By Tatum Wheeler • March 29, 2017•Law School, Pre-Law
The LSAT is an important factor in law school admissions and their financial aid decisions. Many experts suggest that a minimum pace of 10 hours per week for at least two to three months should help you accumulate the basic skills you’ll need for the LSAT. Any less than this, you can sell yourself short on meeting the admissions targets of the schools that you want to attend. Others advise studying for up to a year. More than anything, you’ll need to maintain a steady, consistent pace along with your other responsibilities as opposed to “binge” studying.
In short, there’s no magic number of exactly how many hours you’ll need to study for the LSAT. You know yourself best, and you’ll need to think about what will work best for you given your commitments. Consider your responsibilities in the coming months. Are you working full-time with two kids? Leaving for a six-week backpacking trip? Do you have a history of struggles with standardized tests? Though you cannot predict every imminent responsibility, having these considerations in mind can help you choose a test date and study plan that will be realistic and sustainable.
Even LSAT experts haven’t found a magic number. 7Sage, for instance, asserts that at a pace of 15 hours of study per week, you’ll be prepared for the LSAT in a little over a year. Increase to a pace of 20 to 25 hours per week, 7Sage advises, and you’ll need about nine months to prepare for the LSAT. Blueprint, however, suggests devoting two to four months to LSAT study, depending on other commitments. Similarly, U.S. News suggests maintaining a pace of at least 10-15 hours a week for at least three months. Fox LSAT states that the average student takes about six months to prepare for the LSAT, with some taking up to a year. If you are considering preparation with a company, as opposed to self-studying, please note they will often provide a study and homework schedule. It may be worth contacting them to ensure that their schedule will fit with your own and that their methods work well for you.
The LSAT can’t be memorized or crammed in an all-night session. It takes thoughtful preparation. Even with the rigorous pace they suggest, 7Sage is careful to note that no one should exceed 30 hours per week.
It is now late March. If you are eager to take the test in June, you’ll have less than three months to prepare. This schedule was plenty of time for Laura Bladow, a 2L at William and Mary Law School. While balancing two jobs, Laura studied for the LSAT using a TestMasters course, which provided all the materials she needed to study. She notes, “for students who might find themselves in a similar situation, I would recommend asking the instructor which problems and practice exams to focus on. Your instructor will typically know the problem sets, practice exams, and your performance well enough to advise you on how to maximize the study time you do have.” She also mentioned using a calendar system to block out time for studying, working, hanging with friends, meal preparation, and running errands.
If you’re using the September LSAT as your goal, you’ll have about six months to prepare. This allows you to take a more relaxed approach, and factor in other considerations, for instance, a long vacation, that will make it difficult to complete intensive study.
If you are looking to test in December 2017, or are looking beyond to testing in 2018, you’ll have to maintain a steady pace without burning out. This may work well for those that have a history of challenges with testing, have high aims for their LSAT scores, or are working more than full-time and are open to attending law school beyond fall 2018.
Okay, I get it, there’s no clear answer. But how long will I actually need?
Though there is no magic answer, consensus says a minimum of 8 weeks at a pace of at least 10 hours per week should help you build the skills you’ll need on the LSAT. Beyond that, extending your time can only help you master those skills further. Regardless of how long you take, just be sure you’re studying the right way. Recognize that studying smarter does not always equate with studying longer, especially for a skills-based test like the LSAT. Use real LSAT prep tests, take the time to learn question types, review the questions you don’t understand or get wrong, get as many right as you can as opposed to answering as many questions as you can, and focus on getting what you can done rather than meeting a specific hour requirement. You’ll also want to practice good self-care. Though easier said than done, worrying or putting unnecessary pressure on yourself won’t help you move forward.
Studying for the LSAT should revolve around your life, not the other way around. Pushing your LSAT studies beyond what keeps you physically and emotionally stable is not only bad for your preparation, but also for your future career in law. Law student Lauren Murphy, a 1L at UC Davis, has keenly pointed out that more than any other skill both the LSAT and law school require endurance. So when you’re in the throes of questions about mauve dinosaurs and tintype, consider it one small step forward in developing the skills you’ll need in both the classroom and the courtroom.
Tatum Wheeler is a fellow law aspirant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not working as a Research Associate, she spends her free time exploring new trails with her dogs, reading narratives, and cheering on her favorite sports teams, the Cal Bears, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Please feel free to contact her with any questions, comments, or further advice.