “How should I study for Test X?” The reply is always invariably a petition for more information such as the materials being used, past testing history, study habits, and anticipated testing schedule, all of which is just a baseline amount of information that I would then use to offer the most basic and topical plan of action. The reason for such a skeletal plan is because of a very simple reason:  every student’s needs are different and if I haven’t spent any time observing a student’s habits and logical process then I can’t say what he or she needs. The effectiveness of tutoring lies in the customization and personalized guidance. A large part of a tutor’s job is identifying where in the process of answering a question, between reading it to choosing the correct answer, is there a disconnect.  The tutor then formulates a way for that particular student to most effectively bridge that gap. With that said, here are three of the most common issues many of my students face across different tests have.

 

1.            Lacking the fundamental knowledge base that is being tested.

2.            Having difficulty recognizing the topics being tested by the questions.

3.            Executing a strategy for specific question types consistently.

 

The first issue is usually the easiest to diagnose. This issue is most notable with math questions but can manifest with verbal questions (albeit less alarmingly and thus usually more ignored, unfortunately). My opinion on this issue, shared by the pedagogy of Bell Curves, is that regardless of how much test-taking savvy you have, if you don’t know the base content (e.g. geometry formulas, grammar rules, argument structure, etc.) there is absolutely no way to consistently answer questions correctly. The solution is pretty straightforward  – study the material until you understand the rules and their applications.

LSAC Data: Round Deux

In a recent post we chronicled some of the recent goings-on in the law school and legal arenas. There’s more up for discussion this week, as LSAC released more concrete data on LSAT testing numbers and applications to ABA law schools. Of most intrigue is the breakdown of application volume changes according to LSAT scores. Here’s the data released by LSAC:

LSAT Discussion: Is a Law Degree Worth It?

It’s been a rough few months for the legal industry. Law schools have taken a beating for their inflated costs and potentially inflated post-graduation employment figures. Additionally, the number of LSAT test-takers seems to have fallen significantly. Here’s a quick round-up of the latest big stories on law school:

Law School Jobs Data
The first lawsuit pitting law school graduates against law schools over the potentially fraudulent representation of post-graduate employment numbers has recently been concluded (not guilty, surprise-surprise), but the furor and fallout doesn’t seem likely to abate any time soon. More lawsuits seem imminent. However, it also seems the lawsuits and disillusionment have begun to spur change. Many law schools are modifying the graduate jobs data they supply, and The American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is taking steps to improve the data they release. While these are the first baby steps, the hope is that they will continue, providing greater transparency and insight for prospective law students. For more, check out this article.

Is the Law School Tuition Bubble About to Burst?
Early indications from U.S. News and World Report 2012-13 data indicate that law school tuition rates – which have been rising astronomically in the last decade – may finally be headed in the other direction, which is good news for aspiring lawyers. Hopefully the trend continues, and leads to similar downturns for other graduate programs and undergraduate education. To read a thorough analysis of the latest information, click here.

To see the numbers directly from USNWR, click here.

 

“Legal diplomas are apparently losing luster.”
This is the first line of a recent  New York Times article on law schools. Part of the evidence presented in the article was a precipitous drop in LSAT administrations. We found this odd, so we checked out the data ourselves. Here’s a snapshot of official numbers from LSATs given over the last 25 years that led the Times to speculate that “The decline reflects a spreading view that the legal market in the United States is in terrible shape”:

Upon first glance, the decrease in LSAT administrations from 2010 to 2012 is pretty shocking. What is questionable, however, is the assertion that the legal profession has somehow become less attractive. That assertion requires an assumption that there is a direct correlation between LSAT administration numbers and the attractiveness or health of the law profession. We could spend days (and many thousands of words) deconstructing this one fallacy…but we won’t. I think you get the picture. Of more interest to us is interpreting these statistics.

Our contention is that while the LSAT numbers are down, this doesn’t say the law degree is any less valuable. In fact, given the drop, it may be even more valuable. Here’s why:

A more extensive look at the table reveals the current numbers might have been inflated in the first place. Notice the incongruous jump in administrations from 2001-2003: 33.4%!

Notice as well the relatively sizable jump from 2008 to 2010 of nearly 20% that immediately preceded the latest decline. Between those two increases alone you’re looking at over a 50% jump in test administrations from the 2000 numbers. Do you know what both of those two periods had in common? That’s right, relatively significant economic recessions.

Going back farther, one sees a similar jump from 1988-91, after, you guessed it, another recession (from the famed “Black Monday” of 1987). But these increases gradually came back down over the next decade. The inflated numbers spawned by the downturn of the early 2000′s didn’t have a real chance to tick back down (as they did after the 1987 recession) because we bumped right into another one a few years later. Consequently, the preposterously inflated LSAT administration numbers of the early 2000′s recession were further bloated by the late 2000′s recession increase. If anything, it seems like the law industry has a realistic normal rate of around 100,000 LSAT administrations per year for the last two-plus decades, which recessions periodically inflate. The most recent data seems to indicate that we’re simply going back to that norm, which means a normal valuation of the law degree.

 

What Does This Mean to You?

If you’re considering a career in law it would be smart to start thinking like a LSAT test-taker (and probably a lawyer) and looking for the assumptions in arguments you find in articles published about this trend.  It would also be smart to start considering your application plan, including LSAT test prep.

 

LSAT Insight: General Pacing Strategy

If you were trying to score 100% on your typical high school or college exam, you’d need to do two things: 1) answer all of the questions, and 2) answer all of those questions correctly. The logic of that is not lost on most people. Unfortunately, many people preparing to take the LSAT walk into that test with similar logic, often to disastrous results.

Let’s be clear about something: the LSAT is not your run-of-the-mill school test. It relies on a whole host of different paradigms by which the game needs to be played. Chief among those paradigms is how one goes about achieving the score one wants. And if we apply the logic of doing well on school tests to the LSAT, we’ll be doing ourselves and our score a disservice.

Often, the key to doing better on the LSAT does not mean doing more questions. It means doing fewer. One thing should be clarified here before we move on: what we talk about when we talk about “doing questions” (yes, that’s a Raymond Carver allusion) is time invested on questions. It does not speak to entering an answer for every question (which you should ALWAYS do). Often, spending more time on fewer questions results in a higher total number of raw score points, which means a higher scaled score.

Let’s take a look at a couple hypothetical test-takers, and talk about why we might observe what we do.

Study Tips: Brain Space

Image by Zillafag

In this installment of our new (and ongoing) series of study tips, we bring more cognitive neuroscience (Ooooh! SAT vocabulary makes everything sound big and fancy, but cognitive neuroscience simply means the study of how we think) to bear with distributed learning.

Study Tips: Test yourself!

In this edition of our ongoing study tips, we introduce you to the testing effect, another handy (and scientifically proven, read about a study here) method for improving your study habits and information retention.

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