Today’s advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep. Blueprint students can enroll in live LSAT prep classes throughout the country, online LSAT courses from the comfort of their own home, or self-study with Blueprint’s new Logic Games book
Practice tests are (and should be) an important component of any LSAT study schedule, but they’re also commonly misused. Sure, anyone who takes dozens upon dozens of practice tests as quickly as possible will improve simply by virtue of increased familiarity with the LSAT. But that person likely won’t improve as efficiently or to the same extent as someone who uses practice tests more strategically. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the right and wrong ways to use practice tests when studying for the LSAT.
If you’re taking an LSAT prep course, some practice tests are likely built into your study schedule. For instance, Blueprint LSAT Prep students take six proctored practice tests throughout the course. You’ll want to take additional practice tests on your own, but it’s best to ask your instructor when you should start doing that. We recommend waiting to self-administer practice tests until all of the new material in the course has been covered; until then, it’s a better use of your study time to focus on mastering the new concepts.
If you’re self-studying for the LSAT, the general philosophy behind using practice exams will be similar. You want to take a few strategically placed tests throughout the early phases of your studying in order to test your understanding of the concepts you’ve already learned. Your timing will likely be a total mess, and you shouldn’t stress the question types you haven’t covered yet; instead, take a close look at the question types you have learned (and that you had time to attempt). If you notice an area you’ve already worked on that you’re still struggling with, you should take some extra time to go back and review that concept. In other words, your early practice exams should be used to make sure that you really have learned the things you think you’ve learned.
As you get closer to Game Day, you’ll want to ramp up taking practice tests. However, even at that point, there’s such a thing as too many. If you do practice test after practice test without taking the time to learn from them, you’ll continue making the same mistakes, and you won’t see much score improvement. It’s paramount to review each practice exam before you take the next one.
Here’s the general review strategy you should be using:
1) As you take a practice exam, make a note of any questions that you guess on or are unsure about.
2) After you score the test, go back and thoroughly review the questions you got wrong, and any questions you marked in Step 1. When I say “thoroughly review,” I mean that you should be able to explain the question to someone else - both why the answer you chose was wrong, and why the right answer is right. Furthermore, you should think about what tricked you the first time around, so that you can avoid being similarly tricked in the future.
3) Once you’ve completed Step 2, analyze the questions you got wrong to determine if there were any trends. For instance, perhaps you stunk at implication questions (e.g. “which of the following is most strongly supported…”); perhaps you struggled with question types that require you to identify flaws in the argument, like Flaw, Strengthen, Sufficient Assumption, etc.; perhaps Logic Games were your weakest section.
4) Once you’ve found that weakness, take some time (like, at least a day) to drill it. You should be doing question after question of that type until you understand them all inside out, upside down and backwards. You should become a merciless Flaw Question Terminator (or whatever question type you were drilling). Then, and only then, are you ready to take another practice test.
Wow, that’s a lot of steps between each practice test! And when people use practice tests the wrong way, they often skip at least one (if not all) of those steps. The simple act of taking a practice exam is not enough to really improve your performance on the LSAT; it’s important to learn from each test as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the tests you’re taking should be in strict test-like conditions. One reason that people often underperform on test day relative to their practice exam scores is that they weren’t strict with the timing or they always took their tests in their whisper-silent bedroom with their favorite smooth jazz playing in the background. You can avoid those pitfalls by setting a timer for each section and following it religiously (or using an app like the one found on the Blueprint website to keep track of time for you), and by taking at least some of your practice tests in an area with some light ambient noise, such as a library.
Lastly, you should save the most recent practice exams for closer to test day. The LSAT has subtly evolved over time. There’s still a lot to be learned from the older tests, but more recent tests will give you a better sense of what your test will be like. So take the older tests earlier in your prep, and save the newer ones for your final weeks of studying.
Prep tests are necessary but not sufficient for success on the LSAT (see what we did there?). So use them, but make sure you’re using them wisely. By the time the big day rolls around, you’ll be taking full-length LSATs like a champ.