Fingers crossed, I hope to write the LSAT this June. Sarah gave some great advice on getting started and what to consider when preparing. She also mentioned prep courses, an option that many students take, especially if they feel like they need the extra boost of self control in a classroom environment. Prep classes are something I’m currently looking into and it’s a pretty complicated process. There are tons of things you need to consider. Not only are they expensive, they also require a lot of time. I’ve been looking into this for the last few weeks and thought I’d share what I’ve found.
Time: How much time do you have to dedicate for preparing for the LSAT? Considering the content and depth of the exam, it’s not something you can prepare for the night before. If you’re writing in June, it’s usually advised that you spend all of May preparing on a daily basis. Also, to start earlier would definitely help if you wanted to work or take summer school, but again it’s a huge thing to take on so investing a great deal of your time should be thought about. With time comes the number of hours, which prep courses vary from a hundred hours (class everyday) to thirty hours (class three times a week). Most of the prep advice I’ve gotten is that the bulk of it is doing practice past tests and really looking how you approach questions or why you got a question wrong. This of course requires a lot of self-work, so a hundred-hour course may not be the best bet here. Many companies offer “crash courses” that you can take over a weekend as an introductory.
Also, some companies offer (for a price) smaller group learning. Before you put down a downpayment, try to find out how big your class size will be. When there’s an offer for a smaller group, I can’t help but wonder how big the class size for the regular course will be. If you find it hard to concentrate with a group of 30+ definitely inquire about class sizes. It’s your money, time and score so don’t be shy to ask a few questions.
Think of LSAT prep as a job. Personally, anything over 40 hours of course hours a week would be too much for me (legitimately the hours you’d work full-time) and I’d want my own study hours as well. Additionally, many have explained feeling additional pressures after taking courses five-seven days a week full-time. It’s not just a lot of money but it’s a lot of time that’s being invested, and the less pressure and over complications you can have before writing a big test like the LSAT (I imagine) the better!
Material: Each prep company provides you with a number of material, everything from homework booklets, their own strategies and guides and even online material. The LSAT sounds pretty scary (and complicated for a test that has only a few sections!) so prep courses can be a great way to begin navigating. A lot of online material (such as instructional videos) can also be helpful if you find yourself stuck after class. You can also find a lot of free instructional videos offered online. Remember though, this is a pencil and paper exam, so get as comfortable as you can practising this way. Watching twenty videos will not have you as prepared as practising twenty games.
One important thing to look out for here is to make sure you get as many real LSAT questions (instead of questions similar to the LSAT) as possible. This is especially important to consider, it can be dangerous to practice with questions that have never existed for the LSAT, and potentially cause panic with the real exams, which do change from year to year with difficulty.
Like I mentioned above, a lot of the advice I’ve received involves focusing on how and where you may have went wrong on a question, understanding why you may have missed the answer and correcting it. This process becomes completely void if it’s not with a real LSAT question.
Also, when considering which company to go with, look for how many proctored test sessions they offer. A huge part of my decision in going with a prep course is because I want to encounter as many of these practice LSAT taking scenarios as possible, one with a room full of people versus alone in the library or my room. These practice scenarios can help with test day anxiety and really change how comfortable you feel, especially if it’s your first time writing.
The Company: How do you decide what to go with? The price? The reviews, your friends, the forums? There’s no way easy way to decide. But, one important tip I’ve picked up: the course may not matter as much as your instructor will! Does your very reliable friend have the name of her awesome instructor from ______ who helped her? Get it! In many situations, the company may be fine but you may not find your instructor as exciting as you expected. If possible, see if you can get information about the instructor who will be teaching your course. Also, make sure your instructor has officially scored an impressive score on the actual LSAT. Many companies may hire folks who have “scored” within the 95th percentile on a practice test. Ideally, you want someone who had actually wrote the LSAT (and someone who will understand all the nerves and panic that accompanies that).
Cost: They do cost a lot. There are always discounts available which you can find through different groups at UofT who are affiliated with particular companies. If you can’t find any, contact the company as soon as possible and ask about possible deals and discounts. UofT offers free prep lessons if you qualify for the Canada Student Grant for Persons from Low Income Families.
Ultimately, everyone learns at a different pace and be sure to choose what you feel the most comfortable with. Best of luck!
LSAT prep course takers of the past, leave your tips below!