Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Beating the LSAT: An Interview with Steve Schwartz

For most of our readers, the LSAT is a distant--albeit, lingering--memory. While there are good questions to be asked about its relative value, no one can deny its importance. Simply put, the LSAT makes or breaks a candidate's application.

With the June 2009 LSAT rapidly approaching (sorry for the unwelcome reminder!) we wanted to share some LSAT tips with our readers courtesy of LSAT Blog's Steve Schwartz. Steve is a New York-based LSAT tutor who "started tutoring the LSAT after taking the exam, rocking it, and deciding not to go to law school." He also is the founder of LSAT Blog, a repository of free LSAT tips (cf. Kaplan) which he has maintained for five months. We conducted an e-mail interview with Steve, and found his tips to be very helpful; we're delighted to share them with you.

Our most pressing question was the one many readers have asked: can the LSAT be learned? As Steve explained it:
Without a doubt, the LSAT can be learned. There's no question on that matter. The easiest and fastest way to improve is to become familiar with various LSAT question-types. This doesn't take very long, but the payoff is minimal. The quickest way to see a significant improvement is to learn solid diagramming techniques for the Logic Games. This takes a moderate amount of time. The next step is to understand the LSAT mindset. This is the most difficult task. It's like becoming a Jedi or seeing through the Matrix.
Obtaining this mindset, Steve explained, is innate for some who are "natural LSAT Jedi[s] and score in the 170s on their first LSAT diagnostic." Others, however, are not, but can become "LSAT Jedi[s] after a great deal of review." Given Steve's view of the LSAT as a test that measures skills that could be learned, we asked him to respond to critiques of the test, and chime in on how he thought the LSAT impacted law school performance as a whole. As he noted:
I believe that the LSAT is a good independent predictor of law school performance. People born with the LSAT mindset are likely to do well on the LSAT and in law school. People who intensively prepare for the LSAT and eventually acquire the LSAT mindset are likely to intensively study in law school and eventually get the law school mindset.
This, he explained, was a function of the fact that developing the "LSAT mentality" allows people to:
Learn to be critical and skeptical of arguments, avoid taking things at face value, consider potential alternative causes for any result and potential alternative explanations for any conclusion, devote obsessive attention to detail, understand nuances and apply general principles to specific situations.
Steve also had some pointed tips for pre-law students on how to develop the skills necessary to ace the LSAT. He suggested readers check out his LSAT prep book recommendations, and advised future test takers to "get their hands on several recent PrepTests" as there is "no substitute for reviewing past copies of the LSAT because the exam changes relatively little from year to year."

Moreover, he advised that the biggest impediment to beating the LSAT on test day was the failure of candidates to "adequately prepare." As he noted:
1-2 months is not adequate for the vast majority of students, especially when they have to balance LSAT prep with school or work. Students who shoot for high scores (as well as those shooting for mid-level scores) need time to fully understand the various sections, to develop strategies for attacking them, and to work on pacing and endurance strategies. I recommend that students devote a minimum of 3 months of preparation and that they study on a regular basis during this period of time.
We thank Steve for sharing his thoughts with us, and hope this advice serves those of you taking the LSAT well. Good luck!


  1. This is great. Way to go Steve

  2. Great article. I always tell my students that the LSAT is more like a sport than a typical standardized test. The more they practice the higher they'll score. With that in mind, I really liked his comment that 1 or 2 months is inadequate. You wouldn't expect to run Boston or golf below 80 after only two months of training.

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  4. Thanks Steve ... Great content

  5. Steve, Great article. Keep up the high quality content.

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