There are many ways to study for the LSAT. There are in-person classes, online courses, self-study guides, videos, message boards, and so on. All of these methods have their pros and cons, of course, and there’s no one size that fits all. One approach students ask about all the time is one-on-one tutoring. They want to know: Is it worth it? My unsatisfying answer: Sometimes.
As compared to an LSAT class, private tutoring has a few advantages. First, it’s customized, letting the student go at his or her ideal pace. In a classroom, teachers “teach to the middle”: They gear the difficulty to the average student, inevitably leaving some students feeling a little bored and others a little stretched. A private tutor can work with you at your pace.
A private tutor can also home in on your studying needs. Suppose you’re a rockstar when it comes to ordering games, but you struggle with any game that has a grouping component. A tutor can work with you to address your specific strengths and weaknesses.
Lastly, and for some most importantly, a tutor acts as a professional study buddy. And unlike a regular study buddy, he won’t say he wants to study and then come over and eat all your food and convince you to play MarioKart all night. Some students’ biggest barriers are personal. They might be smart and ambitious, but they’re incorrigible procrastinators. A tutor can help with accountability. It’s like when your dentist asks if you’ve been flossing and you say yes, and then he says, “Then why are your gums bleeding?” And you’re like, “Okay, I’ll start flossing Dr. Weinstein, chill out.” Others students suffer from such bad test anxiety that a bad practice test can overwhelm them and derail their whole program. Tutors can give students perspective when they’re stressed. It’s like when your dentist asks how you’ve been and you tell him about everything that’s been going on, and how it feels so good to talk about it, and he’s like, “I’m your dentist, not your therapist,” and you’re like, “What’s my co-pay?” and he’s like, “There’s no co-pay,” and you’re like, “Sweet. Thanks, Dr. Weinstein.”
What I’m trying to say is that a private tutor can help with accountability and test anxiety.
All that said, private tutoring has its limitations. First of all, it cannot and should not replace hard-nosed individual study. We are born alone, die alone, and mostly study for the LSAT alone. So an hour with a tutor should be complemented with at least two hours of private study. Second, studying for the LSAT requires learning a lot of new information—e.g. question types, logical fallacies, the rules of conditional logic. Private tutoring isn’t the most efficient way to absorb all this. So it’s most useful as a supplement to a group or online course. It is also useful for students who already have a solid foundation in LSAT material but haven’t seen the score increases they want. Best-case scenario: The tutor can help diagnose specific areas of weakness and come up with customized ways of addressing them.
So there are plenty of factors you should consider when deciding whether or not to hire a private tutor. You can also try it on a short-term basis and see if it helps. My only caveat is don’t wait too long. I wouldn’t start working with a tutor the week before the LSAT—you couldn’t expect much improvement in so short a time. If you think you might want to work with a tutor, plan on setting up your first session at least a month in advance.
Then try to find a nearby coffee shop with cheap lattes and free parking. Trust me, your tutor will appreciate it.