11 LSAT Myths - dummies

By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch, Amy Hackney Blackwell

People who go to law school tend to be particular and precise people. They study law school rankings, fret about their grades and LSAT scores, and generally grasp at any apparent “truth” that helps them tackle the daunting process of launching a legal career. That’s why myths about the LSAT abound.

The LSAT doesn’t have anything to do with Law School

People may tell you that the LSAT and law school are unrelated, but think about it; the LSAT-writers have to concoct a test that in about four hours can spot the people who are likely to succeed in legal education.

So they’ve boiled down law school to its essence, which is the ability to read carefully and apply rules. They realize that law students and lawyers have to apply themselves steadily to particular tasks for hours on end, so they’ve made the LSAT a test of endurance. The test works — high LSAT scores do match up with good performance in law school.

You can’t study for the LSAT

At the very least, getting familiar with the test’s format before you sit down to take it for real is bound to make your experience easier; you don’t have to waste time reading instructions. At best, studying can make a substantial difference in your score.

Improving your performance on analytical reasoning problems is especially achievable because you don’t likely deal with logical games regularly. Likewise, logical reasoning and reading comprehension questions get easier the more you expose yourself to them.

You must take a prep course to do well on the LSAT

Plenty of people ace the LSAT after studying on their own at home. You must be self-disciplined, but you can do it. If you think you need a class to make you accountable to regular practice or just enjoy company for your misery, you may find a test prep course helpful.

If you do decide to study on your own, you can’t get better practice materials than actual LSATs, sold as LSAT PrepTests by the LSAC.

Some people just can’t do analytical reasoning problems

Analytical reasoning problems may freak you out the first time you see them, but you can figure out how to do them. They’re actually the most teachable part of the LSAT. Studying for a few weeks before the test isn’t likely to improve reading speed or vocabulary, but it can definitely help your ability to work analytical reasoning problems.

You can spot difficult questions before you work them

Digesting the material in any LSAT question takes a certain amount of time. A problem that may look incredibly difficult at first glance may turn out to be incredibly easy after you start on it. You’ll likely need to skip around while you work the test, but don’t waste too much precious time of rating the questions by difficulty.

B is the best letter to guess

The sad fact is that you can’t predict what letter is the most prevalent on any given test section. You can test this proposition by reading the answers to several LSATs. The most common letter changes with dismaying regularity, though it does seem that Choices (A) and (E) are slightly less common than the middle letters.

A better strategy is to guess based on at least some knowledge; you stand a better chance of correctly getting one out of three than one out of five.

No one reads the writing sample

Assume that everyone on every admissions committee is reading every single LSAT essay. They’re not, but what if your essay happens to be the one they do pull out of the pile for scrutiny? You’d better be prepared. What’ll it hurt, anyway? You have to spend 35 minutes of your LSAT experience writing the thing, so you may as well do a good job.

Finishing a section is better than concentrating on two-thirds of it

This notion isn’t necessarily true. Take the analytical reasoning section. You have four problems per section, each with five, six, or seven questions. If you take your time and work the three problems with the most questions and get most of them right, you’re looking at about 75 percent correct — a good score even if you completely ignore one problem.

If instead you force yourself to tackle every problem and you rush and miss about half, then even though you’ve finished the section, you answer only about 50 percent correct.

A great LSAT score guarantees admission to a great law school

Alas, a near perfect LSAT score is pretty much a requirement for admission to a top law school, but it doesn’t guarantee admission. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and their compatriots at the top of the law school pyramid see so many applicants with scores of 180 that they can afford to toss some in the trash.

What is true, though, is that you need that high score for them even to begin to consider you. This is true of all tiers of law schools; you must achieve a certain score level or they just plain won’t let you in.

The LSAT is used only for admissions purposes

Actually, if your LSAT score is attractive enough to a law school, the admissions folks may reward you with financial perks. For instance, if your LSAT score is exceptional, you may get a notice from a law school allowing you to waive the application fee. In addition, schools may consider your LSAT score when granting merit-based scholarships, which could pay more than 70 percent of your tuition!

Your score won’t improve if you retake the LSAT

You may have a bad day the first time you take the LSAT. Plenty of factors can change that can result in a higher score. If you think you can do better given a second chance, look on your first attempt as a practice run.

Usually schools average your LSAT score, so for it to make a difference, your score needs to improve quite a lot.