As part of a continuing series of LSAT diaries, new Blueprint instructor Andrew Kravis tells us about the lessons he learned from his first LSAT. Find thoughts from two other instructors in Part 1 and Part 2.
The first time I took the LSAT, I was 19. It was the fall of my junior year of undergrad at the University of Michigan, and I was set to graduate the following spring with an English degree and a foggy idea of what I wanted to do with my life. As an insecure kid who measured his self-worth entirely on the basis of academic performance, naturally I locked in on applying to master’s programs. I researched the best schools for comparative literature and queer theory, booked campus visits, and set dates to take the GRE and the GRE Subject Test in Literature in English.
To appease my parents, who worried that I needed a “backup plan” [eyeroll], I signed up to take the LSAT, too. At the time, I was spending all my free time making flashcards for the GRE in Literature in English. For those unfamiliar, the test asks 230 questions about nearly the entire Western canon in under 3 hours. Studying for it, along with the GRE, was eating up my entire summer. I’d scheduled the GRE for mid-September. Two weeks later, I was scheduled to take the GRE in English Lit, and the following week, I had the LSAT. That’s three standardized tests in four weeks, all during the first two months of the school year.
By now, I’m sure you can see where this story is going. I poured all my effort into the first two tests. By the time the LSAT rolled around, I was exhausted and behind on schoolwork. I took one practice exam the day before the actual exam. It went… poorly. But I didn’t really care what my score was, since I knew I was going to grad school for English.
Of course, as with all great Greek tragedies, my hubris was my downfall. I applied to grad schools, got accepted, and promptly figured out that grad school wasn’t what I wanted to do. I stayed an extra year at Michigan to finish my Women’s Studies major, which helped me realize that I wanted to become a civil rights lawyer.
And so, two years after taking the LSAT the first time, I ended up taking it again. Here are a few things I learned from that first, ill-fated attempt:
1. Prepare for the test
Obvious, right? And yet, I (and many first-time test takers) think that because they’ve aced other tests with little preparation that they can do the same thing with the LSAT. For all but the most Beautiful Minds among us, that simply isn’t true. Most of us aren’t born knowing how to break down a Logic Game. I turned out to be shockingly bad at Reading Comprehension for an English major. Plus, it’s not a great idea to wait until test day to do all of that under time pressure for the first time.
Being prepared for the test also means signing up for the LSAT during a time in your life when you can spend the necessary hours per week studying. It was much easier for me to devote the necessary time and energy to the LSAT during my gap year working as a barista, when I wasn’t busy studying for school and for two other standardized tests. If you sign up for the LSAT with too many other things on your plate, you’re setting yourself up to perform below your potential.
2. Scope out the location
Having signed up late, I was scheduled to take the LSAT at Ave Maria School of Law (a Tier 4 school which has since relocated from Ann Arbor to Naples, Florida). Imagine, if you will, a time before smartphones. Also, imagine a time before I had a car. I took a bus I had never taken on the morning of the test, and when I got off, I wandered aimlessly for about 5 minutes before realizing I was walking the wrong way. A practice run in the week leading up to the test can save you from this kind of headache.
3. Develop healthy habits leading up to the test
I am not, by nature, a morning person. In the weeks leading up to my first LSAT, I was staying up until 1 or 2 AM on a regular basis, and so it was an unpleasant shock to get up early on a Saturday morning. By the time I took my second LSAT, I was going to bed no later than 10 PM and getting up by 5:30 AM for work. I also cut back on my caffeine intake leading up to the test, which is every bit as challenging as you’d think for someone working in a coffee shop.
The second time around, I took an LSAT course. I went to every class, I did my homework, and I made sure that this time, I’d be prepared. That’s how I gained 12 points, got into my dream law school, and ended up proving my parents right.