Learning to Master the LSAT
Cognitive and mechanical problems with taking standardized tests can be overcome with special training or extra time. Request extra time (but don't plan on your request being granted — LSAC is very reluctant to allow accommodations). Get the training you need, practice, and try again in a year or two.
Often, working around a physical or cognitive problem requires individual diagnosis and novel solutions. A classroom structure is never adequate to compensate for learning disabilities of any sort.
More often, you can solve the problem by working on your own. Here are some ideas and resources:
If you know you have a poor vocabulary, fix it! Either study word lists, or sit down and read LSAT passages and look up words you don't know. Find a vocabulary book that discusses the importance of Latin and Greek roots, so you'll know that "macro" means big and "micro" means little. When your vocabulary improves, so will your test score.
A closely-related conversation is this one:
Dictionaries that are built into word processors are like Scrabble™ dictionaries; their purpose is to give you a basic working definition, not a comprehensive understanding of the word. If you don't have a good paper dictionary, dictionary.reference.com is the best online word source that I've found.
Even worse is when the conversation goes:
This conversation points to problems in your education. Either your focus was very narrow (as is often true of science or business majors), your textbooks were very simplistic, or you had seen the word before and just don't remember it.
If you know your high school and college educations were focused on very narrow topics, consider adding our list of Personal Enrichment words to your vocabulary. After all, you can't get the right answers on a reading passage about Rembrandt if you don't know that he was a painter.
If you know you're not a reader, become one. Make sure to read books and periodicals aimed at a college level audience. Read something every day. Make lists of the words you don't know, and look them up every night. Over time, you can become the literate person who makes a good lawyer.
Problem solving ability is acquired, not innate. You don't acquire it by reading textbooks. You don't acquire it by asking people to figure things out for you. You certainly don't acquire it by watching TV or movies, or even by reading mysteries. You may or may not acquire it in your normal life. If you call the plumber when the toilet won't flush instead of opening up the tank and getting your fingers wet, you probably won't acquire it.
How do you acquire it? By solving problems. Get books of puzzles. Logic games, brain twisters, cryptograms all build your problem-solving skills. Computer games like Sherlock and SmartGames build your problem-solving skills. Buy them, play with them, and learn.
Now I know it sounds odd to say you learn to figure things out by figuring things out. But it's true. After all, you learn to ride a bike by riding a bike, and you learn to play tennis by playing tennis. Thinking is a thing you do, and you learn to do by doing.
If you don't know how to solve puzzles, you'll be very bad at the LSAT. I've researched books that teach problem-solving skills in order to help people with LSAT scores of 145 or lower.
Other books that include problem-solving skills but which were not designed for use in an academic setting include:
Taking the LSAT requires more then just knowing basic vocabulary and analytical skills; you have to know how to apply those skills to this specific test. I've never found a single book or prep course (except mine, of course, but that's been discontinued) that I thought was good at teaching all the LSAT skills.
For logic games, I recommend the ARCO GRE/LSAT Logic Workbook, 2000 Edition
This is the only book I like for logic games; I particularly dislike the Powerscore Logic Games Bible. I feel that it guarantees accuracy at the expense of speed, and you need to develop both.
For arguments, I like Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking (8th Edition), by M.Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley, Pearson Prentice Hall.
I also like LSAT Testbuster -- REA's Testbuster for the Law School Admission Test. You should look this book over, though; different editions change pretty radically.
I don't like anyone's method for reading, but most people find my method to be nerve-wracking.
Practice Tests are an essential part of LSAT prep - - and not two or three tests, or even a dozen. Most people need to take fifteen to twenty practice tests before the LSAT becomes second nature. Fortunately, you can buy about 50 tests, either from LSAC or -- guess where? Usually Amazon ships more quickly than LSAC, perhaps because that's Amazon's main business.
Be careful when ordering:
are four different books. Other LSAC Prep Books include different extras, but not different tests.