LSAT For Dummies, 2nd Edition (2014)
Part VII. The Part of Tens
For a list of ten habits of highly successful LSAT-takers, check out www.dummies.com/extras/lsat.
In this part…
· Realize you can study for the LSAT and significantly improve your score.
· Distinguish what's true about how law school admissions committees evaluate your LSAT score.
· Discover intriguing areas of law to pursue after you receive your law degree.
· Notice that you can practice law in a variety of venues, including law offices, corporations, and government agencies.
Chapter 21. Ten (Plus One) Myths about the LSAT
In This Chapter
Debunking common misconceptions about the LSAT
Preparing for the LSAT
Considering test-taking strategies
People who go to law school tend to be particular and precise about how they do things. They study law school rankings, fret about their grades and LSAT scores, and generally grasp at any apparent “truth” that helps them tackle the daunting process of launching a legal career. That's why myths about the LSAT abound. Nervous would-be law students looking for certainty in an uncertain endeavor try to come up with principles that can guarantee them the results they want. Unfortunately, life isn't certain, and the LSAT is no exception. This chapter contains some of the most common beliefs and explanations of why they aren't true.
The LSAT Doesn't Have Anything to Do with Law School
People may tell you that the LSAT and law school are unrelated, and on its face it does seem that analytical reasoning and the other sections don't pertain to law school. But think about it; the LSAT-writers have to concoct a test that in about four hours can spot the people who are likely to succeed in legal education. So they've boiled down law school to its essence, which is the ability to read carefully and apply rules. They realize that what you read in law school and later as a lawyer is often boring, arcane, likely to put you to sleep, and extremely complicated, so they've made a test that spots people with the ability to overcome these obstacles. They realize that law students and lawyers have to apply themselves steadily to particular tasks for hours on end, so they've made the LSAT a test of endurance. The LSAT is quite impressive when you think of it that way. And the test works — high LSAT scores do in fact match up with good performance in law school. (Also, to the Law School Admission Council's [LSAC's] credit, it constantly works to improve the test and make it more accurate.)
You Can't Study for the LSAT
This book is all about studying for the LSAT. At the very least, getting familiar with the test's format before you sit down to take it for real is bound to make your experience easier; you don't have to waste time reading instructions. At best, studying can make a substantial difference in your score. Improving your performance on analytical reasoning problems is especially achievable because you don't likely deal with logical games much as a daily activity. Likewise, logical reasoning and reading comprehension questions get easier the more you expose yourself to them. Anyone can improve an LSAT score with strategic practice.
You Must Take a Prep Course to Do Well on the LSAT
Plenty of people ace the LSAT after studying on their own at home. You must be self-disciplined, but you can do it. If you think you need a class to make you accountable to regular practice or just enjoy company for your misery, you may find a test prep course helpful. Many people do see dramatic improvements in their scores after taking a prep course. When choosing a test prep course, do some due diligence. You don't have to spend a fortune. Affordable quality options are available, often through continuing education programs at colleges and community colleges.
If you do decide to study on your own, you can't get better practice materials than actual LSATs, sold as LSAT PrepTests by the LSAC. Try to work through at least two or three of those before you take the LSAT.
Some People Just Can't Do Analytical Reasoning Problems
Analytical reasoning problems may be scary and a little weird. They may freak you out the first time you see them, but you can figure out how to do them. They're actually the most teachable part of the LSAT. Studying for a few weeks before the test isn't likely to improve your reading speed, and it probably won't improve your vocabulary much, but it can definitely help your ability to work analytical reasoning problems.
Read Chapters 4, 5, and 6 of this book carefully. Work through the analytical reasoning sections and answer explanations in the practice tests in Chapters 15 through 20 and online, and then practice some more by working on official LSAT PrepTests. The more analytical reasoning problems you work, the more manageable they become.
You Can Spot Difficult Questions Before You Work Them
Digesting the material in any LSAT question takes a certain amount of time; that's especially true in the case of the longer questions in the reading comprehension and analytical reasoning sections. A problem that may look incredibly difficult at first glance may turn out to be incredibly easy after you start on it. You'll likely need to skip around while you work the test, but don't waste too much precious time on the ultimately fruitless task of rating the questions by difficulty.
After you delve into a question, though, if you discover that it's too difficult, don't fret; give it your best guess and move on. Mark it in your test booklet and go back to it if you have time at the end of the section. See Chapter 2 for a discussion of guessing and test-taking strategies.
B Is the Best Letter to Guess
The sad fact is that you can't predict what letter is the most prevalent on any given test section. You can test this proposition by reading the answers to several LSATs. The most common letter changes with dismaying regularity, though it does seem that Choices (A) and (E) are slightly less common than the middle letters. What is true about completely random guessing is that you maximize your chances of getting some answers right if you stick to the same letter; statistically you should get about 20 percent right that way. Twenty percent is nothing to strive for, but it's better than nothing. A better strategy is to guess based on at least some knowledge; you stand a better chance of correctly getting one out of three than one out of five.
No One Reads the Writing Sample
Would you stake your future law school career on that belief? We didn't think so. Assume that everyone on every admissions committee is reading every single LSAT essay. They're not, but what if your essay happens to be the one they do pull out of the pile for scrutiny? You'd better be prepared. What'll it hurt, anyway? You have to spend 35 minutes of your LSAT experience writing the thing, so you may as well do a good job. You'll have to write essays for the next several years as a law student, and then perhaps as a lawyer. You may as well put a little effort into discovering a quick method of cranking out a decent document in limited time.
Finishing a Section Is Better Than Concentrating on Two-Thirds of It
This notion isn't necessarily true. Take the analytical reasoning section. You have four problems per section, each with five, six, or seven questions. If you take your time and work the three problems with the most questions and get most of them right, you're looking at about 75 percent correct — a good score even if you completely ignore one problem. If instead you force yourself to tackle every problem and you rush and miss about half (a typical result), then even though you've finished the section, you answer only about 50 percent correct.
A good general rule to follow while practicing is to first try to answer all the questions within the given time. If you score less than 60 percent (or so) correct on a section, you may want to slow down and increase the percentage you get right. You'll likely find, however, that with practice, you'll have time to give all questions in a section your full attention.
A Great LSAT Score Guarantees Admission to a Great Law School
Alas, a near perfect LSAT score is pretty much a requirement for admission to a top law school, but it doesn't guarantee admission. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and their compatriots at the top of the law school pyramid see so many applicants with scores of 180 that they can afford to toss some in the trash. A 170 won't impress them; they see hundreds of those. What is true, though, is that you need that high score for them even to begin to consider you.
This is true of all tiers of law schools; you must achieve a certain score level or they just plain won't let you in. Some schools even use computers to weed out unacceptable applicants, doing some computations that combine LSAT score with GPA to see whom the admissions committee will consider. The moral of this story? Aim high; it never hurts to score higher than you need.
The LSAT Is Used Only for Admissions Purposes
Actually, if your LSAT score is attractive enough to a law school, the admissions folks may reward you with all sorts of financial perks. For instance, if your LSAT score is off the charts, don't be surprised if you get a notice from a law school allowing you to waive the application fee. In addition, schools may consider your LSAT score when granting merit-based scholarships, which could pay more than 70 percent of your tuition!
The lesson here is that even if you're happy with your score, improving it a little may pay off big time in the end.
Your Score Won't Improve if You Retake the LSAT
You may have a bad day the first time you take the LSAT. Maybe you stayed out too late the night before or perhaps the guy sitting next to you in the classroom had terrible body odor and it distracted you. Or maybe you didn't bother to study the first time around, so you didn't produce a score that represents your true abilities. Plenty of factors can change that can result in a higher score. If you think you can do better given a second chance, look on your first attempt as a practice run and go back and give it another shot.
But be sure that you prepare well for the second test. The LSAT has a high retest predictability, which means that without a significant change in your circumstances (you didn't properly prepare or you were feeling ill the first time you took it), chances are your score will be very similar to your first try. However, adequate preparation can significantly increase your score. Make sure that you get serious about studying and that you chart your progress on real, timed, practice LSATs published by LSAC. That's the best indicator of your score on test day.
Usually schools average your LSAT score, so for it to make a difference, your score needs to improve quite a lot. For instance, if you get a 145 the first time and a 155 the second time, your score would be averaged to a 150. But do your homework on this one. A few schools look at your latest or best score.