'Do Nothing' Is The Best LSAT Advice You'll Receive Today

By Ross Rinehart

We are about three months away from the June 2018 LSAT and a little more than four months away from the brand new July 2018 LSAT. If you’re planning to take the test during one of these LSAT administrations, you’re in all likelihood thinking about starting the study process in the next coming weeks.

For many people, this means starting an LSAT prep course. As you wait for this course to begin, you may be wondering what to do before you start your LSAT studies in earnest. You want to make your study time count, and you want to show up prepared on the first day. So what you should you do before the first day of your LSAT course, to give you the best chance of acing this exam?

My answer: nothing. Do nothing.

Trust me, this is the best news you’re getting all week. Once classes start, you’ll be completely inundated with work. You’ll yearn for the days when “do nothing” was an option. You have a lot of work ahead of you. For now, just chill. Do nothing.

Why not do anything?” you may be wondering. There must be reasons why I am insisting that you do nothing… Well, now you’re speaking my language. Claims should be supported with evidence. A claim supported by evidence is known as a conclusion, which is the most important part of an argument. And the LSAT is all about arguments.

I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ll learn all about arguments once you start studying for the LSAT. No need to get into it now, but I will answer your question.

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t do anything before you begin your LSAT studies.

 

1 | You Have To Set A Baseline With A Practice Exam Score

The first thing any LSAT prep course worth its salt will ask you to do is take a full practice LSAT. It will not be fun, for reasons that will become immediately apparent as you take a four hour standardized test on logic and direction following. But these courses do not make you take a full exam because they want to see you suffer.

Instead, these courses start off with a full practice LSAT because it’s really important to establish your starting point. You want to know your baseline score before you learn anything about the LSAT because that will allow you to measure your progress throughout the course. Without this first practice exam score, you won’t be able to tell if all the work you do in between practice tests is actually translating to a better score. Without a baseline score to compare to later scores, it’ll also be tough to know whether you need to dedicate more time and effort to certain sections of the exam.

You may be thinking: Why not take a practice exam on your own, and then after that start some self-study before your class begins? If you do that, you’ll run into Reason 2 on the list of why you shouldn’t do anything before beginning your LSAT studies.

 

2 | It Will Likely Create Unnecessary Confusion

The early stages of any worthwhile LSAT prep system will teach you a few fundamentals of logic and argumentation, subjects which are the proverbial bread and butter of the LSAT. You’ll learn about the component parts of an argument, the various argumentative strategies, and common reasons arguments fail. You’ll learn how to recognize conditional statements, and how to use those statements to make valid deductions.

These concepts are essential logical principles, and you have to understand them to do well on the LSAT. However, the concepts are super abstract, and nearly every LSAT prep system uses a different methodology to teach them. And that’s to say nothing of setting up Logic Games or annotating a Reading Comprehension passage, where test prep companies’ methods really diverge.

If you try to study on your own, especially if you’re using different resources from those provided by the test prep course you chose to study with, you’re really just creating more work for yourself. You’ll learn more than one name for the same concept. You’ll learn more than one strategy to accomplish the same goal. You’re learning more than one path to the same location.

Rather than clarifying abstract logical principles, learning more than one approach will probably just confuse you. Even if it doesn’t confuse you, well, learning more than one route to the same place is just unnecessary work. Save your energy and mental bandwidth — you’ll need it elsewhere on the LSAT — and learn these concepts under the tutelage of a comprehensive test prep program.

And now, you may be thinking that even if you don’t try to learn the logical concepts on your own, it really wouldn’t hurt if you still practice some problems on your own. But that brings us to Reason 3 on the list of why you shouldn’t do anything before beginning your LSAT studies.

 

3 | You May Form Some Bad Habits

If you try to do practice problems on your own without learning the proper way to approach that problem, the best-case scenario is that you simply waste a practice problem. It’s not a huge deal, since there are literally thousands of available LSAT questions. But you’ll waste the question nonetheless.

Studying for the LSAT, as you will soon learn, is all about developing and mastering a reliable strategy to tackle any question type. In doing a practice problem without practicing the proper strategies, you’re not actually engaging in the work that will ultimately improve your score. And, remember, this is the best-case scenario.

The worst-case scenario is that you actually form some bad habits when doing practice problems on your own. It could be as simple as getting into the habit of reading the question too quickly. Or it could be a harder to recognize and more insidious bad habit, like relying too much on your intuition to answer these questions  — which is bad news on a test where the answers frequently defy common sense expectations. In that case, you’ll either have to spend extra time and effort breaking these bad habits, or these bad habits will become so-ingrained that it will ultimately impede your progress to a great LSAT score.

In fact, the Law School Admissions Council has looked into this matter, and the data they found suggests that self-study is a less effective study method. In a study that compared the LSAT performance of people using various study methods, LSAC found that those who self-studied did not earn as high a mean LSAT score as those who used other means of LSAT preparation, such as commercial test prep courses, test booklets published by LSAC, and non-LSAC prep books. Given this, you should just avoid the possibility of hindering your LSAT progress by waiting to do the practice problems after learning the correct approach from a prep system.

I understand that you want to get started on studying for the LSAT early. That industrious attitude will serve you well in law school and in your legal career. But on the LSAT, make sure you’re taking the right approach. The amount of time you spend studying for the LSAT matters, but it’s even more important that your study time is well-spent. So enjoy your time away from the LSAT for now, and once your test prep course begins, get to work.

 

For more LSAT tips and strategies, check out these articles:

How To Prepare For LSAT Logic Games And Reading Comprehension

How To Start Studying For The LSAT

LSAT Scores: How low should you go?

10 Steps To A Stellar LSAT Score

How To Take An LSAT Prep Test

 


Ross Rinehart graduated from UCLA with a degree in English and Political Science and went on to secure a J.D. from USC Law. After getting a 170 on the LSAT, a 98th percentile score, Ross began teaching for Blueprint LSAT Prep. Having taught for Blueprint for almost 4 years, he has helped countless students improve their LSAT score.


 

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