I often see students ask for a pre-made 3-month or 6-month study plan for the LSAT. And the desire is understandable. There is so much information out there, and without a study plan, it’s hard to know whether you are studying effectively. But a customized LSAT study plan can be so much more helpful than a pre-made, one-size-fits-all plan. After all, a study plan that you can’t really follow because it goes too fast or just doesn’t work around your schedule will just end up getting abandoned.
Creating a customized LSAT study plan isn’t necessarily difficult, but there are several different principles to keep in mind while you create it. My goal here is to give you all the tools you need so that you can create a plan that will work for you.
Principle 1: Scaffold your learning
Just like you wouldn’t teach a kid multiplication before addition, or fractions before whole numbers, there are some LSAT topics that it makes sense to learn before others. Often books like the LSAT Trainer are written with this order in mind, but others might not be. It’s important to use your own judgment here.
So if you are just starting out, here’s what I would recommend.
- Learn how to find the conclusion and evidence in an argument.
- Start with flaw questions. Finding the flaw in an argument is useful not only for flaw questions themselves, but also for strengthen, weaken, and assumption questions. So flaw questions are a foundational skill.
- Tackle strengthen and weaken questions after you get a handle on flaw questions.
- Learn formal logic before you learn must be true and sufficient assumption questions.
- Save rare question types for later.
- Learn principles for diagramming first, but stick with one game type at a time so that you don’t overwhelm yourself.
- Linear games (also known as sequencing) are usually easier for students to learn than grouping games.
- Make sure you get a handle on both linear games and simple grouping games before you start putting the two together in advanced linear games (also appropriately named hybrid games).
- Save rare or miscellaneous games for later.
- Work on rule substitution questions only once you’ve gotten a handle on the rest of the questions.
- Start with learning what to read for in the passages.
- Focus on common question types before rare question types.
Principle 2: Using analytics as a guide
Once you’ve gotten through the most fundamental topics, you can start using analytics to decide what to prioritize next. One great (and free) way to get these analytics is to create a free 7sage account and input your answers from a recent practice test or two. (You don’t have to take the practice test using their interface.)
If you then navigate to “Analytics” you’ll get a graph and a list comparing your accuracy on each question type and the relative frequency of that question type on previous LSATs. (Use this blog post if you need to translate LR question type terminology to something another prep company uses.)
In general, you’ll want to start by addressing your biggest areas of weakness.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. First, as mentioned earlier, don’t skip over foundational topics.
Second, consider how prominent each question type is as well. Make sure you’re tackling high-frequency, high-impact topics before topics that will have a minimal effect on your score. So even if you tend to get 50% of the flaw questions right in Logical Reasoning but only 25% of rule substitution questions in Logic Games, you’ll be better served by working on the flaw questions. There are just so many more of them.
And third, consider your own emotions as well. If you are totally burnt out from studying Logical Reasoning and Reading Comp, maybe you need to take a break and work on some Logic Games, even if that’s your best section.
Principle 3: Get the right ratio
In this blog post, I shared with you the five different types of practice your LSAT prep should include:
- Accuracy practice
- Timing practice
- Stamina & stress management practice
- Future-focused review
The blog post also explains how to layer them as you advance in your LSAT prep journey.
So as you create your study plan for the week, make sure you are appropriately mixing these types of practice.
Principle 3: Block out time in your calendar
Productivity expert Michael Hyatt famously claimed, “What gets scheduled gets done.” And while I know that’s probably a little overly optimistic, it’s true that we get a lot more done when we actively carve out time for it in our schedules.
When blocking out time for LSAT studying, consider your existing schedule. Plan around classes, work, and events in your life.
And if you have kids, it’s even more important to strategize about what time you can devote to your LSAT prep. Do you need to watch up before the kids so that you can get a solid hour of practice in? Do you need to find a kid free space to study?
Strive for consistency and sustainability when setting your LSAT study schedule. It’s no good to plan 6 hour marathon study sessions if you’re only going to be able to do that twice before burning out. That’s not best for actual learning either. Aim for 2-4 hours a day, with regular days off to allow your brain to relax and to consolidate what you’ve learned.
Principle 4: Schedule time for review
Review is one of the fundamental parts of a solid LSAT study plan, so make sure to budget time for it. Review is most beneficial when it is thorough, active, reflective, and future-focused. It’s more than just checking your answers or reading through the explanations. Instead, the review stage should involve thinking through the question again to figure out how to get to 100% certainty about your answer, without the pressure of a time limit. Then, after reflecting on what you noticed during this process, your review should culminate with a set of takeaways to apply to future questions.
This process takes time, but is the best way to raise your LSAT score. Budget time for it in your LSAT study plan.
Principle 5: Have a goal for each study session
When you are planning out your study sessions, make sure that each session has a clear goal. “Work on LR” isn’t clear enough. “Drill Must Be True questions” or “Do a timed LR section” are a little better.
By the day before the study session, you should be able to get even more specific by naming what you intend to practice or get better at during the session. So something like “Drill Must Be True questions to practice diagramming when appropriate” or “Do a timed LR section, trying to get the first 10 questions in 10 minutes to save time for the harder questions.”
Start and finish every study session with a check-in. At the beginning, remind yourself of your specific goal for the session. Remind yourself of any takeaways from your previous study session so that you can be sure to use them.
At the end of your study session, make sure you have a list of takeaways. Check in with yourself emotionally, and decide whether you need to adjust the rest of your plan for the week. Be sure that your next study session has a clear goal.
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.