Master these sections before taking LSAT

By Yoav Margalit, Staff Writer

Trying to figure out where you want to go after your bachelor’s degree is kind of like eyeing different pieces of cake in a bakery. Most of them look pretty good, all of them look overpriced and you’re pretty sure you’ll regret whichever one you end up choosing.

That said, if you are considering law school as one of your options, the LSAT is a headache you’ll need to take on. As I am one who took that headache on already, here’s the need-to-know information about the LSAT.

The LSAT is a standardized test that has 101 questions for you to answer. The number of questions you get right — your raw score — is translated into an official score ranging from 120 (where a literal chimpanzee has taken the test) and 180 (which is Harvard-salivatingly good).

There are three different types of sections: reading comprehension, logical reasoning and logic games.

Reading comprehension

Reading comprehension sections are typically 27 questions long. They involve answering questions on four different passages. The questions here will generally involve questions of overarching ideas, nit-picking details and contrasts between the author’s tone and actual feelings on the subject. Read a passage, answer six to eight questions, rinse and repeat.

There’s probably not much room for improvement in actual reading comprehension in the time you have to study. Because of that, there is relatively little advice for me to offer here. A tip which helped me get my score higher was writing down a brief summary of each paragraph once I was finished reading. It helps to marshal your thoughts and recall critical details.

Logical reasoning

These questions are the (un)happy medium between the other two section types. They involve reading a short paragraph or dialogue and answering a question about it; there are 25-26 of these questions. I absolutely cannot understate the importance of practice on this question type. Understanding the logical rules for this section means first learning, and then practicing, these questions. A lot. A general rule of thumb is if you still have the presence of mind to wonder how many questions are left, you aren’t done practicing that day.

But seriously, as a tip, let’s talk about the difference between sufficient and necessary conditions. Take a basic statement: All apples are fruits. An apple is necessarily a fruit, but a fruit isn’t necessarily an apple. If this is true, to be an apple is sufficient to be a fruit, but to be a fruit isn’t sufficient to be an apple. Was that explanation confusing? Then study up! There’s a whole section of it on the LSAT.

Logic games

This 23-question section has most people wondering whether there was another circle of Hell that Dante forgot to pencil in for the final draft. It’s counter-intuitive, annoying and, above all, confusing. There’s too much strange stuff to go over here; my recommendation is taking a class. Some classes can be expensive, but I found mine to be worth the money spent. There are some techniques I picked up there that seriously improved my ability on this section.

General tips

There is plenty of material available online on how to ace the test; the real key is knowing yourself. You need to decide whether you are the kind of person with the discipline to study as efficiently and effectively on your own as you would in a more controlled environment. I know that, from my own perspective, taking a class was very helpful. It’s your call to make.

Studying with people is also a huge help. Finding people who are also studying for the LSAT is really motivating. Just be careful not to get complacent; it sounds callous, but your job is to do well, not to improve at the same rate as your buddies. It doesn’t matter if they’re fun to hang out with. If they don’t help you progress more than you would without them, ditch ‘em.

You’re going to want to take a bare minimum of two months of study. You should stick to official LSAT materials, published by LSAC and available online for free. If you’re unsure, here’s how you can tell how much time you need: you should have worked through at least half of the published materials by the time you take the test, while reviewing your results after each section. If that takes four months, then that’s what you should do. There’s no advice anyone can give you better than this: take your time, and do it right.

From one hopeful law-school applicant to another: good luck.

Yoav is a senior in LAS.

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