From the Vaults: How to Improve Your LSAT Speed and Endurance

This post originally appeared on Most Strongly Supported on Jan. 22, 2015.

With two weeks and change before the February LSAT, it’s tempting to think that there’s no room for improvement. (Maybe not tempting, but nearly unavoidable.) However, the vast majority of studiers can still improve – even in the week before the test.

Up until this point, you’ve likely been focusing on learning how to answer questions correctly. That, obviously, is pretty important. The trick is translating that ability into answering enough questions correctly in 35 minutes to get the score you want. To do that, you need to master the twin arts of speed and endurance.

Let’s take the latter first. (No, we aren’t stealing. When you mention two things—like speed and endurance—the first thing is the “former” and the second is the “latter.” The makers of the LSAT love to talk about the former and the latter, so you can buy me a drink when you get a point you would’ve missed if you hadn’t read this! I have an intensely personal relationship with bourbon; just sayin’.)

There’s really only one way to build endurance, and that’s to take full practice exams. Sooooo… in the last two weeks before the test, take a full practice exam every other day.

Every. Other. Day. Stop whining.

To get the full benefit, you’ll need to take five section practice exams. Since LSAC releases only four sections—no experimental—you’ll need to harvest a section from another exam every time you take a practice test.

Now, on to speed. No, not the stimulant kind. Or the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock kind. The finishing-questions-rapidly kind. There’s a few ways of doing this. The upside is that taking a practice exam every other day will help here as well; the more you time yourself, the faster you’ll get. But that’s not enough.

You also have to be choosy about what questions you tackle and when you tackle them. To put it in plain terms, unless you’re Mr./Ms. 180, there are questions you are going to get wrong. In fact, you can miss ten or so questions and still score in the 170s.

The key to speed, therefore, is skipping questions that you have no chance of getting right in order to spend that saved time on questions you have a decent shot of nailing. (Don’t forget to bubble in an answer, though. No guessing penalty.)

Sounds simple, right? Well, yes and no. It may take time to determine what questions are difficult. For all of the sections, the questions generally get harder as the section goes on, but the hardest problems aren’t the very last ones. In LR, for example, the hardest questions tend to show up between about question 19 and question 23. In games and RC, it’s often game/passage #3 that’s the real doozy.

If you find that you just can’t ever complete an LR section in time, then develop a skipping strategy. Skip a few in the 19-23 range. Skip parallel and parallel flaw questions. If, for example, you have a terrible time with Necessary questions, skip the later Necessary questions. In any case, always attempt questions 1-10, regardless of type.

If you struggle to finish an RC section, consider skipping a passage entirely. Passage 3 or 4 is probably going to be the nasty one. Consider doing the first two passages quickly, and then deciding between the last two. It may be hard up front to figure out which passage is harder than the other, but there are a few strategies. First, the one with the most questions is likelier to be more difficult. If you have a total block with a particular subject matter—science, humanities, etc.—you might want to skip the one on that topic. Or you might want to read the first paragraph of each. If the first paragraph of passage 3 seems straightforward and the first paragraph of passage 4 makes your eyes cross, go with passage 3. You can still sometimes pick up a question or two on the skipped passage. With a question that has a specific line reference, read a few sentences above and below the line for context, and you might be able to get it right.

You might need to skip a game. Reading the introduction and the rules of the last two games will likely give you an idea of which one is harder. Don’t forget to answer the elimination question (usually the first question) on the game you skip.

For all sections, make sure you use the same letter on all your guesses. You’re likely to get at least one or two right. Finally, learn to bail on questions. If you find yourself getting bogged down on a question, you’ve got to let it go. A point is a point.

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