The LSAT is undeniably a difficult test. While some of the concepts are straightforward, many are anything but. A natural, though unproductive, reaction when faced with the challenge of learning complicated material is to avoid the challenge. Often, students using self-study will push the difficult material to the end of their preparation, and then try to cram just before the test. While understandable, this strategy is thoroughly self-defeating. Instead, as you prepare for the LSAT in 2014, pick a study strategy that will let you benefit the most from your effort.
A successful study practice is distributed, meaning you spread your study across across multiple sessions over time. It is well established that distributed study better promotes long-term retention of information than cramming, also referred to as a "massed" study practice. When you give yourself a broader time frame for study, you also give yourself the chance to take advantage of what is referred to as the "spacing" and "testing" effects.
The term "spacing effect" refers to "the observation that a repetition (e.g., studying the material a second time) is more effective when the two presentations are spaced apart rather than consecutive in time." The term "testing effect" refers to "the phenomenon of better retention of the material when the individual has practiced retrieving the information from memory, relative to merely reading the information. In other words, being tested on the material is a potent way to enhance one’s retention of the material."(Source)
The benefit of a distributed study practice is even more evident for a test such as the LSAT, which is not about rote memorization. Instead, it is about applying abstract concepts and techniques in various contexts. As my colleague Dave Killoran once wrote, to mentally absorb these ideas and apply them seamlessly, your mind needs to place the elements subconsciously, and situate them properly for instant recall. That's why starting your study early and building in breaks from your study is extremely beneficial for your mental, as well as your psychological, preparation.
The best approach is a combination of both distributed and massed study. When you first encounter a concept, e.g., Formal Logic, keep hammering at it until you feel you have a solid, foundational understanding of it. You can do this by reading the introductory material in our LSAT Bible Trilogy and then completing the accompanying drills and exercises.
Then, over time, reap the benefit of the spacing and testing effects of distributed study by taking practice tests, reviewing your test performance, and returning to the materials to reinforce those concepts the practice tests expose as remaining areas of weakness. By using this approach, you can be confident you've done everything possible to crush the LSAT.