How to Become an LSAT Genius
A recent op-ed in the New York Times commented on the sources of genius. We’ve traditionally thought of genius as something innate, an intangible kernel that allows an oddly chosen few to flourish while the rest of us toil in mundanity without any hope of reaching such heights. The pathos, for example, of the film Amadeus largely derives from the fact that Salieri could never, through any amount of effort, be Mozart. The latter was graced with some other-worldly gift that was simply unattainable to the former through hard work.
When we marvel at athletes on TV, we’re quietly contented with the fact that we could never do what they do, that our bodies could never be as elastic, strong or coordinated as those who grace the court and field. Most of us don’t feel guilty that we’re not LeBron James because providence removed his fate from our pallet of options before we were old enough to walk. So too, we don’t feel guilty that we’re not Thom York or Stephen Hawking because we see them as simply endowed with capacities we don’t have. We thus feel content to simply stand back with a certain awe, and consume their intellectual and artistic products rather than creating our own.
Interestingly, the NYT op-ed tells a different story. Recent research into cognition apparently suggests that genius is the product, not of divine caprice, but of hard work. In particular, genius is acquired through regular intervals of study, extended over long periods, in which one slowly but methodically extends the limits of his or her skill. The difficultly is that such study requires prolonged concentration that most of us don’t exercise.
The piece is unclear about whether such concentration is itself the product of innate ability, but it would be unproductive to assume a strong will is an innate capacity that can’t be developed. For such an assumption would merely recast the traditional notion of genius as a divinely instilled intelligence that made things come easier into a divinely instilled capacity for concentration helpful in developing great skills. But in both cases, genius would be the product of divine caprice. It seems more fruitful (and more plausible) to assume that we can extend the limits of our concentration enough to make substantial progress, if we try very hard.
This picture of intelligence should have an immediate impact on those studying for the LSAT. Fewer and fewer believe that such standardized tests measure intelligence in such a way that a person cannot increase his or her score. But many have had despairing moments when they wonder if they’ve reaped all the rewards hard work has to offer and that perhaps they’ve reached the limit of their cognitive function with regard to the LSAT. But if current research is correct, regular sessions of extended concentration may be integral to obtaining a substantially higher score.
Reactions to this news might vary. It’s nice to hear a higher score is possible, but daunting to know that there’s no replacement for hard work and a certain amount of suffering. Sucks to be you. Get back to work…
Article by Trent Teti of Blueprint LSAT Preparation.