For those intending to go to law school, the beginning of the year is great time to start LSAT prep. Generally, law school applications should be submitted by mid-November in order start law school the following fall. Test takers and future applicants should plan their prep and application submissions with mid-November as the finish line and work backwards. Starting LSAT prep toward the beginning of the year will allow test takers enough time to prep, take the LSAT, and retake the LSAT before that mid-November time frame.
Why should applications be submitted by mid-November?
Law schools operate on a rolling admissions process. That means that law schools will evaluate applications on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting until all applications are received. As seats and scholarships are limited, hopeful law students will want their applications submitted as early as possible. The chances of being accepted and receiving scholarships only decrease with time, despite the application window being open until the following spring.
When should test takers take the LSAT?
In prior years, the LSAT was offered only four (4) times each year. However, the LSAT is now offered seven (7) times in 2019 and will increase further to ten (10) times each year beginning in 2020. Test takers now have a tremendous amount of flexibility in choosing their test dates. Assuming that a test taker begins preparing around the beginning of the year, the June and July tests are generally great choices for a first test date because they give test takers about five (5) to six (6) months of prep. Test takers will want to aim to be done with the LSAT by the October test in order to submit their applications by mid-November. In 2019, the LSAT is offered in June, July, September, and October, which will allow flexibility in preparing to retake the LSAT, if needed.
Should test takers retake the LSAT?
Like the additional test dates, how schools consider multiple LSAT scores has also changed to the benefit of test takers. In prior years, law schools would average LSAT scores from all test dates if applicants took the test more than once. This policy severely limited a test taker’s ability to appreciably increase his or her score. For example, if a test taker scored a 150, but was aiming for a 160, the test taker would now need to score a 170. To put those scores in perspective, a score of 150 is in the 44th percentile (i.e., the test taker scored higher than 44% of all test takers) and a score of 170 is in the 97th percentile. Pulling a 150 to a 170 can be done, but doing so requires a tremendous amount of effort that may be unattainable in a few months between test dates. Even if a test taker pulled that off, the policy of averaging scores would have knocked the test taker back down to a 160.
Generally, law schools now use only an applicant’s highest score when evaluating the application. It is definitely to a test taker’s advantage to retake the LSAT in order to achieve a competitive score.
Why should LSAT prep begin with so much time before applications should be submitted?
While most standardized tests require outside knowledge, such as math, grammar rules, and vocabulary, a great asset of the LSAT is that it does not require outside information. So what is difficult about the LSAT? Its greatest asset it also its greatest difficulty: It does not require outside information, but instead is a skills-based test. While test takers can certainly learn and apply those skills, these skills take time to master (as do most skills). Whether a test taker picks up skills quickly or slowly, it’s far better to make that determination several months before it’s time to apply, rather than trying to deal with a tight time frame or being forced to delay applications and deferring law school for another year.
Additionally, according to the LSAC’s extensive research, LSAT scores are strong predictors of success during the first year of law school. As we’ve written here, LSAT scores are predictive for law school success because the LSAT tests the same skills students will need in law school and in their law careers. Not only does taking a longer time to prep increase the chances of a higher LSAT score, but it also increases the chance of a higher GPA in law school. As law students quickly learn, higher GPAs open a lot of doors to potential employers and better career paths.
What is the most effective way to prep for the LSAT?
Because the LSAT is a skills-based test, the most effective way to prep is to work with a tutor that will not only teach those skills, but also provide advice and guidance tailored to each student’s individual needs. While there are many LSAT books available, trying to learn critical skills from a book will often limit a student’s ability to achieve a competitive LSAT score. The books will generally leave a student unable to correct gaps in understanding, leading to frustration and diminished returns as the prep continues. A tutor will be able to spot those gaps and work with the student to explore the concepts and shore up areas of weakness in ways that will make the most sense to each student.
In addition to working with a tutor, a student should prep in stages that first focus on understanding and then on timing. The time allowed for each section on the LSAT is very limited, and students will often feel the pressure early in their prep to answer questions as quickly as possible. This approach is much like building a house with a shaky foundation because, without laying the groundwork and mastering skills first, students will eventually be limited in their ability to continue increasing their scores. Students should start by working on LSAT sections without time limits in order to become comfortable with the sections, particularly the nuances of shifts in language on games and arguments. Eventually, students should start to slowly increase their speed, usually by aiming to gradually decrease the amount of time they spend on each segment. Toward the end of their prep, students will take timed sections and full mock tests in accordance with the LSAT’s time constraints.
How can students start their LSAT prep and develop plans for applications?
Give us a call to connect with an LSAT tutor who will guide students through the entire process. Each student’s tutor is a lawyer who not only did very well on the LSAT but is currently practicing law. These lawyers/tutors are best equipped to teach the material, apply it to real life, and guide students through how to succeed on the LSAT and in law school.