Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! In preparing for the mental Olympics that is the LSAT, it’s important to train like a gold medalist. I have been tutoring and teaching in LSAT dojos across the country since 2005. Since then, I’ve found the proper regimen to help take your scores to the top of the podium. The origin of this regiment starts with the nerdiest argument I’ve ever heard.
Years ago, while in Berkeley to give an LSAT presentation on campus, I sat in the back row of the auditorium and took in my surroundings. There, I overheard two underclassmen having an irrationally heated debate: is the LSAT more of a sprint or a marathon? It took all my willpower not to whack them both on the back of the head. Clearly, this was a preposterous issue to debate. However, their discussion stuck around in the back of my head. While walking toward the podium, I decided I had an answer to their question.
Is the LSAT more of a sprint or a marathon? My answer: Both. With that, the acronym R.A.C.E.S. was born. Here is the breakdown of how this acronym can take you from scratch to success.
Mastering the LSAT requires learning two new languages. The language within the questions on the exam and the language of the exam itself. Most test-takers struggle with both. But, focusing on the latter is extremely useful to aid the understanding of the former.
Students often struggle with the LSAT because they just don’t know exactly what is being asked of them. Confusion with the directions within each section leads to frustration and poor scores. A lack of recognition amplifies the difficulty in understanding the material needed to answer a question. As you learn and eventually master every single LSAT concept, you slowly begin to clear away the fog that obscures how clearly the winning answers stand above the losers. Knowing the common logic game structures allows you to hurdle ahead toward making crucial mathematical deductions. By understanding distinctions in terms like underfunded and undefined, you can see just how repetitive logic games can be. Taking away that crushing feeling of uncertainty allows you to clearly see the game type, its rules and variables, and the smoothest path toward putting them all together.
Recognition is likely most important in Logical Reasoning. That’s not simply because that section comprises 50% of your overall score. Knowing the difference between a Justify and Assumption question can save you time, stress, and points. Knowing exactly how to identify and dissect invalid arguments allows you to attack the structure as well as the subject. Crossing that threshold into full recognition feels like wearing long-needed glasses for the first time. Once you clearly see what’s being asked of you, it’s easy to give the LSAT what it wants.
The LSAT is nearly impossible to beat if you don’t know the rules of the game. The mastery of Recognition makes it significantly easier to do the right things once it’s clear exactly what those are. Carefully identifying and isolating concepts across the exam allows you to make massive gains in regards to Accuracy.
I firmly disagree with the timeless adage that practice makes perfect. What I think truly ought to be our mantra is that perfect practice makes perfect. Endless repetition with faulty foundations never leads to the clinical Accuracy that is necessary for high LSAT scores. Any good marksman surely needs huge amounts of practice. From Nerf guns to sniper rifles, increases in precision don’t come from firing randomly. Understanding the exact conditions of the target at hand leads to repeatable practice under pristine conditions. That’s the benefit of reaching the Recognition stage. Knowing the exact steps to take in any situation leads to huge gains in Accuracy through repetition and a finely-tuned methodical approach.
Soon, your days of aiming like a stormtrooper will be long behind you. Careful application of proper methods in given situations leads to an Accuracy that rivals that of John Wick.
Most people attack the LSAT with the confidence they definitely shouldn’t have. It’s like the lesson Rick Kane learned the hard way in the gloriously bad 1987 movie North Shore. Winning a surf contest in a Tucson wave pool absolutely does not qualify you to take on Pipeline.
Some of the smartest people I know had major wipe-outs when they first paddled out into the rough seas of the LSAT. This exam can be as unforgiving as those double-overhead monster waves that break shallow over razor-sharp coral reefs. The LSAT doesn’t care what your GPA is, or your major, or even your graduate school. Much like developing the physical and mental fortitude you need to surf huge waves, LSAT success is earned. Often, that process is gonna hurt. That is why hard-earned Confidence is a crucial ingredient in this recipe for LSAT success. How does one become confident in anything? By being good at something and knowing just how good you are.
Accuracy that was fostered by Recognition will eventually allow you to consistently answer questions correctly. Soon afterward, you’ll begin to know you are selecting the right answers.
Imagine two different students:
Student 1, who has yet to master Recognition sufficiently to build well-deserved Accuracy:
“Hmm, I think maybe the answer is A. Or wait, C looks like the winner. Screw it, maybe I should see if McDonald’s is hiring.”
Student 2, who has mastered Recognition enough to intuitively embrace the methods in order to build consistent Accuracy:
“It’s D. I would bet my house, my life savings and my future firstborn child on it. Final answer, Regis.”
Clearly exaggerated scenarios, but which student do you think moves faster? Which with greater Confidence, onto the next question? Confidence is the key to making individual choices and also moving swiftly to your next mission with your head held high.
This test is a beast. The LSAT will drain you mentally and physically. Hell, even spiritually and existentially. Studying for the exam takes months of dedicated practice. Actually taking a full LSAT requires being on your A+ game for several long hours. That is not something that comes without significant effort in preparation before the big day.
The problem is, no one wants to keep playing a game where you’re getting your butt kicked. It’s a nearly Herculean task to devote the hundreds of hours of study necessary to get your scores where you want them. That task is made infinitely harder when it feels as if the system is rigged against you. On the other hand, in anything from sports to video games, if you’re winning you never want to stop playing.
Once full Recognition fosters a reliable Accuracy that breeds a justified Confidence, students find that they actually want to study. When you’re firing on all cylinders, you begin to understand why they’re called Logic Games, and not Logic Torture Devices. Understanding proper RC methods help you enjoy reading about such uninteresting topics as the mechanisms of early polarity and the curious underwater hunting patterns of the platypus. I have found answers to dozens of Jeopardy questions over the years thanks to my voracious devouring of LSAT material. Not properly understanding LSAT structures make long study periods as painful as walking barefoot across a Lego-strewn floor. The Accuracy fueled Confidence allows you to fluently navigate test material in a way that builds serious Endurance.
Timing is most everyone’s arch-nemesis on the exam. Mastering the pacing element of the LSAT doesn’t always require boosting your reading speed from the style of a SlowPoke Rodriguez to that of his cousin, Speedy Gonzales. In a decade and a half of tutoring and teaching LSAT classes, I have consistently held strong to this position: I am not going to teach you how to read faster. Rather, I am going to teach you how to read smarter.
The biggest culprit is for your timing deficiencies on the exam is rarely the time it actually takes to undertake the proper methods for a given situation. What kills you the most is the dead air between taking the appropriate steps. Think about all those wasted minutes spent deciphering the type of LR question you’re attacking and its required method. What deductions are crucial for any particular type of game. Wondering just what exactly VIEWSTAMP stands for.
If you follow the R.A.C.E.S acronym carefully and linearly, you remove all of these obstacles. By building that high degree of mental muscle memory, you can move efficiently from problem to problem with cat-like agility. You don’t have to sacrifice Accuracy in order to push yourself faster through the sections. You can’t force speed. By rushing through sections before building the necessary skills, all you’re doing is missing questions faster. But, by the time you cross the threshold of Recognition, use that to grow your Accuracy, instill Confidence, and use the increased Endurance to repeatedly run through questions the right way, an increase in Speed just happens.
This acronym may not be the magic bullet shortcut to that 99th percentile score. But, like all good things in life, success on the LSAT feels better when you know you’ve worked hard to earn it. Whether you are an LSAT amateur or veteran, following the R.A.C.E.S. procedure carefully will allow you to Usain Bolt down your spot in the law school of your dreams!
Need a little extra help conquering the LSAT? I am part of a team of amazing tutors that are here to help you achieve your goals.