I enjoy taking tests about as much as watching the St. Louis Cardinals blow a 6 run lead in the bottom of the 9th inning. Sometimes I'm amazed at the fact that I even passed the CFP® exam – because I hate taking tests that much. I've had one intern take the GMAT exam and another prepping for the CFA exam. I've had one guest share their experience on passing the CPA exam.
I don't envy any of them. At all.
I am always curious what preparation goes into taking these type of exams. So when my wife's friend mentioned she just sat for the LSAT exam, I hit her up to share her experience. Are you interested in becoming a lawyer? If so, here's the first step.
Before I decided to go to law school, I had heard very little about the LSAT. I had no idea the amount of work that the entire law school application process would entail, particularly for a non-traditional student like me. Being slightly older (27) than the average law school applicant (emphasis on slightly), and already a wife and mother, I had to get it together in order to put an effective plan in place.
I took the LSAT 4 days ago, and here is what I did and wish I would have done differently in my LSAT study plan.
1. Define your goal.
Much of what you do in the Law School Application process (including how much time you study for the LSAT) is dependent upon the school you want to attend. Taking a prep test before studying is a good idea in order to have a baseline. You need to know where you stand in terms of score and where you need to be. Researching law schools and scholarship terms if you are hoping for scholarship money (many law schools will offer full or partial scholarships to applicants with a particular LSAT score and GPA) is in my opinion, the first step, and will help you build your plan.
2. Get organized.
I realized early on that studying for this test would be the equivalent of working, but getting organized was not easy for me. I was going to school for my undergrad, raising a family, and managing a household at the same time, so I had to literally break my days into time sections, in which I scheduled LSAT time. It’s important to take it seriously. If you want to be a lawyer and have a particular law school in mind or are in need of scholarship money, this is one of the most important tests you will ever take.
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I took my LSAT books everywhere, studied in between classes, took short prep test 35 minute sections after class and before picking up my kids from school, and I may or may not have been caught once or twice with my prep tests in the bath tub. I won’t confirm that one, though.
3. Communicate clearly with those who may be affected by your LSAT study schedule.
I spoke with my husband early on in the process and reiterated that I wanted to go to law school. He already knew this, since this was a dream of mine since before I met him, but what he did not know was the intensity and importance of this test. Communicating with your loved ones is essential and can prevent arguments and problems that are not only harmful to your relationships, but can hurt your concentration and by consequence, your LSAT score.
4. Research your LSAT study options, and choose what is best for you.
I didn't have a lot of time, so taking a full time, classroom prep course was not a possibility for me. I decided to go with alpha-score, a self faced, online class. The course consists of pre-recorded video classes, exercises, drills, and a personalized study plan based on the amount of time you want (or need) to study.
I also used LSATBlog, which offers incredibly valuable free information, and also very affordable day-by-day study plans. This is probably best for those who are great at working independently. For me, while I feel LSATBlog offered valuable resources, I sometimes need to have things explained to me. Alpha score helped to fill that gap.
One thing that I have found to be a MUST is using real LSAT questions. There are books and courses out there that use their own versions of LSAT questions and games. Don't bother. You need to learn how LSAT test makers think, and what they are looking for, and this can only come from repeatedly being exposed to real questions.
5. Follow the plan and stick to it, even when you don’t want to.
You might resent the LSAT sometimes and sure, that glass of wine sounds a heck of a lot better than studying for the LSAT on Friday nights, but if you have scheduled time to study, do it. This is just one (albeit, very important) step in the process of becoming a lawyer, and consistency is key.
6. Relax… and ace it!
Try not to freak out on Test Day. I did, and realized after the test that if you are ready, and go in feeling confident and calm, you will probably do much better than you think. I don’t have my scores back yet, but I feel that my nerves on test day may have played against me.
About the author: Carmen Vargas is a Chilean-American wife, mother, and Political Science student at the University of Michigan. She is currently applying to law school, which she hopes to begin attending in the fall of 2012.