You’re about to sit down to study for the LSAT, but how do you know you’re going to use your time effectively? I’ve talked with students who have studied hours upon hours for months, without much improvement to their score. I’ve also talked with students who have studied far less but made much bigger gains. One difference is in their LSAT study habits, so I wanted to share with you some of the most important study habits you can use to make sure your LSAT prep is effective.
This list goes beyond things you already know, like minimizing distractions, studying in a quiet environment, etc. But it’s also broad enough to apply to any stage of your LSAT prep and any section of the test.
Have a goal for your session
Before you sit down to study, make sure you know the goal of your study session. And that goal needs to be much more specific than “work on LR.” Ideally, it should be even more specific than “work on flaw questions.” How are you going to work on them? What techniques will you be practicing? How many questions do you plan to do? And most importantly, what is your plan for learning from the questions you do?
Here are some possible goals you might have:
- Complete 10 medium difficulty flaw questions by trying to identify the flaw before looking at the answer choices.
- Complete 2 reading comp passages under timed conditions. Then review by checking my understanding of the passage and resolving the questions. Finally, reflect on how to improve my comprehension under time conditions.
- Read and take notes on the chapter about grouping games, then complete the drills in the chapter using what I learned.
Don’t overdo it
Study sessions have diminishing returns after a certain point. That means that if your study session lasts too long, you won’t really get anything out of the extra time. And in fact, the added fatigue and mental strain make it possible for you to actually perform worse if you’re studying too long. Not to mention the burnout that can set in.
So take breaks, and cap your study at no more than about 4 hours per day. The sweet spot for most people seems to be between 2 to 4 hours.
Know when to check the answers
If you’re doing timed practice, wait and check your answers after time is up. That way, you’ll avoid messing with your mind whenever you miss a question.
If you’re doing untimed practice, however, check your answers much more often. Perhaps even after every question. Make sure you commit to an answer first, but then check it. If you missed the question, figure out what was wrong with your answer and what’s right about the correct answer. Then figure out why you missed it and what you can do differently next time. Then actually apply that to the very next question. By doing that rather than checking your answers after a whole set of questions, you’ll give yourself more opportunities to learn and apply what you’re learning.
Write effective takeaways
In order to learn from each question, a key LSAT study habits to use in your review should be to create an effective takeaway – something you can apply to future questions to help you get them right. There are helpful and unhelpful kinds of takeaways though. If a takeaway is too specific, it will only apply to that particular question. Don’t think of your takeaway as “why I missed question 16.” Instead, think of it as “what I learned from question 16 that will help me in the future.”
You also don’t want your takeaway to be too broad. Something like “be more careful” doesn’t actually tell you HOW to be more careful. “Read precisely” doesn’t actually tell you the kinds of things you need to pay attention to in order to read precisely.
More effective examples of takeaways:
- In causal arguments, you can strengthen by eliminating an alternative cause.
- Take the time to double-check words like “before” and “after” in sequencing games. Make sure you don’t misdiagram the rules!
- Eliminate answers that are too narrow on main point RC questions. The answer should fit the whole passage, not just part of it.
Review your notes from previous sessions
Since you’re taking the time to make good notes and write good takeaways during your study session, you should make sure to use them! Start your study session by looking over your notes from previous sessions. What are the takeaways you want to be sure to apply this time? What were you struggling with last time that you want to try to fix this time? What progress did you make that you hope to maintain or even improve on this time?
Revisiting your notes will remind you of the things you learned, which will make your study more efficient. When you review your notes from a while back, it will hopefully also encourage you because you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come.
Reflect on your progress or frustrations
To wrap up each of your study sessions, spend some time reflecting on your progress or journaling about what is frustrating to you. It might seem a little “warm and fuzzy” to do these emotional check-ins, but the LSAT is a test that plays on our emotions. It requires us to push through setbacks and disappointments. It demands commitment, which can often get taxing or lead to burnout. And it’s also a test that demands intense focus while we take it, which can be impossible if we’re not in the right mental state.
These moments spent reflecting can also help you solidify the major breakthroughs you have while studying. And they can help you address any issues that may be holding you back, such as distractions you may be facing, study materials that may not be working for you, or a study plan that you may need to tweak. Checking in on these things regularly can help you address any problems before they become too big.
Final thoughts on your LSAT study habits
It takes time to develop good LSAT study habits. If it’s difficult to maintain those habits at the beginning, be kind to yourself. Take things one step at a time, and keep working to get a little bit better every day. And if you need help, reach out for a free consultation to talk about your current studies.
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.
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