They say that one of the keys to success in this world is knowing yourself, and if there’s anything I know for sure about myself, it’s that I am the literal worst at managing big, unstructured projects. In my senior year, I had to write a thesis, for which I had to read an entire novel written in Spanish, plus supplementary materials, and write a paper that was about 40 pages long (luckily, in English). I had the entire year to complete these tasks, but instead of managing my time appropriately and working on it steadily throughout the year, I waited ’til about a month before it was due, panicked, and then had to frantically finish the book and write the last 30-odd pages in a stress-induced blackout.
Stress-induced blackouts don’t exactly lead to LSAT success, so if you are preparing for the LSAT without a scheduled class, you’ll want to ensure that you’re keeping yourself on track. Here’s how to handle that process, from start to finish:
1. Make a plan in advance
Too often, students dive right into studying without making a written plan, figuring that they’ll magically get through everything at the appropriate rate. You will be much better served if you make a plan for what you’ll accomplish and when beforehand; it’s not a binding document and you can always move things around as life gets in the way, but it’ll give you a good sense of what pace you need to be working at, and will also force you to think about reserving time for practice tests and other important components of studying.
Making a plan can sound a bit daunting, so here’s a step-by-step guide:
• Open up a blank document — I like using a spreadsheet, but you can use whatever program you prefer.
• Mark your intended LSAT date, and then leave spaces for the number of weeks between today and that date
• Make note of any prior commitments that will prevent you from studying: vacations, weddings, bat/bar mitzvahs, LARPing conventions, 21st birthday parties, and so on.
• With the days that remain open, start filling in the things you’d like to accomplish. If you’re taking an online course, then you should schedule days for each lesson, as well as separate days for the homework. If you’re working through supplementary materials, like books, then note when you’ll finish each chapter of the book.
• Make sure to include >practice tests in your schedule. Early in your studying, you’ll only need to take a practice test every few weeks, but as your test gets closer, you’ll want to begin taking tests more frequently — up to two times per week, in most cases. Make sure that whenever you schedule yourself a practice test, you are also scheduling at least a day or two afterwards to review the test thoroughly.
• Rearrange things as necessary. If your plan doesn’t allow sufficient time to complete everything you want, you’ll either need to rearrange everything so that you’re doing more work per week, or set your sights on a different administration of the LSAT.
• Revisit this plan frequently throughout the course of your studying, and update it as needed. Looking at a plan that says you’re currently two weeks behind from where you’re supposed to be isn’t going to do you any good, so if you start falling behind (which is fine!), just rearrange things based on your current status.
2. Keep yourself motivated
The LSAT is a long slog, and it can be tough to keep yourself motivated for the months that it takes to adequately prepare.
Make sure that you’re giving yourself days off from time to time. If your nose is to the grindstone day in and day out, you’re gonna get burnt out and eventually lose motivation. It’s important to schedule time for guilt-free relaxation so that you can recharge your batteries.
It’s also helpful to find someone else who is preparing for the same administration of the LSAT. If you’re still in school, there is likely someone in your classes or in the pre-law society who is prepping for the LSAT at the same time as you, or you can almost always find a pal via the internet (just don’t use Craigslist for that, lest you be misinterpreted). You and your study buddy can keep each other accountable and on track, and you can also discuss any particularly thorny questions you come across — which leads me to my third point…
3. Dig down on confusing concepts
As you study for the LSAT, you are certain to encounter ideas and strategies that are a little confusing, at least at first. In that event, make sure that you spend the time to really dig down on the concept until you understand it completely. It can be tempting to get frustrated, tell yourself you understand it “well enough,” and then move on. But that’s not gonna help you out on test day. Instead, take the time to go through the material slowly and carefully until you really get it.
Make sure that you’re also taking advantage of all the resources that are available to you. For instance, if you’re in the Blueprint Online Anytime course, you can email questions to our instructors and they’ll tackle it for you, or you can check out the online video explanations for any question.
Following these steps won’t make your LSAT prep less of an undertaking, but it will make your prep less manageable, and you’ll help yourself avoid the conundrum of attempting to cram for the LSAT. (Note: Do NOT attempt to cram for your LSAT. Unlike your high school biology tests, this is not an exam that can be crammed for.) With some advance planning and careful consideration, your LSAT prep will be smooth sailing — relatively speaking, anyway.