Many people take the LSAT more than once. Maybe they wanted to take the test and just see how they would do. Others may have completed a study plan, took the test and weren’t satisfied once they got their score report back.
While some schools consider the average LSAT score, others look at the highest one. In any event, if your score improves, the school will see a higher score for you whether they consider the average or highest score. According to a 2014 study cited by U.S. News, LSAT test takers saw their score improve the most after taking the LSAT the second time: even more so than when taking it for a third time. Consequently, two may be the magic number!
Here are some strategies to help boost your score the second time around.
Prepare to Study
Some students treat the first test as a dry run to see how they do before putting in any study time. However, there are some problems with this approach:
Most importantly, your first LSAT score will still be recorded and may be shared with the schools the test taker sent it to. Hence, it may affect the average score at a later date. That being said, if you went ahead with this strategy “just to see,” you’ve simulated test conditions, familiarized yourself with the LSAT’s structure, and exposed yourself to timed testing. So it’s not all a loss!
However, now that you have your score back, it’s time to see what you can do to increase it. Make sure that you open up your schedule to study for at least 20-30 hours per week for the next three months.
Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
It’s important to know what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. This way, you can isolate the areas that you really need to study. However, it can be difficult to do this manually or see the connection between the questions you are struggling with.
This is when study systems come in handy:
If you’re already enrolled in an LSAT prep course that offers analysis, take advantage of this and drill down on your weaknesses. If you aren’t enrolled in a course, it’s not a bad idea to enroll in one that offers free score reports like Powerscore. The LSAC also offers a free program through Khan Academy, which also provides these reports. This is important feedback that details the types of questions you are missing, the specific skills these questions represent and the difficulty of these questions.
In addition to using these reports, track other information; identify anything that causes you to struggle. Keep track of questions you got wrong and the reason for it. Even if you got a question right but felt uncomfortable about it, track this information. Go through these lists and identify patterns. This will help you isolate certain things that are consistently causing you trouble so that you can better focus on these sections.
Isolate Elements of Each Section
To improve your score and recognition, tackle specific elements of each section of the test. Some of the major components to focus on include the following:
Logical Reasoning Section
Understand the Stimulus
As you read through dense text to answer this question type, make sure that you are understanding the content. For this element, you should be doing the following:
- Summarize the passage
- Break down the passage
- Identify the argument
As part of your preparation, write down a summary of the passage. Then, go to the questions and see if you could answer the question based on your summary. This exercise will help you see if you are missing key information when summarizing. Consequently, you can adjust your approach so that you’re able to identify key points you are missing.
Identify Meaningful Concepts
Another important element to isolate is the ability to recognize concepts involved in the argument. Try to spot concepts as you read and how they may impact your answers to the questions.
Eliminate Wrong Answers
On this section, you can usually eliminate half of the answers easily because the way the answers are set up. When you are down to only two options, compare these answers to each other. Summarize their differences, return to the stimulus, and see why each answer seems attractive. Analyze how strong the connection is to each answer and select the one with the stronger connection.
Summarize the Passage
On the reading comprehension section, it’s even more important to understand what you’re reading as you go through the passage. This way, you won’t have to read it over and over again and waste precious time. Summarize each passage after reading it, and include the following in your summary:
- An overall summary of the passage
- The key points of the passage
- The author’s point of view
- Weaknesses in the argument
Try to attack the questions by using just your summary and avoid returning to the passage. This exercise can help you improve your memory and recall.
As you read through the passage, mark certain areas that you think you will probably be asked about. Then, compare your predictions to what the questions are actually about. Predicting this information accurately can help you hone in on certain aspects of the passage.
Read through the Questions
Read through each question and predict where you expect to find the answer in each passage. This brief exercise will help you compare your expectations regarding what will be contained in different sections of the passage and where the answers actually are.
This series of exercises will help you see how well you take in information and understand the methodology the test makers employ.
Recognize Key Elements of the Game
As you study through the logic games section, you should understand the different types of games that may be tested. Identify the following elements about each game:
- The general type of game
- What concepts are tested
- The steps you need to answer the questions
Know How to Diagram the Game
Logic games can be more easily tackled by diagramming the question. When you are presented with a rule, know how to diagram it, such as making blocks or if-then conditions. Setting up the question correctly is the key to answering these games in a limited amount of time.
Many logic game questions require you to make inferences. As you study the logic games, consider the inferences that you made for each game and why you made them. Compare the way you set up the game to the way your test prep source says it should have been set up.
Use Official LSAT Practice Tests to Study
The Law School Admission Council releases previous LSATs, which are a great source to use in your preparation. You can find them online or purchase prep books that contain several official LSATs. These tests show you the structure of the test and the types of questions you will be asked. Additionally, you can take these practice exams and see how you would have scored on a real LSAT score.
Plan to take a practice test after you study sections of the test. Use a timer and take the test in a quiet area to simulate test conditions. Many students fail to practice the test under timed conditions and then will run out of time on test day and lose points for their unanswered questions.
Practicing under timed conditions can help test takers gauge how much time they have for each section and question so that they spend most of their time on questions they can get right. This also helps them figure out when they should just move on from a question that has them stumped. Additionally, taking the test under timed conditions will help test takers better gauge their potential score.
You might even want to find tests that contain all five sections, including the experimental section, to really acquaint yourself with real test conditions. If you plan to take the writing portion, take timed LSATs with the writing portion. This will help you build stamina and avoid fatigue on the real test day.
Basically, get your hands on as many old tests as possible. Each test will familiarize yourself with the format, get you acquainted with the test process, and build your confidence. After each test, review the test answers and see why you got questions wrong.
Improve Your Practice Environment
To make the most of your practice, you need an environment conducive to learning. A major negative for many test takers is stress; they feel especially stressed during the first time they take the test. However, much of this stress subsides by the second time they take the test since they don’t have as much anxiety when approaching a now-familiar situation. However, test takers should still reduce their stress levels as they study so that they will be less likely to feel stress on the day of the test.
It’s also important that you are at optimal health levels when you take this life-changing test. Avoid drinking alcohol, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet. Exercise improves brain function, so don’t try to convince yourself that it’s okay to let yourself go so that you spend all the time studying and no time taking care of you!
Stick to a Rigorous Schedule
Since statistics show that your second score may be higher than a third or subsequent score, your second test may realistically be your last one. Develop a schedule and stick to it religiously. You can enroll in a course that dictates your schedule or purchase a commercially available schedule. Either way, you’ll want to keep pace with the schedule and build time into your routine to fully devote to your study.
Any schedule should include the following components:
- Practice tests
- Endurance building
- Review of questions and answers
- Isolated study for each section of the test
A minimum of three months’ study time is recommended for most test takers – including second-time test takers. If you cannot devote the time to study this long, you may want to delay your study until you can fit in the time: even if that means taking a year off between your undergraduate degree and law school admission.
Use New Material
If you went through a prep course or did substantial self-studying, don’t plan on just going back through the materials you already have. Even though you might have went through dozens of practice tests and hundreds or thousands of test questions, your brain might recognize a question and you may answer it correctly the second time around. This may be because you remember the question, not that you’ve improved on the concepts. Therefore, it’s important to start with fresh materials.
Get your hands on any official tests that have been released that you haven’t gone through yet. Group these tests in your study plan so that you don’t run out of fresh tests before you reach the end of your prep period. If you didn’t purchase prep materials before, do so now. If cash is tight, consider splitting the cost with a friend who is also taking the LSAT, finding used books online, or checking out your local law library.
If you are running out of fresh material, save it for closer to your test date while you rely on your prep course materials during the first couple months of your study. This will ensure that you are preparing intensely with fresh questions closer to the time of taking the test.
Don’t Neglect Sections
If you are performing well on one section, you may be tempted to ignore it and concentrate fully on other sections. However, it’s important to practice on all sections of the test during your study so that you don’t forget important concepts or test-taking strategies. Some second time test takers have neglected stronger sections only to see their scores on those sections decrease the second time around. Having a higher score in one area can average out weaker areas.
There you have it: a complete plan to boost your score. Just keep practicing and keep focused and you’ll probably get a higher score the second go round!