- Lauren Watson
My Experience Taking the LSAT & What I Wish I Did Differently
Speaking to other Crim students, law school does seem like a career path that many students are interested in taking and with that comes the LSAT. The Law School Admission Test, also known as the LSAT, is something that you must complete if you are wanting to apply to law schools. It is about a two-and-a-half-hour-long test that is multiple choice and a mixture between reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning questions. If there is one thing you find out from reading about the LSAT, it is that it is hard. It requires a different form of thinking and isn’t something you can just study for the night before.
I took the LSAT last summer (2021) and I am not going to lie, it was a stressful experience. Before deciding to take the LSAT I had no idea what to expect. There is so much information out there about it but the most helpful stuff that I read were people's personal experiences because it felt more authentic and realistic and was a great way to help prepare myself on what to expect. What I will say is that everyone studies and learns differently and what works for one may not work for another and it is always important to find out what works for you. With that being said, here is my experience taking the LSAT, along with some tips and tricks that I wish I knew beforehand!
Preparing for the test:
To begin, there is an abundance of different courses and online tools that you can use to prepare and study for the LSAT. A lot of people recommend different things and at times you can feel almost pressured into paying lots of money for all these different courses in fear that you won’t prepare enough. I personally did not purchase any online courses. However, I have seen many people talk positively of courses such as the Princeton Review, and if you have the means to pay for courses then I would recommend checking it out! However, the online studying platform that I did use was Khan Academy. What was great about it was that it was free and that it allowed me to personalize my studying plan for what worked best for me. I would encourage everyone to check it out and give it a try (especially because it is free)! Another online tool that I used was the LSAT Prep that is available to you once you have created a LSAC account, which is the organization that administers the LSAT. It gave me access to an array of past tests and provided me with a clearer idea of what to expect and study for.
Along with online courses/tools, there are people who get tutors and outside help with studying. I personally did not purchase a tutor; however, I have also heard very positive responses from people who did get one and once again I also recommend checking out different avenues to see what works best! Lastly, something else that you will most likely see online is LSAT prep books. I was gifted some for my 18th birthday (how exciting, I know). However, I didn’t use them as much as I thought I would. While they did provide me with some good information for the most part, I felt like I could receive the same/similar stuff on Khan Academy. Additionally, the LSAT is a virtual test (there is in person available for certain circumstances), and I did not feel like I was accurately preparing myself by practicing on paper. All in all, when it comes to preparation and purchasing/not purchasing online courses/tools, I felt that I was perfectly fine doing what I did, and I do not wish that I had done something differently.
If there is one thing that I want someone to know before studying for the test it is to START EARLY! I started studying at the beginning of May and my test was in August and even though I had about three and a half months to study, there is still part of me that started to slowly work on things even a few months before that. My recommendation would be to start six months prior to your test, and just get an idea of what you are getting yourself into. I wish I had started practicing a little bit here and there during the five to six months before my test and then gotten more serious with it at the three to four month benchmark. I think this would have allowed me to be less stressed and really understand what I knew and didn’t know. I will note that three and a half months wasn’t not enough but if I was given the option, I would have done it slightly differently.
It took me a few weeks to find what type of studying worked best for me and gave me the best results. I had to change my daily routine around quite a bit so that I was able to study the most effectively. For me this meant that I changed my work availability in the summer from five days down to two to three days and made sure that I had a better sleep schedule. This allowed me to be focused when I was studying and create good habits leading up to my test. The first few weeks I was just going through different questions and seeing what I knew how to do and what I didn’t. I took an initial test right at the beginning of my studying to get a good understanding of what it was like. I would recommend everyone to do an initial test at the beginning of your studying because then that gives you a benchmark of where to go from. After about three weeks I did another practice test and then after that I was doing tests more regularly. I found that my biggest enemy was time, and that is why I did as many practice tests as I could, and to train my brain to think fast. After every test I would go over the questions that I got wrong so that I really understood where I went wrong and how to fix it for next time. I would also recommend everyone to do this because changing the way you think is (in my opinion) one of the hardest parts about this test.
Moreover, another recommendation I have when it comes to studying is to study in the place where you are going to take your test. This allows you to get comfortable with the space you are in and might show you reasons why you should pick a different spot or things to change. It will also make you less nervous on test day, as it slightly tricks your brain into thinking it’s just another study day and you might feel slightly less nervous (I like to think this is true at least). I also usually allocated about on average five to six hours a day (sometimes more, sometimes less) to studying. However, taking breaks is crucial! Your brain and eyes get so tired that over-studying can be more damaging to your improvement and confidence. I made sure that I took time each day to do something for myself that was able to take my mind away from studying. This helped me recharge and destress, and it is a recommendation that I would give to everyone!
Something else that I did in preparation for my test and that everyone I have spoken to recommends as well is to get familiar with what you can/cannot have on test day. The rules are strict on what items you are allowed in the room with you, and I would recommend everyone to check that out on the LSAC website so that you are not panicking the day of when you can’t have your lucky water bottle with you. Additionally, the LSAT was online, and it is imperative that you check the computer that you are using BEFORE test day to ensure that you have the appropriate software and enough storage space. I did this multiple times leading up to my test to ensure that I was ready to go!
Lastly, another thing that I had to do while preparing for the LSAT was create boundaries with my friends and myself. I was studying during the summer, and it was at times (especially at the beginning) very hard to say no to plans to go to the beach or go out at night. Not that anything is wrong with these things, but it all comes in moderation. Saying no to plans at the beginning is hard but it pays off in the end when you feel confident in your decisions and study habits. The last thing you would ever want is to regret going out and not studying. Having those conversations with yourself is important. However, like I previously stated it is also very important that you allow yourself time to relax and recharge. Therefore, creating a healthy balance is imperative to successful studying.
Day of the test:
Leading up to test day I was extremely stressed and nervous. I kept reminding myself that my score does not determine my intelligence and what I can do but I will be honest I was terrified. However, it’s also good to know that these emotions are normal! EVERYONE is nervous leading up to test day and that is okay.
On test day I made sure to get in a good meal before my test and drink lots of liquids, but not too much and not too close to my start time. As I will get into later, that ended up being a slight issue for me. If it’s possible, I would also recommend being completely alone. I kicked my parents, brother, and even my dog, out on test day and told them all to come back at a certain time. This ensured that I wouldn’t be distracted with noises or animals trying to scratch at my door.
When you start your test, it goes through a bunch of system checks. Unfortunately, for some reason my computer wasn’t loading properly, and I was stuck on a window that read ‘do not refresh or you will lose your exam’. I was staring at this window for a good 10 minutes, absolutely freaking out. I was able to get in touch with tech support and what was supposed to take 20 minutes to set up the test ended up taking me 1 hour and 15 minutes. Granted, I was stressed. Moreover, you are given a ten min break in the middle, and I had planned my bathroom break during that time but because my setup took so long, I was forced to sit uncomfortably during the first two sections of the test, which was not ideal.
This leads me to another recommendation; whatever happens, happens. I got so worked up about my tech issues that when I was finally put through to the test it took a few minutes to get fully concentrated and not in my head. Take a few deep breaths and try to only focus on the things that you can control because what I have learned is that issues will happen (even if you did everything to make sure that they don’t).
Being completely honest, the test felt like a blur and before I knew it, I was done. When I finished, I was overwhelmed with emotion from a very stressful day (and 3 months). I wish I could tell you that it was all worth it and I scored a perfect score. However, to see your score, you need to also write the LSAT Writing test, which is an unscored 30 minute written portion. I kept putting it off and I still to this day haven’t done it. I say it’s because I don’t have enough time, but I also think that part of me doesn’t want to find out that I might have to retake it. Although, something that I have learned throughout this process and talking to other people is that retaking the test is very common! Likewise, I know I have an upper hand because I now know exactly what to expect.
All in all, if you are planning on taking the LSAT make sure you give yourself lots of time, find what studying strategy/courses/environment works best for you, take lots of practice tests, and remember that a score does not define you and you can always retake it. I hope this helped you and maybe I’ll be able to tell you about my experience taking the LSAT Writing test very soon!
Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/prep/lsat
LSAC Website: https://www.lsac.org/lsat/about
LSAC Prep Tests: https://www.lsac.org/lsat/prepare/official-lsat-sample-tests