There is little doubt that prep courses give you the most bang for your buck, and it’s no surprise that they are an extremely popular way of preparing to take the LSAT. According to LSAC’s own research report, students who use official LSAC test-preparation materials (i.e. PrepTests), non-LSAC books (such as the Bible Trilogy) and commercial test-prep courses tend to have higher scores than those who did not use such methods. Most students, LSAC reports, use more than one of these methods, so if you’re studying the Bibles before your summer course begins, you are not alone.
This is not good.
The LSAT, you see, is graded on a curve. Your performance, stellar as it may be, does not automatically give you bragging rights. By its very definition, a score in the top 1 percentile means that 99 percent of the remaining test-takers scored worse than you did. The Machiavellian truth is that how well you do is directly related to how poorly everyone else does, which sucks given that everyone else is also studying like a mad man. So, how do you break away from the pack?
While there is no magical solution (if there were, everyone else would know about it, at which point the magic would be lost), there are things you can do that almost no one else does. Students don’t do them because these things are hard, time-consuming, and sometimes embarrassing. But they do work for those who listen. Assuming you are taking a prep course this summer, here are six things your classmates should be doing, but probably won’t be:
- Show up to class! By Lesson 7, half your classmates won’t be showing up to class on a regular basis. Don’t be those guys! Only skip class in case of an emergency, and promptly make arrangements to make it up. If you’re enrolled in one of our Full-Length classes, you have the option of watching a Virtual recap of each lesson. Don’t assume, however, that you can skip class whenever you feel like it, and then watch the online recaps: they are a great resource, but obviously don’t provide the same interactive experience you get inside a real classroom. It’s like having a meal replacement for lunch: it’s OK to do it once in awhile, but don’t use it as a substitute for real food.
- When in class, pay attention! This means not using your smart phone, laptop, or tablet, unless you’re doing so to take notes. See those guys chatting on Facebook while your instructor is explaining the Assumption Negation Technique? They are wasting their time and money. Don’t be those guys! Remember: every minute you waste in class is worth $0.36. If you miss something important, it can cost you points (which are worth a lot more than $0.36).
- Do your homework! Even if you show up to every single class, your score won’t magically improve by some intellectual osmotic pressure. You must complete the homework for each lesson, beginning with the conceptual overview, homework drills, and practice sections. You’ll need 10-15 hours a week to thoroughly take advantage of the homework resources and online explanations. In fact, you aren’t done with your homework until you’ve reviewed the explanation for every single question you missed! If you have a hard time finishing all of your homework in time, check out the Critical Homework List provided online under Lesson and Homework Supplements.
- Take practice tests – early and often! As one of my colleagues recently wrote, practice tests are a vital part of your preparation. Unlike most of your classmates, you shouldn’t wait for the proctored in-class tests to kick in. Start taking your own practice tests as early as the second or third weeks of your prep course. Don’t worry about not having the full arsenal of strategies under your belt. The point is to allow plenty of time to improve your pace, build your stamina, and learn to switch gears between different types of questions, as you never know how long it will take for your score to go up.
- Use the Online Student Center! Almost all test prep companies will give you access to an online portal, and guess what? Many students never even bother logging in. Don’t be those guys! At the very least, the portal will enable you to score your practice tests online and obtain a detailed breakdown of your performance per section and by question type. If you’re enrolled in one of our Full-Length or Live Online courses, your Online Student Center has added features such as homework explanations, concept-specific modules, supplemental test sections, etc. It took years for us to create and assemble all this content: it’s incredibly helpful if you actually use it!
- Embrace the Socratic Method of Teaching! We all hate to be put on the spot, and most of your classmates will defer a question when they don’t know the answer to it. Worse, many of them won’t ever ask a single question in class. Don’t be those guys! Multiple studies have shown that the Socratic method of teaching enhances students’ learning as it reduces the impact of misconception, aids students in organizing knowledge, cultivates higher order thinking skills, and helps students to monitor their own learning. It’s a vastly superior method than being spoon fed canned explanations. That’s what you’re paying us for! 🙂
- Outside of class, you can ask us questions 24/7 by taking advantage of our Discussion Forum. We often practice our own semi-Socratic method of teaching on the Forum, helping you come up with the right answer on your own. If you are a Full-Length student, there’s also the Instructor Hotline 5 PM to 8 PM Monday through Friday EST.
Finally, there is your instructor: he or she holds the key to your success as a test-taker. It’s a job we don’t take lightly. All of our instructors have scored in the top percentile on an actual LSAC-administered LSAT, and undergo extensive training. Get to know your instructor! You’ll be happy you did.