Students always ask for the perfect LSAT study plan, but here’s the thing. There is no one-size-fits-all study plan that works for all students. Instead, the best thing to do is to adjust your study plan to reflect your strengths and weaknesses, your schedule, your learning preferences, and the stage you are at in your LSAT journey. That said, there are five general ways how to practice for the LSAT. My goal here is to show you when you need to incorporate each of these types of practice into your study schedule.
How to practice for the LSAT
Your LSAT practice can generally be divided into these five categories:
- Accuracy practice
- Timing practice
- Stamina & stress management practice
- Future-focused review
With the exception of future-focused review, which should happen all the time, the amount of time you devote to one type of practice relative to the others will change depending on what stage you are at in your LSAT prep. Building your foundations makes the most sense at the beginning of your prep, for example.
But there will also be overlap. You shouldn’t expect to do ALL the foundational work before you move on to accuracy practice, for example. Even at the final stages of your prep, you’ll occasionally return to the foundations to review and to fill in any gaps in your understanding.
When creating your own study plan, it’s helpful to know what activities fall into which of these categories and the rationale for each of these types of practice.
In what follows, I’ll share with you:
- What sorts of activities fall into each category of prep
- The purpose for each category
- When your study plan should include it
For many, this is what they think of when they think about how to practice for the LSAT. Keep in mind that it’s just one step of the process, though.
When you are building your LSAT foundation, it’s all about learning processes and methods for each section of the test. You’ll learn how to diagram the rules in the Logic Games section. You’ll learn your Logical Reasoning question types and a step-by-step method for each one. For Reading Comp, you’ll learn what to pay attention to while reading and how to work through the questions.
Students usually pick up these foundations through prep books like the LSAT Trainer or the Powerscore trilogy (both of which I highly recommend). Courses, whether in person or online, whether live or pre-recorded, are another option. Tutoring is yet another option. If you aren’t sure whether self-study, a course, or tutoring is right for you in building this foundation, here’s a blog post on that topic.
This part of your LSAT prep is essential for speeding up your progress on the LSAT. After all, without reading up on how to approach something like Logic Games, you’d essentially be relying on intuition or trial and error in building your own process through the questions. But why reinvent the wheel?
The important thing to keep in mind, though, is that the foundations are just part of your prep. Your LSAT prep is not complete even if you work through all 1500+ pages of the Powerscore trilogy.
Instead, think of the foundations as something to build on in the rest of your prep.
When to include it
Your focus should be on building a strong foundation during the beginning stages of your prep. But you’ll continue to reinforce this foundation throughout your LSAT journey. You may find yourself reviewing certain chapters or videos later on. Or you may decide that switching from one book to another later on in your prep will give you a valuable change of perspective.
But generally speaking, start with a heavy emphasis on the foundations, then taper it off to an “as needed” basis later on.
The part of how to practice for the LSAT is all about building accuracy.
Here, your goal is to work on deploying your foundational knowledge so you can get to the right answer on the questions more often. This practice is untimed. You may even be referring back to your notes to make sure that you are proceeding through the questions the way you learned to do in the foundational stage.
Accuracy practice often takes the form of drilling: doing a set of weaken questions, doing several linear games in a row, etc. You should be looking at the answers regularly so that you can learn from each question and can continue adjusting your approach. Drilling programs like the LSAT Demon can be helpful here, but you can also do accuracy practice with the LSAT prep tests on LSAC’s Lawhub.
The purpose of untimed accuracy practice is to build your skill in getting to the right answer without the pressure of timing. You are literally building new neural networks as you practice making the inferences and seeing the connections that lead you to the right answer.
When to include it
Accuracy practice should also occur throughout your prep. As soon as you build one part of your foundation, follow it up with accuracy practice so that you make sure you can implement what you have learned. So, learn how to attack weaken questions then drill them. Learn how to diagram linear games and then do several linear games.
As you get further into your prep, you’ll shift over to more timed practice. But you’ll still want to do untimed accuracy practice on any areas of weakness. And accuracy practice should also be part of your future-focused review. (More on that later.)
It’s one thing to be able to do LSAT questions untimed, and quite another thing to be able to do 25 or so questions in 35 minutes. Timing practice addresses this.
Timing practice can come in a couple of different forms. It could involve setting a stopwatch to count up from zero so that you can see how long a particular game takes. Or it could involve a timer counting down from 35 minutes while you attempt to complete an entire practice test section.
If timing is difficult for you (as it is for most students), timing practice could also involve trying to get through an LR section in 45 minutes. And then in 43 minutes. And then in 41, etc.
Your goal in timing practice is to see if you have internalized what you’ve learned well enough that you can implement it under pressure. It’s a test of how automatic you are.
By way of analogy, consider learning to play a song on the piano. You might need to start out slowly, working out the fingering and thinking consciously about each note as you play it. But as you keep practicing, you’ll get more automatic. Your fingers will start playing the right notes from muscle memory. And you’ll be able to speed up until you can get to the right tempo for the song.
When to include it
Since timing practice is about taking what you know and making it automatic, you shouldn’t focus on the timing too early in your LSAT prep. You need to build your foundation and build your accuracy before you work on getting more automatic and faster about it.
Do timing practice periodically while you are first working on building your accuracy, just to check how you are doing. As you get better and better, you’ll want to shift more and more of your study sessions to timed practice. You’ll still be coming back to the questions untimed during your review (more on that later), but you’ll increasingly want to make your first pass through a question be timed.
Stamina & stress management practice
Even when you’ve gotten a handle on the questions and the timing, the LSAT will still be a challenging exam, simply because of its length and the natural stress involved. The LSAT demands intense focus. And it’s tough to maintain that focus over the course of 2.5 hours without getting thrown off by distractions or anxiety. Stamina practice is therefore an important part of how to practice for the LSAT.
What it involves
In order to develop stamina and practice managing your stress through a high-pressure test, there’s no substitute for taking full-length timed tests. To the extent possible, you want to be strict here. Don’t give yourself extra breaks or extra time. Treat it like the real test.
Use these full-length tests to build stamina, but also use them as dress rehearsals for the real thing. Put yourself under the pressure you’ll face in the real test, but reflect afterward about how you managed your stress and whether you feel prey to anxiety. Develop and practice techniques to prevent or to work through that anxiety. Then test out whether those techniques work by trying another full-length test.
When to include it
You should do one full-length test as your diagnostic when you are just getting started with your prep. Then do them occasionally in the early stages just to check in on your overall progress. As you get closer to being ready for the test, you’ll want to include more and more of this type of practice.
But you should never just be doing full-length test after full-length test with no review or no extra practice in between. In fact, that’s one mistake students often make with their prep, with the result that they don’t actually learn from their work.
This type of practice should honestly be everywhere in your prep. I actually could have left it off the list since it’ll be part of every single other type of practice. But it’s so important that I wanted to call extra attention to it.
What it involves
For any question you do timed, try it again untimed. Without knowing in advance what the answer is, see if you can figure out exactly what can make you 100% sure you’ve found the right answer. For questions you first do untimed (while drilling for accuracy, for example) you should already be doing this.
If you’re right, make notes about what led you to the answer so that you can replicate the process on a similar question later.
If you end up being wrong, figure out why. Online explanations might help, but work with the question until it “clicks.” Then make notes about why you missed it and what you should do differently next time.
If you need a tool to organize your thinking, I have an Error Log spreadsheet you can use. Or if you are a paper person, I’d recommend my LSAT Practice Test Review Guide.
Future-focused review is designed to make sure you are learning from each question you do so that you can apply what you know to future questions. It’s not review for review’s sake. And it’s not review for the sake of beating yourself up for your errors. It’s review for the sake of future improvement.
When to include it
Always! Whenever you do a question, whether you are building your foundations, drilling for accuracy, working on timing, or doing a full-length test, you NEED to be reviewing the question thoroughly and asking yourself what you can learn from it.
LSAT Study Planner
Even though I make a living as an LSAT tutor, I am a firm believer of self-study as well. In fact, I tell all of my tutoring students that they should think of tutoring as a supplement to self-study.
To support self-study and tutoring students alike, I’ve created a customizable LSAT Study Planner, available on Amazon. It’s a 6×9 paper planner with 143 pages to plan out 6 months of your LSAT prep. There are tracking pages, space to add study notes, and even quick journal prompts for those times when you need a little reflection. For more information, as well as preview images, see here.
If this post resonated with you, I’d love to stay in touch. About once a week, in the form of an email newsletter, I share useful strategies and insights I’ve picked up during my years teaching the LSAT. “LSAT Notes” you can use to study more effectively and raise your score.
Often these are inspired by breakthroughs my students had that week. Other times, they respond to questions students like you have. My goal is to provide motivation and encouragement along with knowledge about the test and advice about how to study.
Learn more about it here, or to subscribe, simply fill in the form below.