How to Study for the LSAT
Deciding to write the LSAT can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure where to begin. Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how to study for the LSAT to help you crush it the first time you write it.
1. Choose an amount of time to study for
Before even booking an LSAT date, the first thing you need to do is decide how long to study for. Unfortunately, there’s no magic number we can give you. The time you should spend studying for the LSAT is very personal and completely dependent on your unique life situation. Some people spend a year studying for the LSAT, while others only need a couple of months.
When choosing how long to study for, jot down all of the time commitments you have - like a full-time or part-time job, classes, children, or volunteering. Estimate how many hours you’ll be busy with other things and how many hours you’ll have available to study. Don’t underestimate how time-consuming LSAT studying really is. It’s better to give yourself too much time to study than too little - you’ll thank yourself later.
Note: if you’re well into studying and realize you’ll need more time, don’t be afraid to re-schedule. A test date change costs $125 USD (except while the LSAT Flex is in place during COVID-19). It’s cheaper to change your test date than book an entirely new LSAT if you have to re-write.
2. Get all of your prep materials
Before you dive in, organize all of the materials you’ll use to study.
In my experience, and after speaking with current law students, one of the most popular LSAT prep books are the PowerScore Bibles. They do a great job at breaking down types of questions, how to quickly come to the correct answer, and common traps the LSAT throws your way. The bibles also integrate practice questions throughout the books to help you make sure you’ve conquered a concept before moving on.
Another popular option is Magoosh. They offer online prep resources (with helpful explanation videos) to help you learn each section of the LSAT, answer explanations and also email assistance from tutors which is very helpful if you get stuck or just can't seem to grasp a certain area of the LSAT.
You’ll also want to stock up on past LSATs. You have a few options: buy hardcopy LSATs on Amazon, get digital LSATs with a LSAC LawHub account ($99 USD), a Powerscore subscription ($19.99 USD/month or $99 USD/year), or a Magoosh subscription (two plans available).
If you study using paper preptests, I strongly recommend doing a few digital LSATs beforehand to get acquainted with the format. LSAC offers two free digital LSATs so take advantage of this! Read 7 tips for success on the LSAT for more helpful information.
3.Do a diagnostic LSAT (or don’t!)
You’ll hear people talk about their diagnostic LSAT score. Many applicants take a practice LSAT under timed, test-day conditions (without a fifth experimental section) to gauge their starting point and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Doing a diagnostic LSAT can be helpful for many reasons - it can give you an idea of how much time you’ll need to study and which section to start with (your weakest section).
With that being said, a diagnostic LSAT is not essential. When I was studying for the LSAT and heard everyone else taking diagnostic tests, I decided that I too should probably do one. I sat down with an LSAT, started the timer, and stared blankly at the first logic game for 10 minutes. Before I knew it, the timer was up and I had barely scraped together an answer for the first question. I felt so defeated. I closed the LSAT and gave up on the idea of a diagnostic test.
I wrote the LSAT four months later and scored in the 90th percentile. I’m telling you this because it’s important to remember that if you decide to do a diagnostic test, your diagnostic score is not an indication of how well you’ll do on the real thing. A diagnostic LSAT is one strategy to help guide your studying, that’s it that’s all.
4. Create a study timeline
Set a date for when you should have fully tackled each section of the LSAT. I recommend concentrating on one section at a time, instead of trying to learn a little bit of everything all at once.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
Month 1: Focus on Logic Games prep book & do timed LG sections.
Month 2: Focus on Logical Reasoning prep book & do timed LR sections. Once you feel confident, add in timed LG sections to keep your skills fresh.
Month 3: Focus on Reading Comprehension prep book & do timed RC sections.
Month 4: Do full timed LSATs. Identify your weaknesses and return to prep materials to work on them as needed.
Creating a timeline is just to help guide your studying. You can and should adjust it based on your progression. You might find one section more challenging and need a little extra time or you might find that one section comes easier and you need less time. If you're still unsure on how to create a study schedule that works for you, you can look to the free Magoosh study schedules for guidance..
5. Get lots of practice to build speed
One of the most challenging aspects of the LSAT is the time crunch. It’s not just about getting the right answer -- you need to get the right answer very quickly. If you’re typically a slow test-taker, this probably sounds terrifying. I’ve been there. Luckily, you don’t need to do anything other than practice to improve your speed. With practice, you’ll naturally get faster and get used to the time pressure. Each time you take a full-length practice test, you’ll also build your endurance and test-taking stamina. I didn’t think I’d be able to focus for a three and a half hour test but it eventually feels like it’s over in the blink of an eye.
6. Take practice tests under test conditions
Take lots of practice tests under an actual test environment. Find a quiet space away from any interruptions, turn your phone off and use a timer for each section (if you’re doing a digital LSAT preptest, you’ll have a built-in timer). Make sure to give yourself the 15-minute break after the third section too. Once the timer goes off, don’t give yourself that extra second to finish a question or circle a random answer. Cutting corners isn’t going to help you improve.
7. Review your answers religiously
I cannot stress this enough: review your answers each and every time you take a practice test! Taking test after test isn’t going to help you improve your score if you’re not reviewing your answers afterwards. Review every question you got wrong and every question you guessed on or weren’t completely sure about (even if you got them right). No need to waste time reviewing correct answers you were confident about.
Reviewing your wrong answers will also help you to identify the areas you’re struggling with so you can go back to your prep books to work on your understanding.
There are a few helpful resources that are great at breaking questions down and explaining answers. LSAT Hacks has answer explanations for every LSAT and Manhattan Prep has a forum explanation bank where you can read explanations and ask questions. Most of the time, someone else has already asked the question you’re so you don’t have to wait for an answer. These are both free resources. 7Sage also offers incredible logic game explanation videos with an Ultimate+ subscription ($69/month). They walk you through every step, including how to set up the game diagram.
8. Be kind to yourself
Studying for the LSAT is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t let it consume your entire life or you will burn out. Start slowly and build your intensity over time. Take breaks, stay active, spend time with friends and family and get a good sleep every night (or at least try to). Studying 24/7 shouldn’t be a strategy for anyone. If you feel like you need to take a day or two off, do it. Studying for the LSAT can be mentally draining, so it’s important to take care of yourself to avoid burning out.
I also recommend not studying the day before the LSAT or on the day of. Do not try to do any last minute cramming, it’s pointless and will only add stress. Going into the LSAT with a fresh mind is the best strategy.