5 Critical Things To Know Before You Take the LSAT

mary-adkinsWho’s getting ready for the LSAT? Today, we’re delighted to welcome Mary Adkins from Manhattan LSAT to share five critical things you should know before you take the LSAT.

Welcome, Mary!

Vision is 20/20 in retrospect, and when it comes to the LSAT, I often hear a lot of “coulda shoulda woulda” from people after they’ve taken it, or late in the game studying for it.

Based on my work preparing hundreds of people for the test, here are the top five most important things to understand before you embark on LSAT preparation.

1. Preparing for the LSAT is about quality, not quantity.

Sometimes I’ll meet with a student who will tell me with a fallen face that he has taken all 69 official, released LSATs and doesn’t understand why his score has not improved more. After all, he’s “done” every single possible question there is to do; no one can accuse him of being lazy.

It’s true that he hasn’t been lazy, but he also hasn’t approached his studying very effectively.

Most of the time what this conversation means is that he’s plowed through all the tests without taking time to review carefully and learn from his performance.

A good study plan is going to have you spending as much time reviewing questions as you spend doing questions. Understand what you got wrong and why before you move on to new material.

2. You CAN improve on reading comp.

It’s just slower than, say, games (on which you can improve quite dramatically in a relatively short period of time with the right study plan).

If you’re reading this, you probably know that the LSAT has three substantive, scored sections: reading comprehension (“comp”), logic games, and logical reasoning.

I’m often asked if it’s possible to improve on reading comp, which is a fair question.

Most people assume that once you’re through college, your reading skill level is more or less set. While that’s true, LSAT reading comp is its own beast that can be tamed by learning how to read specifically for it: what to focus on, what not to focus on, and how to strategize your time for the section, overall.

So don’t throw your hands up on reading comp. Get good study materials and work on it, then keep working on it even if your score on the section doesn’t leap up right away.

3. Improving your concentration and ability to focus for long periods will improve your score across all sections, i.e. yoga.

Preparation doesn’t just mean sitting in front of a book doing logic problems.

Since for many of us, more emotional/general factors like the ability to concentrate for substantial periods, and the ability to return to calmness under stress, heavily influence our test-taking, opportunities to improve these skills can be incredibly valuable.

Case in point: when I was studying for the test way back in 2005, I started doing yoga.

I’d never done it before. But between my first yoga class and the day of the test 9 months later (I ended up postponing my test date), I had begun doing it everyday — and I am 100% certain it played a role in enabling me to score in the 99th percentile. My concentration improved. My ability to breathe through anxiety improved tremendously.

And, of course, the great thing about these kinds of changes is that they have a positive effect in other areas of your life as well. It doesn’t have to be yoga — various forms of exercise, meditation practice, or any other means of enhancing your mental health through your overall physical health are important.

4. The best thing you can do in advance of taking the LSAT is to learn logic.

More than anything else, the LSAT tests your ability to think logically. That means that if you’re not planning to take the test for another year or two years or three, the best thing you can do now is to learn logic.

Sign up for a logic course at your college. Or take one online, or buy a book to read over winter break.

Sure, you may “forget” what you’ve learned between now and then, but you won’t completely; you’ll be surprised what conceptual frameworks you’ve retained, even years later.

5. What you are scoring when you give yourself extra time is not what you’re scoring.

In the weeks before the test when you’re simulating “real test day” conditions, including timing yourself (you’ll have 35 minutes per section), be sure to give yourself just that: 35 minutes per section. If you are giving yourself 2 extra minutes on each section and scoring a 175, you aren’t scoring a 175.

This matters because if you do this, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

I’ve known too many people who are surprised when they score 5-8 points lower on the real test than they were on practice exams. Then they admit they always gave themselves a little extra time on practice exams.

Being a harsh proctor for yourself is the best thing you can do to improve your speed.

— – —
Thanks, Mary! Very useful. Good luck to everyone studying!

Mary Adkins graduated from Yale Law School and is admitted to the New York Bar. She is an LSAT teacher with Manhattan LSAT and an admissions consultant with jdMission. She also directs the blog at Life of the Law, a radio project supported by the Open Society Foundations.

Learn more about Manhattan LSAT on their website: Manhattan LSAT or follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@manhattanLSAT).

Read On:

Looking for more LSAT tips? Check out these posts:

You might also like Law School Applications 101.

Want more helpful advice sent to you? Make sure you’re on The Girl’s Guide email list! You can sign up here today.

Do you have LSAT questions? Leave them below!


Concerned about your law school grades? Get the feedback and support you need to succeed.

Check out our law school tutoring options at the Law School Toolbox.

Get started, and ensure you’re spending your time wisely!

Got a question? Drop us a line. We’re here to help!


  1. I’d definitely agree that the key to the LSAT is logic – it’s an essential skill for not just getting into law school, but getting into law in general. Thanks for sharing your insight on this!

Speak Your Mind