Why the December LSAT is so Sneaky

The December LSAT is dangerous. Not because it’s a harder test; myths about some exam sessions being consistently more difficult than others are complete and utter poppycock (please excuse my profanity). No, the December LSAT is dangerous for an entirely different reason – it’s sneaky.

I know what you’re thinking: all LSATs are sneaky, employing double negatives, horribly convoluted arguments, and worse grammar than George W. The December LSAT is no exception. But this one is doubly sneaky, like stealthy ninja sneaky, for if you’re not wary, you may find yourself taken by surprise at how quickly the December LSAT test day arrives.

Part of the problem is that the December LSAT follows so closely on the heels of the October exam while other exams are separated by up to four months. Apparently LSAC has difficulty dividing 12 months into 4 even cycles. Math was never my strong suit, either. However, two months is more than enough time to prepare for the LSAT as long as you use your time appropriately and stay on top of your studying. And a lot can still be accomplished in these last few weeks before the December LSAT. To make the most of it, create a study plan that focuses on your weaknesses and includes a maximum of two practice exams a week followed by extensive review, then buckle down for some intense study sessions and be glad you only had to spend two months preparing for the December LSAT instead of four.

Another issue for a lot of students is the overlap with law school applications, which open in the fall and are accepted on a rolling basis. This leads many students to split their time between studying for the December LSAT and working on their applications. This is silly. The LSAT is unquestionably the single most important part of your application, so shortchanging your study to get your application together a few weeks earlier makes little sense. Focus on the December LSAT for the next three weeks, get that awesome score you deserve, and then you can worry about getting your application together. Getting a higher December LSAT score will more than compensate for the loss of a couple weeks working on your application.

Lastly, I also believe a bit of blame lies with a particular jolly, fat old bearded man, delicious gobbling birds, and, of course, jack o’ lanterns. That is, the fall months are full of holidays, and looking forward to all of them can make the time in between seem to fly by. It’s also easy to lose an entire weekend to drunken Halloween exploits, and another in a turkey-induced coma followed by wild shopping sprees. Don’t let this happen to you. Be an LSAT Grinch this holiday season. Bring logic games to the Thanksgivings dinner table, use your homework as an excuse to avoid doing the dishes, and be thankful for that awesome score you’ll soon get on the December LSAT.

13 Responses

  1. Amy says:

    I needed to read this today. I’m glad I came across it.

  2. Oski says:

    For those of us retaking it, aren’t PE’s are only resource (have to take more than just 2/week…)?

    Sure some of the questions seems familiar from old homework questions, but I don’t know how else to study besides taking exams…

    • Nick Rey says:

      Taking multiple exams can lead to some improvement, but you should think of exams as check-in points to assess your progress, not as the main method of improving. You want to spend more time reviewing exams than taking them – it’s in this intensive review that you’re going to figure out what you’re doing wrong and hopefully how you can avoid it. Also, you should give every exam all you got (110%!) – it should be a draining process, so trying to take exams on consecutive days won’t give you enough time to recover and recharge in between. If you’re not prepared to do your best on a PE, don’t take it.
      And there is a lot else you can do to study, even if you are retaking. First, most people would benefit from reviewing the methods in the lesson pages, and even if you have done all the homework, you can still learn a lot from it. If you already have the answers circled, no worries, just focus on anticipating – read the stimulus, try and anticipate the answer, then you get instant feedback by seeing what the answer is. Being able to anticipate is the key to going quickly, avoiding sucker choices, and getting that 170+.

      • SC says:

        Nick, I’m retaking the exam after two years (I took Blueprint before the September 09 exam) and the advice you gave is amazing and exactly what I needed. I always wondered how I could reuse the already answered questions to improve my score.

        A couple of questions/requests-

        Would you mind, if you guys already haven’t, posting about double negatives and the best (quickest) way of approaching them during the exam?

        Also, while studying, when stuck on a question, do you think it hurts the test taker when they look for an explanation online rather than trying their very best to figure it out? I don’t currently have access to blueprint explanations so I look for explanations online (usually not very helpful) but I feel like whenever I look online, I may have given up a bit.

        Also, I recently retook the September 2009 exam (haven’t looked at it since the real test day), and did WORSE! Stupidly I took the test at home during a holiday, while there were kids screaming and running around. I told myself that wouldn’t matter because I’ve been studying and am in the zone. Freaking out about this, I think my nerves are seriously getting to me, or do you just think it’s possible that the more you study, the worse you get?

        Thanks for all the advice


        • Nick Rey says:

          First, double negatives. I don’t really have a trick for dealing with them – just be precise with your reading and language (something you should be doing anyway on the LSAT), and when you spot a double negative, rephrase it as an affirmed claim (e.g. This study shows that we can not conclude that this drug did not have an effect => This drug may have an effect).
          Second, I think you’ll gain more by trying to figure out the explanation on your own, then checking the video to confirm. If you’re stuck, look in the answer key, find the right answer, and use it to work backwards to understand the problem. Look it up online as a last resort.
          Lastly, don’t worry about your score, and don’t ever take a practice exam under such conditions. Small distractions can easily ruin your focus and prevent you from finding the simplest of deductions and whatnot, and then you’ll feel bad about your score and stress. Don’t take an exam if you’re not under conditions that will allow you to perform at your best.
          Take another practice exam in a quiet, less stressful area to get a better idea of where you’re at. Good luck.

          • SC says:

            Um, I’m not sure if you’d mind but would you be able to please provide an explanation for the following conditional statement that I haven’t been able to figure out for months now.

            if it not v, then x only if y
            why is this diagrammed as if x then v or y?

            Thanks! And I promise this is my last question!

          • Nick Rey says:

            If it not v, then x only if y – That’s a awesomely complex rule, which game is that from?
            Here’s one way to think of that rule – the sufficient condition of this rule is not V, so if V is in we cannot use this rule. So we’re left with two possibilities: either we have V (in which case we can’t go further), or we don’t have V (in which case X only if Y). So you could understand this rule as: V or (X -> Y). (Either we have V, or X only if Y).
            That’s one way to represent it (and probably how I would represent it). We can also simplify it a bit by moving the conditional relationship out of the or. If X, then V or Y. In the first representation, we either need V, or else X could be in only if Y – so if X is in, then Y must be in or V (which would satisfy the other half of the Or).
            Very tricky.

          • SC says:

            ahhh…it’s one of the study cards, not a game.

            It’s the contrapositive that confuses me, so I guess I don’t fully get the second representation.

            if x then v or y, so you know that if not v and not y, then not x

            but I thought that if not v, you have to have x>y…

            hmm would request for further explanation be considered a second question or extension of the previous?

          • Nick Rey says:

            The or was: V or (x->y) – so, if we don’t have V, then the conditional relationship (x->y) applies – meaning x can be in only if Y is in, not that they have to be in. So if V is not in, then this conditional relationship applies (x->y), so if Y is also not in, then X cannot be in.
            Does this clarify?

            And no worries about the questions, it’s my pleasure to help – feel free to ask away in the future.

      • Prachi says:

        I gotcha — that makes a lot of sense. With that being said — How many days a week do you recommend doing timed sections? And on the days we do timed sections, about how many should we? I definitely am not trying to overdo it, but every time I feel like I’m reviewing the videos I feel like I’m getting rusty on timing because I’m out of practice — and every time i just do timed sections I feel like I should be reviewing the lessons because I’m not learning anything new — Any suggestions?

        • Nick Rey says:

          I’m hesitant to give an absolute recommendation, as it totally depends on your strengths and weaknesses. If timing is a big issue, then you should focus on it more than someone who just has issues with accuracy.
          Either way though, I think it’s important that you don’t just do timed sections. Maybe split your practice 1/3 to 2/3, timed to untimed (max 50/50).
          You can get faster by getting better – better at finding deductions, better at anticipating answers, better at eliminating wrong answers – so even when you practice skills, you’re still should be improving your timing.
          And as we get closer to the test, you can start doing more and more timed sections.

  3. Prachi says:

    Hi — I have the same kind of agreement/issue as Oski. I am retaking the exam — and I feel like If I am only taking two practice exams a week and reviewing them, I’m not really doing that much. Do you have any other suggestions/strategies tailored particularly to re-takers?

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