This blog is brought to you by a special guest and current student, Marvin Dike.
First things first a little about myself, I am out of college and graduated in 2013, I’m 27 years old, I have no kids (to my knowledge), and I have a fantastic support system around me. I’m from Houston Texas, the greatest city in the world (go Astros). My undergrad GPA leaves a lot to be desired, so I know that if I want to get into a solid law school, I’ll have to crush my LSAT. I’m not trying to get into an Ivy League school or even a top 25 school. Realistically, a school in the top 50 range would be ideal for me.
I have been in contact with Dave Killoran on Twitter since January of 2017, asking him random questions about the LSAT, bouncing ideas off of him about my prep and patterns that I saw on many LSAT tests, and getting feedback from him. He has been integral to my understanding and my progress. I took PowerScore’s full in-person prep course from December 17, 2016 to February 2, 2017 and I loved it. The professor I had was amazing. I plan on taking the September LSAT in 2017, so I am still on my grind just like everyone else. Through our months of conversations I’ve given some constructive criticism of PowerScore, pointed out what I loved about the class, and what I do to improve. He felt that what I was sharing was valuable enough to be blogged about. So here I am.
Many of the things I’ve learned took me 2 months to fully grasp. Many sleepless nights, many days forgetting to eat, hours reading blogs and doing research, many missed questions and overlooked assumptions. Let my pain and agony be the shining light in your path.
I absolutely believe that this test is learnable and can be mastered.
Everyone has a different situation. Some have jobs, others are in school, or have kids. Hell, some people have jobs, kids, AND are in school. Even with obstacles that exist in everyday life, I absolutely believe there is a path for everyone to master this test. You just have to approach this right and be efficient with your time.
When I first walked into the PowerScore class, I knew NOTHING about the LSAT. Seriously, at the time I couldn’t even tell you what the acronym L.S.A.T. stood for (I’m sure I could have guessed what it stood for, but you get the idea). I didn’t know what the test even tested. For all I knew the test was just different variations of tick tack toe and cross word puzzles. I got a 147 on the diagnostic exam. Not good at all, I know. I didn’t put too much stock in that score, if anything it just meant that the only place I could go was up. As of now, June 2017, my high score is a 166 and my last 9 practice tests have hovered in the 161-166 range. Target score is a 170. I still have about 3 months to fully prepare for the September LSAT. For some, you may not need that high of a score to get into the school you want. Do your research and see what your chances are with your GPA and potential LSAT score.
My entire life I’ve loved looking for shortcuts. I was no stranger to hard work, but I would always try to find the easier route to do any and everything. Why get up to turn off the light when I could just throw my shoe at the wall switch? Why wait in line to get into the club when the back door is open? Why would I read the whole book when Spark Notes has all I need or I can just watch the movie about the book? I wouldn’t go the long route with ANYTHING until I knew for certain there were no loopholes, corners to cut or shortcuts to exploit.
Let me save you some time and trouble in regards to this LSAT prep. There are NO shortcuts, there are no loopholes, I’ve checked high and low, near and far. As you progress, there are definitely ways to find the right answer and eliminate wrong answers much more easily. But getting to that point has no car, no plane, hell, not even a bike. You have to walk or run, metaphorically speaking.
What I did was to go into the prep course with the assumption that I knew nothing, I went in with the mindset that I was there to learn and absorb as much as I could. I was there because I wanted to be there. I left my ego at the door and went in with the goal of maxing out my time there. I was trying to be a sponge, soaking up everything.
It is very risky to go into this prep with a fixed date for when you want to go to law school or take the LSAT. The test doesn’t care about your life plans, because it will expose your weaknesses if you aren’t prepared. Try to be open about when you will take the test, this leaves room for the proper chance to master the material and get your target score.
I want to break this down into 2 different stages of prep. The first stage is what you do while learning the foundations and core curriculum. Everything I say until noted is in regards to what you do while still learning the material, or still taking the class and learning what the test is actually testing. Second stage is what you do after you have finished the curriculum.
Get your mind and body in position to learn.
This is such an overlooked factor in this whole prep:
- Start eating healthier and drinking water. Junk food makes you lethargic and excess sugar gives you that insulin spike that makes you crash and is not conducive to maximum learning. Foods that will benefit your energy and thinking are ideal.
- Exercise. This test is a marathon, forcing you to be able to focus for an excessive amount of time. Exercise, even a 20 minute jog or bike ride everyday will be beneficial. Do yoga, lift weights, something. So many studies show that exercise improves your cognitive functioning and your focus. I lift weights and it helps with my mental endurance. I can’t even begin to tell you how much easier it was to sit in a chair and take a 4-plus hour test after I became more active.
- This has been harped on many times by Dave in his videos and in the books, but staying positive is key. You will get answers wrong that you SWORE you got right. You will see answer choices that you would bet your right arm are wrong that will turn out to be right. This will make you want to throw a brick through the LSAC building’s window, but you have to stay positive and not let that frustration get to you. You got knocked down and you will pick yourself back up. Getting those questions wrong and caring that you did can be used as fuel. You can let that frustration drive you to never get that question (or another question like it) wrong ever again.
- Sobriety. Minimize or stay away from alcohol entirely. Especially in the final 2 months of your prep.
- Be consistent with everything. Use the same brand of pencils the whole time, and find a manual sharpener that works for you. Don’t use mechanical pencils ever because you can’t use them in the real LSAT. A soldier doesn’t go into battle with weapons he’s not comfortable with. I am on my third sharpener because the first two were terrible. It takes a plethora of things to go right on test day for the test to go well, but only ONE thing to go wrong for the entire test to be a catastrophe.
- Understand that the people who make this test are brilliant. Brilliant isn’t even the word. Sometimes I will see such a wonderful question that just FEEDS on our everyday assumptions, making you a pawn to their schemes. Understanding this will allow you to give these test makers the respect they deserve and approach this accordingly.
- The LSAT matters more than your GPA in admissions. Let me say this again THE LSAT MATTERS MORE THAN YOUR GPA. It took you FOUR years or more to get that 2 digit number on your transcript, and it matters less than the 3 digit number you will get from ONE test. If this ONE test matters more than something you took 4 years to earn, don’t you think you should approach it with the magnitude that the test really has?
I paid attention during every class, asked questions and took notes. After every class, usually the next day because the class ended at 10pm, I would re-read the chapter that we went over in class and then do all the homework. I would also watch the virtual modules on the website for each lesson. These modules are long and some are more helpful than others, but I was willing to not leave a single stone unturned. I can’t sleep well or go into a test knowing there was something I could have done. I’m not okay with what-if’s, so I eliminate them. Some students can learn something after being taught just one time. For some lessons, I needed to read the chapter 3 or 4 times until I was truly comfortable. Also, if you are taking the in person class, DO NOT READ AHEAD BEFORE GOING TO CLASS.
Now when doing the homework and answering questions, you will surely come across questions you just don’t get. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is running to the answer and explanation too soon. You should give yourself a chance to get the answer right and figure it out (especially on Logical reasoning). Of course there will be times where you just don’t see the answer and you have to to look at the answer sheet, but don’t give in so quickly. If I truly cannot see the right answer, I will literally write down an explanation for why the 4 wrong answers I think are wrong, and the explanation of the one right answer I think is right. I literally write it down either at the bottom of the page or a fresh blank sheet of paper. If the stimulus is an argument, I will break down the argument. Premise is this, conclusion is that, context is this, question stem is that, blah, blah. After that, THEN, I go look at the answer, and explanations. This is where true learning happens because you can see if your reasoning is correct for the right and wrong answers. This method (along with many methods I will share) is T E D I O U S. But like I said earlier, there are no shortcuts.
With the LSAT there are two ways to get an answer right. You either eliminate the 4 wrong answers, or you simply pick the one right answer (or you have powers where you guess right every time but we are taking luck out of the equation).
Now if you get an answer wrong, you have to look at it as though you got the answer wrong twice. Because not only did you pick the wrong answer, you were wrong in eliminating the 4 wrong answers because one of those was correct. So you have to approach the question as though you missed it twice. Analyzing wrong answer choices is so crucial. One reason is because that answer could absolutely be the correct answer for different questions.
Pace yourselves and figure out what works for you. I only study when I’m in condition to study. If i have a headache or my mind is wandering, I do not study. Take a nap, grab some food, chill out, walk your dog, then get back at it when your batteries are recharged and you are able to put that work in. I personally enjoy this journey because it has more than solidified my desire to go to law school. I never actually feel like this is work, I enjoy arguments and logic, I enjoy putting myself in position to crack this LSAT code. It’s also good knowing that once I take the test I won’t have to take it ever again (assuming i get the score i want).
This paragraph probably could have been put at the top of the page in bold and all caps…I have no statistical evidence to back this up, this is from what I’ve gathered from my class, my studies, my conversations with Dave, and from what I have gathered with my own research, but I am fairly confident in what I’m about to say…If you got below a 150 on the diagnostic score and your goal is to score a 165 or higher on the LSAT, it is highly unlikely that you will get that 165 or more with only 3 months of prep. I only put the term “highly unlikely” because there are exceptions, but if you are reading this, you are not the exception. Sorry to break it to you. I’m sure your family loves you dearly and lets you know the world revolves around you, but the LSAT certainly does not. I don’t care if you have 0 obligations outside of prep. I don’t care if all your bills are paid by a genie and your only job is studying. You will NOT get that 165 or higher in only 3 months. Like I said earlier, this test is made by brilliant people and they are conditioned to expose the ill prepared.
One hard hurdle to overcome with this prep is the understanding the effort it takes to make *incremental* improvements. Everyone just wants results in all facets of life. Its frustrating to put in hours and hours and weeks on weeks of work just to see a 2 point increase, but thats just what this prep is. But remember this, it’s not the one big swing of the ax that brings the tree down, it’s the constant swing after swing after swing after swing that brings finally brings the tree down. No single swing looks like it’s doing all that much to effect the tree, but each swing is doing the damage necessary to finally bring the tree down.
Stay on the lookout for my next update as I take you through the method that I use after I finish the foundational curriculum. You will not want to miss it. I will be breaking down the true skills that the LSAT values on each section and how to put yourself in position to master those skills.