“How do I set reasonable goals for my LSAT prep?”
This is a question I’ve heard over and over again from students trying to set LSAT prep goals. If you’re even asking yourself this question, you’re approaching your LSAT prep from the right perspective. Effective LSAT prep isn’t about aimless improvement. Instead, it should be a focused effort involving carefully chosen goals and a process to achieve each of those goals.
So, what is the key to setting reasonable LSAT prep goals? It’s understanding where you’re currently scoring and how much you can reasonably improve.
Step 1: Set a Baseline
Take a practice test. Read the posts What are the best LSAT practice tests? and How to Take a Practice LSAT for advice on how to maximize the authenticity and accuracy of your practice test.
Once you’re done with the practice test, determine your score using the guides online or at the back of your test booklet. Additionally, count up the number of questions you answered incorrectly. That number will be much more important in setting LSAT prep goals than your actual scaled score.
Step 2: Set an Initial Goal
A reasonable goal to set for your first round of LSAT prep is to cut the number of questions you answer incorrectly in half. In other words, if you missed 24 questions on your first practice test, your goal is to eventually only miss 12 questions.
If that seems too ambitious, remember that test prep is a step by step process. Aim to increase your number of correct answers by 1 per section each time you take another practice test (that’s a total of 4 more points across the entire test—a nice step toward your goal). If you focus on small steps like this over a few months of regular practice, you may be surprised to see your score approaching a goal that once seemed out of reach.
For those of you who think the suggested goal is too conservative, I offer the same advice. Test prep is a step by step process. Set a reasonable goal at the outset and master the specific skills necessary to achieve that goal. Then, once you’ve done so, you can celebrate your success and set an even higher goal to work toward. Just remember, taking a standardized test is like performing gymnastics. If you attempt a trick you haven’t mastered, you’re likely to land on your butt the first few times. That’s fine in practice, but it doesn’t usually win any competitions.
Step 3: Wrap Up or Take the Next Step
Give yourself 3-6 months to reach your initial goal. At the end of that period, do a brief self-assessment to determine your next step.
If your score has been steadily increasing over time, set a new goal based on your most recent practice test. Set that goal the same way you set your initial goal: aim to decrease your incorrect answers by half.
If your score has leveled off over the past few practice tests, think about why this may have happened. If it’s because you haven’t dedicated enough time to test prep or you haven’t applied a rigorous approach, you might not want to give up yet. Consider a course or a tutor to introduce structure and commitment to your test prep, and see whether that gets your score moving in the right direction again. On the other hand, if your score has levelled off despite your best efforts, it’s probably time to register for the exam. Don’t keep banging your head against the test prep wall; that typically leads only to exhaustion and frustration.
Step 4: Repeat as Necessary
For those of you who met your initial goal and then set a higher one, take a break every 3-6 months to reassess. As long as you’re still making gains, keep moving forward with your prep and continue resetting your goal every few months.
Most importantly, stay focused on your current goal. Even if you dream of eventually scoring 170, don’t start aiming for it until you’ve reached 165, and then 167, and then 168. Test prep is a step by step process. You want to be the athlete who nails every move he makes, not the one who tries to score a goal off a bicycle kick and instead just lands on his head.