Taking the LSAT is not only a time commitment, but also a financial one. Before you start studying, ask yourself these five questions to make sure the LSAT is worth the investment.
Do I really want to go to law school?
Many people who are considering taking the LSAT fall into one of two categories when it comes to answering this question. They either obsess over whether and why they want to go to law school or they don’t think about it all. Try to land somewhere in between these two extremes.
There are a number of ways to explore whether you should get a law degree, but one I personally recommend is reading law journals. They may not sound very sexy, but they’re a great taste of what you’ll be reading, writing, and discussing for three years of law school. If you find yourself getting hot under the collar over promissory estoppel and personal jurisdiction, you may have found your calling.
What score should I aim for?
This is an easier question to answer than most people think. Setting a goal for your LSAT score doesn’t need to involve law school rankings, average LSAT scores, undergraduate GPA, or financial aid considerations. Frankly, those are all more likely to distract you from the progress you make rather than magically empower you to perform better.
Take a practice test, score it, and then set a reasonable goal based on where you currently are and how much you can improve your LSAT score. Focus on reaching that goal, and if you succeed earlier than expected, you can always just set a new goal.
How am I going to prepare for the LSAT?
Figuring out how to study for the LSAT can be tricky, but a great first step is an honest assessment of your learning style and self-discipline. If you’re the type to make a plan and stick to it without any supervision, self-guided options like prep books or online courses are a low cost option that will probably provide everything you need. If you’re the type who benefits from oversight, a better option might be to sign up for a course or some private tutoring, although both can cost significantly more money. Either way, keep the costs of good LSAT prep in perspective. If your score improves significantly, the cost will be nominal compared to the potential benefits of graduating with a degree from a highly reputable school.
How do I know if I’m ready to take the LSAT?
This is probably the trickiest question of the batch because the answer is different for each person. The simplest answer is this: If you set a goal and have met it, then you’re ready to take the LSAT. However, if you met that goal pretty quickly and without much effort, you might want to consider setting a higher goal and pushing yourself even further.
On the other hand, if you haven’t yet met your goal, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not ready to take the test. The key is to track your progress and watch for a point at which the efforts you’re making are resulting in increasingly small gains. That may be after three months, after six months, or after a full year of studying. Whenever it occurs, it’s a clue that you may be approaching your threshold and any further improvements will likely come at an excruciatingly slow pace that will discourage you more than it rewards you.
When should I register for a test date?
This is a balancing act. First, familiarize yourself with important LSAT dates and deadlines. Second, watch for the point mentioned above at which your studying starts to pay off less and less. Ideally, you want to reach your scoring threshold about a month before an official LSAT date. For most people, that means starting to study at least three to four months before the test date.
Registration deadlines are usually about five weeks before the exam. Furthermore, if you’re in an area with limited or crowded test centers, you should register even earlier to make sure you get a spot somewhere convenient. That means you’ll likely have to make a call before you feel 100% ready to take the test. Don’t stress over that. Ask yourself, if you continue to improve at the same rate you’ve been improving throughout your prep, will you be ready in five, six, or eight weeks? If the answer is yes, register for the test. You can always cancel or postpone later, and even though there’s a fee, it’s nothing compared to the mental and emotional cost of taking a test you’re not ready for.
Travis Coleman is an LSAT expert at Magoosh. He has extensive tutoring experience, including six years helping students prepare for the LSAT. Travis holds a JD from NYU and an English degree from Boston College.