Wondering how to study for the LSAT? A good LSAT plan of attack includes the following 4 elements. Continue scrolling down to learn about each component of a good study plan, or click on one to jump to that section.
- Take full-length, timed practice tests
- Complete individual, timed practice sections
- Keep an error log
- Do untimed, targeted practice
Full-length, Timed Practice Tests
This is a great starting point for your LSAT prep. In fact, I recommend taking a full-length practice test before you even crack open a prep book, watch an online lesson, or attend your first prep class. That way, you get a realistic idea of where you’re starting out, and you can set reasonable goals for how far you’ll progress.
After your first practice test, strike a balance between further practice tests and the other three elements of effective LSAT test prep. Taking weekly practice tests is probably overkill, but avoiding them entirely is also unwise. Over-testing can exhaust you while reinforcing bad habits and taking up time that could be spent learning. It’s like endless scrimmaging without any practice or coaching in between. On the other hand, under-testing leaves you vulnerable to test day surprises like fatigue or poor planning (timing bathroom breaks, packing good quality snacks, etc…). In other words, it’s like playing catch every day, and then thinking you’re ready for your first baseball game.
Instead, aim to complete one full-length, timed practice test after every 2-4 tests’ worth of material you complete as either individual, timed sections or untimed, targeted practice. If you work on LSAT prep 3-4 days per week for 30-60 minutes per day, you’ll be ready for a practice test every 2-3 weeks.
Individual, Timed Practice Sections
This just means sitting down, setting a timer for 35 minutes, and completing one section of an LSAT from start to finish.
I recommend doing this about 3 times per week (one for each LSAT section type). Just make sure to leave room for regular untimed, targeted practice. For example, don’t do 4 or 5 Logic Games practice sections in a row without doing some targeted Logic Games practice in between to analyze your progress.
The key to doing timed practice sections is making them as authentic as possible. Even though you’re only completing one section, treat it like the real thing. Find a quiet space where you’ll be undisturbed. Use a pencil. You can even download and print out a bubble sheet from the back of LSAC’s free online practice test. If you finish early, use the remaining time to double check your answers. If you’re running out of time, guess on the remaining questions and circle them to keep track of where you guessed. Apply your pacing strategies accurately, and don’t cheat by stopping the clock for a break.
When you’re done with a section, score it, record any mistakes in your error log, and put it away. You’ll look at it again during your untimed, targeted practice.
Any time you take a full-length practice test or complete a timed practice section, score it right away and enter it into your error log. It’s important to do this immediately afterward because the questions are still fresh in your mind and you’ll remember more of the reasoning behind your answers.
For each question you missed, record the following in your error log.
- The PrepTest, section, and question number (so you can find it again later)
- The question type (for example, Inference, Assumption, Parallel Reasoning, etc…)
- The correct answer choice
- The incorrect answer choice that you selected
- Your best description of the mistake you made (misinterpreted some, picked a choice that was too extreme, confused the premise and the conclusion, etc…)
Once you’ve completed your error log, put away your LSAT prep for the day and relax. You’ve recorded what you need to know for the future, so it won’t be forgotten.
Untimed, Targeted Practice
Follow up on every timed practice test or practice section with some untimed, targeted practice. That doesn’t mean you have to do targeted practice after every, single practice section you complete. Instead, you could target Logical Reasoning one day by reviewing the last 2 or 3 timed LR sections you completed and doing a few new LR questions untimed.
To make the most of your targeted practice:
- Focus on just one section type each time you do targeted practice.
- Look at your most recent error log entries. Is there a question type or mistake you’ve been struggling with a lot lately?
- If it’s a question type, review lessons on that question type and then search for a handful of them to complete slowly and methodically. Don’t answer until you feel very confident that you understand the question and all the answer choices.
- If it’s a particular mistake you’re making frequently, or if your errors vary a lot, try an untimed practice section in which you focus on identifying and avoiding that mistake or other trap answer choices.
Find Your Balance and Take Small Steps
Ultimately, LSAT prep is about building new habits (not these bad habits that US News warns against), and that doesn’t happen quickly. If you’re doing things right, you’ll feel off-balance in the first phase of prep because you’re learning entirely new approaches to the exam. As you move into the second phase, you’ll feel more comfortable with the process, but you might feel impatient with the results. This is because you’ve learned a good approach to the test, but you haven’t mastered it yet. It’s like playing a game in which you know all the rules and you’re always exactly where you should be, but you keep dropping the ball. In the third phase, you finally start to master the test. This is where you focus on small adjustments to your technique, each of which may take time to perfect and might only result in one or two more correct answers.
Regardless of the phase you’re currently in, progress may feel slow. Don’t focus on how you’re scoring today vs. last week. Instead, try to focus on where you started, how far you’ve come, and what you can do next to get closer to your goal.